• Buying local food during a Southeast Alaska summer

Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President Cathy Lieser distributes "Alaska Grown" bumper stickers during the July Fourth parade in Sitka (Photo by Heike Hüttenkofer)

Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President Cathy Lieser distributes “Alaska Grown” bumper stickers during the July Fourth parade in Sitka (Photo by Heike Hüttenkofer)

By CATHY LIESER
Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President

I am cooking on a boat throughout Southeast Alaska this summer, so on May 5, I planted seeds in my garden, covered it with bird netting and wished it well until my return. The text from my friend read, “the weeds are winning,” luckily I have an herb garden on the boat.

I have been on the hunt for local food in the towns where we provision. It was a late spring, so early on I watched plots greening up and took mental notes. There was kale and rhubarb in Tenakee, with one grower who sells on Friday — The Party Time Bakery — which uses local produce for delicious meals. We bought a rhubarb-berry pie fresh out of the oven and took it back to the boat.

In Juneau, we stocked up at Pinkies Fish Market where the mission is to create a local food economy by sourcing local seafood and other farm fresh items. I toured the Jensen-Olson Arboretum (click here for Facebook page) with Merrill Jensen while he shared about their process toward having a certified virus-free Tlingít potato. The Wild Oven sourdough bakery found me sampling chewy and flavorful loaves that I found out got better with age. At the Second Saturday Market, I bought greenhouse-fresh basil picked that morning.

I barely missed the first Sitka Farmers Market on July 6, but did raid my garden for spinach, kale, lettuce, corn salad and miner’s lettuce. I thank those who watered for me during the hot month of June. Our next boat destination was Petersburg, where I finally arrived on a day where two growers were selling.

The Garden, which participates in the Alaska Grown program, is an abundant oasis of organic produce in the middle of town. Tonna Parker has turned a family lot into a production powerhouse using French intensive methods. For the last four years she has sold direct to the community, just stop by on a Tuesday or Saturday to see what she has available. I bought cucumbers and snap peas that did not make it home, I snacked while Tonna gave me a tour. She has beautiful raised beds, chickens, ducks and compact greenhouses where she is able to grow an astounding variety. Winter squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, bok choi, kale, corn salad, arugula, carrots, beans, peas, berries, eggs, the abundance went on and on.

I was incredibly inspired by her approach toward finding varieties that thrive in her micro climate, ones that are tough and aggressive growers. She trials open-pollinated varieties and saves her own seed for many of her plantings. Freely sharing her knowledge, Tonna said she would happily work herself out of a job, she just wants folks to grow local and reap the benefits.

Farragut Farm makes the trip into Petersburg by boat to sell direct twice a month. Marja Smets and Bo Varsano had beautiful, tender and sweet produce for sale. Radishes nearly the size of golf balls, collards, kale, chard, green onions, carrots, garlic scapes, edible flowers, pea shoots, peas, Napa cabbage, turnips, beets, and lettuce. Wow, to have root crops and full-sized heads of Romaine lettuce and cabbage this early on is a testament to dedicated growing. I had heard that Farragut sells to charter boats and indeed I can place an order via email to be picked up one hour on either side of the high tide in Farragut Bay. They will row and deliver to the boat.

If you love fresh flowers, Craig Olson and Deb Hurley of the Flower Farm run a flower CSA.  For a $100 subscription they deliver six bouquets a summer.  Stunning dahlia, snapdragon, campanula, linaria, veronica, delphinum, and ageratum to name a few.  They grow in three hoophouses and three heated greenhouses that were funded with a $20,000 grant from the Petersburg Development Fund. Planting starts on Jan. 9, and 60 percent of their sales are in veggie and flower bedding plants.

Inga’s Galley (click here for Facebook page) is the Petersburg reinvention of Sitka’s late-but-beloved Two Chicks on a Kabob Stick food cart. Amyee Peeler (one of the Two Chicks from Sitka) sources local produce whenever she can, and of course all of the seafood is local.

Unfortunately, the The Market In Petersburg was not happening on the Friday while I was in town, but I hope to hit it on July 19.

I’ll keep looking over the next two months wherever we dock, I am heartened to see folks committed to growing and sourcing the best food in Southeast. If you know of anyone that I’ve missed leave me a note at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (put “Attention Cathy” in the subject line).

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• Capital City Weekly features Sitka Farmers Market Table of the Day, Running of the Boots fundraiser for Sitka Local Foods Network

Screenshot of Capital City Weekly page about Mike Wise winning the Table of the Day Award at the final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer

Screenshot of Capital City Weekly page about Mike Wise winning the Table of the Day Award at the final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer

Click here to see this week’s Capital City Weekly coverage of Mike Wise of Raven’s Peek Roasters and Sailor’s Choice Coffee winning the Table of the Day Award for the final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Sept. 12.

Click here to read a notice in this week’s Capital City Weekly about the Running of the Boots on Saturday, Sept. 26.

For those of you who will be in Juneau and not in Sitka on Saturday for the Running of the Boots, click here to read about the Autumn Garden Party and Wine Tasting event on Saturday at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum up in Juneau.

In a local foods story from the Northwest Arctic, Kotzebue author/photographer Seth Kantner (author of “Ordinary Wolves” and “Shooping for Porcupine”) writes an essay for the Alaska Dispatch Web site about hunting caribou to provide meat for his family.

Finally, we have two stories about the role salmon played in the development of two Southeast Alaska communities — Ketchikan and Pelican. Ketchikan’s Dave Kiffer writes one of his regular history columns for the Stories in the News Web site about how Ketchikan became “the canned salmon capital of the world.” In the Capital City Weekly, Norm Carson writes a story about how a cold storage plant helped Pelican “settled closest to the fish.”

• Juneau Empire spotlights harvest of Tlingít potatoes

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some borage plant flowers.

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some borage plant flowers.

The Juneau Empire on Monday (click here) ran a nice photo package of a sustainable harvest camp at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau that was hosted by the 4-H program run by UAF Cooperative Extension Service and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. The photos feature several children harvesting “Maria’s Potatoes,” a type of Tlingít potato grown from seed potatoes that originally came from deceased Tlingít elder Maria Miller’s garden in Klukwan. These fingerling potatoes do well in Southeast Alaska’s rainy climate and have been around for hundreds of years. The story link above has a link to an audio slideshow by Juneau Empire photographer Michael Penn. The slideshow is worth watching.

By the way, click here to read more about the Tlingít potato posted on the Sitka Local Foods Network site about three weeks ago. Elizabeth Kunibe did want to clarify that in the link to the Chilkat Valley News story she is misquoted so it appears that she “discovered” the Ozette potato (another Native American variety). She said she is not the discoverer.

Kunibe also said the Tlingít potatoes can be sold, but for food only and not for seed. Some of them contain potato viruses, transmitted by vectors, that can affect the soil and other varieties of potatoes. She said when people buy seed potatoes, they need to make sure they have “clean seed” or “virus-free seed” before they plant. She said potato viruses do not affect humans who eat the potatoes, but we need to use clean seed to keep the viruses from destroying crops (like what happened in the Irish potato famine). She said the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, which has offices in Sitka and Juneau, may have more information on how to find virus-free seed potatoes.

Kunibe, who made a presentation on Tlingít potatoes and traditional gardening in Sitka last year, is hoping to schedule another trip to Sitka for a future presentation. Kunibe also wanted share this link from the USDA Agricultural Research Service about newly discovered nutritional benefits of potatoes, especially in regards to phytochemicals and cancer prevention.

• Capital City Weekly covers Sitka Farmers Market

Capital City Weekly screenshot showing the Table of the Day Award winners from the second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer (Aug. 1)

Capital City Weekly screenshot showing the Table of the Day Award winners from the second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer (Aug. 1)

This week’s edition of Capital City Weekly (a free Southeast Alaska regional weekly newspaper that comes out on Wednesdays) had some good coverage of the Sitka Farmers Market.

Click here to see a photo honoring Table of the Day Award winners Pete Karras and Mimi Goodwin from the second Sitka Farmers Market on Aug. 1. This photo ran in the Health section of the paper.

Click here to see a package of four photos taken by Capital City Weekly reporter Libby Sterling when she was in Sitka for the first Sitka Farmers Market on July 18. This package ran in the Outdoors section of the paper.

By the way, the third Sitka Farmers Market of the summer takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, 235 Katlian St. Some booth space is available, so call Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (nights and weekends) for more information.

The Sitka Local Foods Network (the 501(c)(3) non-profit group that sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market) welcomes any volunteers who want to help set up the market before it opens and take it down once the market is over. Also, the Sitka Local Foods Network accepts donations of extra locally grown produce and berries people may have to sell at the network’s booth at the Sitka Farmers Market. The money raised at the network’s booth helps fund Sitka Local Foods Network projects (the market, community gardens, seed money for the community greenhouse project, educational speakers, etc.). Just drop your extra produce off at the network’s booth, usually outside right next to the building on Katlian St., at the start of the market.

And finally, there was one last story of interest in this week’s Capital City Weekly. Click here to read an article and photo package about the variety of plants being grown at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau.

A screenshot from the Capital City Weekly photo package about Sitka's local foods from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the summer (July 18)

A screenshot from the Capital City Weekly photo package about Sitka's local foods from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the summer (July 18)