• Sitka Local Foods Network education committee seeks new families for garden mentor program

KubackiCoupleWithGarden

For a third straight year (2015-16), the Sitka Local Foods Network (SLFN) education committee wants to help families in Sitka learn how easy it can be to grow some of their own food. We are looking for up to three families who would like to learn about and try vegetable gardening in their own backyard through our Family Garden Mentor project.

Through a series of six workshops to be held at the families’ homes, Sitka Local Foods Network education committee volunteers will help the families:

  • Choose a location for a vegetable bed (learning about sun, drainage, etc.),
  • Build (or find) a planter/container or raised bed, and acquire soil and soil amendments,
  • Learn about soil and prepare the soil for planting,
  • Plant 2-4 easy-to-grow plants — specifically potatoes, lettuce, kale, and maybe a perennial edible such as rhubarb or fruit bushes,
  • Learn to take care of their plants over the summer — teaching how to care for and pick the vegetables (without killing the plant),
  • Harvest potatoes, and
  • Cook a meal using the vegetables they have grown.

IMG_0005The Sitka Local Foods Network will provide all materials — soil, lumber, seeds, etc. — free to the participating families. Families will be expected to provide the labor, enthusiasm for gardening, and healthy appetites to eat the vegetables they grow.

The requirement to own your property or home was dropped in 2015, and people who rent now are participating through container gardening. Interested families must meet only three requirements:

  1. They must be first-time vegetable gardeners (this project is meant to help people who are just starting to garden, not people with previous experience, even if it was not in Alaska),
  2. They must want to try vegetable gardening and be committed to participating throughout the summer, and
  3. They must agree to let others come and attend classes at their property.

Other criteria, such as availability and interest in a second year of mentoring, will also be used to help select the final three families. Families that are not selected will be placed on a waiting list in the hope of future continuation and expansion of this project.

IMG_0751The Sitka Local Foods Network has expanded the program this year to include more families and to include at least two households living in rental housing that will garden in portable containers or planters appropriately sized for their space (in case moving is necessary). We also will offer a second year of mentoring to previous participants, so families can expand their knowledge and try growing more “difficult” vegetables, such as carrots, green onions, chard and peas.

IMG_0022Workshops may start as early as this fall or winter with selecting the garden site, ramp up in the spring of 2016 and run through September’s late harvest. First-year classes will focus on the easiest-to-grow vegetables (and fruit) in Sitka — potatoes, lettuce, kale, and rhubarb.

Families interested in participating in the 2016 program should contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708 before Jan. 15, and provide a name, address, and contact phone number.

A slideshow of scenes from our first two years of the family garden mentoring program is posted below.

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• Final classes set for 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

TamiONeillGarden 2015

Tammy O’Neill shows off her garden from the Sitka Local Foods Network’s garden mentoring program. After growing in just one garden bed last year, she added new garden beds this year for her second year of the program.

Tammy O'Neill with her first carrot

Tammy O’Neill with her first carrot.

The 2015 gardening season is coming to a close, and the Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program is scheduling its final classes of the season to teach novice gardeners how to harvest their produce and winterize their gardens so they are ready for next spring.

So far classes have been set for four of our six garden mentor program students, with the other two TBA. Our four first-year students (A.J. Bastian, Rebecca Kubacki, Breezy and Josephine Dasalla) have been growing lettuce, kale, potatoes and rhubarb, four crops that grow well here in Sitka without a lot of fuss. Our two second-year students (Tammy O’Neill and Anna Bradley) have grown carrots, chard, green onions and peas, four crops that can grow well in Sitka but need a bit more loving care.

In addition to having experienced gardeners mentor them, all six students agreed to allow the classes taught at their garden plots be open to the public. The classes scheduled so far are:

  • A.J. Bastian, 207 Brady St. — noon, Wednesday, Sept. 23.
  • Rebecca Kubacki, 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — noon, Tuesday, Sept. 29.
  • Anna Bradley, 4764 Halibut Point Road, 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
  • Tammy O’Neill, 2309 Merganser Drive, 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8.
DSCN0398

Rebecca Kubacki and her family with their garden.

Our two second-year students had never gardened for food before they started the program. They said they learned a lot and recommend the program to other new gardeners.

“I have so much more confidence and appreciate all the hands-on (help) I received,” O’Neill said, adding that her garden helped her save a lot of money on vegetables. “I don’t think I would have done it without the help and encouragement I had. I now have a network of people I can call to help with any questions or concerns I may have. I love eating local, fresh organic produce.”

After having a successful growing season last year, our returning students and a couple of the new ones had some soil problems this year. The gardens grew well in May and June, but in mid-July the plants seemed to stop growing even though the plants were well-formed. After some soil tests, it was discovered that some of the purchased compost was lower in nutrients than listed and the soil was more alkaline than normal (most soil in Sitka tends to be acidic).

DSCN0250

A.J. Bastian and her family with their newly planted garden.

“I learned that mostly the grade of the soil is important,” Bradley said. “We did a lot of work gathering the soil and beach herring, only to have maybe not enough fertilizer. The only thing we did different this year is not put in store bought soil. I look forward to gathering my potatoes and plan to read up more on gardening. Hopefully next year we will be more successful.”

Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. Also, we have started to recruit for 2-3 participants to join next year’s first-year program.

For more information about the garden mentor program, please contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

IMG_0022

Garden mentor Linda Wilson with Anna Bradley and Anna’s daughter in 2014.

• Sitka Local Foods Network education committee seeks new families for garden mentor program

KubackiCoupleWithGarden

DasallaAndPutzFor a third year (2015-16), the Sitka Local Foods Network (SLFN) education committee wants to help families in Sitka learn how easy it can be to grow some of their own food. We are looking for up to three families who would like to learn about and try vegetable gardening in their own backyard through our Family Garden Mentor project.

Through a series of six workshops to be held at the families’ homes, Sitka Local Foods Network education committee volunteers will help the families:

  • Choose a location for a vegetable bed (learning about sun, drainage, etc.),
  • Build (or find) a planter/container or raised bed, and acquire soil and soil amendments,
  • Learn about soil and prepare the soil for planting,
  • Plant 2-4 easy-to-grow plants — specifically potatoes, lettuce, kale, and maybe a perennial edible such as rhubarb or fruit bushes,
  • Learn to take care of their plants over the summer — teaching how to care for and pick the vegetables (without killing the plant),
  • Harvest potatoes, and
  • Cook a meal using the vegetables they have grown.

IMG_0005The Sitka Local Foods Network will provide all materials — soil, lumber, seeds, etc. — free to the participating families. Families will be expected to provide the labor, enthusiasm for gardening, and healthy appetites to eat the vegetables they grow.

The requirement to own your property or home was dropped in 2015, and people who rent now are participating through container gardening. Interested families must meet only three requirements:

  1. They must be first-time vegetable gardeners (this project is meant to help people who are just starting to garden, not people with previous experience, even if it was not in Alaska),
  2. They must want to try vegetable gardening and be committed to participating throughout the summer, and
  3. They must agree to let others come and attend classes at their property.

Other criteria, such as availability and interest in a second year of mentoring, will also be used to help select the final three families. Families that are not selected will be placed on a waiting list in the hope of future continuation and expansion of this project.

IMG_0751The Sitka Local Foods Network has expanded the program this year to include more families and to include at least two households living in rental housing that will garden in portable containers or planters appropriately sized for their space (in case moving is necessary). We also will offer a second year of mentoring to previous participants, so families can expand their knowledge and try growing more “difficult” vegetables such as carrots and green onions.

IMG_0022Workshops may start as early as this fall or winter with selecting the site, ramp up in the spring of 2016 and run through September’s late harvest. First-year classes will focus on the easiest-to-grow vegetables (and fruit) in Sitka — potatoes, lettuce, kale, and rhubarb.

Families interested in participating should contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708, and provide a name, address, and contact phone number.

• KCAW-Raven Radio features Sitka Local Foods Network’s garden mentoring program in story

KubackiCoupleWithGarden

Vegetable gardening used to be a necessity for Sitka residents back in the day, but regular barges and daily flights made it easy for people to stop growing their own food and buy it at the store. If you didn’t have your own garden, you didn’t have fresh veggies. In recent years grocery prices and shipping costs have gone up significantly, so more Sitka residents are going back to gardening. But there are some Sitkans who haven’t gardened before.

That’s where the Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentoring program comes in. This program started in 2014 when the network mentored two first-time gardeners and their families through a year of growing four basic crops that do well in Sitka — lettuce, kale, potatoes and rhubarb. This year, our two original families are back for a second year with slightly trickier crops (carrots, chard, peas and green onions), and we have four new first-year families in the program.

Recently, KCAW-Raven Radio reporter Vanessa Walker attended a class at the home of Rebecca Kubacki to learn more about the program and how it’s helping Rebecca reconnect with her food (click here to listen to the story). All of our free garden mentoring program classes are open to the public and we try to announce the classes enough in advance so people can attend.

Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program.

For more information about the garden mentor program, please contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

• More classes set in 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

KubackiCoupleWithGarden

DasallaAndPutzThe fourth classes for the 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program have been set for our four participating first-year families, and the classes will be open to the public. The classes will be similar at each location, except one where we will be planting a container garden instead of our usual raised garden beds.

The fourth class of the six-class series is about early harvesting and learning about which crops are ready to be picked and which should be left in the garden to grow some more. For our first-year gardener families, we teach them how to grow four hardy crops for Sitka — kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. These classes are essentially the same, so feel free to attend the class that best fits your schedule.

The class schedule and location for these first-year families is:

  • Josephine Dasalla, 1709 Halibut Point Rd., No. 31 (green trailer) — 4:30 p.m., Monday, June 8.
  • A.J. Bastian, 207 Brady St. — 4 p.m., Thursday, June 11.
  • Rebecca Kubacki, 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 16.
  • Breezy, 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 1 (Note: this class was postponed from its original date of June 24).

Please note the classes at the Dasalla residence involve container gardens instead of building raised garden beds like we’ve done for our other families.

In addition, the third class for one of our other first-year students (Breezy) and second classes for our second-year students also have been set. These will be garden maintenance classes (slug and pest control, thinning, watering, garden care, etc.).

The two second-year families (Anna Bradley and Tami O’Neill) participated in the inaugural year of the program last summer, and now they’re back for more. Our two returning families will be planting carrots, chard, green onions and peas this year, which are slightly more difficult to grow than our chosen crops for first-year students. Even though this year’s crops are more difficult to grow, many gardeners in Sitka still have good results with these vegetables.
Again, the classes at each location will be similar, and they are free and open to the public. The schedule is:
  • Breezy, 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 4.
  • Anna Bradley, 4764 Halibut Point Road, 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 6.
  • Tami O’Neill, 2309 Merganser Drive, 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 17.

BastianPutzAndSpiveyWithBigCheckMichelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program.

For more information about the garden mentor program, please contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

• Third classes set for first-year students in 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

IMG_0022

ONeillAndPutzThe third classes for the 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program have been set for three of our four participating first-year families, and the classes will be open to the public. The classes will be similar at each location, except one where we will be planting a container garden instead of our usual raised garden beds.

The third class of the six-class series is about garden maintenance (slug and pest control, thinning, watering, garden care, etc.). For our first-year gardener families, we teach them how to grow four hardy crops for Sitka — kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. These classes are essentially the same, so feel free to attend the class that best fits your schedule.

The class schedule and location for these three families is:

  • Josephine Dasalla, 1709 Halibut Point Rd., No. 31 (green trailer) — 4 p.m., Thursday, May 14.
  • A.J. Bastian, 207 Brady St. — 4 p.m., Tuesday, May 26.
  • Rebecca Kubacki, 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 26.
  • Breezy, 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — TBA (waiting for soil upgrade).

Please note the classes at the Dasalla residence involve container gardens instead of building raised garden beds like we’ve done for our other families.

This is the second year of the garden mentor program, and our two families from last year — Anna Bradley and Tami O’Neill — are back for a second year where they will learn how to grow a few more difficult crops for Sitka, such as carrots and onions. Their first classes recently were announced and take place in May. These classes also are open to the public.

Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. For more information, please contact Michelle at 747-2708.

• First classes set for second-year students in 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

IMG_0022

ONeillAndPutzIt’s time to plant your vegetable garden along with the Sitka Local Foods Network’s two second-year garden mentor families.

These two families (Anna Bradley and Tami O’Neill) participated in the first year of the program last summer, and now they’re back for more. Our two returning families will be planting carrots, chard, green onions and peas this year.
These four crops are slightly more difficult crops to grow that our first-year plantings of kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. Even though this year’s crops are more difficult to grow, many gardeners in Sitka still have good results with these vegetables.
The classes at each location will be similar, and they are free and open to the public. The schedule is:
  • Anna Bradley, 4764 Halibut Point Road, 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 10 (EDITOR’S NOTE: This class was rescheduled from its original May 3 date due to illness).
  • Tami O’Neill, 2309 Merganser Drive, 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 23.
Don’t forget the schedule of third classes (garden maintenance) for our first-year garden mentoring families has been posted and these classes also are open to the public. The first two classes, which took place in April and early May, were about selecting the best garden site, building a raised garden bed, and planting.
Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. For more information, please contact Michelle at 747-2708.