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The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a meeting for prospective and past vendors of the Sitka Farmers Market from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). There are a few changes to the vendor rules and table rates this year, so this is a good time to learn about them.

This is the ninth year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features seven markets 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 Street). The Sitka Farmers Market was a community health initiative from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit.

The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers and gardeners, local fishermen, local bakers, and local artisans and craftspeople. Our emphasis is on local products from Sitka and Southeast Alaska. The farmers markets also are great Sitka gathering places.

A detailed description of the farmers markets and vendor forms can be found our websitehttp://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (scroll down or look in the right-hand column). If you have any questions, please email Sitka Farmers Market Manager Nina Vizcarrondo at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call her at (863) 286-9230.

• 2017 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated May 10, 2017)

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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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There is one spring garden class left on this year’s schedule, but the date has been changed. The “Everything You Need To Know About Trees” class taught by Jud Kirkness now will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Friday, May 26, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street).

The class is free, but donations to the Sitka Local Foods Network will be accepted.

For more information about the class, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520. Other classes may be added at a later date if we find volunteers to teach them.

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The Sitka Local Foods Network is seeking a manager to coordinate the 2017 Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. This is a contract position, and the manager receives a small compensation depending on experience for his or her work organizing the farmers markets this summer.

SLFNBoothGroupPhotoThis will be the ninth year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features seven markets during the summer from July through September. The markets will be 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. The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers/gardeners, local fishermen, and artisans and craftspeople. These events are great Sitka gathering places, and we promote local foods and other local goods at the markets.

This year we have new leadership for the market from within the Sitka Local Foods Network, and we are trying to streamline things so it’s easier for the market manager and vendors. We are not hiring an assistant manager this year, so all applicants will need to commit to be at all seven markets this year. In addition, the market manager needs access to a vehicle (for hauling signs and supplies around) and to the Internet.We have gone back to our 2015 vendor pricing, so hopefully we’ll be able to rekindle and bring the fun back to the market this year.

A detailed description of the market manager duties can be found at the link below. For more information or to submit applications, contact Charles Bingham at 1-907-623-7660, or you can email the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (please put “Sitka Farmers Market Manager” in the subject line).

Applications should include a cover letter, resumé and three recommendations, and they are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 31 (Deadline extended to Saturday, April 15). The market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market is a seasonal contract position that reports to the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors via a board liaison (Tiffany Justice).

Once we sign a contract with our market manager, we will announce a couple of meetings for potential vendors. We also will announce in the next few days an April class on cottage food business basics for those thinking about starting a home-based food business, and students taking that class will receive a reduction on their first table fee from the Sitka Farmers Market in 2017.

• Description of duties for market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market Manager (2017)

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Want to learn how to grow your own food? Are you new to Sitka and want to learn what veggies grow in our town? The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee has a list of free 2017 spring garden classes that can help you learn what to do and when to do it so you have a healthy garden.

This spring, all of our classes except one will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursdays at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). Each week will feature a different topic, and all classes are free (donations to the Sitka Local Foods Network will be accepted).

The class schedule is as follows:

  • Gardening in Sitka 101March 30, taught by Michelle Putz
  • Cottage Foods Business BasicsApril 6, 6-8 p.m., Room 106, University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, taught by Sarah Lewis and Nina Vizcarrondo, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service
  • Growing Potatoes in SitkaApril 13, taught by Kathy Kyle
  • Extending Your Garden SeasonApril 20, taught by Kerry MacLane
  • Container GardeningApril 27, taught by Joshua Andresky
  • Raising ChickensMay 4, taught by Joshua Andresky, Nina Vizcarrondo and Brinnen Carter
  • Everything You Need To Know About TreesFriday, May 19, taught by Jud Kirkness
  • Growing Garlic in SitkaDate TBA (toward the end of the summer), taught by Jennifer Carter

For more information about the classes, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520. Other classes may be added at a later date if we find volunteers to teach them.

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Heidi Rader shows her new Grow & Tell app. (Photo by Jeff Fay, for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service)

Heidi Rader describes the new Grow & Tell app and website she developed as “essentially Yelp for gardeners.”

Rader teaches gardening and farming as the tribes Extension educator for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and the Tanana Chiefs Conference. She also reaches gardeners and farmers from around the state through distance-delivered courses.The free app, which was released Tuesday, allows gardeners in the United States to see what vegetable varieties grow best in their areas based on what other gardeners say. The app also invites gardeners to act as citizen scientists and rate the varieties that they have grown for taste, yield and reliability.

Vegetable variety trials conducted in Fairbanks show what grows well here, she said but not in other areas of the state.

“That works pretty well for me but not for people, say, in Arctic Village or Nome,” she said.

Rader hopes that lots of gardeners will rate crops, which will make the app more useful for others. “It’s citizen scientists conducting variety trials where they live,” she said.

The app is available on the App Store for iPhones, Google Play for android phones or as a website at www.growandtell.us. Development of the app was funded by a grant from the eXtension Foundation to promote innovation in the Cooperative Extension Service. To keep the app free, Rader said, Extension will seek sponsorships to pay for updates, fixes and regular maintenance. Additionally, event advertising can also be purchased and targeted to app users locally, by state or nationally.

Rader hopes to expand the app to capture ratings on other plants used in the landscape and garden, including trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits and berries.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks recognized Rader with a 2016 Invent Alaska Award for her work on the app. Cornell University contributed ratings that it had already collected as well as lessons learned from operating a similar citizen science project. A Boston-based company, Geisel Software, built the app. For more information, contact Heidi Rader at grow.andtell@alaska.edu.

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Salmonberries await picking near the entrance to Sitka National Historical Park

Salmonberries await picking near the entrance to Sitka National Historical Park

Flora of Southeastern Alaska, a biology class taught by University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus associate professor Kitty LaBounty, is back for its third year.

flora-course-update-smThe DNA of most traditional botany classes is to gather students around a table of samples and look at them in a face-to-face classroom setting. By offering Flora of Southeast Alaska as both a hybrid local and distance-delivery (eLearning) class, students from anywhere can get up to speed on how to identify the common native trees, shrubs and herbs of southeast and south central Alaska. Local students can participate in the lectures on campus, while students across Alaska can see the imagery online and hear the lectures either live or via digital recording.

Flora of Southeast Alaska is a one-credit, 11-week workshop. The focus will be on identification of common species and attaining an understanding of their place in the ecosystem of Southeast Alaska. Students will discover how these plants interact with other plants and animals, and how humans use these plants for food, fuel, medicine, or simply enjoyment.

In addition to illustrated weekly lectures, there will be written exercises and “check for understanding” activities. The class is available to any student without prerequisites. It does not count as credit toward a biology major at UAS.

Professor LaBounty brings her lifelong passion as a gardener and scientist to this topic, along with more than 25 years experience working on plant identification for state, federal and nonprofit agencies in Alaska.

The class will meet from 6-7 p.m. on Thursdays from Feb. 16 to May 4 — with time off for spring break. The cost is $187 for local students and $227 for eLearning (distance) students.

For more information, contact Kitty LaBounty at UAS Sitka Campus. 747-9432. To register, call 747-7700. or toll-free, 800-478-6653.

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