Join the 2020 Local Foods Challenge to make the Southeast Alaska food system more resilient

Are you ready for a challenge?

Food is not just about what we eat. It’s also about where it comes from and the connections it creates between people and places along the way.

Join us on a journey to explore and transform Southeast Alaska’s food system by being part of the 2020 Local Foods Challenge. This event is hosted by the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, in collaboration with the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition.

As a participant in this Challenge, you will join others in reshaping and fostering resilience within our local and regional food systems while increasing community wellness for both the short and long-term. We ask you to deepen your involvement in the local food system by cultivating and elevating your personal knowledge, skills, and connection to the local food system within your community.

Here’s how it works:

  • When you sign up, you’ll take a survey to assess your involvement in 10 distinct categories of the local food system.
  • Your challenge from May to September is to deepen your connection to the local food system by increasing your level of engagement for each category.
  • The more levels you go, the more resilient our food system will be in September and beyond.
  • At the end of the challenge, we will tally the progress of all of the challengers to discover how much we collectively shifted our food system’s resilience.
  • Participants will receive a certificate of completion and a digital guide with tips for how to stay involved in the local food system all year long.

To help you on this local food journey, we will connect you to resources related to all 10 categories, and we will share stories to inspire and celebrate our successes.

The Local Foods Challenge is about building a community of Southeast Alaskans who care about local foods. We will share knowledge, resources, place-based advice, and best practices across our unique region.

Together we will forge a resilient, prosperous, and healthy Southeast Alaska. Click this link to sign up for the Challenge.

Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week includes free showing of ‘Just Eat It’ movie

Food Security Week Flyer(FINAL)

11x17-Just-EatIt-posterThe Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week is March 21-25, and Sitka is joining other Alaska communities to provide a free showing of the movie, “Just Eat It,” that week to discuss the need to reduce food waste in Alaska.

The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). The Sitka Local Foods Network is coordinating the showing of the movie in Sitka. The movie also is being shown in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau during the week.

In Alaska, roughly one in seven people (105,000 people) live in food insecure households. About one in six people in Sitka (1,500 of 9,000) are on food assistance programs, such as SNAP (food stamps) or WIC. The Food Bank of Alaska is able to recover and distribute about 5 million pounds of food that might otherwise be wasted each year, but the need is growing and that isn’t enough food to take care of Alaska’s hungry. Even food that’s gone bad can be recycled into compost for school gardens.

Statewide, the Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week is sponsored by Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) and Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) in support of HCR 18, sponsored by Rep. Tarr, which will encourages schools and businesses to reduce, recover and recycle food waste in Alaska. In addition, Rep. Tarr, Rep. Kawasaki, and Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) co-sponsored HB 92, requiring labeling of genetically modified food (including salmon).

A trailer for the movie is posted below.

• HCR 18 regarding the reduction of food waste in Alaska

• HB 92 regarding labeling of genetically modified food (including salmon) in Alaska

• Local merchants provide coffee grounds, spent beer grain for garden compost

Alana Peterson shows where gardeners can find used coffee grounds from the Back Door Café.

Alana Peterson shows where gardeners can find used coffee grounds from the Back Door Café.

Sitka’s constant rains tend to wash the nutrients from our soil, which means many Sitka gardeners also use compost to build new soil. Some local merchants provide used coffee grounds and spent beer grain so gardeners can add them to their compost piles.

Alana Peterson of the Back Door Café (104 Barracks St.) said the person who normally collects her business’ used coffee grounds has reached his max capacity, so now they are available for other gardeners to gather. She usually puts them in one of the plastic containers outside the main entrance to the shop, under the tree by the large black plastic garbage container. The coffee grounds are in plastic bags, so they’re easy for gardeners to grab.

The Baranof Island Brewing Company, aka BIBCO (215 Smith St.), provides free spent beer grain for gardeners. The spent grain is kept in a tote near the brewery’s Tap Room, and gardeners need to bring their own buckets to carry the grain home (a shovel is in the tote).

At both businesses the compost items are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please double-check with the merchants if you have any questions.

• Sick-A-Waste group to host Sitka Compost Expo on Saturday, June 16, at the Hames Center parking lot

Where does your organic waste go? Do you compost it, or does it end up with the other trash on its way to the Lower 48? Join us from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, at the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center parking lot to get the dirt on the situation as the Sick-A-Waste Compost Group hosts the Sitka Compost Expo.

This free event features a panel discussion from 1-2 p.m. featuring local gardeners, recyclers and other experts on composting, then there will be demonstrations from 2-4 p.m. on various compost methods. Learn how to get the most out of your organic waste, which will produce rich, healthy soil for growing new food while also saving the city the price of shipping compostable organic trash to the Lower 48.

The Sitka Compost Expo is one of several projects from the Sick-A-Waste Compost Group, which got its start during the 2011 Sitka Health Summit. The group also is setting up a large demonstration compost project in the Sawmill Cove area, which eventually will include fish plant waste and other compostable items. Several smaller groups also have compost areas — such as the Blatchley Community Gardens behind Blatchley Middle School (please follow the special parking instructions during this summer’s construction project at the school) and the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church — where individuals and businesses can take their leftover banana peels, coffee grounds, food scraps, lawn clippings and other items. Sitka has a desperate need for quality soil, and composting is one way to create new soil that’s great for gardening.

Klaudia Leccese of Sick-A-Waste was interviewed during the Wednesday, June 13, KCAW-Raven Radio Morning Edition show. The Sitka Compost Expo also was featured in the Friday, June 15, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel (password required to read story).

For more information about the Sitka Compost Expo, please contact Klaudia Leccese at 747-5830 or 752-5830.

• Lori Adams discusses feeding plants in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Monday, April 16, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)


By Lori Adams


New seedlings do not need anything in the way of fertilizer until they have their first set of true leaves. Then I recommend a diluted liquid food administered every watering rather than periodic full-strength doses. It is less harsh and promotes steady, healthy growth. Once the starts are planted outdoors the proper food should already be in the garden soil, ready for them. So what is the proper food for vegetable plants?

First of all, I like to think of it as “feeding the soil” rather than “feeding the plants.” Garden soil is alive, and each square inch of good garden soil contains billions of microorganisms which convert organic material into energy for plants. Plants need many nutrients to do their best, but the three essential nutrients reduced to their simplest terms are:

  • Nitrogen (N) — The most important. Promotes green growth. — Natural sources are composted grass clippings, animal manure, herring eggs on seaweed or fish carcasses.
  • Phosphorus (P) — Promotes root growth. — Natural sources are starfish, pulverized deer bones or fish skeletons.
  • Potassium (K) — Promotes fruit and flower growth. — Natural sources are seaweed, greensand, granite dust or wood ashes.

Our local stores have shelves that are loaded with great fertilizer products. You just need to know how to read the labels. The amounts of NPK will always appear in the same order on the front of the product written as numbers, like this; 8-5-1. These numbers represent the percentage of NPK in the product.  In this case there is 8 percent Nitrogen, 5 percent Phosphorus and 1 percent Potassium, with the remaining 86 percent consisting of inert or inactive materials. The inactive materials help to dilute and mix the fertilizers more thoroughly.

You can research the best NPK amounts for each vegetable you are going to grow, but a good all-around ratio for the general garden would be roughly 3-1-2.  It is a good idea to fertilize (with either purchased or gathered ammendments) at the beginning of the year and again mid summer, but be sure to read any instructions for purchased fertilizers thoroughly.

Compost is a fantastic way to add nutrients, but if you want to use it exclusively it’s best to think of it as a really healthy, nutritious snack that needs to be added liberally and frequently to be effective.  Just remember that the only thing you will get out of your compost pile is what you have put into it. Compost is another subject that will be addressed in a later column.

Finally, don’t forget to address the ph level of your soil.  Even if you have applied the proper amount of fertilizer the plants can not fully utilize it if the ph level is not correct. Ph levels can be adjusted with either purchased lime or gathered seashell sand.

Next week’s column — Understanding crop rotation.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00

747-6108 or 738-2241

• Sitka Composting Project to meet on Monday, Nov. 7

Compost bins at Blatchley Community Garden

Compost bins at Blatchley Community Garden

The Sitka Composting Project workgroup will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7, at Harrigan Centennial Hall (Maksoutoff Room).

This is the third meeting of the workgroup, which formed as part of a 2011 Sitka Health Summit health priority project. The goal is to create a community compost site and to promote more composting by individual families.

The attached document goes over a number of alternatives for site location and composting technology. The meeting will start with reporting on individual action items, then the workgroup will discuss location and composters. After that, the next steps are to create a business plan and research funding possibilities.

For more information, contact Sitka Conservation Society Community Sustainability Coordinator Justin Overdevest at 747-7509 or

• Composting Proposal and Alternatives

• Sitka Local Foods Network hosts garden work party on Oct. 17

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a “putting the garden to rest” work party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

The Oct. 17 work party involves a last bit of weeding, pulling out the annual plants for compost, putting mulch and protective coverings over the perennials, and getting all the tools inventoried and stored away for the winter. This will help make the garden easier to get ready for spring planting. Most of the vegetables grown at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer.

For more information about the work party, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or Maybelle Filler at 738-1982.

To learn more about the Sitka Local Foods Network and how it supports community gardens and greenhouses, organizes the Sitka Farmers Market, supports traditional foods and provides education and encouragement to local gardeners, browse through this site.