Tenth annual Fish To Schools coho donation drive has a new partner

Sitka commercial troller Eric Jordan discusses the fishing industry with local students during a Fish To Schools have lunch with a fisherman event (photo courtesy Sitka Conservation Society)

(The following was submitted as a letter to the editor that ran in the Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel)

Sitka’s Fish to Schools program is celebrating a decade of bringing locally caught seafood lunches into all of Sitka’s schools. While the program typically relies solely on donations from local fishermen, Sitka Producers Cooperative (SPC) and Sitka Sounds Seafoods, (SSS) this year the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) will also be purchasing fish. We’re grateful that ALFA’s investment in food security will ensure that Sitka’s kids have access to nourishing foods, while circulating money in the local economy and taking pressure off of fishermen during a challenging summer.

The coho donation drive will operate as usual from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, and all contributions are welcome and appreciated. Sitka’s fishermen are the heart and soul of the Fish to Schools program and this program wouldn’t exist without their generosity and dedication to feeding the next generation of ocean stewards.

Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA, said on the program, “Sitka fishermen and local processors SPC and Sitka Sound Seafoods have long supported Fish to Schools and have donated generously over the years. ALFA/ASFT (Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust) are grateful to be in a position this year to support the purchase of seafood for schools to take the pressure off Sitka fishermen and processors who are reeling from the impacts of COVID-19.“

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie Wednesday (April 25, 2018) during lunch 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 fish dishes 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. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The Sitka Fish to Schools program brings locally caught seafood lunches and salmon-focused classroom curricula into schools. The mission of this program is to deepen youth understanding of local seafood resources and teach children that salmon require respect in both harvest and habitat. Fish to Schools lays the groundwork for Sitka’s youth to discover how the commercial fishing industry operates and inspires students to support or become involved in one of Southeast Alaska’s most important economic sectors. Having access to local seafood reminds us how lucky we are to be Alaskans!

“Ten years of Fish to Schools in Sitka has flown by. The best part of being involved in this program is witnessing how many community members care about our local kids and want to help this program succeed. To me, Fish to Schools really exemplifies how wonderful our community is,” longtime program supporter Lexi Fish said. She continued, “my daughter was a kindergartener last year and loved eating the school lunch on Wednesdays — salmon burgers were her favorite.”

Since it became a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, the Fish to Schools program has been a partner-rich endeavor. Local processors including Sitka Sound Seafoods and the Seafood Producers Cooperative, the Sitka School District, Mount Edgecumbe High School, the SEER School, Head Start — and in particular the cafeteria teams at those facilities — along with community members Lexi Fish and Beth Short-Rhoads have all been key players in realizing this initiative from the ground up. We’re happy to expand this list this year to include ALFA. And of course, the program would not be possible without such strong support from the local fishermen who donate their catch to the program, nourishing students with the Omega-3s and other vitamins wild salmon provide.

To donate, tell scale operators how many fish you would like to donate as you offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods. If fishermen have yelloweye rockfish overage, they are welcome to donate them to Fish to Schools as well. If you would like to donate to Fish to Schools, please contact Heather Bauscher of Sitka Conservation Society at heather@sitkawild.org or 747-7509 for more information.

Sincerely,

Sitka Conservation Society

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School hosts We Love Our Fishermen lunch as part of Fish To Schools program

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)

First-graders harvest the seeds they planted while in kindergarten last spring

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)

• Baranof Elementary students pick veggies they grew at the Russian Bishop’s House garden

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)

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)

• How does your garden grow? For some in Sitka, quite well, thank you

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(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)

• Kindergartners learn about planting a garden at Russian Bishop’s House

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)

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)

• Sitka residents team up to run neighborhood chicken coop co-ops

Some of the members of Le Coop, one of Sitka's chicken coop co-ops, pose with a few of their birds. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, other photos in story are by Charles Bingham)

Some of the members of Le Coop, one of Sitka’s chicken coop co-ops, pose with a few of their birds. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, other photos in story are by Charles Bingham)

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.

LeCoopOne 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.”

LauraSchmidtWatchesChickensFeedLaura 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.

EggsInLayingBox“This is a nice place to bring my compost, and the chickens love it,” Erika said. “It’s nice to have eggs that are fresh and organic. I give some away.”

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.

RedLeghornAndRoosterBesides being able to share duties and costs with the chicken coop co-op, another advantage to having Le Coop on campus is the learning experiences it provides.

“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.”

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• Baranof Elementary School first-graders harvest their kindergarten plantings at Russian Bishop’s House garden

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BIG HARVESTBaranof 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)

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host six Sitka Farmers Markets in 2014

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its seventh summer of Sitka Farmers Markets this year. The first of the six markets is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.), with the other markets on July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 23, and Sept. 6. From left are Sitka Local Foods Network board members Charles Bingham, Maybelle Filler and Michelle Putz, Sitka Farmers Market co-managers Ellexis Howey and Debe Brincefield, vendors Linda Wilson and Pat Hanson, and helper D.J. Brincefield. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson).

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its seventh summer of Sitka Farmers Markets this year. The first of the six markets is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.), with the other markets on July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 23, and Sept. 6. From left are Sitka Local Foods Network board members Charles Bingham, Maybelle Filler and Michelle Putz, Sitka Farmers Market co-managers Ellexis Howey and Debe Brincefield, vendors Linda Wilson and Pat Hanson, and helper D.J. Brincefield. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson).

SitkaFarmersMarketSignThe 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.”

2014 Quest Flyer SitkaThe 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 sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other info for potential vendors can be found on the Documents page at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

• Daily Sitka Sentinel features Keith Nyitray with his winning cabbage from the Sitka ‘state’ Fair

BIG PRODUCE – Sitka gardener Keith Nyitray arranges the leaves on his 17-pound cabbage Sunday during the second annual Sitka “State” Fair at Harrigan Centennial Hall. The cabbage earned a blue ribbon at the fair, which had categories for vegetables, jams, hobbies, crafts, photography and spam hors d’oeuvres, among others. The event included music by the SitNiks and performances by Celtic dancers. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

BIG PRODUCE – Sitka gardener Keith Nyitray arranges the leaves on his 17-pound cabbage Sunday during the second annual Sitka “State” Fair at Harrigan Centennial Hall. The cabbage earned a blue ribbon at the fair, which had categories for vegetables, jams, hobbies, crafts, photography and Spam hors d’oeuvres, among others. The event included music by the SitNiks and performances by Celtic dancers. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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.

The second annual Sitka “state” Fair was hosted by the Greater Sitka Arts Council. More details about the event and some of its contests can be found here.