Sitka Kitch to offer Cooking With Nalani James: Salmon Croquettes class March 19 using Zoom

Looking for a way to use up some leftover salmon? Do you have a lot of salmon meat scrapings that didn’t make it into the filets? The Sitka Kitch will host a virtual Cooking  With Nalani James: Salmon Croquettes class from 5:30-7 p.m. on Friday, March 19, using Zoom (NOTE, this is a date change from the original post).

Croquettes originated in France in about 1898 by the founder of classical French cuisine, Escoffier. They were originally made of beef, leftovers that needed to be used up. We will include an Alaska twist by using ground salmon for this recipe, with a couple of sides to make it a full meal.

Nalani is somewhat new to Sitka, having moved here about two years ago. She occasionally had a baked goods booth at the 2019 Sitka Farmers Markets, and she became market co-manager in 2020. She loves to have ethnic foods from the regional area and works to simulate the flavors and textures of the dish. She has been cooking elaborate dishes at the age of 10 with the free will of her parents, and loves being a cooking chemist.

The class cost is $30 for each household, with ground salmon provided as a fundraiser for the Sitka Mutual Aid program. If you provide your own salmon, the cost is $20 and families are encouraged to participate together. Other ingredients are not provided; however a list of ingredients and equipment needed will be sent to all who are registered. A link to the Zoom event also will be sent at that time.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-op are now able to attend the online classes for $10 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee, and in this case no salmon will be provided). Please use the Sitka Food Co-op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We occasionally offer scholarship spot(s) per class for people with limited incomes, provided we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Chandler at SCS for more details about the scholarship.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $15). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Kaasei Training & Consulting and Coastal Heating & Repair win $25,000 each in 2020 Path to Prosperity business development contest

Naomi Michalsen, left (with granddaughter, Quinn), of Kaasei Training & Consulting in Ketchikan and Jimmi Jensen of Coastal Heating & Repair of Yakutat are the winners of $25,000 worth of consulting and technical services from the 2020 Path to Prosperity business development contest.

Two Southeast Alaska businesses — Kaasei Training & Consulting and Coastal Heating & Repair — recently were selected as winners of the 2020 Path to Prosperity economic development contest. As winners, Kaasei Training and Coastal Heating were awarded $25,000 each for consulting and technical services. The winners were announced on Feb. 9, during the 2021 Mid-Session Summit hosted by Southeast Conference in Juneau.

A sample of traditional foods prepared by Kaasei Training & Consulting.

Kaasei Training & Consulting works to revitalize traditional knowledge of Indigenous plants and foods by holding workshops and trainings that encourage participants to deepen their connections to self, community, and the environment. Kaasei is run by Naomi Michalsen, a Tlingít chef and grandmother who is based in Ketchikan. Kaasei’s harvesting, preserving and cooking workshops help participants further their understanding of their beautiful surroundings, increase appreciation for the deep cultural history of the Indigenous people of Alaska, and gain knowledge of harvesting ethically and respectfully.

Coastal Heating & Repair (no website) is a start-up business owned by Jimmi and Starr Jensen that will provide the community of Yakutat with heating and plumbing services, giving residents the opportunity to have cleaner, safer, and more energy efficient homes. Jimmi, who is Iñupiaq, has more than 10 years of experience as a heating technician and has provided this service to residents of Yakutat for several years as a “side job.” Starr, who is Tlingít and Koyukon Athabascan, will support the finance and scheduling side of the business. Jimmi and Starr are thrilled to be able to do this work full time as a means to support their family and hometown of Yakutat.

These two companies were chosen from 12 finalist businesses from Southeast Alaska that participated in the Path to Prosperity’s Business Boot Camp in September in Juneau. This group included Equinox and Sitka Flowers & the Chocolate Moose from Sitka; a third Sitka business, TIDES Education Associates, was selected but didn’t complete the program. They were chosen from 18 businesses from six Southeast Alaska communities that applied for the 2020 Path to Prosperity contest. The 2020 contest focused on minority-owned businesses only, so applications were down from previous years.

The following businesses were selected as 2020’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Primary Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Today, Allen Bird, Ketchikan
  • Caffeinated Raven, Alison Bremner (Marks), Juneau
  • Coastal Heating and Repair, James Jensen, Yakutat
  • Equinox, Cameo Padilla, Sitka
  • Gastineau Grains, Kate Higgins, Juneau
  • Integrative Mushroom Solutions, Uyanga “Angie” Mendbayar, Juneau
  • Jellyfish Donuts, Brianna Krantz, Ketchikan
  • Kaasei Training and Consulting, Naomi Michalsen, Ketchikan
  • Sitka Flowers & The Chocolate Moose, Angela Ketah, Sitka
  • Well-Being, Adrianna Oliva, Ketchikan
  • Xíinaansdla, Marita Tolson, Hydaburg

A sample of traditional foods prepared by Kaasei Training & Consulting

At Boot Camp, the finalists learn about triple-bottom-line principles, worked with mentors, and received one-on-one counseling on how to develop their business models and plans. Following this intensive business training weekend, the finalists spent two months working with Spruce Root business coaches to create thorough business plans and pitch videos to be submitted to the judges. The winners are selected based on the feasibility, social impact, and environmental sustainability of their businesses.

Path to Prosperity is run by Spruce Root, Inc., and is made possible through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. Since the first competition in 2013, Path to Prosperity has received over 300 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 23 communities. The program has trained 101 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 17 winners $560,000 to build their businesses. All of the participants have been trained in the “triple bottom line” approach to building a business by learning to measure their profitability as well as the environmental and social impacts of their business. Previous competition winners include Foundroot seeds (Haines), Village Coffee Company (Yakutat) ,Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), The Salty Pantry (Petersburg), Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and others.

Spruce Root is an Alaska Native-run CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) that provides local entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources in the form of loan capital, business coaching, workshops, and competitions. Together these programs support both new and existing businesses in Southeast Alaska and empower business owners through increased self-sufficiency.

Applications for the 2021 Path to Prosperity competition will open on April 1 and will close on May 31. To learn more about Path to Prosperity or Spruce Root’s other services (such as small business loans), visit their website at www.spruceroot.org or email grow@spruceroot.org.

Check out the February 2021 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the February 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the 2021 Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, the Pick.Click.Give. charitable giving program being active for when people file for their PFDs, an invitation to join our board of directors, and information about our 2021 sponsorship program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Spruce Root, Sustainable Southeast Partnership, other groups to host 2021 Kelp and Oyster Farming Workshop

Spruce Root, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, and other organizations are offering a free, online workshop that will provide tools and training for Alaska Natives in Southeast Alaska interested in starting kelp, oyster, or multi-species ocean farms. The workshop will begin on the evening of Thursday, March 18, and continue with day-long sessions on Friday and Saturday, March 19-20. The workshop will be delivered using Zoom.

This workshop is co-hosted by Spruce Root, Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP), Ecotrust, GreenWave, the Organized Village of Kake (OVK), the Native American Agriculture Fund, and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF).

The program is free, but space is limited to 24 participants –– selected through an application process. Project partners at Spruce Root will review applications and select participants based on the thoughtfulness of responses to application questions. The application period closes on Feb. 19. Selected applicants will be notified by Feb. 26.

Topics covered include:

  • an overview of kelp and oyster harvest and cultivation, and field identification of seaweed species
  • logistics of collecting, growing, and purchasing seed
  • farm site evaluation and planning, leasing, and permitting
  • farm design and build out
  • harvesting and processing techniques, and quality handling
  • business planning and farm financing
  • and more.

Information and instruction will be provided by GreenWave, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Spruce Root, The Native Conservancy, and others. 

All interested Southeast Alaska residents are invited to apply, however, priority will be given to Southeast Alaska Native residents.

Participants will need access to the internet and a computer, tablet, or smartphone in order to participate in the sessions and view presentations and panel discussions. 

Following the workshop, participants may be eligible for one-on-one mentoring and, pending safety and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in farm tours and other hands-on activities at a later date. Participants will be expected to attend and complete the workshop to be eligible for mentoring and hands-on activities.

Materials, final workshop times, and other workshop information will be distributed to selected participants prior to the technical workshops.

If you have questions about this program, you can contact Aaron Ferguson (aaron@spruceroot.org) or Lindsay Olsen (lindsay@greenwave.org). Click this link for the online application.

Micro-grants available to improve security of Alaska’s food supply

The Alaska Division of Agriculture is excited to announce that it is accepting initial “scoping” applications for the new micro-grants for food security.

The micro-grants program has a two-step application process, with initial scoping applications being submitted first. Then, the top projects from the initial applications submitting a more detailed application before money is awarded this spring. The due date for two-page initial applications is Feb. 15.

The global COVID-19 pandemic reminded Alaskans they live at the end of a long and sometimes tenuous food supply chain. These micro-grants are aimed at strengthening local food security.

“While Alaska enjoys the benefits of a global supply system, it is simply responsible to support home-grown systems we can rely on, just in case,” said David W. Schade, director of the Alaska Division of Agriculture. “We are fortunate to now be able to offer micro-grants aimed at enhancing our ability to be more self-reliant when it comes to necessities like food.”

At the urging of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the 2018 federal Farm Bill authorized the state to issue micro-grants to support innovative ways to improve Alaska’s food security. The division has begun accepting scoping applications for three-year grants of up to $15,000 for individuals ($5,000 per year), or $30,000 for qualified organizations ($10,000 per year). Individuals and qualified organizations can partner with each other to be eligible for combined funding (for example, if two individuals and an organization partner they would be eligible for $20,000 per year). The U.S. Division of Agriculture will provide $1.8 million to the division in each of the program’s first two years.

“We will prioritize funding of grants for projects that will increase local food production and storage, as well as education efforts to support these local efforts,” Schade said. Qualifying activities may include small-scale gardening, small-scale herding and livestock operations, and/or expanding access to food, safe food storage, and knowledge of food security.

Grant applicants must provide an initial scoping application to the division by Feb. 15. The division will then invite qualifying applicants to submit a full project proposal. Multiple individuals or organizations may submit joint applications for grants to support coordinated activities. The initial scoping application form and deadline information are available online at http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_grants.htm.

All individual Alaskans and many organizations qualify to apply for these grants, and the division hopes to have a strong batch of applications in the program’s first year. The security of two years of federal funding means projects the division cannot fund in 2021 will have another chance next year, Schade said.

“Alaska will have $1.8 million to help Alaskans grow more nutritious food locally and become more food secure. Individuals are eligible for up to $5,000 grants,” said According to Karen McCarthy, senior legislative assistant for Sen. Murkowski.

“Organizations such as Indian tribes and tribal organizations; non-profits such as religious organizations, food banks and food pantries; federally-funded educational facilities including Head Start and Early Head Start programs, public schools, public institutions of higher education, tribal colleges and Universities, and job training programs; and local and tribal governments that may not levy local taxes under state or federal law will be eligible for up to $10,000 in grant funds. Eligible projects are those that will increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food for food insecure individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities — a pretty wide-open range of projects that Alaskans’ innovative thinking can really make exciting.”

The website, http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_grants.htm, includes a variety of information about the program. Click this link for access to a Facebook Live video presentation on Thursday, Jan. 21. Click this link for the PowerPoint slides used during the Facebook Live presentation. Click this link for the two-page scoping application form (which can be filled out online or printed and completed), and click this link for an application guide and instructions. Click this link for a one-page information sheet from Sen. Murkowski’s office about the program. Applications can be submitted by email and by regular mail, but they should be timed to arrive by Monday, Feb. 15.

If you have further questions, please reach out to Catherine Cheadle, the grants specialist who is heading up this program. You can call her at 907-761-3851 or email her at catherine.cheadle@alaska.gov.

Alaska Sea Grant to offer a seaweed farm start-up training program on Feb. 2

Alaska Sea Grant and partners are excited to announce the 2021 Seaweed Farm Start-up Training Program to be held for Alaska residents interested in starting their own seaweed farm in Alaska.

In 2020, this program was held in Kodiak, Ketchikan, and Sitka as part of Phase 2 of the Alaska Mariculture Initiative. In February of 2021, this program will be held again for a new cohort of participants, and will be conducted online via Zoom due to COVID-19 health and safety mandates. This virtual format will allow more participants to access the training program, from 48 participants in 2020 to potentially more than 100 in 2021. Registration for the training program will be completed in two parts:

  1. All interested Alaska residents are invited to register for a free two-hour webinar to be held from 4-6 p.m. on Feb. 2. Registration closes Feb. 1.
  2. Webinar attendees will then be eligible to register for a series of in-depth, virtual, technical, multi-day workshops over one week, beginning on Feb. 22. Each session will be 2–3 hours.

The goal of this program is to provide the tools and training necessary for Alaskans to start their own seaweed farm. The program is targeted towards commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, and fishing communities. The program will be completed in four sections:

  1. online webinar on Feb. 2
  2. series of virtual technical multi-day workshops over one-week beginning on Feb. 22
  3. one-on-one mentoring for high-performing participants
  4. potential in-person hands-on field training in Spring/Summer 2021 (COVID-19 permitting).

Participants will be required to attend the Feb. 2 webinar in order to register for the series of technical workshops. Although there is no expected cap on the number of participants for the webinar, participation for the series of technical multi-day workshops is expected to be capped at 150 participants. Registration will be first-come first-serve for eligible participants. Registration for the series of technical multi-day workshops will be open from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10. Materials, final workshop dates/times, and workshop information will be distributed to registered participants prior to both the webinar and technical workshops.

Topics covered will include identification of seaweed species, lifecycles of seaweed, the hatchery process, site evaluation, use of the Mariculture Map, farm gear and equipment, business plan development, farm loans available, state lease application process, gear deployment, seeding and harvesting techniques, quality handling, and safety considerations. Information and instruction will be provided by GreenWave, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Blue Evolution, OceansAlaska, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation Inc., Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, seaweed farmers, and others.

Register now to learn more about what it takes to become a seaweed farmer in Alaska. Please visit the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation website for more information about the training program. To register online, click this link. For more details, contact Melissa Good of Alaska Sea Grant at melissa.good@alaska.edu.

Check out the January 2021 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the January 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter has short articles about the 2021 Pick.Click.Give. donation period opening, a Preserving Alaska’s Bounty online class series, an invitation to join the Sitka Local Foods Network’s board of directors, and an item about the 2021 SLFN sponsorship program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Friday’s the day to start filing your 2021 PFD applications with Pick.Click.Give. donations

As 2020 draws to a close, many Alaskans already are thinking about applying for their 2021 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check in January. As usual, Alaskans can share their wealth with a variety of Alaska nonprofits, including the Sitka Local Foods Network, through the PFD’s Pick.Click.Give. program.

This is the seventh year the Sitka Local Foods Network will participate in the Pick.Click.Give. program, which allows people to donate in $25 increments to their favorite statewide and local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations when they file their PFD applications from Jan. 1 through March 31.

When you choose to donate part of your PFD to the Sitka Local Foods Network, you support the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs about growing and preserving food, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, Sitka Community Gardens, matching dollars at the Sitka Farmers Market for SNAP/WIC beneficiaries, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka. We recently launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to try and inspire entrepreneurs in Sitka to work more with local foods.

In 2020 Alaskans contributed $2.96 million to 622 Alaska nonprofit organizations, and more than $27.0 million has been donated since the program started in 2009. Some Alaskans choose to donate to just one group, while others may spread several donations around to many groups. There now are  611 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2021 (including multi-location nonprofits), including 21 from Sitka. In 2020, Alaskans donated $86,025 to Sitka-based nonprofits (note, total includes some nonprofits that are based in multiple cities).

So how do you make a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network through the Pick.Click.Give. program? First, starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1, go fill out your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application at http://pfd.alaska.gov/. When you get to the section of the application asking if you want to participate in Pick.Click.Give. Charitable Contributions program, click on the PCG link and search for the Sitka Local Foods Network. You also can look for us by using the town search for Sitka.

The Pick.Click.Give. program is available only to people who file their PFD applications online, and not to those who file by mail. Even though you can’t file a new PFD application after March 31, you can go back into your application and update your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 each year. In 2020, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends were released in July instead of their usual October, and the last day for editing was moved up to June 17 from Aug. 31. We don’t know yet if there will be similar adjustments.

You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2021 PFD. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408-D Marine St., Sitka, Alaska, 99835. You also can donate online by going to our online fundraising page on MightyCause.com, and clicking the Donate button to make an online contribution. You also can send in a check or make an online donation if you are trying to make nonprofit donations before the end of the 2020 tax year. In December 2020, we just ordered a new high tunnel so we can grow more fresh, local produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Thank you for supporting our mission of promoting and encouraging the growing, harvesting and eating of local foods in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2021

The Sitka Local Foods Network in recent years created a sponsorship program to help promote our mission, and Sitka businesses and individuals are welcome to join for 2021. The goal of the sponsorship program is to make the projects we undertake (Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, gardening education, food business development, etc.) more sustainable.

“Sitka has a precarious position when it comes to food security, and the Sitka Local Foods Network is trying to improve our food security through our mission to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods in the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham said. “Sponsors of the Sitka Local Foods Network are working with an organization and a farmers market that values local food and businesses, fun, premium quality goods and experiences.”

In recent years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted seven Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer (from July to September). Due to COVID-19, we had to greatly scale back our 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets, focusing just on produce sales and using an online sales portal, but we did double our number of market weeks. We haven’t set our 2021 dates yet, but we anticipate we will have a more normal market experience this year.

In addition, we grow most of the local produce sold at the markets at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and a couple of other locations in town. In March 2020 we built a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, which helped us increase our produce production despite a wet and cold summer, and we’re looking to add another new high tunnel before the 2021 growing season. We usually offer a variety of garden education classes in the spring. And one way we ensured fresh, local produce is available to lower-income Sitkans is through our matching program for WIC and SNAP beneficiaries (the first $20 spent on produce at the market), courtesy of recent grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop.

In 2018 we launched a new food business innovation contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, and have continued the program with the expectation of hosting it in 2021 (our 2020 winners were baker Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company and mushroom grower/harvester Levi Adams of Forage and Farm). We also have hosted the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser, with 2018 and 2019 in partnership with Youth Advocates of Sitka and canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. In addition, we support other local food projects in Sitka, such as the Fish to Schools lunch program and the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

There are four levels of sponsorship available, and each has its own set of perks.

  • Grower ($2,500-plus) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets, include your logo and company name prominently in our merchandise and advertisements, and thank you on our social media and web pages. If appropriate for the Sitka Farmers Market, you may set up a free promotional booth.
  • Harvester ($1,000-$2,499) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets and include your logo and company name in our merchandise and advertisements.
  • Planter ($250-$999) — Your banner will hang at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets.
  • Friend ($50-$249) — You are listed on our online sponsor page.

We have limited space for banners at the Sitka Farmers Markets, so please contact us before May 1 to guarantee your spot. To learn more about the sponsorship program, click the link below for details and a registration form. For more information, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or by email at charleswbingham3@gmail.com, or email us at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2021 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

USDA Forest Service, Sitka Tribe of Alaska offer virtual Tlingít potato harvest education event

Volunteers from the USDA Forest Service, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Pacific High School harvest Tlingít potatoes Oct. 24, 2018, from the Sitka Ranger District’s community garden in Sitka. The Tlingit community potato garden has been operated by the Forest Service and Sitka Tribe of Alaska since 2017, and 2018’s harvest of nearly 90 pounds was the largest yet. The Sitka Ranger District provides the sunny plot of land to serve as the shared potato garden and tends the garden over the summer after volunteers from the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program, the gardening class from Pacific High School, and others from the community plant the potatoes in April. Tlingít potatoes (sometimes called Maria’s potatoes) have been present in Tlingit gardens for over 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800’s. (Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service)

A volunteer holds a handful of Maria’s Tlingít Potatoes during the harvest on Oct. 24, 2018, in Sitka. The Tlingít community potato garden has been operated by the USDA Forest Service and Sitka Tribe of Alaska since 2017. (Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service)

SITKA, Alaska – For the fourth consecutive year, the Tongass National Forest’s Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska will educate southeast Alaskans about Tlingit potatoes, and then harvest the latest crop for seed potatoes and local donation.

People are invited to participate in the web-based, educational program at 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 12. The current crop of Maria’s potatoes, also known as Tlingít potatoes, was planted in April.

USDA Forest Service staff, Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff, and tribal citizens will share how to harvest, store, and sustain Tlingít potatoes, and detail the biology, history, and cultural aspects of these interesting potatoes.In August, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Pacific High School were honored with the USDA Forest Service’s 2019 National Volunteers and Service Award for their roles in this program.

Those interested in attending should send an email to SM.FS.TNFMEETINGS@usda.gov before 10 a.m. on Oct. 12. A meeting invitation with a link to the meeting will be emailed to those that send a request. Organizers will use a Teams meeting for both video and audio.

Separate from the education event, Tongass National Forest employees will harvest the potatoes with assistance from Pacific High School gardening class students and Sitka Tribe of Alaska volunteers. After harvest, some of the potatoes will be dried and prepared for storage, to serve as next year’s seed potatoes. The group will also share the harvest through the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Traditional Foods Program and Social Services Department.

“We wish the whole community could participate this year, but because of the small space, we needed to limit the number of participants. We are happy that the students will have this in-person opportunity while social distancing and staying safe,” Sitka District Ranger Perry Edwards said. “Like finding buried treasure, it’s hard not to smile when you pull up pounds of potatoes from under each plant.”

For those interested in growing these potatoes, certified Maria’s Tlingít seed potatoes are now available through the State of Alaska at http://plants.alaska.gov/PotatoSeedProduction.html.

Tlingit potatoes (sometimes called Maria’s potatoes) have been present in Tlingit gardens for over 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800’s.

For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 907-747-2708 or email michelle.putz@usda.gov.