• Baranof Elementary School first-graders harvest their kindergarten plantings at Russian Bishop’s House garden

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BIG HARVESTBaranof Elementary School first-grader Marley Bayne, 6, holds up a large carrot and a beet next to the Russian Bishop’s House garden Wednesday. The entire first-grade class harvested the vegetables they helped plant in the spring when they were kindergartners. This year’s growing season was especially good for the garden crops, which children are using to make soup in class. Sitka National Historical Park rangers organize the gardening activities with the help of school staff and parent volunteers. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo By James Poulson)

• Sitka National Historical Park to host garden party Saturday at Russian Bishop’s House

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Volunteer gardener Karen Christner, right, in period costume, leads a tour of the Russian Bishop’s House garden in September 2013.

The Sitka National Historical Park will host a garden party starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Russian Bishop’s House garden.

Volunteer gardener Karen Christner and Ranger Jasa Woods will present a 45-minute program on the history of the Russian Bishop’s House garden and how its tradition is carried on today. During the spring, kindergarten students from Baranof Elementary School plant the garden. In the fall, the students return as first-graders to harvest the produce.

Attendees are invited early for hot tea and Russian tea cakes. Seating and shelter from the rain will be provided. For more information, call the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center at 747-0110.

• Fish to Schools program seeks donations of coho salmon from commercial fishermen

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The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs 500 pounds of coho salmon to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming school year.

“Please donate a few of your fish at the closure of the second king opener to Fish to Schools this August and help us meet our goal to get locally caught coho in all Sitka schools,” Fish to Schools program coordinator Tracy Gagnon said. “We’re also collecting photos of you (fishermen) in action — please email a photo of you on the water.”

The Sitka Fish To Schools project (click here to see short video) got its start as a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and now is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society. It started by providing a monthly fish dish as part of the school lunch as Blatchley Middle School, and since then has grown to feature regular fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School,Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

In addition to serving locally caught fish meals as part of the school lunch program, the Fish To Schools program also brings local fishermen, fisheries biologists and chefs to the classroom to teach the kids about the importance of locally caught fish in Sitka. The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

To donate, sign up in the main offices at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish).

For more information, contact Tracy Gagnon at Sitka Conservation Society, tracy@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.

• Sitka shows off its gardens to International Master Garden Conference cruise

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InternationalMasterGardenersConferenceLogoSome 1,100 participants in the 2013 International Master Gardeners Conference were in Sitka on Wednesday, Sept. 11, when the Holland America Lines cruise ship Westerdam docked in town.

As part of the visit, the Sitka District office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service prepared a walking tour for the conference participants to show off local gardens and other highlights. The walking tour was a unique opportunity to showcase the challenges and methods used to garden in Sitka as well as interact with Master Gardeners from various locales. In addition to visiting Sitka, the Sept. 7-14 cruise took the conference from Seattle to Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria (British Columbia) and back to Seattle.

The Sitka walking tour started at Harrigan Centennial Hall and included a stop to look at apple trees by KCAW-Raven Radio, a stop at the Sitka Pioneer Home to look at the roses and other gardens, a stop at the Russian Bishop’s House (where kindergarten students from nearby Baranof Elementary School plant vegetables in the spring and harvest them in the fall when they return as first-graders). From there the walking tour went to St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows veggies to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets), then it was on to the Sheldon Jackson Museum and on to Sitka National Historical Park. The final two stops were at a garden on the Sheldon Jackson Campus (between the Yaw Art Center and Hames Athletic and Wellness Center), and on to the US Geological Survey Geomagnetic Station and UAF Cooperative Extension Service demonstration plots (at the site of the original USDA Sitka Experimental Farm (Page 7), which was the first in Alaska and had more than 100 acres of crops from 1898-1931).

Also at Harrigan Centennial Hall, Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein hosted a couple of showings of her movie “Eating Alaska,” which examines the food choices one makes, especially when they live in Alaska where produce can be marginal but fish and game are widely available.

UAFMasterGardenerProgramLogoThe Master Gardener (MG) program started in Seattle in the 1970s as a way to extend the horticulture resources of Washington State’s land grant university  to the urban horticulture public in Seattle. The Master Gardeners receive 40 hours of training, similar to a basic three-credit-semester-hour, college-level horticulture class.

In return for this low-cost education the MG participants provide 40 hours of service to their community using Cooperative Extension information resources from their home states. The MG service may be in food gardening, pest management, youth gardening, tree and landscape care, public gardens, etc. Since the initial Seattle project, Master Gardener programs now exist in every state in the U.S., as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. A Master Gardener course was taught in Sitka in April at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

• Sitka garden walking tour map for 2013 International Master Gardeners Conference

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• Tour de Coop, a chicken tour of Sitka takes place on Oct. 27 in honor of National Food Day

Have you always been curious about what it takes to raise chickens in Sitka? Several of Sitka’s chicken coop owners will host the Tour de Coop — a guided walking tour of chicken coops at four homes in the Biorka neighborhood in honor of Food Day. This event features two tours starting at 11 and 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, from the Baranof Elementary School playground parking lot (from the Market Center side).

During the guided walking tour, participants will learn chicken how-to basics from Sitka residents who are raising chickens for eggs and meat. Participants will learn the basics of raising chickens from chicks, what types of chickens do best in Sitka’s climate, what types of feed to use, how to build a coop, and how to protect the coop from bears and dogs. This tour is family friendly and interactive, fun guaranteed.

The Tour de Coop is brought to you by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Food Co-op, and Food Day. Food Day, which is Oct. 24 each year, is a national celebration and movement promoting healthy, affordable and sustainable food. For more information, contact Jud Kirkness at judkirkness@yahoo.com or call the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509. (Editor’s note: The KCAW-Raven Radio Morning Interview on Friday, Oct. 26, featured Jud Kirkness and Ellen Frankenstein being interviewed by Holly Keen about the Tour de Coop and other food issues in Sitka.)

• Baranof Elementary students dig up potatoes and other local food stories in the news

Daily Sitka Sentinel screenshot of Baranof Elementary School student picking potatoes

Daily Sitka Sentinel screenshot of Baranof Elementary School student picking potatoes

Monday’s edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel features a photo of Baranof Elementary School first-grader Keaton Kelling, 7, holding up a couple of potatoes he dug up from the Russian Bishop’s House garden on Thursday. First-grade students from Baranof Elementary harvested crops of peas, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables they planted last spring when they were kindergarten students. Most crops did well this year. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Monday's picking potatoes photo from the Daily Sitka Sentinel

Monday's picking potatoes photo from the Daily Sitka Sentinel

There were several other local food stories in Alaska newspapers over the weekend. Here’s a quick rundown.

Click here to read a story from Sunday’s Juneau Empire that features an Alaskanized version of a recipe for “salmon maritako,” a stew made by Spanish fishermen. The article is by Ginny Mahar, a chef at Rainbow Foods who also writes the Food-G blog. Many of the recipes Ginny posts on her blog include local, Southeast Alaska ingredients.

Click here to read an article from Sunday’s Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about a University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service project at the Fairbanks Experimental Farm where they are using high-tunnel greenhouses to grow more apples and berries in northern climates. Click here to go directly to the UAF Cooperative Extension Service project page.

Click here to read Wednesday’s Anchorage Daily News gardening column by Jeff Lowenfels about now being the time to prepare plants for winter. Most of the column deals with flowers, but he does have some info about preparing tomato plants for the winter at the end of the column.

Click here to read an Associated Press story posted on the Anchorage Daily News Web site on Monday about how hoop houses (a low-cost type of greenhouse that uses plastic on a frame) are extending the growing season for urban farmers in northern climates. The version of the story on the ADN site didn’t have any photos of the hoop houses, so click here to see a version with photos.

Click here to read a transcript from National Public Radio of a story about two Walmart truckers who drive 2,600 miles one way from an Oregon warehouse to Alaska each week to deliver produce to Alaska stores. That’s a long way to transport a piece of lettuce or a carrot we can grow in Alaska, and that distance doesn’t include how far the produce had to travel to get to the Oregon warehouse before being trucked to Alaska. The story originated from the Alaska Public Radio Network, which has the story in streaming audio on its site.

Finally, click here for a humorous column from the July 2009 Field and Stream by Scott Bestul comparing the taste of Grade A Choice Holstein beef vs. wild venison when both are prepared the same way. This isn’t really a local story, but deer hunting season is coming soon in Southeast Alaska.