• Former Sitka resident publishes book about food sovereignty

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Andrianna Natsoulas, who lived in Sitka from 2011-13 and also commercial fished in Southeast Alaska before that, recently published the book on food sovereignty, “Food Voices: Stories from the People Who Feed Us.”

In producing the book, Andrianna traveled to five countries where she interviewed more than 70 small-scale farmers and fishermen (including some from Sitka). During these interviews she learned about the struggles and solutions faced by small-scale food producers within the scope of food sovereignty. Food sovereignty asserts the rights of the people to define their own food systems, and says those who produce, distribute and consume food must be at the center of decisions on food systems and policies, rather than the corporations and market institutions that have come to dominate global food trade.

“It is essential that those who are in the trenches are heard,” Andrianna said. “They are the closest to the earth and hold the responsibility in their hands to provide healthy, wholesome, culturally relevant food to their communities now and into the future. They are the roots of the food sovereignty movement.”

To learn more about the project and to order books, go to the Food Voices website.

• Sitka gardeners extend growing seasons with government pilot study on high tunnels

Several Sitka gardeners will be extending their growing seasons this year thanks to a government soil conservation program designed to study the effectiveness of “high tunnels” or “hoop houses” when it comes to growing more local food in a conservation-minded way. To qualify you need to have grown $1,000 worth of produce for two of the past five years, even if just for your family and friends.

The Sitka participants will be constructing the greenhouse-like structures this year, which will enable them to grow more local food. For participating in the study, the government will reimburse them for the cost of the materials. This project is part of a nationwide effort to improve our community food security called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.” As part of the project, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct a three-year, 38-state study on high tunnels to see if they help reduce pesticide use, extend the growing season, keep vital nutrients in the soil, etc. This YouTube video has more information about the pilot study and shows several smaller family garden-sized high tunnels being placed in the White House garden.

“There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of healthy, locally-grown crops — a win for producers and consumers,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. “This pilot project is going to give us real-world information that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add high tunnels to their operations. We know that these fixtures can help producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom line.”

If you meet the requirement, feel free to participate by contacting our local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agent for Southeast Alaska, Samia Savell in Juneau at 586-7220, or go to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/. NRCS will fund one high tunnel per qualifying farm, and a high tunnel can cover as much as 5 percent of one acre.

High tunnels have been used successfully in Alaska, including up in Fairbanks where temperatures drop to minus-50. Last September, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences reported on a two-year project where 39 varieties of apples had been grown in high tunnels at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service also reported on the project (with short videos), and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner also reported on the story.