• First classes set for second-year students in 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

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ONeillAndPutzIt’s time to plant your vegetable garden along with the Sitka Local Foods Network’s two second-year garden mentor families.

These two families (Anna Bradley and Tami O’Neill) participated in the first year of the program last summer, and now they’re back for more. Our two returning families will be planting carrots, chard, green onions and peas this year.
These four crops are slightly more difficult crops to grow that our first-year plantings of kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. Even though this year’s crops are more difficult to grow, many gardeners in Sitka still have good results with these vegetables.
The classes at each location will be similar, and they are free and open to the public. The schedule is:
  • Anna Bradley, 4764 Halibut Point Road, 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 10 (EDITOR’S NOTE: This class was rescheduled from its original May 3 date due to illness).
  • Tami O’Neill, 2309 Merganser Drive, 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 23.
Don’t forget the schedule of third classes (garden maintenance) for our first-year garden mentoring families has been posted and these classes also are open to the public. The first two classes, which took place in April and early May, were about selecting the best garden site, building a raised garden bed, and planting.
Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. For more information, please contact Michelle at 747-2708.
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• Sitka Food Co-op to host first annual membership meeting on Sept. 24

The Sitka Food Co-op will host its first annual membership meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 24, at the Rasmuson Center on the Sitka Fines Arts Camp/Sheldon Jackson Campus.

This membership meeting is an important part of the co-op’s development. The co-op incorporated one year ago and now it has to file official by-laws with the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development. The Sitka Food Co-op is a community-based, member-owned buying service dedicated to making wholesome foods and products available to its members as inexpensively as possible.

During this meeting we will establish co-op membership, discuss and vote on the co-op bylaws and elect board members for the next year.

This will affect the bulk ordering aspect of the co-op, so please come and share your opinions and your vote.

“Thanks to you all for making this such a successful operation thus far,” co-op organizer Ann Jenny said. “I look forward to the next phase of our development and, as always, am open to all of your ideas.”

For more information, send an e-mail to Ann at sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com or contact Keith Nyitray at 752-2335. Any person, organization or business interested in becoming a member or just interested in learning about the benefits of becoming a member of the largest local cooperative buying service in Sitka is welcome to attend.

• Sitka Food Co-op annual meeting flier to print out and post around town (PDF file)

• As you build your garden this spring, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article first appeared on this site in April 2010. It is repeated because much of the information remains current and newsworthy.)

As you start to plan your garden for this spring and summer, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry. The Plant A Row For The Hungry program (also known as Plant A Row or PAR) is a national campaign by the Garden Writers Association of America that got its start in Alaska.

In the cold winter of 1994, Anchorage Daily News garden columnist and former Garden Writers Association of America President Jeff Lowenfels was returning to his hotel after a Washington, D.C., event when he was approached by a homeless person who asked for some money to buy food. Lowenfels said Washington, D.C., had signs saying, “Don’t give money to panhandlers,” so he shook his head and kept on walking. But the man’s reply, “I really am homeless and I really am hungry. You can come with me and watch me eat,” stayed with Lowenfels for the rest of his trip.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels

The encounter continued to bother Lowenfels, even as he was flying back to Anchorage. During the flight, Lowenfels came up with an idea when he started writing his weekly garden column (the longest continuously running garden column in the country, with no missed weeks since it started on Nov. 13, 1976). He asked his readers to plant one extra row in their gardens to grow food to donate to Bean’s Café, an Anchorage soup kitchen. The idea took off.

When Anchorage hosted the Garden Writers Association of America convention in 1995, Lowenfels took the GWAA members to Bean’s Café to learn about the Plant A Row For Bean’s Café program. The Garden Writers Association of America liked the idea, and it became the national Plant A Row For The Hungry campaign (also known as Plant A Row or PAR). In 2002, the Garden Writers Association Foundation was created as a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit to manage the Plant A Row For The Hungry program.

“I am not surprised by the growth of PAR,” Lowenfels wrote in an e-mail to the Sitka Local Foods Network. “It is now in all 50 states and across Canada and there are thousands of variations of the original program — from prison gardens for the hungry to botanical gardens donating their produce from public display gardens. This is because gardeners always share information and extra food, so the idea was a natural.”

It took five years for the program to reach its first million pounds of donated food, but the second million only took two years and the next eight years saw a million pounds of donated food (or more) each year. Since 1995, more than 14 million pounds of food have been donated. Not only that, the program is getting ready to expand overseas to Australia, England and other countries with avid gardeners.

“We have supplied something in the vicinity of enough food for 50 million meals,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail. “Gardeners can solve this hunger problem without the government. And we don’t need a tea party to do it! Or chemicals, I might add, as author of a book on organic gardening (Teaming With Microbes, written with Wayne Lewis)!”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one out of every eight U.S. households experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. Many people skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going an entire day or more without food. About 33 million Americans, including 13 million children, have substandard diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they can’t always afford to buy the food they need. In recent years the demand for hunger assistance has increased 70 percent, and research shows that hundreds of children and adults are turned away from food banks each year because of lack of resources.

While many people credit Lowenfels for creating the Plant A Row For The Hungry program, Lowenfels says the real heroes are the gardeners growing the extra food and donating it to local soup kitchens, senior programs, schools, homeless shelters and neighbors. You can hear him pass along the credit to all gardeners at the end of this interview last year with an Oklahoma television station (video also embedded below).

“One row. That’s all it takes. No rules other than the food goes to the hungry. You pick the drop-off spot or just give it to a needy friend or neighbor. Nothing slips between the lip and the cup, I say,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail.

For people wanting to Plant A Row For The Hungry in Sitka, there are several places that would love to help distribute some fresh locally grown veggies or berries to those who are less fortunate, such as the Salvation Army, Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), local churches, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other organizations. The food the Sitka Local Foods Network grows at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden goes to the Sitka Farmers Market, where people who are in the WIC (Women, Infants, Children) supplemental food program (operated in Southeast Alaska by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium or SEARHC) can use special farmers market vouchers to buy fresh vegetables.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also takes donations of local produce to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets, and all proceeds from the Sitka Farmers Markets are used to help pay for Sitka Local Foods Network projects geared toward helping more people in Sitka grow and harvest local food. For more information, contact Sitka Local Foods Network President Kerry MacLane (maclanekerry@yahoo.com), Sitka Local Foods Network Vice President Linda Wilson (lawilson87@hotmail.com) or Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator Johanna Willingham-Guevin (johanna.willingham@gmail.com).

• 2010 Plant A Row For The Hungry marketing brochure

• 2009 Start a local Plant A Row For The Hungry campaign brochure

• Second Annual Sitka Seafood Festival celebrates our local bounty from the sea

The second annual Sitka Seafood Festival takes place on Friday and Saturday, May 20-21, at Harrigan Centennial Hall and Crescent Harbor.

The festival opens at 6 p.m. on Friday with the opening banquet dinner at Harrigan Centennial Hall. This event features a formal  atmosphere  with  various  local  chefs  collaborating,  each showcasing  a  separate  course. It also  introduces  our  guest  chefs —  Louisa  Chu,  chef  and writer  from  Chicago,  and  our  returning  guest  chef  Robert Kinneen  from  Anchorage.  There will be a live  music  performance  by  Ray  Troll  and  the  Rat  Fish  Wranglers  during  dinner,  as  well as  a  silent  auction  and  other entertainment. Tickets  are available  at  Old  Harbor  Books  for  $50.

The fun continues on Saturday, with a full schedule of events at Harrigan Centennial  Hall,  Crescent  Harbor  Shelter  and  back  parking  area. Events include:

  • 11 AM: Maritime-themed  parade
  • Vendor  booths  including  food,  educational  and  entertainment  booths,  kids  games  and prizes,  knot  tying  classes,  beer  garden,  live  music  by  many  local  bands,  or  anyone interested  in  showcasing  seafood/maritime-related  items  (for more  info,  contact Christi Wuerker at 738-9047)
  • Kids  and  adult  art  workshop  with  Ray  Troll  (limited  number of openings,  to  sign  up,  call  Alicia Olson at 928-607-4845)
  • GingerLee, Aerial  silk  dancer  performances by Jenn Perry
  • USCG  Aids  to  Navigation  Team  vessel  tours
  • Local  New Archangel Russian  dance  and  Naa  Kahídi  Tlingít dance  performances
  • US Coast  Guard  helicopter  rescue  demonstration
  • Cooking  demonstration  by  guest  chef  Louisa  Chu
  • Fish-filleting  demos  on  the  hour,  every  hour  starting  at  noon,  as  well  as  rockfish  identifying contests
  • Fish-head-tossing  contest,  tote  races,  crab  races  and  fish-head-bobbing  contests
  • 5-6PM:  Fish  Poetry  at  Kettleson  Memorial Library (More  info:  Jeff  Budd at  the  Greater  Sitka  Arts  Council)
  • 8-11PM:  Live  music  and  dance  with  Ray  Troll  and  the  Ratfish  Wranglers  opening  and  the headliner  band  Wicked  Tinkers  (Tickets  $20  at  Old  Harbor  Books:  more  info  available through  Sitka  Folk)

To learn more, go to  http://www.sitkaseafoodfestival.org/,  or  contact  Alicia  Olson at  928- 607-4845 or by e-mail  at sitkaseafoodfestival@gmail.com.

• Time changes for Saturday’s planting party at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

The time has changed to 1-3 p.m. for the planting party on Saturday, May 14, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The times also have changed for the next two planting parties, from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 and 28.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm provides vegetables, herbs and fruit for the Sitka Farmers Markets, which start in July (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27 and Sept. 10 at ANB Hall). It is located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street.

In addition to helping get the communal garden ready to grow veggies this summer, volunteers can meet Laura Schmidt, who is the lead gardener for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm this year and will coordinate most of the work parties and May planting parties. Laura said the work and planting parties will be kid-friendly and there will be several activities to keep the kids busy.

People who picked up seed starter kits at Let’s Grow Sitka in March should check the date they are scheduled to bring their started seeds in for planting. If you can’t bring them in on that date, please contact Laura Schmidt (623-7003) or Lisa Sadleir-Hart (747-5985) to make arrangements for someone else to bring them in on the scheduled date.

• Sitka Local Foods Network hosts Ed Hume for two sustainable gardening presentations on Memorial Day

Ed Hume

Ed Hume

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host Northwest garden guru, author, TV personality and seed company owner Ed Hume for two Memorial Day presentations on sustainable gardening.

The two presentations take place on Monday, May 31, at Grace Harbor Church, 1904 Halibut Point Road (the gray building across from SeaMart). The first presentation is from 3-5 p.m. and the topic will be “Preparing the Northwest Garden: Soil preparation and garden design for the Pacific Northwest climate.” The second presentation is from 7-9 p.m. with a topic of “Vegetables and Ornamentals: Sustainable solutions for common problems, variety selection and ideas for ornamental gardening.”

Tickets are $15 per session, or $20 for both sessions, and they are available at Old Harbor Books or White’s Pharmacy (at AC Lakeside Grocery). The two “Sustainable Gardening with Ed Hume” presentations are fundraisers for the Sitka Local Foods Network (http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/), a non-profit organization that promotes and encourages the use of locally grown, harvested and produced foods in Sitka. Event sponsors include White’s Inc., True Value, Garden Ventures, and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Health Promotion, Diabetes and Lifestyle Balance programs.

A separate event for SEARHC patients and their families living with diabetes or prediabetes is being planned for Tuesday, June 1. Details about that event will be announced later.

“I remember first hearing about Ed Hume and his year-round vegetable garden a couple of years ago at a Northwest Flower and Garden Show,” said SEARHC Diabetes Grant Coordinator Maybelle Filler, who is organizing the event for the Sitka Local Foods Network. “This seemed impossible since he lives in the same climate zone as Sitka and as far as I knew once winter hits, even fall time, there aren’t any vegetable gardens to be found. But as I sat there listening to his presentation and looking at his slides, it definitely was true. I was so impressed, and I thought what a great opportunity for Sitkans to listen to what he’s been able to do so we can extend the growing season for our own vegetable gardens.”

Hume is host of the weekly “Gardening in America” television show, the longest continuously running TV show on gardening at 42-plus years. He also hosts a weekly radio show. He is a member of the Garden Writers Association’s “Hall of Fame,” and won the National Garden Communicator’s Award in 1977. He has written several books on gardening, including “Gardening With Ed Hume: Northwest Gardening Made Easy.” He owns Ed Hume Seeds (http://www.humeseeds.com/), manages a children’s educational garden in Puyallup, Wash., and also is an internationally known speaker on gardening.

“Ed’s seed firm has a reputation for quality and reliability that is second to none,” said Kerry MacLane, Sitka Local Foods Network Board President. “We’re pretty lucky that such a famous expert is coming to Sitka. People do like to come to Sitka. Last year we hosted Ciscoe Morris (for a sold-out Memorial Day gardening presentation). This is getting to be a great tradition.”

No stranger to Southeast Alaska, Hume has visited Sitka and other communities in our region several times. His son used to fish out of Elfin Cove, and Hume said he conducted some of the trials for his seeds in an Elfin Cove garden to see if the plants were hardy enough for our climate.

During his presentations, Hume said he will discuss soil preparation and he will show how to improve vegetable garden soil since successful gardens need to start off with high-quality soil. Another topic includes the advantages of growing vegetables in raised beds, which provide warmer soil temperatures and better drainage. For those gardeners who have limited space, Hume will discuss the concept of the wide row to make small spaces more productive. Other topics will be the importance of garden layout for better light exposure and air circulation, fertilization issues and the environment, what types of vegetables to plant, and more.

At the two presentations on May 31, Sitka strawberry plant starts will be available for sale at $2 each as a fundraiser for the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden (a Sitka Local Foods Network project). For information about the presentations and Ed Hume, contact Maybelle Filler at 966-8739. For information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and its projects, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654 or go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

Ed Hume sustainable gardening event flier (feel free to print out and post around Sitka)

• Construction to limit space for this summer’s Sitka Farmers Markets

Due to construction, this summer’s Sitka Farmers Markets will have no outdoor vendor space. The Baranof Island Housing Authority (BIHA) is constructing a building this summer in part of the shared Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall/BIHA parking lot, and the parking lot will be closed off for safety and to store supplies.

We will try to make as much room as possible available to vendors inside ANB Hall. We encourage vendors to create vertical displays so more people can share the tables. This year, the Sitka Farmers Markets are scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on alternate Saturdays, July 17 and 31, Aug. 14 and 28, and Sept. 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

2010 Sitka Farmers Market schedule

2010 Sitka Farmers Market schedule

Because of the space limitations, we may have to give our local food booths a limited priority over arts and crafts. The earlier you register for booth space, the more likely we will be able to find a spot for you.

We really, really, need more locally grown produce vendors, home bakers, fish mongers, prepared food vendors and volunteers this year. If you know of someone who can help, please let us know. If you have extra locally grown produce but don’t have the time to staff a booth, you can donate it or sell it to the Sitka Farmers Market for resale at the Sitka Farmers Market booth. Proceeds from the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market booth goes toward Sitka Local Foods Network projects.

This year we had to raise the vendor fee for a table to $15 to cover costs of renting the ANB Hall and kitchen, hiring musicians and other expenses. There is an option to get your vendor space free if you help out with set-up and clean-up.

The registration form and market rules are linked below as PDF files. If you have any questions, please contact Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (nights and weekends only) or by e-mail at lawilson87@hotmail.com.

• 2010 Sitka Farmers Market vendor rules

• 2010 Sitka Farmers Market food rules

• 2010 Sitka Farmers Market vendor registration form (revised May 26, 2010)