Alaskans invited to join the new $5 Alaska Grown, Five Month Challenge

Starting Wednesday, June 1, the Alaska Division of Agriculture is launching a brand-new $5 Alaska Grown, Five Month Challenge to support the growth of Alaska’s agriculture industry.

From June through October, Alaskans are encouraged to spend $5 per week on Alaska Grown products at their local grocery stores and/or farmers markets. If every Alaskan participates in the challenge, tens of millions of dollars in local purchases could be circulated within local economies rather than sent outside of Alaska. According to the Alaska Farm Bureau, if every Alaskan spent $5 per week on Alaska Grown products, year-round, it would have a $188 million dollar impact.

For the $5 Alaska Grown Challenge, the Division of Agriculture is partnering with dozens of retailers across the state including Carrs-Safeway, Fred Meyer, Wal-mart and SaveUMore. These retailers will be creating specialty Alaska Grown displays in their stores that prominently place and showcase the Alaska Grown products they carry, making it easy for customers to find Alaska Grown products on which to spend $5 per week.

The challenge will run for the five-month period when Alaska Grown products are most available. Each month, new produce and flowers will be introduced into stores as they become seasonally available. Customers can also spend their $5 per week on year-round Alaska Grown products including meat (including fish), fresh eggs and packaged products at their local retailers.

In Sitka, Alaskans can participate by purchasing Alaska Grown produce at the Sitka Farmers Markets. There will be seven Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 1, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). In addition, there are several growers in town, and you can find out more about them in the Alaska Grown Source Book.

“Why buy Alaska grown?” the Alaska Farm Bureau website asks. “Not only are you supporting Alaskans and boosting our economy, you’re also getting a fresher, tastier, more nutritious product. In a blind taste test, 82 percent of Alaskans surveyed could taste the difference between products grown here and those shipped up. Adults and kids say Alaska grown is sweeter, fresher-tasting and crispier.”

• Taste of Alaska White Paper (taste tests of Alaska vs. Lower 48 produce from 2011 Alaska State Fair in Palmer)

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Celebrate local farmers and gardeners on Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 2

Alaskans will celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 2. On this day, Alaskans are encouraged to support local agriculture by seeking out and purchasing products produced in Alaska and educating youth about the vital role that agriculture plays in our economy. This is Alaska’s version of National Ag Day (which took place on March 21 this year, when many parts of Alaska were still thawing out).

Here are a few ideas from the Division of Agriculture on how to celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day:

In Sitka, you can celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day by starting a food garden (even a couple of containers on your deck can provide you with potatoes, carrots or greens). Teachers are encouraged to offer a lesson plan or two about the importance of agriculture in Alaska and in Sitka. Here’s a link to an article about how Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Also, the Sitka History Minute feature on KCAW-Raven Radio has had several episodes about agriculture in Sitka (click here to listen to a feature about the potato in Sitka, click here to listen to a feature about the Sitka Agricultural Station, and click here to listen to a feature about the cows of Iris Meadows).

During the growing season, please support the Sitka farmers and production gardeners listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book (chief contact in parentheses) — Anam Cara Family Garden (Lisa Sadleir-Hart), Blatchley Community Gardens (David Nuetzel, this garden closed in 2016 and there is a group seeking a new location for what will be called Sitka Community Gardens), Down To Earth U-Pick Garden (Lori Adams, switched to a CSA in 2017 and no longer is a public u-pick garden), Finn Island Farm (Keith Nyitray), Sprucecot Gardens (Judy Johnstone), and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (Laura Schmidt/Sitka Local Foods Network). There also are a few Sitka farms and production gardens not listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book, such as Humpback Farm (Peter Williams), Middle Island Organic Produce (Andrea Fraga/Kaleb Aldred), Sea View Garden (Linda Wilson), The Sawmill Farm (Bobbi Daniels), Sitka Seedling Farms (Matthew Jackson) and Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Garden(Florence Welsh).

Many of these farms and gardens will be vendors during the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 1, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.).

Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program to hold open house on Thursday, Oct. 20, at UAS Sitka Campus

4h-open-house-flyer

Sitka youth ages 5-18 and their parents are invited to an open house from 4-6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 12, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus for the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program.

The Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program offers a variety of programs for kids, including gardening, biking, photography, hiking/expeditions, healthy living, climbing, shooting sports, and environmental stewardship. The program focuses on the Alaska Way of Life, with a variety of activities common to life in Sitka.

The program is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the Sitka District Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (which operates the Alaska 4-H program throughout the state). For more information about the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program, contact Jasmine Shaw of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service in Sitka at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.edu.

• It’s time to … learn about how to raise chickens (March 25) and rabbits (April 8)

BobbiDanielsWithRabbit

Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm grooms one of the rabbits she raises for yarn.

 

ChickensInCompostFor more than a year, the Sitka Local Foods Network has offered a variety of free garden education classes. Now we’re adding livestock classes as Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm has offered to teach Raising Chickens 101 and Raising Rabbits 101.

The Raising Chickens 101 class is from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking on Spruce Street). The Raising Rabbits 101 class is 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall. Click here to check out the radio PSA.

“I am planning on tailoring the classes to who shows up (new chicken owners vs. those considering chickens) so it will go according to who is there and what they need to know, taking questions and sharing resources,” Bobbi said. “If people have something specific they want me to cover, they can message me on Facebook or call me 738-4481.”

The chicken class will cover a range of topics, including what breeds are best for eggs or meat, basic chicken coop info, how to prevent predators from getting into your flock, what types of feed you need, the advantages of chicken coop co-ops, the best time to get your chicks, etc. The rabbit class will cover topics such as what breeds are best for meat or yarn, rabbit feed types, how long it takes rabbits to reach maturity, how much cage space you need, etc.

These classes are free and open to all Sitka residents wanting to learn about chickens and rabbits. For more information about Sitka Local Foods Network education classes, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520 or 1-850-491-2666 (cell), or Michelle Putz at 747-2708. These are two of the many free classes being offered this year by the Sitka Local Foods Network education committee. Click here to get a full list of our upcoming spring classes.

• It’s time to … mark your calendars and get ready for spring with these garden and livestock education classes

SLFNSpringGardenClassesFEB2015

Thinking about your garden, especially with our warm winter? It’s time to mark your calendars with several upcoming Spring 2015 garden classes offered by the Sitka Local Foods Network Education Committee.

GreensInHoopHouseStPetersThese free classes will cover a variety of topics, from gardening basics and choosing what veggies to grow in Sitka to learning about fruit tree pruning, composting and seed-starting. But wait, there’s more. We recently added classes on raising chickens and rabbits. Some of the classes have limited space and require preregistration, so sign up early.

We will be adding more classes to this list as they become available, so check the website for updates. We plan to post individual class announcements as we get closer to the actual class dates.

And now, here’s the list of classes so far:

  • Everyone Can Compost — 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, March 4, Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street), teacher Jennifer Carter, no preregistration required.
  • Fruit Tree Pruning Basics Workshop — 10 a.m., Saturday, March 7, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church), teacher Jud Kirkness, no preregistration required.
  • Growing and Fertilizing Rhubarb — 11 a.m., Saturday, March 14, at the home of Perry Edwards/Michelle Putz (131 Shelikof), teachers Perry Edwards and Michelle Putz, no preregistration required.
  • Raising Chickens 101 — 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street), teacher Bobbi Daniels, no preregistration required.
  • Starting Vegetable Seedlings Workshop — 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 31, Harrigan Centennial Hall, teacher Jennifer Carter, learn how to start seedlings and go home with a tray of planted seeds, class limited to 15 people, preregistration required.
  • Raising Rabbits 101 — 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, April 8, Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street), teacher Bobbi Daniels, no preregistration required.
  • Seed-Starting Basics — 2 p.m., Saturday, April 11, call for location (Michelle Putz, 747-2708), teacher Linda Wilson, class limited to 8-10 people, preregistration required.

We had 55 people attend our first two classes in January and February, kicking off a year-long series of education events on a variety of topics related to vegetable gardening, livestock, and food preservation in Sitka. Our garden mentor program classes also will be open to the public, once they start in April.

For more information or to sign up for classes requiring preregistration, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520 or 1-850-491-2666 (cell), or Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

• Spring 2015 garden education classes from the Sitka Local Foods Network (opens as PDF)