First Baptist Church community garden has limited space available for new gardeners

Were you one of the many Sitkans who lost your garden plot two years ago when the Sitka School District closed Blatchley Community Gardens? The small community garden in front of Sitka’s First Baptist Church has some (limited) space available to grow veggies this year.

The community garden at First Baptist Church is located on the Crabapple Drive side of the church’s property at 514 Halibut Point Road. Some of the ground will need some work, but there is a pile of topsoil by the garden for those building raised garden beds.

Sam Pointer, who is coordinating the space for the church, said about a quarter of the garden’s space is available to Sitka gardeners, and possibly more. To learn more about how you can sign up to use space at the church garden, contact Sam at 623-7775 or dad4lyf@yahoo.com.

In the meantime, we are looking for more community garden space in Sitka. If you have garden space available, contact Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Sitka community gardens project meeting on Thursday moved to Harrigan Centennial Hall

emptyblatchleycommunitygarden

Since the Sitka School District closed Blatchley Community Gardens in October, the gardeners have been removing their raised garden beds and soil in preparation for finding a new location for Sitka’s community gardens.

Due to a schedule conflict, the Sitka community gardens project meeting scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, has been moved to Harrigan Centennial Hall instead of its originally scheduled location of the Sitka Community Hospital classroom.

The Sitka community gardens project is one of the two community wellness projects chosen at the 10th annual Sitka Health Summit in October. Because of the recent closure of the Blatchley Community Gardens by the Sitka School District, Sitka residents are looking for a replacement site and structure for some new community gardens. People are encouraged to bring their ideas about where they think might be a good location for new gardens, and how the gardens should be structured.

All are invited. For more information, contact Dave Nuetzel, 738-8372, or go to community.garden@hotmail.com or sitkagardens@gmail.com. People also can like the Sitka Community Gardens page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Sitka-Community-Gardens-210713299032006/, for more info.

A thank you to those people who donated to us through Pick.Click.Give.

PCGFarmersMarket2016NEW

We recently received a check from Pick.Click.Give. for donations from the 2016 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) community giving program. This year there were 42 donors giving the Sitka Local Foods Network $2,800.

Thank you. We appreciate your support for our mission to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.

This was the third year the Sitka Local Foods Network participated 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. 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, community gardens, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, the Fish-To-Schools program, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka.

Unfortunately, due to a clerical snafu, we will not be participating in the 2017 Pick.Click.Give. program. We hope to be back for 2018, though.

You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network, even if we’re not in the 2017 Pick.Click.Give. program. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408 Marine St., Suite D, Sitka, Alaska, 99835. Our EIN is 26-4629930. 

11-29-2016givingtuesdayOn Tuesday, Nov. 29, we will launch our second annual #GivingTuesday fundraising campaign. Giving Tuesday is a day set aside to donate to various causes you care about after the consumer-oriented Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday events. Our Giving Tuesday campaign will take donations through Dec. 31, for those wanting another donation for tax purposes.

You also can make an online donation through our Razoo.com crowdfunding page. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. The Sitka Local Foods Network now has a Bronze rating from the GuideStar Nonprofit Profile Service, and we are listed with the Benevity Causes Portal used by larger corporations for employee giving programs. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Sitka Health Summit chooses two community wellness projects related to local food

groupshotofcitizenplanners

newsitkahealthsummitlogoHealthy nutritious local food was the theme as about 75 Sitka residents gathered to choose two community wellness projects to pursue in 2016-17 at the 10th annual Sitka Health Summit planning day Friday, Oct. 21, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

The citizen planners chose one specific topic project (which can be finished in one year) and one broad topic (which may become a multi-year project). Identifying, developing, organizing and maintaining a new community garden was the choice for specific topic project. Combining all healthy and local food organizations into one nonprofit was broad topic project chosen.

dougosbornereadsoffprojectideasbeforevotingThese two projects were chosen from 21 specific topic project and nine broad topic project ideas introduced by the citizen planners (some similar project ideas were combined into one submission before voting). The topic ideas submitted by the citizen planners fell into a variety of categories, such as physical activity, nutrition, mental health, health equity, etc. The two chosen projects will each receive $2,000 in seed money, as well as some facilitation services from the Sitka Health Summit advisory team, to help get the projects off the ground.

Each of the two chosen community wellness projects will host a kick-off event in the near future, and these events are open to the public and anybody who wants to help with the project. More information about the projects, their kick-off meetings, and contact people are listed below.

  • emptyblatchleycommunitygardenIdentify, develop, organize and maintain new community gardens in Sitka — 6 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3, Harrigan Centennial Hall, contact Dave Nuetzel, 738-8372, community.garden@hotmail.com — This project is to create one or more community garden spaces in Sitka, which has become a need due to the recent closure of the Blatchley Community Gardens behind Blatchley Middle School. Building more community gardens will allow landless Sitkans and those who don’t have good sun exposure to have a place to grow their own food. The former Blatchley Community Gardens page on Facebook has been renamed the Sitka Community Gardens page, https://www.facebook.com/Sitka-Community-Gardens-210713299032006/, which people can like for more information.
  • Combine all healthy and local food organizations into one nonprofit — 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 10, Harrigan Centennial Hall contact Charles Bingham, 623-7660, charleswbingham3@gmail.com — This project’s goal is to help the large number of Sitka groups working on healthy and local food projects (such as the Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Kitch, Sitka Food Co-Op, etc.) find ways to collaborate and work together to become more efficient and not burn out so many board members and volunteers because of the duplication of efforts. This project may result in some organizations combining into one, or at least finding ways to collaborate. The project may take longer than one year, as the various groups merge their missions, purposes, values, and organizational structures, while avoiding turf wars. But the overall goal is to make sure “Every Sitkan has access to healthy, affordable food.”

dougosbornepresentsawardtogirlscouttroop4140In addition to choosing two community wellness projects, the Sitka Health Summit recognized Girl Scout Troop 4140 for its work in promoting and improving the safety of the Peterson Street and Halibut Point Road intersection following recent car-bike and car-walker collisions that left people seriously injured.

The Sitka Health Summit is coordinated and funded by a coalition of local groups that includes Brave Heart Volunteers, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka Community Hospital, the Sitka Community Hospital Foundation, and the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, with additional financial help from Guardian Flight, Southeast Radiation Oncology, White’s Pharmacy, Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers, Sitka Vision Clinic, Unity Botanicals, and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco-Seattle Branch Community Development Division.

For more information about the Sitka Health Summit and its current and past projects, go to http://www.sitkahealthsummit.org/. A slideshow of scenes from the 10th annual Sitka Health Summit is posted below, as well as a slideshow of scenes from the now-empty Blatchley Community Gardens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Building a Local Food System: Andrea Fraga and Middle Island Organic Produce

MiddleIslandOrganicProduceAndreaFragaKalebAldred

Andrea Fraga, left, and partner Kaleb Aldred, hosted their Middle Island Organic Produce booth at the July 16 Sitka Farmers Market.

(Editor’s Note: The Sitka Local Foods Network’s Bulldog on Baranof intern this summer, Claire Chang, is writing the Building a Local Food System series of articles about Sitkans working to improve food security. This is the fourth article of the series.)

WP_20160704_11_00_23_ProAndrea Fraga grew up in Hawaii and lived in Oregon for 10 years before she moved to Sitka. While in Oregon, she met a friend from Sitka who invited her to visit, and after her third trip she decided to embrace the rainy weather and move here. Sitka’s tremendous opportunities for subsistence appealed to her desire to become more self-sufficient. “I had been really interested in leading more of a subsistence lifestyle for a while” Fraga said.

Fraga lives on Middle Island with her partner, Kaleb Aldred. They started with a small garden on the beach, and then established a garden with a greenhouse behind their home. They have since expanded to a lot due south of their house. “We had always lusted to have that space as an ideal garden spot,” she said.

Creating the “small farm or large garden” on Middle Island was not an easy task. They had to cut down trees and rent a machine to pull the stumps out. When they tried to dig the stumps out by hand, removing one stump took a whole week. The machine that removed the stumps compacted the soil, so they then had to dig a trench and fill it with gravel to provide the boggy field with adequate drainage. “I never thought I’d be someone to say, ‘Yeah, let’s cut down all the trees,’ but it’s necessary if you want to garden here,” Fraga said. Removing trees created a sunnier space and also has enabled Fraga to plant fruit trees along the perimeter of her garden.

MiddleIslandOrganicProduceKalebAldredAndreaFragaWithCustomersOn occasion, Fraga sells vegetables at the Sitka Farmers Market through their Middle Island Organic Produce stand. She and Aldred hope to grow garlic commercially one day, although they are well aware that “weather and crop failure coalesce and can slow plans down.”

Currently, they have planted about a quarter of their garden in garlic so that they can harvest enough to plant a larger area in the future. Seed garlic costs about $25 dollars a pound from most sources, so generating seed on site will help save a significant amount of money. Fraga said growing garlic commercially makes sense because deer and slugs do not eat it and it is not highly perishable. Furthermore, unlike most garden vegetables she plants in the spring, garlic goes in the ground in the fall, so she can distribute her labor throughout the year.

At a commercial growers conference last spring, Fraga learned about using plastic mulch on garlic to control moisture levels and minimize weeds. The infrared- transmitting plastic transmits heat wavelengths of sunlight that warm the soil and absorbs the wavelengths that plants require for photosynthesis, so weeds cannot grow beneath it. Fraga has begun using the plastic mulch on her own garden this year.

Having farmed in Oregon where one can cultivate a wider variety of plants with greater ease than in Sitka, Fraga does find adapting to Sitka’s weather challenging. Living on an island also has its challenges. For example, in the fall and winter, storms and darkness can restrict travel to and from town. However, Fraga views these challenges as small tradeoffs that allow her to live and garden in a “beautiful, quiet place away from all the noises and distractions of town” and where she is “more in touch with the environment.”

WP_20160707_18_03_42_ProExperiencing beauty is, in large part, what Fraga finds so appealing about subsistence. She explained that gardens, berry thickets, and areas where she forages for mushrooms and seaweed are all beautiful places to spend time. For her, gardening “is just such a beautiful process.” She appreciates the exercise and fresh air involved in gardening, as well as the taste and nutritional value of fresh food. Fraga especially appreciates when she can refer to her dinner as a “Middle Island meal” because all of its components, apart from perhaps the fish,” came from the island that is her home. “It’s really satisfying to eat something that’s entirely grown or harvested yourself.”

Fraga is also a part of a gardening group that meets at one member’s garden every week to work there together. “It’s really great because garden projects that seem daunting end up being fun when you have people to work with,” Fraga said.

For those who find the prospect of starting a garden daunting, Fraga recommends “starting small and simple.” For example, one could begin by growing hearty plants like kale and potatoes that do not require extremely fertile soil. Learning about wild edibles also intimidates many people. Fraga took a class on mushroom identification through University of Alaska Southeast, but she also pointed out one can learn by reading field guides and talking with individuals who willing to share their knowledge on the subject. Gardening and foraging “are really rewarding,” she said. “They don’t have to be discouraging.”

For questions about her garden on Middle Island, contact Andrea Fraga at 738-5135.

Don’t forget, you still can add Pick.Click.Give. donations to your 2016 PFD application through Aug. 31

2016PickClickGiveFlier

PCGFarmersMarket2016NEWIf you’re like most Alaskans you probably filed your 2016 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) application before the March deadline and haven’t given it a second thought since. But did you know you still can add Pick.Click.Give.donations to your 2016 application through Monday, Aug. 31? If you haven’t already, please consider making a Pick.Click.Give. donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network.

Here’s how to add or change your Pick.Click.Give. donations. First, go to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application website, http://pfd.alaska.gov/, and find the green “Add A Pick.Click.Give. Donation” bar in the right column. Click the green bar, and follow the directions. You’ll need to enter your driver’s license number, Social Security number, and birthday to access your application, but once on the page you’ll be able to see your current Pick.Click.Give. donations (if any) and you can add or change them. Click here for an FAQ page about making Pick.Click.Give. donations.

PCGTestemonialLisaAndMurielSadleirHart2016Unfortunately, new donations made after the March 31 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend filing deadline do not qualify for entry into the Double Your Deadline Sweepstakes, where 10 lucky Alaskans will win the equivalent of a second PFD. But you still get the satisfaction of sharing the wealth with the more than 600 Alaska nonprofit organizations participating in the Pick.Click.Give. program, including 24 from Sitka.

This is the third year the Sitka Local Foods Network is participating 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. 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, Blatchley Community Gardens, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, the Fish-To-Schools program, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka.

PCGTestemonialLindaWilson2016You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2016 PFD. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408 Marine St., Suite D, Sitka, Alaska, 99835. Our EIN is 26-4629930. You also can make an online donation through our Razoo.com crowdfunding page. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. The Sitka Local Foods Network now has a Bronze rating from the GuideStar Nonprofit Profile Service, and we are listed with the Benevity Causes Portal used by larger corporations for employee giving programs. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Thank you to everybody making a Pick.Click.Give. donation to your Sitka Local Foods Network. We appreciate your support.

Building a Local Food System: Dave Nuetzel and Blatchley Community Gardens

DaveNuetzelMemorialGardenKathySwanberg

Dave Nuetzel, right, helps build a memorial garden bed for longtime Blatchley Community Gardens supporter Kathy Swanberg.

(Editor’s Note: The Sitka Local Foods Network’s Bulldog on Baranof intern this summer, Claire Chang, is writing the Building a Local Food System series of articles about Sitkans working to improve food security. This is the third article of the series.)

BlatchleyCommunityGardenSignDave Nuetzel has held the role of lead gardener at Blatchley Community Gardens since 2007. Nuetzel grew up outside of Cleveland, and he toured around the country on a two-year road trip after he graduated from college. At the end of the trip, he wound up in Anchorage. In 2005, he followed his partner, who came to Sitka to work at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, and he has lived here ever since. With a background in special education, he originally worked for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), and he now works for Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL).

The Blatchley Community Gardens, located behind Sitka’s middle school on what used to be a gravel terrace, started in 2000 as a project of Sitka Community Schools. When Sitka Community Schools lacked the staff to run the garden, Nuetzel took on his role as lead gardener. This year the garden has transitioned from Sitka Community Schools to become a program of Blatchley Middle School. The community garden consists of about fifty garden plots, approximately 6-by-12-feet each. It is personal-use garden, although it does contain a few communal plots of plants such as mint, rhubarb, and flowers. Gardeners pay for the square footage of a plot, and Nuetzel explained that the community garden particularly appeals to people who live in apartments, on boats, or in houses with yards that receive little sunlight.

MiddleOfBlatchleyCommunityGardenAs someone who “has always liked to fix things and learn new skills,” Nuetzel had small gardens when he was growing up, as well as in college. In addition to his personal plots at the Blatchley Community Gardens, Neutzel says that he has “basically cultivated his whole yard.” Any areas around his house where he is not growing vegetables or flowers contain salmonberry, blueberry, or raspberry plants. Gardening appeals to Nuetzel’s desire to strive for self-sufficiency; he also fishes and forages for beach asparagus for subsistence.

LeaveProduceAloneSignBlatchleyCommunityGardenNuetzel explained that, as lead gardener of Blatchley Community Gardens, maintaining a unified vision for the garden has posed a challenge. At the community garden, each plot represents the gardener’s individual approach to cultivation. Some gardeners devote themselves to experimentation, and they use their plots as a space for attempting to grow one type of vegetable that they have never succeeded in cultivating before. Others are committed to growing a wide variety of plants that they know will yield an ample harvest. Furthermore, gardeners choose to amend the soil in unique ways; while one might opt for buried salmon carcasses, kelp, and ground-up shells, another might rely more heavily on compost and coffee grounds.

An even larger challenge that Nuetzel has faced in his role is coordinating the management of common plots. Dividing up the responsibility of caring for a plot of chard, for example, becomes difficult when gardeners travel schedules and family obligations interfere. Furthermore, trying to ensure that everyone has equal to the resources of common plots, such as the apples from a communal apple tree, can be tricky.

BlatchleyCommunityGardenPicnicTableAndBedsNevertheless, Nuetzel appreciates Blatchley Community Gardens as a space where he and others can experience the tangible results of physical labor. Regular visits to the garden allow him to appreciate how well one can grow food for oneself when one puts in the effort. Nuetzel believes that gardening has grown more popular in Sitka in recent years. He has seen new gardens emerge in yard, and in the future, he would like to see new community gardens established in town. As gardening in the community becomes more popular, he wishes that more people would view gardening as a basic need, not just a hobby.

CherryBlossomsBlatchleyCommunityGarden“At one time, producing food was a requirement for life,” Nuetzel said. “Now, people think that gardening is only something you do if you have lots of ‘extra’ time. But if you provide people with a little bit of guidance and get them invested in the process of gardening, they will value it and treat it like something that is necessary.”

To learn more about Blatchley Community Gardens, go to the Facebook page or contact Dave Nuetzel at community.garden@hotmail.com.