• Sitka groups band together to host the movie ‘Vanishing of the Bees’

The Sitka Film Society, Sitka Global Warming Group/Sustainable Sitka and the Sitka Local Foods Network are teaming up to present the movie “Vanishing of the Bees” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, at the Coliseum Theatre.

This is a special Earth Week presentation (Earth Week is April 17-23, and Earth Day is Friday, April 22). Tickets are $8 and available from Old Harbor Books.

The movie, narrated by Ellen Page, describes a recent phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, where entire hives of bees die off, leaving hives full of honey other bees won’t touch (normally when a hive dies off, other bees will raid the hive and take the honey). The loss of the bees is of critical concern for farmers and gardeners because honey bees are one of the major ways crops are pollinated. Without these bees pollinating the crops, we lose our ability to grow much of our food.

Here is the synopsis posted on the movie’s website:

Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the planet, literally vanishing from their hives.

Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this phenomenon has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables. Commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables.

Vanishing of the Bees follows commercial beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they strive to keep their bees healthy and fulfill pollination contracts across the U.S. The film explores the struggles they face as the two friends plead their case on Capital Hill and travel across the Pacific Ocean in the quest to protect their honeybees.

Filming across the US, in Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between mankind and mother earth. As scientists puzzle over the cause, organic beekeepers indicate alternative reasons for this tragic loss.

Conflicting options abound and after years of research, a definitive answer has not been found to this harrowing mystery.

• Kerry MacLane provides update on Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center project

An artist's concept of one version of a proposed Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

An artist's concept of one version of a proposed Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

About a dozen people joined Sitka Local Foods Network president Kerry MacLane for a PowerPoint presentation about the proposed Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center on Wednesday, May 12, at the SEARHC At Kaník Hít Community Health Services Building first-floor conference room. Kerry showed his presentation (attached) and provided a status update for the project. He also took feedback from the participants, seeking ideas for the next steps needed to complete the project.

The Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center is a project of the Sitka Local Foods Network to address one of the top local health priorities identified at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. Sitka residents said they wanted a community greenhouse in order to make more locally grown fruits and vegetables available in town, and a community greenhouse is seen as a way to grow fruits and veggies all year. In addition to local food being healthier for you, local food also provides food security in case of a disaster or other event that keeps the barges or airplanes from delivering (it’s estimated that 95 percent of the food eaten in Alaska is shipped in from the Lower 48 or overseas).

Currently, the Sitka Local Foods Network is in negotiations with the State of Alaska to lease an unused piece of Mt. Edgecumbe High School-owned land on Japonski Island near Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. If the lease goes through, the community greenhouse will help Sitka grow more fruits and vegetables locally while extending our short growing season. The greenhouse can provide educational opportunities for Mt. Edgecumbe High School and University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus students, as well as for other school, church and community groups who want to learn more about growing their own food. The community greenhouse also can provide horticultural therapy for medical and behavioral health patients.

Kerry said the model for the Sitka Community Garden and Education Center is the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens in Cheyenne, Wyo. Kerry used to work at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens several years ago, and he has been given pointers by Cheyenne Botanic Gardens director/founder Shane Smith. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens started out as a small-scale community greenhouse in 1977 that now features more than nine acres of extensive gardens, a solarium, arboretum and other features. It combines educational opportunities with production gardening and horticultural therapy (see fact sheet linked below).

Kerry said he is seeking letters of support from individuals and groups in Sitka who support the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center, and a sample letter is attached below. For more information, contact Kerry at 966-8839 or 752-0654.

Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center PowerPoint presentation

Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center proposal 2010

Sample Letter of Support for the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

Cheyenne Botanic Gardens factsheet

• Sitka office of UAF Cooperative Extension Service to host Master Gardener class

Master gardener Bob Gorman shows off seed starts in wet paper towels during a March garden workshop

The Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host a 40-hour Master Gardener class from 6-9 p.m. every Wednesday night from March 3 through May 12 in Sitka.

The class also will involve two 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday sessions, on March 20 and May. All classes take place at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. Local field trips and growing projects are part of the class.

The non-credit course costs $50 for materials and a student agreement to provide 40 hours of gardening-related service to the community within 12 months of completing the course. UAF Cooperative Extension Service Resource Development Agent Bob Gorman will be the course’s instructor. Guest presenters will assist during the classes.

The class includes topics such as plant propagation, soil management, pest identification and control, extending the growing season, vegetable and fruit gardening, greenhouse and indoor gardening, and ornamental gardening.

The purpose of the program is to train volunteers to assist the UAF Cooperative Extension Service by providing the public with gardening-related information. Volunteer service includes help with the Sitka native plants and demonstration garden, youth and in-school gardening, community gardening events, helping with plant pest identification, and assisting with the Sitka Local Foods Network.

Class size is limited and students are encouraged to register early. Those people interested in the class are encouraged to leave their names, contact information and a phone message on the Sitka office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440. Registration packets are available at the UAS Sitka Campus front desk. The course is offered by the UAF Cooperative Extension Service and the UAS Sitka Campus.

For more information about master gardeners, here are links to the Alaska Master Gardeners and the Southeast Alaska Master Gardeners pages.