USDA awards $496,840 grant to Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition to develop a food hub network

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logo_southeast-alaska-watershed-council_15Farmers and fishermen in Southeast Alaska will soon be able to expand their markets through a recent grant to the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and its partners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grant was part of more than $56 million in local and community food system and organic research grants announced on Sept. 28. This was the only project from Alaska to receive funding.

The grant award is for $496,840, with a match of $178,327, and it will be used to sell and distribute local foods throughout the region over the next three years.  This is the grant description posted with the list of grant winners in the Local Food Promotion Program:

Localizing the Food System in Southeast Alaska: Building Markets and Supply Award

In Southeast Alaska, a more reliable food supply and improved access to local food are critical to self‐reliance and community resiliency. The vast majority of food consumed in Southeast Alaska is shipped in by barge or plane thus increasing its cost and decreasing its nutritional value. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC) and its diverse partners propose to increase the consumption of, access to, and production of Southeast Alaska (SEAK) local foods. This will be accomplished by developing new market opportunities using a food hub model. Through a two‐part approach, SAWC and partners will; 1) provide critical training, technical assistance, and business development services to local food entrepreneurs; and 2) increase the consumption of and access to locally produced products through the development of the Southeast Alaska Food Hub Network (SEAK‐FHN).

The Southeast Alaska Watershed Council is working with Haa Aaní, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and the Takshanuk Watershed Council (Haines) to develop the regional food hub, which they hope will improve food security in the region while also developing new food-related businesses.

TraysOfSalmonPortionsAccording to a post on the Southeast Alaska Watershed Council website, “In Southeast Alaska, improved access to local foods and a more reliable food supply are critical components of self-reliance and community resiliency. Residents of the region’s rural communities face high and rising costs of living, a declining state economy, and dependence upon air and water transport for delivery of basic commodities including food and petroleum products. According to a report commissioned by the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, 95 percent of the food purchased in Alaska is imported, often shipped through extensive supply chains arriving by truck, airplane, and barge.

“The high cost of imported foods and lengthy supply chain make Southeast Alaska communities vulnerable to unforeseen disruptions in larger national food and transport systems, and send local dollars outside of the state. Many communities throughout the region have begun prioritizing the development of a localized food system to promote economic development, increase food security, and bolster the resiliency of Southeast Alaska communities.”

savethedateIn an interview with KSTK-FM radio in Petersburg, SAWC Executive Director Angie Flickinger said the system would be based on an online marketplace, allowing producers such as existing farms in Haines and Petersburg to sell their products throughout the region. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition is based in Wrangell and has member community watershed coalitions in Haines, Skagway, Juneau and on Prince of Wales Island.

“And we would allow consumers to go on there and purchase foods,” Flickinger said. “We would set distribution centers where we would aggregate those foods and either ship them out, or set up a date where folks from the community could come and pick up those foods.”

Flickinger said the coalition hopes to build two distribution centers in Juneau and Haines. Both distribution centers will have cold-storage facilities, and will be certified by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for food safety. The project also will help host the second biannual Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit on Feb. 24-27, 2017, in Haines.

Flickinger told KSTK that this idea was sparked from a feasibility study the Takshanuk Watershed Council did last year examining the market for local foods in Haines.

“So that kind of helped spawn this concept where we thought if we combined a lot of these producers who are based throughout the region, we could create a bigger market and make it more accessible.”

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• Rabbit, goat highlight Sawmill Farm’s farm-to-table dinner at Ludvig’s Bistro

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Locally raised rabbit and goat meat from Ketchikan were the highlights of a fundraising farm-to-table dinner for the Sawmill Farm on Jan. 31 at Ludvig’s Bistro.

In an effort to raise seed money for her Sawmill Farm project, Bobbi Daniels worked with Ludvig’s Bistro owner/chef Colette Nelson to create a five-course meal featuring locally sourced food from Sitka and Southeast Alaska. Tickets were $75 per plate for the function.

Bobbi already is raising rabbits in town, and she said goats also do well in Sitka. Bobbi hopes to find a large enough lot so she can grow enough rabbits to supply local stores with meat. She said rabbit meat is one of the cleanest meats as far as toxins, and it only takes 10 weeks to raise a rabbit to harvest size. The Sawmill Farm was one of 12 semifinalists in the recent Path to Prosperity economic development contest sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and Haa Aaní Community Development Fund, and now is competing for the people’s choice award.

Working with local farmers and gardeners, Bobbi and Colette created five-course meal that featured:

  • rabbit terrine with farm egg, beach asparagus and mustard;
  • leek, heirloom tomato, zucchini and rabbit consommé with sprouted wheat bread;
  • Moroccan goat stew with ginger, preserved lemons, potatoes, dates and almonds, served with white satin carrot salad and balsamic beets;
  • grilled rabbit thigh served with aioli, Inca Bella potato purée and sautéed garlic kale; and
  • Russian pavlova with huckleberry, rhubarb, currants and Sitka rose sugar.

A variety of gardens and farms provided the food used for the meal. The Sawmill Farm supplied the rabbits and wheat berries, Sivertsen Farm in Ketchikan provided the goat, Lori Adams of Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden supplied winter kale, Sara Taranof provided farm eggs, Linda Walker provided garlic, huckleberries, rhubarb and currants, and Florence Welsh of Forget-Me-Not Garden supplied white satin and orange carrots, heirloom tomatoes, red rose potatoes, Inca Bella potatoes, leeks, zucchini, beets, raspberry preserves and beach asparagus.

Scenes from the meal are in a slideshow below:

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• The Sawmill Farm to host Farm-to-Table Dinner on Jan. 31 at Ludvig’s Bistro

Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm grooms a rabbit at The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber store on Katlian Street. Bobbi raises some rabbits for their hair (to make yarn) and others for meat.

Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm grooms a rabbit at The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber store on Katlian Street. Bobbi raises some rabbits for their hair (to make yarn) and others for meat.

Want to see and taste some of the local food possibilities in Sitka? The Sawmill Farm will host a Farm-to-Table Dinner with two seatings (at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) on Saturday, Jan. 31, at Ludvig’s Bistro (256 Katlian St.). Ludvig’s Bistro owner/chef Colette Nelson will be preparing the meals.

“We will be featuring locally grown foods as much as possible,” said Bobbi Daniels, co-owner of The Sawmill Farm. “This will include rabbit, eggs and vegetables, among other things.”

Tickets are $75 each, and seating is limited with only 25 people per session. To make reservations, call Bobbi at 738-4481 or send a message to The Sawmill Farm’s Facebook page.

p2p-bobbi-daniels-560x400The Sawmill Farm is bringing commercial agriculture to Sitka, and supporting Sitkans who are maintaining their own backyard operations. The farm will raise rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs, and more. It also has a feed store. The Sawmill Farm is one of 12 semifinalists for fledgling Southeast Alaska businesses in the Path to Prosperity contest sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and Haa Aaní LLC (the economic development arm of Sealaska). The three winners, which will be announced in late January, will each receive $40,000 to help their businesses grow.

“The Sawmill Farm is working to produce locally and humanely raised, hormone and antibiotic free livestock and poultry in Sitka using the cast-off food from the grocery stores and restaurants,” Bobbi said. “Currently the city is paying highest disposal rate that is charged to have this food barged as ‘non-recyclable garbage’ to a landfill in eastern Washington. The bottom line is Sitka pays out a fortune to barge perfect pig food to Washington and then we barge corporate factory farmed pork chops back to Sitka. The Sawmill Farm wants to stop the insanity, keep that food and money local, create jobs and produce healthy meat.

“The Sawmill Farm also will support Sitkans who have their own backyard poultry and livestock. We will be selling feed, hay and straw, along with poultry chicks, and baby and adult rabbits. We have started carrying Scratch and Peck organic poultry and goat feeds, and will shortly be adding hay and straw.”

The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber store opened in August 2014, on Katlian Street, across from the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. A photo slideshow of The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber Store is posted below.

“The feed store is stocked with assorted organic poultry and goat feeds, and straight grains for mixing feeds, to supplement livestock diets or for growing fodder,” Bobbi said. “We also have non-organic rabbit feed, hay and straw, and supplemental products such as poultry grit and diatomaceous earth (DE). We still do not have any set retail hours so, again, message us on Facebook or call 738-4481 and we’ll meet the customer there and get them taken care of.”

• The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber price list from August 2014

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• Kake to host three-day shellfish mariculture workshop on May 1-3

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The Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District (SESWCD) will host a comprehensive three-day shellfish mariculture workshop on Thursday through Saturday, May 1-3, in Kake.  (NOTE: Capital City Weekly ran an article covering this event, http://capitalcityweekly.com/stories/051414/new_1206564746.shtml).

This program will be aimed at teaching best management practices to beginning oyster farmers. The workshop curriculum will consist of lectures, labs, and hands-on field operations on working oyster farms. This workshop is open to the public and the District anticipates participation from shellfish farmers in Kake, Hoonah, and Angoon. Participants will learn from experts about nearly every aspect of oyster farming in Southeast Alaska.

The workshop also features a shellfish-oriented educational program at the Kake Community School, as well as a community presentation at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, at the Kake Community Hall Kitchen. Topics at the community presentation include: food security and mariculture, shellfish enhancement activities for subsistence use, indirect economic benefits of mariculture in the community, and commercial aquaculture diversity.

The District’s partners in this project are the Organized Village of Kake and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program. Other participating organizations include the Hoonah Indian Association, Haa Aaní LLC, Alaska Division of Economic Development (Alaska Department of Commerce, Communities and Economic Development), and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

One of the SESWCD’s strategic focus areas is mariculture development (shellfish farming). The intent is to facilitate increased mariculture development in Southeast Alaska to increase food security and support rural economies. This shellfish farming workshop will be the district’s first project in its mariculture program. The Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District is a statutorily authorized quasi-state agency that leverages public funding with private sources to help the communities of Southeast Alaska become more sustainable and self-sufficient.

To register or receive more info, contact James Marcus at 1-907-586-6878 (Juneau number) or districtmanager@seswcd.org.

• Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District Shellfish Mariculture Workshop in Kake press release (with tentative schedule on second page)