Southeast Alaska Garden Conference set for Feb. 16-18 in Haines

The 2018 Southeast Alaska Garden Conference is coming soon. Space is limited, so sign up now to pay a lower early registration fee until Jan 15.

Join  gardeners of Southeast Alaska for a three-day conference, Feb. 16-18, in Haines, on growing local produce in our short challenging growing season. The conference will focus on home use and small-scale farms, topics will include soil health, gardening practices, storage and preservation, composting, and food security.

Acclaimed long-time Alaska garden author and writer Jeff Lowenfels will be the keynote speaker (his Anchorage Daily News garden column is the longest-running garden column in the country at more than 40 years). The conference format will include breakout sessions with local experienced growers, community extension personnel and sharing forums. There will be many opportunities to network and share knowledge.

To register online or to check out the event schedule, click on the conference’s EventBrite link. The conference costs $100, with those paying before Jan. 15 paying $75 and those paying between Jan. 16 to Feb. 1 paying $90. For info about scholarships, registration, accommodations, transportation, payment by check, or other requests, contact Leslie Evenden at (907) 314-0608 or email leslieevenden@gmail.com.

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

registration-open-dec

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.

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

SLFNBoothOnionsCarrots

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.”

UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference May 5 in Sitka

CFPM flyer 5-5-16

Monday, April 18, is the registration deadline for a certified food protection manager workshop being taught on Thursday, May 5, by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. This is an all-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Fairbanks, Palmer, Haines, King Salmon and Sitka. The next class available for Sitka participation won’t be until this fall or winter.

A certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a half-hour lunch), and participants will take a computer-based exam at the end of the class. The reason the deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time for the class. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here.

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in Room 110 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Kathy McDougall at (907) 474-2420 (Fairbanks number) or kmmcdougall@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Kathy at least three weeks before the class.

Also, the ServSafe book ($70) and certification exam ($75) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.

• Alaska Division of Agriculture to host four On-Farm Food Safety Workshops in Southeast communities

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The Alaska Division of Agriculture is planning a series of four On-Farm Food Safety Workshops in Southeast Alaska communities the week of July 21-25. The workshops will be in Skagway, Haines, Juneau and Sitka.

These workshops are geared toward farmers both large and small, farmers market vendors, gardeners, and anyone who is interested in learning more about food safety in the production of fruits and vegetables.

The Sitka workshop will be from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, July 25, in the upstairs classroom of the See House at the St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (on Lincoln Street, the brown church with the steeple above Crescent Harbor). This is a voluntary educational event for farmers and gardeners who want to learn more about agricultural practices that help reduce the risk of food-borne illness, especially if they plan to sell or donate produce to the Sitka Farmers Market or other programs. For more information about the Sitka workshop, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985.

The workshops are free, informal, and run for about three hours. The workshops consist of two powerpoint presentations – one on food safety, and introduction to both USDA GAP/GHP food safety audits and the FDA’s new Food Safety Modernization Act, and a second presentation that assists growers who are interested in marketing their produce to schools and local institutions.

The workshops include a site visit to a local farm or garden where we will conduct a mock food-safety audit and answer growers’ questions. We will also provide a wealth of food safety reference materials, and an introduction to online tools that can assist growers in creating a food safety plan, which is the first step in providing food safety assurance to their buyers.  All attendees will receive a copy of FamilyFarmed.org’s “Wholesale Success” reference manual, and a certificate for 3 hours of continuing education in farm food safety.

To learn about the Skagway, Haines and Juneau workshops, check out the flier posted above.

• Deadline nears for getting food and other entries to the Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines

The deadline for getting your local entries ready for the Southeast Alaska State Fair is this week if you want to take advantage of free shipping from Sitka.

Jeanette Berry, the Sitka town representative for the fair, needs to have all non-perishable entries packed and delivered to the Alaska Marine Lines office in Sitka by the afternoon of Thursday, July 8, so they can be loaded onto the Tuesday, July 13, barge to Haines. She can provide assistance and free shipping on the entries that will be barged to Haines. Perishable items will be flown to Haines, but free shipping may not available on those items (Jeanette is researching to see what shipping rates might be for perishable items).

The Southeast Alaska State Fair takes place from July 29 through Aug. 1 at the Haines Fairgrounds, just outside Haines. The fair provides a regional showcase for agricultural and domestic arts, creative arts and crafts, and the opportunity for educational, cross-cultural and social exchange.

There are exhibits for a wide variety of food items, from big veggies to jams and jellies, even homemade beer and wine. There are hundreds of categories to enter, so click this link and download the 59-page exhibitor’s guide book for information about what types of items can be entered and how the entries should be prepared.

To learn more about how Jeanette can help you ship your entries to Haines, call her at 747-3222 (home) or 1-360-271-8197 (cell). It’s not too late to share your talents with other residents of Southeast Alaska.

2010 Southeast Alaska State Fair exhibitor’s guide book (PDF file)

• Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) warning issued for Southeast Alaska

The enclosed copy is courtesy of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) website.

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

This past week has seen five cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in Alaska, including two cases in Southeast Alaska that resulted in the June 17 death of a Juneau woman who ate a cockle and the June 22 death of a Haines man who ate a Dungeness crab. The other three cases were in Kodiak and they resulted in illness from eating butter clams.

The two Southeast deaths, if confirmed by autopsy, will be the first paralytic shellfish poisoning deaths in Alaska since 1997. In 2009 there was just one reported case of PSP in Alaska, and there were no cases of PSP in 2008 and one in 2007. There have been periodic outbreaks of PSP over the years, with the most deadly instance coming when clams and mussels gathered from Peril Straits near Sitka killed more than 100 Russians and Aleuts in 1799.

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the 57-year-old Juneau woman reportedly ate cockles she gathered on June 14 from the Point Louisa end of Auke Bay. She died June 17 after being hospitalized at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation tested cockles from Auke Bay after the woman was hospitalized and DEC found the Auke Bay cockles had much higher levels of PSP than acceptable (they should not have more than 80 parts per million, and the cockles had 2,044 parts per million).

The 57-year-old Haines man reportedly ate Dungeness crab on June 18 that he caught off Jenkins Rock near the Chilkat Inlet of Lynn Canal. He was hospitalized at Bartlett Regional Hospital on June 18 and released from the hospital on June 21. He died in his Haines home early on June 22. Dungeness crab meat does not contain PSP, but the viscera (guts) can have the toxin, health officials said. People should not eat crab viscera. The Department of Environmental Conservation plans to test crabs from Southeast for PSP.

What is paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)?

Paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, is a potentially lethal toxin that can lead to fatal respiratory paralysis, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The toxin comes from algae, which is a food source for clams, mussels, crabs and other shellfish found across Alaska. This toxin can be found in shellfish every month of the year, and butter clams have been known to store the toxin for up to two years. The toxin cannot be seen with the naked eye, and there is no simple test a person can do before they harvest. One of the highest concentrations of PSP in the world was reported in shellfish from Southeast Alaska.

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

Symptoms of PSP can begin almost immediately, or they can take several hours after eating the affected shellfish before they appear. Symptoms include shortness of breath, tingling, dizziness and numbness. If you suspect someone has symptoms of PSP, get that person to a medical facility fast (an Alaska Sea Grant link below has first aid for PSP). Death is rare from PSP, but some people have died after eating just one clam or mussel with the PSP toxin, while in other cases it took eating many clams or mussels to get enough of the poison to cause death.

Are Southeast beaches safe for subsistence or recreational shellfish harvesting?

The Department of Environmental Conservation recommends harvesting of shellfish only from DEC-certified beaches, and the only certified beaches in the state are located in the Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay areas of Southcentral Alaska. According to DEC, there are no certified beaches in populated areas of Southeast Alaska, Kodiak or the Aleutian Islands. The only beaches DEC can certify as safe for shellfish collecting are those where state-certified testing of clams and mussels is done regularly.

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

“Do not eat shellfish from uncertified beaches,” DEC Program Specialist George Scanlan said. “Anyone who eats PSP-contaminated shellfish is at risk for illness or death.”

The DEC warning does not apply to commercially grown and harvested shellfish available in grocery stores and restaurants. Commercially grown and harvested shellfish goes through a regular testing program before it goes to market.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) resources

DEC page about paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and how it works, http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psp/psp.htm

DEC links page with more info about PSP,
http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psphome.htm

DEC page about identifying butter clams, littleneck clams and cockles (has photos),
http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psp/shellfish.htm

Current DEC warning about PSP in Alaska (dated June 16, 2010),
http://dec.alaska.gov/press_releases/2010/2010_06_16_psp%20final.pdf

Joint DH&SS/DEC press release about Haines case of PSP (dated June 21, 2010),
http://www.hss.state.ak.us/press/2010/Additional_case_of_PSP_reported_062110.pdf

DH&SS  fact sheet about paralytic shellfish poisoning, http://www.hss.state.ak.us/pdf/201006_shellfish.pdf

Twitter feed for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services,
http://twitter.com/alaska_DHSS

Alaska Sea Grant page with links about paralytic shellfish poisoning,
http://seagrant.uaf.edu/features/PSP/psp_page.html

Alaska Sea Grant page with first aid for PSP victims (get victim to medical facility fast),
http://seagrant.uaf.edu/features/PSP/PSP_aid.html

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention page on marine toxins (including PSP),
http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/marine_toxins/