Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie during a “We Love Our Fishermen” lunch on Wednesday (April 26) at the school. The elementary school was hosting fishermen who donated part of their catch to the Fish to Schools program. The program is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society and provides locally caught fish dishes and education about fishing as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School, the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School. The Fish to Schools program was a project of the Sitka Health Summit. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)
LITTLE HARVEST – First-grader Taylor McCarty, 6, holds up a slightly deformed carrot at the Russian Bishop’s House garden this morning (Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017). Students in Sarah Eddy’s Baranof Elementary School class and other first graders were harvesting the vegetables they planted in the spring when they were in kindergarten. This summer was not good for growing crops said Sitka National Historical Park Ranger Ryan Carpenter. Most of the carrots were only about an inch or so long. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)
CABBAGE PATCH KIDS — Baranof Elementary School first-grader Alice Ann Ricketts, 6, carries a cabbage out of the Russian Bishop’s House garden Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. First-graders were harvesting the vegetables they planted last spring when they were kindergartners during the annual event. Teachers and students were planning on making a soup with their harvested vegetables. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, this photo appeared on Page 1 of the Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, edition)
(This photo appeared on Page 3 of the Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel, and is used here with permission.)
MASTER GARDENER — Gerry Fleming holds up a giant Kohlrabi he grew in his Dodge Circle garden recently. The vegetable weighed nearly six pounds. He also grew a summer squash that weighed more than six pounds, which donated to the Sitka Farmers Market. He said his secret to growing giant vegetables, something he’s done for years, is to talk to the veggies. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo By James Poulson)
PLANTING A GARDEN: Sitka National Historical Park volunteer gardener Pam Vanderweele helps Baranof Elementary School kindergartner Arianna Moctezuma-Hernandez, 6, plant peas in the Russian Bishop’s House garden on a recent sunny morning. The kindergartners will return to the historical garden in the fall when they are in the first grade to harvest the crops and cook them in a soup. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)
Many Sitka families joined the backyard agriculture movement by starting gardens, but they hesitated when it came time to take the next step — raising chickens.
Chickens require daily feeding and watering, protection from predators, and other care that can be daunting for novices. However, a few Sitka families found an easier way. There now are a couple of chicken coop-co-ops in town, where neighbors or friends team up to share the duties and expense of raising chickens.
One of these chicken coop co-ops, Le Coop, is hidden in a back corner of the Sheldon Jackson Campus, where seven families are raising about 30 hens and one rooster. Le Coop is about 15 feet by 80 feet, with a hen house flanked by two outdoor chicken runs. The fence surrounding Le Coop is electrified (buried at least a foot below the surface to keep out varmints), with netting over the top to protect the chickens from eagles and other raptors. Inside the hen house are a dust bath for the hens, food and water buckets, an egg-laying box, and shelf space to store supplies such as extra feed.
“The advantage are only being responsible one day a week for regular chores such as feed, water, opening/closing, etc. Everything else is done at the whim of individual enthusiasms, and occasional work parties,” said Jud Kirkness, one of the co-op members. “Plus seven families means that many more people finding useful materials and resources and splitting the feed bill seven ways.”
Laura Schmidt, who Jud called the lead organizer/treasurer of the group, said there are six families of four and one couple, so 26 people. “About one person per hen,” she said. ” Each family typically gets about 18-30 eggs on their chicken duty day, with the hens laying more eggs in the summer.
Most of the hens were purchased as chicks last spring, and there are 15 each of red leghorns and black stars. The white rooster is of indeterminate origin, and he was added to the flock when another coop was culling its flock. Many people who raise chickens don’t like to keep roosters, but Laura said this one is small and the hens seem to be able to handle him.
The members of Le Coop have various levels of experience with raising chickens, and Erika Knox said Laura and Jud are the most experienced so they have been mentoring the other families. Erika said she wouldn’t be able to raise chickens at her house because there isn’t enough space, and lately she had to stop composting at home due to rats and other varmints getting into it.
Roger Schmidt and Kristen Homer called themselves the weak links of the group. “We just collect eggs,” Kristen said. “We let them (Laura and Jud) tell us what needs to be done.”
“It’s great because we have chicken experts like Jud and Laura, and we’ve got building experts,” said Roger, Laura’s brother and the director of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which owns the Sheldon Jackson Campus where Le Coop is located. He said there have been a couple of occasions when he was in a meeting on campus and suddenly remembered he had chicken duty that day.
“It’s good for the kids. They learn a lot about chickens,” Roger said. “I bring the Head Start kids back here all the time to check on the chickens.”
“The kids love it,” Kristen said. “Razie Guillory (Laura’s daughter) did a science project charting the growth of the hens, and Asa Dow is doing a project about the economics of the co-op.”
Jud said as soon as he gets this chicken coop to where he wants it, he plans to start another chicken coop co-op for other Sitka families. “I hope it provides some inspiration.”
BIG HARVEST – Baranof Elementary School first-grader Marley Bayne, 6, holds up a large carrot and a beet next to the Russian Bishop’s House garden Wednesday. The entire first-grade class harvested the vegetables they helped plant in the spring when they were kindergartners. This year’s growing season was especially good for the garden crops, which children are using to make soup in class. Sitka National Historical Park rangers organize the gardening activities with the help of school staff and parent volunteers. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo By James Poulson)
The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its seventh summer of Sitka Farmers Markets with six markets this year starting on June 28 and taking place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 6. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.
The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 23, and Sept. 6 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked goods, locally made jams and jellies, live entertainment and music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We were the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons and Alaska Quest EBT for SNAP (food stamp) users. We also plan scheduled transportation from Sitka Tours for the last five markets (details coming soon), and don’t forget to support the Sitka Farmers Market in the I Love My Farmers Market Celebration (click logo) at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.
“The Sitka Farmers Market is a great way to connect with community members and support local entrepreneurs,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “Circulating your dollars locally also has a multiplying effect and helps your neighbors.”
The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community wellness project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. The markets are sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, the Alaska Farmers Market Association, the Alaska Division of Public Health Cancer Control Program, and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.
“We are excited to have Ellexis Howey and Debe Brincefield working as a team as our new market co-managers,” Sadleir-Hart said. “Ellexis and Debe bring loads of enthusiasm and some new ideas to the market, and they are focused on creating a sustainable market that can be in Sitka for the duration. As always, the market will be a place to support the growing local food movement in Sitka and learn more about how to eat more sustainably.”
Vendor fees are $30 for a 6-foot table, $40 for an 8-foot table and $20 for a 4-foot table. Vendors with their own tents pay $5 per foot. As always, we offer cost incentives for vendors growing locally produced food. The fees will help us cover the costs of renting ANB Founders Hall and its kitchen, hiring musicians and other expenses. To learn more about being a vendor or to sign up for a table, contact Sitka Farmers Market Co-Managers, Ellexis Howey and Debe Brincefield at 738-8683 or by e-mail email@example.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other info for potential vendors can be found on the Documents page at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.
The Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel included a photo of local gardener Keith Nyitray with his winning cabbage from the Sitka “state” Fair held Sunday, Aug. 11, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.
(This article originally appeared in the Tuesday, April 9, 2013, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It is used here with permission.)
Sitkans Taking Stock of Local Food Security
By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer
How long could you survive on the food you have in your house today?
How often do you eat foods that are gathered locally?
The Sitka Food Security Survey is trying to find the answers to these and other questions related to food security in Sitka.
The survey is one of the projects of the Sitka Community Food Assessment group that was started at the 2012 Health Summit last fall.
“Community food security is looking at how secure are we as a community if for some reason something happened in the Lower 48 and we couldn’t get barges up here,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, the community food assessment coordinator for the Sitka Community Food Assessment project. “Are there things we could do differently? … We’re pretty dependent on the food coming from outside.”
The group is looking at food security from both a household standpoint and a community standpoint. While some information has been collected, more is needed on a home-by-home basis, Sadleir-Hart said.
To that end, Sadleir-Hart is hoping residents go online to participate in the food security survey to document where the problems are, where the strengths are and how to start addressing the shortcomings. The assessment will make it easier to apply for grants to help the community strengthen its food security position, she said.
“Our goal is 600 completed surveys, which is about 10 percent of the adult population here,” she said. She has set a tentative deadline by the end of this month.
Among many of the issues considered, Sadleir-Hart wonders how the 44-percent increase in food prices from 2006 to 2011 is affecting choices residents are making.
“Given these increases, fuel prices, housing prices, housing costs, at some point you have to make a decision: if you pay for one you might not be able to pay for something else,” she said. “People are hurting when it comes to food.”
The survey asks whether residents are able to eat as much as they need, and eat the foods they want to eat, or if they make sacrifices or eat less in order to feed others, when they are financially strapped.
Some of the focus in the survey is whether residents take advantage of foods that are available locally, including fish, deer, mushrooms, seaweed and berries, among the dozens of possibilities. Some questions are aimed at traditional and customary foods.
From a community standpoint, some data already indicates a level of “insecurity,” since 95 percent of the food Sitkans consume is shipped in from the Lower 48.
“Does our community have the capacity to feed itself if a natural disaster left us isolated?” is one of the survey’s underlying questions.
The assessment project’s goals are to create a community food security profile; map Sitka’s existing food resources and production capacity; and assess household food security, food accessibility, and food availability and affordability.
The work group for the project said community food security is a relatively new concept that covers a variety of disciplines, including community nutrition, nutrition education, public health, sustainable agriculture, and anti-hunger and community development.
“As such, no universally accepted definition exists,” the group said in a handout.
Sadleir-Hart said community food security can be seen as an expansion of the concept of household food security.
“Whereas household food security is concerned with the ability to acquire food at the household level, community food security focuses on the underlying social, economic and institutional factors within a community that affect the quantity and quality of food available …” the handout said.
Affordability is another issue that can affect community food security, Sadleir-Hart said.
The Sitka Community Food Assessment group from the Sitka Health Summit started by collecting data already available locally. Sitka Conservation Society contributed the Jesuit Volunteer, Courtney Bobsin, to work part-time to collect data on local producers, senior and tribal food programs, food banks and other food assistance programs.
“She’s been collecting lots of great information,” Sadleir-Hart said.
The assessment team is using the Food Security Toolkit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to guide the process. Sadleir-Hart said the local effort received a head-start on the assessment by looking at Kenai’s food security survey designed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. The Sitka Local Foods Network, which runs the Sitka Farmers Market, is also involved in the project.
The Sitka Community Food Assessment project received a $15,000 SEARHC Community Transformation Grant to fund Sadleir-Hart’s part-time position, and data analysis.
The goals of the assessment are to improve Sitka’s understanding of the local food system, identify the system’s strengths and weaknesses, inform decisions about policies and ways to improve Sitka’s security, and position Sitka to access grant funding for food system improvement.
Years ago, Sadleir-Hart said, more people in Sitka had vegetable gardens and some kept milk cows and other farm animals. The potential for increasing the amount of locally produced food still exists, and with it the prospect for economic development.
“There are a lot of different angles we could explore, from a community perspective,” she said.
Focus groups are also being called to continue to collect information about food and the community.
The Sitka Community Food Assessment group is looking ahead to the first annual Sitka Food Summit in November, when citizens review the findings of the data collection and start talking about ways to improve the current food system.
The survey can be reached by typing Sitka Community Food Assessment on Facebook, and going to the “Survey Monkey” link. The survey is filled out anonymously. The direct link to the survey is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MQTF22Q.