• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 20

Mark your calendars, because the 2011 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Celebrate the first day of spring and get ready to garden.

This annual event brings together local garden supply stores, local gardeners, landscapers and anybody who is interested in learning how to grow food and/or flowers. This year’s theme is “Adding edibles to your landscape — focus on fruit trees and berry bushes.”

Master Gardener Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau will be on hand to provide expertise during the show. Buyarski will give a special presentation on “Growing Fruit in Southeast Alaska” at 11 a.m. on March 20 at ANB Hall (just before the show opens).

Buyarski also will lead some free hands-on tree pruning workshops on Saturday, March 19, with the first tree pruning workshop at 10:30 a.m. at the trees outside Patty Bickar’s house, 310 Cascade (at the top of the hill). The tree pruning workshops will continue Saturday afternoon at the trees outside the home of Tory O’Connell, 608 Etolin Way (off Baranof Street downtown). Buyarski will provide instruction on how to properly prune the trees and bushes to encourage fruit production and maintain healthy growth. Pruning needs to be done before the trees bud, so NOW is the time to get it done. The tree pruning workshops are hosted by the Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages people to share their knowledge by hosting a booth or posting an educational display about a specific garden topic. We especially want people with experience growing fruit trees to share their knowledge about growing apple, cherry or crabapple trees in Sitka; growing strawberries; growing rhubarb; growing unusual berry varieties that do well in our climate such as aronia, sea buckthorn, honeysuckle (fruiting), gooseberry, currant and elderberry; and how to legally transplant and cultivate wild berry bushes to your property.

In addition, you can learn about home greenhouses, how to prepare your soil, how to raise chickens and what to do with all those slugs. Buy seeds and plant starts. Swap ideas and tips. Come learn, share, and get ready to grow your garden. Learn about plans for the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. Let’s Grow Sitka is organized by the Sitka Local Foods Network and is part of the Arti Gras Sitka Music and Arts Festival, which takes place March 6-20.

There still are a few FREE tables available for vendors, education and demonstrations. For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka or to reserve table space, contact Linda Wilson at lawilson87@hotmail.com or call her at 747-3096 (in the evenings or on weekends only). She also has information about the tree pruning workshops.

Master gardeners are encouraged to sign up to share their personal experience on how to create a successful garden in Sitka. Also, anyone with a garden-related product or service to sell is invited to participate. Some of the expected booths are from:

  • True Value Garden Center (type Sitka or 99835 into the store locator search bar) — garden supplies
  • White’s, Inc/Harry Race Pharmacy — garden books, magazines, accessories
  • Garden Ventures — lots of lovely primroses for sale along with garden supplies
  • Lori Adams — Down-To-Earth U-Pick garden promotion
  • Andrew Thoms — raising chickens and chicks for sale (Andrew suggests anybody wanting to buy chicks contact him as soon as possible so he can start incubating the eggs. He can be reached at 747-3747 or andrew@sitkawild.org.)
  • Eve Grutter — jams for sale, garden and raising chickens expertise to share
  • Sitka Local Foods Network — garden information and volunteer sign up
  • Sitka Farmers Market — tomato plant starts for sale, Farmers Market information
  • St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm — seed starter kits
  • Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative — information on growing your own fruit trees and berry bushes in Sitka
  • Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative — community fruit tree mapping project
  • Sitka Seed Savers — information on how to save your own garden seed, and a sign up to participate in an educational workshop on how to save vegetable seed and start a seed savers group in Sitka
  • Display and information handouts on growing rhubarb and its nutritional benefits
  • UAF Cooperative Extension Service — lots of free garden handouts
  • Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau — edible landscaping

• Let’s Grow Sitka event flier for March 20, 2011, at ANB Hall (please print and post around town)

• Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Garden wins Table of the Day at first Sitka Farmers Market

Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member Doug Osborne presents Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Garden the Table Of The Day award for the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2010 summer season

Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member Doug Osborne presents Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Garden the Table Of The Day award for the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2010 summer season

Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Garden received the Table of the Day Award from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2010 summer season July 17 at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

Adams, who has had booths in the Sitka Farmers Market for three years, grows vegetables, flowers, berries and herbs at her garden, located at 2103 Sawmill Creek Road. Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member Doug Osborne presented Adams with a certificate, $25 cash and a copy of the South Anchorage Farmers Market Cookbook.

One vendor at each of the five scheduled Sitka Farmers Markets this season will receive a similar prize. The next markets are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on alternate Saturdays, July 31, Aug. 14, Aug. 28 and Sept. 11, at historic ANB Hall.

The first market of the season received lots of publicity, including a KCAW-Raven Radio morning show interview (link has audio) with Sitka Local Foods Network President Kerry MacLane on Friday, July 16, to preview the first market, and an audio postcard on KCAW’s Monday, July 19, newscasts. The Daily Sitka Sentinel also ran a Weekend feature on Friday, July 16, and had a front-page photo from the market on Tuesday, July 20 (password required to view content).

A slideshow of photos from the first market is posted below, and a similar slideshow can be found on our Shutterfly site. By the way, if you haven’t already done so, please go to the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest site run by the American Farmland Trust and vote for the Sitka Farmers Market. The Sitka Farmers Market was the leading vote-getter for Alaska as of Thursday, July 22, but voting continues through the end of August so we need your votes.

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• Down To Earth u-pick garden opens for its second summer of providing fresh produce in Sitka

Sitka resident Lori Adams said the Down To Earth u-pick garden is open for its second summer of producing locally grown vegetables that Sitka residents can pick themselves.

Lori said she has lettuce and spinach available now, as well as rhubarb, white and red radishes, herbs, Egyptian walking onions, and a few plant starts. She also makes gift baskets. Lori is posting updates to the Sitka Local Foods Marketplace page about what in-season produce is available. (This page is available for other Sitka gardeners, commercial fishermen and other local food producers to use to let residents know what food is available.)

The Down To Earth u-pick garden is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays for the rest of the summer, and people can reach Lori at 738-2241 to see what produce is available and what’s about to come into season. The garden is located at 2103 Sawmill Creek Road (across from the Mormon church, look for the sign in the photo). Click here to learn more about the Down to Earth u-pick garden.

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• Sitka growers to contribute to local CSA venture

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

One of the latest trends in farming is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which enables people to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. Renee and Brian Pierce, who own the locally made kelp products and wild berry jelly shop Simple Pleasures of Alaska, are working with Sitka growers to start a small CSA venture with local produce during the summer growing season.

Renee Pierce said that instead of the CSA being a true farmers’ cooperative, she will buy produce from several local growers — including Florence Welsh of the Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals, Judy Johnstone of Sprucecot Gardens, Evening Star and Fabian Grutter of Eve’s Farm, and Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens. The CSA also will include produce from the Pierce Family’s Simple Pleasures garden.

The Sitka CSA will start small, with membership slots for just 25 families the first year. Renee Pierce said of those 25 slots, only about 10 memberships are left. CSA members will commit to paying $50 plus tax every other week, which will give the member families a selection of produce that includes some organic produce purchased from Organically Grown Company of Portland, Ore. During the months when Sitka growers aren’t producing many vegetables, there will be more produce purchased from Organically Grown Company. There also will be an option to buy bread at $6 a loaf beyond the price of the produce box.

The produce selection includes many crops that can be grown in Sitka — such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, green beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, tomatoes, etc. But with the Organically Grown Company providing some of the produce, CSA members also can choose items that aren’t regular Sitka crops — such as bananas, lemons, limes, pineapples, oranges, etc.

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce said she has worked with Organically Grown Company for about four years, purchasing organic produce for the Pierce family and several friends and other Sitka residents who heard about the venture (at one point she had about 60-70 families buying from her). She said she orders produce by the case, and it is available for pick-up from 3-6 p.m. every other Monday afternoon at the Simple Pleasures store next to Kettleson Memorial Library. The first pick-up day for the Sitka CSA is March 29 (which will be for the 15 or so families that already have reserved a spot in the CSA), and the next pick-up day is April 12. CSA members are encouraged to bring their own bags and/or boxes on pick-up days.

The pick-up days are slated to be during the weeks between the every-other-week Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, which will give local growers and buyers the opportunity to buy and sell local produce for both. Renee said there will be some produce extras for families that want to adjust their allotments, but everybody’s allotted produce value will be $50. If you add from the extras you will need to pay the difference, and if you give up some produce you don’t want so your value dips below $50 there are no refunds. She said the CSA is being done as a community service and it’s meant to just break even so the bills get paid.

To learn more about the Sitka CSA, contact Renee Pierce at 738-0044 (cell) or 747-3814 (home). You also can e-mail her at mpierce@ptialaska.net.

• Down To Earth u-pick garden gives Sitkans a new option for fresh produce

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Many people enjoy going to the Sitka Farmers Market to get fresh, locally grown produce, but for some of them two weeks between markets is too long to wait for fresh veggies.

Sitka resident Lori Adams opened the Down To Earth u-pick garden in July, so now folks don’t have to wait as long to get fresh, locally grown produce, especially if they don’t have their own gardens. Down To Earth u-pick garden is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday on two-thirds of an acre at 2103 Sawmill Creek Rd. (across from the Mormon church). A small sign in front of her business lets people know what’s available for picking.

“People can show up for a tour and pick what is available,” Adams said when she opened in mid-July. “Right now we have strawberries, zucchini, kale, Egyptian walking onions and miscellaneous herbs. Coming soon will be carrots, peas, celery, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and Kohlrabi.”

Adams grew up on a family farm in Albany, Ore., but it wasn’t until she moved to Sitka that she realized how much she loved gardening. She brought some of her produce to two of last year’s three Sitka Farmers Market events, but realized there was some produce that wouldn’t last the two weeks between markets this year and a u-pick garden was a way she could make it available to other residents. She worked with the Sitka Planning Commission and then the Sitka Assembly to get the zoning code changed to allow home horticulture in residential zones.

Adams said she will grow many Sitka staple crops that she knows do well in this climate, but she also will try a few experimental varieties. She’s hoping her business will inspire other Sitka residents to grow their own gardens.

“You have to embrace the plants that like to live here, instead of knocking yourself out trying to grow things that don’t like to grow here,” Adams told the Daily Sitka Sentinel when she opened. “Take it easy on yourselves. … I’m hoping people will get enthused and do it themselves — the more of us the better. More of us could do more than we realize. If you just know how and keep trying, people will be surprised with what they can grow.”

Some of the garden beds at Down To Earth u-pick garden in July

Some of the garden beds at Down To Earth u-pick garden in July

A woman checks out some broccoli she picked in July at Down To Earth u-pick garden in Sitka

A woman checks out some broccoli she picked in July at Down To Earth u-pick garden in Sitka

Down To Earth u-pick garden is a good place for families to pick fruits and veggies together

Down To Earth u-pick garden is a good place for families to pick fruits and veggies together

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