Registration open now for Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit on Feb. 24-26 in Haines

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Share lessons learned and techniques for overcoming challenges of commercially growing food in Southeast Alaska; learn specific skills, technology, and research that contribute to commercial farming success and efficiency; connect with new and experienced farmers to build an inspiring network.

Early bird registration is now open for the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit 2017, the second biennial summit designed to bring together experienced and aspiring commercial growers and support agencies. The summit will be held Friday through Sunday, Feb. 24-26, at the Chilkat Center in Haines. A discounted registration rate is available to attendees who register on or before Friday, Jan. 20. Travel and registration scholarships are available.

The conference will feature presentations from experienced commercial growers and support agencies, and topical discussions and panels to share resources and lessons learned. Speakers include Doug Collins, Extension Faculty and Soil Scientist with Washington State University’s Small Farms Program; Megan Talley, Farm Manager and Educator at Alaska Pacific University; and experienced farmers from Southeast Alaska; among others.

“This will be an opportunity for commercial growers of Southeast Alaska to learn from each other, find opportunities to collaborate, and build a network that can leverage everyone’s efforts,” said Lia Heifetz, Local Food Director for Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition. “Many resources will be shared over the course of the weekend – from financial planning for small farms to innovative solutions for soil building, policy implications for agriculture, and much more.”

Other topics to be addressed at the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit include:

  • On Farm Food Safety
  • Building your Farm Community
  • Planning for a CSA
  • The Future of Seed Saving in Alaska
  • High Tunnel Applications and Innovations
  • Electric and Walk-in Cold Storage for your Farm
  • Biomass Heated Greenhouses and Aquaponics
  • Per Foot Crop Values for Market Sales
  • Using Local Amendments to Improve Soil Quality
  • Fruit Trees and Grafting Techniques
  • Policy and Initiatives
  • Building a Future of Farming with Internships and Education
  • Business Planning and Farm Finances

For more information and to register for the conference, please visit this website, http://www.alaskawatershedcoalition.org/safs2017/, or contact Lia Heifetz at lia@growsoutheast.com.

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Sitka Spruce Tips 4H Club to celebrate Arbor Day on May 20 with tree planting at Swan Lake

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Friday, May 20, is the 50th anniversary of Arbor Day in Alaska, and the Sitka Spruce Tips 4H Club will celebrate by planting a few trees from 3-5 p.m. at the Swan Lake recreation area (near the corner of Lake Street and DeGroff).

We will be planting maples, but giving away fruit trees for people to plant at home, said Molly Johnson, who helps coordinate the Sitka Spruce Tips 4H Club for the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District Office.

“4H is excited to host a celebration in honor of Alaska Arbor Day to celebrate how important trees are in our lives,” Molly said. “We see the significance of trees in the clean air and great habitat they provide whenever we explore the Tongass (National Forest). This will be a fun event to honor that significance closer in town. It is a great opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate trees!”

This event is co-sponsored by the Alaska Community Forestry Council, the USDA Forest Service, and the Alaska Division of Forestry. Because of its commitment to trees in town, the City and Borough of Sitka has been recognized as one of the Tree City USA award-winners from the Arbor Day Foundation.

• It’s time to … plant your potatoes with a free workshop on April 12

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The Sitka Local Foods Network reminds you that it’s time to get out in the garden and plant your potatoes.

Potatoes are some of the most productive and easy-to-grow vegetables in Sitka. Michelle Putz will present a free, hands-on potato-planting workshop at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 12, at 131 Shelikof Way. Parking space is limited, so please consider walking, riding your bike or carpooling. More information is available by calling Michelle at 747-2708.

Also, the next meeting of the Sitka Local Foods Network education committee is from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 408 Marine Street (parking off Spruce Street). We will be brainstorming ideas for upcoming classes, and we welcome local gardeners who want to teach classes to join our list of educators. Just give us a topic, best date and time, and we can help you find a venue.

For more information about Sitka Local Foods Network education classes, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520 or 1-850-491-2666 (cell), or Michelle Putz at 747-2708. This is one of the 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.

• Florence Welsh releases free update of her popular guide for Sitka gardeners

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Florence Welsh with copies of her Sitka gardening book

Florence Welsh with copies of her Sitka gardening book

One of Sitka’s best known gardeners is Florence Welsh, who heads up The Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens. The Welsh family has been gardening in Sitka since 1984, and the garden on Davidoff Street has been used to teach other gardeners what works in Sitka. Several years ago Florence wrote a guide to help other gardeners take advantage of her family’s experiences trying to grow edible and ornamental plants in Sitka using organic methods. This past winter, Florence updated her book and today she released the new version of the guide as a PDF file (see link below), and she is starting a blog about local food from Sitka called SitkaVores.

“We are sharing this gardening guide with the hope that it will be of some use to other gardeners in this challenging environment,” Florence said.

The book includes information about how to prepare your garden for Sitka’s short growing season, including how to set up your home for plants you may need to start inside. She talks about using sand and seaweed in the garden to help with drainage and fertilizer. The guide also lists many of the plants, bushes and trees the Welsh family has grown in its garden, including the specific varieties that did best in Sitka. There also are several photos from the garden.

Sitka Farmers Market Co-Managers Debe Brincefield, left, and Ellexis Howey, right, present the Table Of The Day Award to Florence Welsh and her daughter Cory Welsh of Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens at the sixth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2014 summer on Saturday, Sept. 5, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall in Sitka. The Welsh family has one of the larger gardens in Sitka, raising a variety of veggies including cabbage, carrots, zuccini, potatoes, greens, and more. Florence received a gift bag with fresh greens, fresh carrots, fresh rhubarb, and a copy of the Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook. This concludes the seventh year of Sitka Farmers Markets, hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network. While the Sitka Farmers Market is over for the summer, we will host a produce table at the 20th annual Running of the Boots, with registration at 10 a.m., costume judging at 10:30 a.m. and race at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, near St. Michael of the Archangel Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Lincoln Street. For more information about the Sitka Farmers Markets and Sitka Local Foods Network, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/, or check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK)

Sitka Farmers Market Co-Managers Debe Brincefield, left, and Ellexis Howey, right, present the Table Of The Day Award to Florence Welsh and her daughter Cory Welsh of Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens at the sixth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2014 summer on Saturday, Sept. 5, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall in Sitka. The Welsh family has one of the larger gardens in Sitka, raising a variety of veggies including cabbage, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, greens, and more. Florence received a gift bag with fresh greens, fresh carrots, fresh rhubarb, and a copy of the Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook.

The Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens is one of Sitka’s most productive gardens when it comes to producing food, and Florence occasionally has a booth at the Sitka Farmers Market to sell her produce. The garden grows berries, fruit trees, herbs/mints, and a wide variety of vegetables. She includes some instructions with the vegetables, and the guide also includes a timeline for seed starting so you know when to plant. The guide ends with information about invasive plants, insects and slugs, and a list of useful seed catalogs and websites.

The homemade booklet, which Florence used to print out herself, now is available posted online (see link below). It also will be posted in the Documents section of this website.

• February 2015 update of Florence Welsh’s Forget-Me-Not Gardens gardening guide for Sitka

• It’s time to … thin your apples for better production (free workshop)

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Your Sitka Local Foods Network reminds Sitkans that now is the time to get out in your garden and thin the apples on your tree. Thinning fruit increases the size and quality of your fruit and reduces the chances that limbs will break. Thinning also reduces the chances of spreading diseases.

Jud Kirkness will host a free discussion and hands-on workshop on fruit thinning and fruit tree care from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday, June 26, at 131 Shelikof Way. Jud also will look for and discuss fruit tree pests. All are welcome; call Michelle Putz at 747-2708 for more information or directions to the garden.

The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee has been hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our website, Facebook pageFacebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

The SLFN education committee is still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.

• It’s time to … learn about gardening in a high tunnel

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Have you ever wanted to learn more about growing vegetables in a high tunnel or hoop house? Your Sitka Local Foods Network is teaming up with local landscape architect and 20-year Sitka gardener Barth Hamberg, who will host a free discussion about high-tunnel gardening at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25, at Hamberg’s garden.

High tunnels, also known as hoop houses or temporary greenhouses, extend the growing season so more food is produced before and after the traditional dates for growing stuff outdoors. High tunnels are different than greenhouses in that they are passively heated by the sun, so they have lower energy costs than greenhouses. This link has frequently asked questions and answers about seasonal high tunnel systems for crops.

“Last summer I constructed a high tunnel with a grant from the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service),” Hamberg said. “This is my first season in production and I’m experimenting with may different plants and learning a lot about the advantages of the high tunnel. It’s working great.”

Some of the topics Hamberg will discuss include:

  • siting and constructing a high tunnel
  • selecting a high tunnel manufacturer and style of tunnel
  • planting for winter harvest
  • planting for early spring harvest
  • high tunnel maintenance requirements
  • irrigation systems
  • making the high tunnel an enjoyable place to work and to be
  • compost-based soil fertility in the high tunnel

“My interest is growing food in the most efficient and beautiful way possible,” Hamberg said.

People interested in attending this discussion should call Hamberg at 738-9145 to reserve a space and to receive the address and directions to his garden.

The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee has been hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our website, Facebook pageFacebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

The SLFN education committee is still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.

• It’s time to … get out and plant your vegetable garden; it’s not too late for this summer

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Your Sitka Local Foods Network reminds Sitkans that it’s not too late to get out and plant a vegetable garden this summer. Local gardener and Sitka Local Foods Network board member Michelle Putz will host a free discussion and hands-on planting opportunity at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, at 131 Shelikof Way.

Tour the garden and learn about planting some of Sitka’s easiest-to-grow vegetables, including carrots, lettuce, and bok choy. All are invited to attend, especially those new to gardening and growing vegetables. Freshly harvested lettuce will be given away to interested participants. Anyone may attend, but parking space is limited, so those interested in participating are asked to please consider walking, bike riding or carpooling.

“If you start soon, there is still plenty of time to get a vegetable garden growing in Sitka for this year,” Michelle Putz said. “Many easy-to-grow plants can be started now whether in pots, planters, or garden beds. And if your garden is a little challenging like mine, now is a good time to replant or add more seeds in the thin areas.”

The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our website, Facebook pageFacebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

We are still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.