• Sam Benowitz to give free presentation tonight (Monday, May 24) about growing fruit in Sitka

A cluster of Parkland apples (photo from the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association gallery, http://www.apfga.org/)

A cluster of Parkland apples (photo from the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association gallery, http://www.apfga.org/)

Sam Benowitz of RainTree Nursery in Morton, Wash., will be in Sitka to give a free presentation tonight about how to grow fruit in Southeast Alaska.

The presentation takes place at 7 p.m. tonight (Monday, May 24) at Harrigan Centennial Hall. His Sitka presentation will be about about selecting, growing, and maintaining fruit trees, berry bushes and other edible landscape features.

Benowitz is the founder of RainTree Nursery, and he frequently gives presentations in Washington and Alaska about how to grow fruit trees. In Sitka, it’s possible to grow several varieties of apples and a couple of types of cherries. For more information, check out the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association site. There also are a multitude of berries that grow around Sitka, including many wild varieties and cultivated types such as raspberries and tayberries.

Cherry blossoms at Blatchley Community Garden

Cherry blossoms at Blatchley Community Garden

Benowitz was one of the keynote speakers at this past weekend’s Southeast Alaska Gardeners Conference and Garden Tours event in Juneau, and he agreed to offer a free presentation when he passed through Sitka on his way home to Washington.

For more information about tonight’s presentation, contact Jud Kirkness at 738-3254 or by e-mail at judkirkness@yahoo.com.

• St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm hosts first planting party of the season

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The first of three scheduled planting parties this month took place on Saturday, May 15, at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden (located by the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street). In addition to the slideshow above (which also includes some photos from a SEARHC WISEGUYS men’s health group work party the same day at its plot in the Blatchley Community Garden), click here and scroll down for a similar slideshow on our Shutterfly site.

The volunteers planted a variety of plant starts, including many that were grown by local residents who signed contracts at the Let’s Grow Sitka garden show in March. Residents who have plant starts from their Let’s Grow Sitka contracts can drop them off at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm planting parties.

Food grown at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden is sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets. This summer the Sitka Farmers Markets take place on five alternate Saturdays starting on July 17 and running through Sept. 11.

Two more planting parties are planned, from 2-4 on Saturday, May 22 and 29. Tools and gloves will be provided. For more information on the planting parties, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or 3akharts@acsalaska.net, or contact Doug Osborne at 747-3752 or doug_las@att.net.

• Alaskans Own seafood to start community supported fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka

The Alaskans Own seafood company is starting a community supported fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka this summer. The CSF program will be modeled after the community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription programs used by small farms around the country.

Alaskans Own is a group of independent fishermen in Sitka whose commitment to conservation is supported by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. “For us, it’s not just about catching fish, it’s about caring for the fisheries. It’s our passion, our future. Our commitment to the resource comes through in the quality of Alaskans Own seafood — it’s the best, and we’re proud of that,” says Jeff Farvour of the F/V Christi-Rob and an occasional vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market.

The Alaskans Own CSF program features a three-month subscription that lasts from June through August. During these three months, subscribers will receive a total of 40 pounds of fresh, locally caught wild seafood (20 pounds for the half-subscription option) that features a selection of king and coho (silver) salmon, rockfish and ling cod, halibut and black cod (sablefish), plus some free black cod tips.

Subscribers will receive their fish during twice-monthly pick-ups (dates and times TBA) at the Mill Building, 836 Lincoln St., next to the Sitka Sound Science Center. All seafood is flash frozen at its freshest, portioned and commercially vacuum-packed.

Only 15 subscriptions are available this year, and the cost is $380 for a full subscription and $190 for a half-subscription. For more information, contact Beth Short at 738-3360, or e-mail her at info@alaskansown.com to register. Payment is by check for now, but credit cards soon. Proceeds benefit the Fisheries Conservation Network and the Sitka fishing community.

2010 Community Supported Fisheries information sheet

• The new Sitka Local Foods Network e-newsletter (May 14)

Click here to read the current Sitka Local Foods Network e-newsletter courtesy of Linda Wilson. Don’t forget, you can sign up for the e-newsletter by typing your e-mail address in the “Join Our Mailing List” box on bottom of the left side of the page.

This issue of the e-newsletter includes information about the historical significance of Sitka strawberries, wheat and barley grown in Sitka at the turn of the 20th Century, the average last frost in Sitka, the May 31 sustainable gardening presentations by Northwest garden guru/author/TV host/seed company owner Ed Hume (a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network), and a calendar of upcoming local foods events.

• SEARHC, Sitka Local Foods Network host Ed Hume for sustainable gardening presentations

Ed Hume

Ed Hume

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Sitka Local Foods Network will host Northwest garden guru, author, TV personality and seed company owner Ed Hume for two presentations on sustainable gardening.

The two presentations take place on Monday, May 31 (Memorial Day), 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, the SEARHC Health Promotion, Diabetes and Lifestyle Balance programs and Garden Ventures.

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/.

• Kerry MacLane provides update on Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center project

An artist's concept of one version of a proposed Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

An artist's concept of one version of a proposed Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

About a dozen people joined Sitka Local Foods Network president Kerry MacLane for a PowerPoint presentation about the proposed Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center on Wednesday, May 12, at the SEARHC At Kaník Hít Community Health Services Building first-floor conference room. Kerry showed his presentation (attached) and provided a status update for the project. He also took feedback from the participants, seeking ideas for the next steps needed to complete the project.

The Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center is a project of the Sitka Local Foods Network to address one of the top local health priorities identified at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. Sitka residents said they wanted a community greenhouse in order to make more locally grown fruits and vegetables available in town, and a community greenhouse is seen as a way to grow fruits and veggies all year. In addition to local food being healthier for you, local food also provides food security in case of a disaster or other event that keeps the barges or airplanes from delivering (it’s estimated that 95 percent of the food eaten in Alaska is shipped in from the Lower 48 or overseas).

Currently, the Sitka Local Foods Network is in negotiations with the State of Alaska to lease an unused piece of Mt. Edgecumbe High School-owned land on Japonski Island near Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. If the lease goes through, the community greenhouse will help Sitka grow more fruits and vegetables locally while extending our short growing season. The greenhouse can provide educational opportunities for Mt. Edgecumbe High School and University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus students, as well as for other school, church and community groups who want to learn more about growing their own food. The community greenhouse also can provide horticultural therapy for medical and behavioral health patients.

Kerry said the model for the Sitka Community Garden and Education Center is the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens in Cheyenne, Wyo. Kerry used to work at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens several years ago, and he has been given pointers by Cheyenne Botanic Gardens director/founder Shane Smith. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens started out as a small-scale community greenhouse in 1977 that now features more than nine acres of extensive gardens, a solarium, arboretum and other features. It combines educational opportunities with production gardening and horticultural therapy (see fact sheet linked below).

Kerry said he is seeking letters of support from individuals and groups in Sitka who support the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center, and a sample letter is attached below. For more information, contact Kerry at 966-8839 or 752-0654.

Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center PowerPoint presentation

Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center proposal 2010

Sample Letter of Support for the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

Cheyenne Botanic Gardens factsheet

• Jerry Dzugan wins bike in Sitka Seafood Festival raffle

Jerry Dzugan was the big winner in the Sitka Seafood Festival raffle on Sunday, May 9, winning a $550 Specialized Hard Rock Disc Sport mountain bike donated by Eric Haseltine and Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop.

Grace Gjertsen won $125 of king salmon from Moe and Betsy Johnson of the FV Cloud Nine. Winning gift certificates to various local restaurants (with a range of values from $25-$100) were Robert Reed, Liz Garrick, Danny Stockel, Teal West, Mike Hagan, Kaitlyn Resch, Laura Buehler, Tras Master, George Burnstein, Betsy Johnson and Marsh.

In all, the raffle raised about $3,000 for the inaugural Sitka Seafood Festival, which is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 6-7. Details still are being arranged, but the event will feature a formal catered dinner by a guest chef on Friday night and a full day of events on Saturday. Guest performers included the bluegrass band Trampled By Turtles and the four-man juggling, acrobatic, martial arts and comedy troupe “NANDA: Acrobaticalist Ninja Action Heroes.”

To learn more about the Sitka Seafood Festival or to volunteer to help on one of the committees, e-mail sitkaseafoodfestival@gmail.com. You also can contact Alicia Peavey at alaska_al33@hotmail.com or 1-928-607-4845. The minutes from the May 6 Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee meeting are posted below. The next meeting of the steering committee is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, at the Sitka Fire Station.

The next fundraising event for the Sitka Seafood Festival is the Sitka Culinary Tour on May 21-22, which an event where ticket-holders sample small-plate seafood dishes prepared by the chefs at six different local restaurants. Tickets are $40 per person, available at Old Harbor Books, and they allow you to travel between any of the six participating restaurants from 4-9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 21-22, to sample the dishes. Sitka Culinary Tour tickets also may be sold at SeaMart, so watch for updates. To learn more, contact Linda Olson at 747-6985.

Sitka Seafood Festival raffle thank-you letter and winners’ list

Sitka Culinary Tour flier with menus and participating restaurants

Sitka Seafood Festival information sheet

Sitka Seafood Festival minutes from the May 6, 2010, steering committee meeting