Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit coming to Sitka in February 2019


The Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, Feb. 15-17, 2019, in Sitka, with an extra all-day on Feb. 18 for an optional produce grower safety training.

Most of the events at this year’s summit will take place at Sweetland Hall on the Sitka Fine Arts Camp (old Sheldon Jackson College) campus or at Harrigan Centennial Hall. The summit opens at 1 p.m. on Friday, and closes at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Full details can be found on the summit website,

This event takes place every other year at various locations throughout the region, with the previous events taking place in Petersburg (2015) and Haines (2017).

“This gathering began in 2015 when commercial farmers and producers in Southeast Alaska decided to come together to learn from one another about producing local food in a challenging growing environment and how to bring these products to market,” event organizers posted on their website. “Since then, this summit has met every other year in a different community to reconnect, expand their knowledge, and share their experiences with a growing network of local food producers. The 2019 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit will be the third annual gathering for current commercial produce growers and for those who would like to explore this potential in our region.”

Friday’s schedule highlights include reports from various growers around Southeast Alaska about what is working and what isn’t working where they are. On Saturday, there will be in-depth presentations on pest disease management, composting in Juneau and Petersburg, farming in Fairbanks, employees and interns, cover crops, and growing gourmet mushrooms. Sunday’s schedule includes more in-depth presentations, as well as side sessions on hydroponics, composting, entrepreneurship/business consulting, and more.

Early bird registration currently is available through Dec. 31 on the summit website at $40 per person, with the price rising to $60 after Jan. 1. This fee does not include meals, which are $100 for all three days if purchased before Dec. 31 and $120 after that. Accommodations are $85 a night in the Sweetland Hall dorms, and details can be found on the summit website.

This year’s summit is being coordinated by the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition out of Juneau (with SAWC local foods coordinator Jennifer Nu being the main contact), and the Sitka Local Foods Network and other Sitka groups are supporting the event. For more information about the summit, contact Jennifer at

The Sitka Local Foods Network has been asked to help coordinate a community potluck or catered local foods dinner on Friday night, and to help provide transportation between the airport or ferry terminal and summit site. We will need volunteers to help with these requests. To help with the Friday night meal or ground transportation, contact Sitka Local Foods Network board chairman Charles Bingham at



Southeast Alaska Garden Conference set for Feb. 16-18 in Haines

The 2018 Southeast Alaska Garden Conference is coming soon. Space is limited, so sign up now to pay a lower early registration fee until Jan 15.

Join  gardeners of Southeast Alaska for a three-day conference, Feb. 16-18, in Haines, on growing local produce in our short challenging growing season. The conference will focus on home use and small-scale farms, topics will include soil health, gardening practices, storage and preservation, composting, and food security.

Acclaimed long-time Alaska garden author and writer Jeff Lowenfels will be the keynote speaker (his Anchorage Daily News garden column is the longest-running garden column in the country at more than 40 years). The conference format will include breakout sessions with local experienced growers, community extension personnel and sharing forums. There will be many opportunities to network and share knowledge.

To register online or to check out the event schedule, click on the conference’s EventBrite link. The conference costs $100, with those paying before Jan. 15 paying $75 and those paying between Jan. 16 to Feb. 1 paying $90. For info about scholarships, registration, accommodations, transportation, payment by check, or other requests, contact Leslie Evenden at (907) 314-0608 or email

UAF Cooperative Extension Service updates Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook

Sustainable Gardening 2015 cover

Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook” has been updated.

This publication was first produced in 2010 as an adaptation of “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook” and this is the first revision. It is used as one component in Master Gardener training programs for University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service volunteers in Alaska, but is also a must-have for all Alaska gardeners.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service agriculture and horticulture agents have contributed their expertise to provide information on topics such as basic botany, lawns, vegetable gardening, orchards, entomology, pest management and more.

Call 877-520-5211 (toll-free in Alaska) to order the handbook, or check with Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office at 747-9440 to see if she has any copies available locally. The 490-page book costs $50.

• It’s time to … learn how to rebuild soil nutrients with the Everyone Can Compost class March 4


One of the problems with gardening in Sitka is the frequent rain washes a variety of nutrients out of the soil. Composting your kitchen scraps is a great way to rebuild the nutrients in your soil, but many people aren’t sure where to start.

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host the free class Everyone Can Compost from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street).

This class will teach Sitka gardeners why people compost, the mechanics of composting, and what to compost. It also will show you what you need for your kitchen to collect scraps, and how to set up a compost box outside if you have a large space (or how to compost when you live in an apartment). In addition to providing fresh nutrients for your garden soil, composting is a good way to track your food waste.

“We will present the class in a way so you can personally adapt composting to your situation,” teacher Jennifer Carter said.

This class is free and open to all Sitka residents wanting to learn how simple it is to compost. For more information, contact Jennifer at 747-0520. It also is one of many free classes being offered this year by the Sitka Local Foods Network education committee. Click here to get a full list of our upcoming spring classes.

• Lori Adams discusses composting 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 Wednesday, June 27, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)


By Lori Adams


Sitka has poor soil. Any plant waste thrown into our garbage cans travels by barge and truck to Eastern Washington. Bagged soil is expensive and travels by truck and barge to get here. Garden waste can be turned into soil. COMPOSTING IS IMPORTANT!

Concentrated fertilizers provide plants with basic nutrients and are potent enough that they only need to be applied once or twice a year. Compost feeds plants with a gentler mixture of basic nutrients and a multitude of micronutrients, but must be applied about once a month to adequately feed your plants. Many people use a combination of the two.

“Compost” is defined as “a mixture of decaying organic material used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients.” Basically it’s the process of throwing excess plants and plant parts into a pile to rot down and turn into soil. This process can take about a year, but if you educate yourself and compost with a plan there are ways to speed up the process.

Plant parts fall into two main categories — Carbon/Brown and Nitrogen/Green. Composting experts suggest using 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.

  • EXAMPLES OF CARBON MATERIALS: untreated sawdust, straw, leaves, shredded newspaper, corn stalks and cobs, needles and cones, wood ashes (be sure the ashes are cold!)
  • EXAMPLES OF NITROGEN MATERIALS: manure, seaweed, chemical-free grass clippings, coffee grounds, food waste, spent brewer’s grain, fish waste
  • EXAMPLES OF MATERIALS NOT TO USE: cooking oil, soap, cat or dog poop, walnuts, maple leaves, colored paper, weed seed heads or roots, diseased plants
  • LOCATION: anywhere in the sun where it’s safe from rats, dogs and bears

There are many styles of composting bins you can purchased, but I think the ideal setup would be three bins side by side, no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet, made from pallets with see-through roofing to keep out the rain. The bottom would be just dirt to allow free movement of worms and bacteria and the fronts would be open.

In Bin No. 1 accumulate plant material. At some point, spend a day gathering bulk materials and layer them with your plant material in Bin No. 2. (Any new material that accumulates from now on is held in Bin No. 1.)  After a week use a pitch fork to “flip” the pile into Bin No. 3. Flipping gets oxygen throughout the whole pile better than stirring does which will really speed up the decomposition process. You should now notice quite a bit of heat coming from the pile and it should not stink.

Flip the pile once a week back and forth between Bins No. 2 and No. 3 for about two months.  By then it should resemble dirt. Sift it for use and throw all the chunks into Bin No. 1.

Remember that compost is not magical … whatever you put into your pile is what you will get out of it as far as nutrition is concerned. Be sure to adjust your pH level by adding some lime or seashell sand to it before you use it.

If you want to learn more about composting, I highly suggest you read these two books — “Let It Rot,” by Stu Campbell, and “The Complete Compost Gardening Guide,” by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin.

Once your compost is ready you can spread it about 1 inch thick around your plants and watch them grow!!

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

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241


• Organizational meeting for Sitka Health Summit community composting project is Monday

An organizational meeting for the Sitka Health Summit community composting and waste repurposing project takes place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 10, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

This was one of the three community health projects Sitka residents chose to work on this year when they met on Sept. 30 during the Sitka Health Summit planning day. The other two initiatives are to build a community playground and increase/expand access to physical activity in Sitka.

Monday’s meeting is free and open to the public. The goal for the meeting is to have a better understanding of what previously has been done with composting in Sitka, and to help identify composting and other waste projects to move forward over the next year.

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

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publishes new sustainable gardening manual for Alaska

(The following is a press release from the University of Alaska Fairbanks news service)

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has published a new comprehensive gardening manual.

“Sustainable Gardening: The Alaska Master Gardener Manual” was adapted for Alaska from an Oregon State University publication, “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook.”

The 490-page manual, which sells for $40, is a basic gardening text. It also offers information on soils and fertilizers, propagation, berry crops, pruning, composting, flowers, greenhouses and season extenders, lawns, plant diseases, pesticides and integrated pest management. The manual is a good resource for home gardeners and also will be used as one component in Extension’s master gardener training programs.

Michele Hebert, Extension’s Tanana District agriculture and horticulture agent, was one of several people who contributed to the manual. She said gardeners need additional information to overcome the challenges and capitalize on the benefits of growing vegetables and flowers in the Far North.

The manual focuses on sustainable gardening practices, a holistic method for growing plants that is good for the environment, good for families and good for the community, said Hebert. “It takes a minimal input of labor, water, fertilizer and pesticides while building the soil into a healthy living system. A thoughtful balance is made between the resources used and the results gained.”

Other contributors to the manual include current and former Alaska Extension faculty Stephen Brown, Jeff Smeenk, Tom Jahns, Robert Gorman (of Sitka), Fred Sorensen, Julie Riley, Heidi Rader, Bob Wheeler, Peter Bierman and Jay Moore. Copies may be ordered through Extension’s toll-free line at 1-877-520-5211 or by clicking this link.

(The Alaska Public Radio Network ran this story about the book on the Tuesday, Sept. 7, Alaska News Nightly show.)