Sitka Local Foods Network teams up with ANS to host Fourth of July booths on Tuesday

The Sitka Local Foods Network is teaming up with the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4 to host Fourth of July booths from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street).

This event came together after the usual Fourth of July booths at the Baranof Elementary School playground were canceled. The goal is to provide a similar family friendly and fun event, while helping the ANS raise money to attend Grand Camp Convention in Portland, Ore., this fall and helping the Sitka Local Foods Network raise money to help improve food security in Sitka.

ANS will have hot food to sell, and the Sitka Local Foods Network will have a table featuring Alaska Grown food products and SLFN swag. There also will be a variety of artisans, food vendors, music and fun and games.

Booths will be available to rent for $60 for six hours (NOTE: Since this was posted, table prices have been reduced to $40 for six hours), and participants in the July 1 Sitka Farmers Market will receive a $10 deduction on their booth fee. To learn more about the event, click this link to listen to a June 28 interview on KCAW-Raven Radio. For booth reservations, contact Debe Brincefield of ANS at 738-4323.

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The Garden Show returns to KCAW-Raven Radio spring programming lineup for 26th year

For 26 years, Mollie Kabler and Kitty LaBounty have taken to the KCAW-Raven Radio airwaves during the spring months to broadcast The Garden Show.

This year there’s a major change to the show, as the show doesn’t have a designated time slot and so will be a pop-up show as they fit episodes around their travel plans and the radio station schedule. In past years the show aired from April through June, or longer into the summer if work schedules permit. Kitty has a regular music show (Hometown Brew) from 2-4 p.m. on Thursdays, and many of the half-hour Garden Shows may take place during her program.

Garden Show topics include timely tasks for gardening in Southeast Alaska, taking on-air questions, and themes around basic and more advanced gardening of vegetables, flowers, fruit, trees, etc. For example, on the pop-up show on Thursday, May 6, Kitty interviewed Keith Nyitray of Finn Island Farm about the vegetables and plant starts he grows in the Kasiana Islands near Sitka.

Mollie and Kitty each have been gardening in Sitka for more than 26 years, and they also have significant gardening experience from their childhoods in Wisconsin (Mollie) and Oregon (Kitty). They both are certified as Master Gardeners, after completing the class series offered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

To call the show with gardening questions, call 747-5877 and ask to be connected to the show.

The Garden Show returns to KCAW-Raven Radio spring programming lineup March 16

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Kitty LaBounty and Mollie Kabler (Photo courtesy of KCAW-Raven Radio)

For 25 years, Mollie Kabler and Kitty LaBounty have taken to the KCAW-Raven Radio airwaves during the spring months to broadcast The Garden Show.

This year there’s a major change to the show, as it moves to Wednesday mornings, about 8:30-9 a.m., starting on March 16. In past years the show aired on Saturday afternoons from April through June, or longer into the summer if work schedules permit. Topics include timely tasks for gardening in Southeast Alaska, taking on-air questions, and themes around basic and more advanced gardening of vegetables, flowers, fruit, trees, etc.

Mollie and Kitty each have been gardening in Sitka for more than 25 years, and they also have significant gardening experience from their childhoods in Wisconsin (Mollie) and Oregon (Kitty). They both are certified as Master Gardeners, after completing the class series offered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

To call the show with gardening questions, call 747-5877 between 8:30-9 a.m. on Wednesdays starting March 16.

• New biotoxin lab in Sitka allows for quicker, better monitoring of harmful algal blooms in Southeast Alaska

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From left, Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Lab Manager Michael Jamros, STA Environmental Program Manager Chris Whitehead, and STA Environmental Specialist Esther Kennedy discuss the new Sitka Biotoxin Lab with visitors to an open house on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. The new lab will help Southeast subsistence and sport shellfish harvesters learn about harmful algal blooms in the region so they can avoid paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) or amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP).

Most shellfish eaters are aware of the massive algal bloom that shut down many shellfish operations on the Pacific Coast this summer. The algal bloom even reached Sitka’s Starrigavan Beach with the June discovery of Pseudo-nitzchia, a species of plankton that sometimes produces domoic acid which can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). ASP causes gastrointestinal issues in mild cases, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. In more severe cases there will be neurological problems, such as headaches, confusion, hallucinations, short-term memory loss, respiratory difficulty, seizures, coma, and in extreme cases, death.

SEAKTribalToxinsSEATTPartnerLocationsUntil two years ago, Southeast Alaska beaches and subsistence- and sport-harvested shellfish weren’t tested for harmful biotoxins. That changed with the Southeast Alaska Tribal Testing (SEATT) program, a partnership of regional tribes coordinated by Sitka Tribe of Alaska, that began training technicians from six villages (now 12 villages) in the region on how to gather water samples so they could be tested. SEATT is part of a program called Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR).

Now the project has moved to the next phase, the creation of a Sitka Biotoxin Lab, located at 429 Katlian Street, that can provide quicker and better testing results to people in the region who want to eat shellfish. Instead of sending samples to the Lower 48 for testing, which can take more than a week or two, samples from Southeast Alaska can be tested in Sitka and data can be available in less than 24 hours, Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Program Manager Chris Whitehead said during an open house at the lab on Monday, Nov. 30. Before the lab opened, the program just took water samples. But now it will be able to actually test the shellfish for biotoxins.

Whitehead said one of the purposes of the lab is to give shellfish harvesters as much information as possible about possible harmful algal blooms so they can make informed decisions about if they still want to harvest and eat local shellfish. Harmful algal blooms spread a variety of biotoxins, such as domoic acid and saxitoxin, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). PSP and ASP can be deadly, and in 2010 there were two people in Southeast Alaska who died from PSP.

Cockles-Alaska-Department-of-Health-and-Social-Services“The toxins can stay in butter clams for 2 1/2 to three years,” Whitehead said, disproving the common local myth that shellfish is safe to eat in months with R in the name. “We’re still seeing blooms in December.”

Whitehead said he’s hoping to eventually be able to do baseline sampling of a variety of beaches in Southeast Alaska. He said they are sampling bays for cyst beds by digging cores in the beach soil, and they’ve found cysts 3-4 meters (9-13 feet) below the surface. While the beach might be safe for now, if people start building piers or docks it can stir up the cyst beds and launch a harmful algal bloom.

The lab and testing program is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Indian Environmental General Assistance Program, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Tribal Cooperative Landscape Conservation Program, and the Administration for Native Americans’Environmental Regulatory Enhancement program. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Biotoxin Programs from Seattle, Wash., and Charleston, S.C., provided training through workshops to help develop the SEATT program.

raw-clams-350Michael Jamros, PhD, was hired in October as the STA Environmental Lab Manager, and he will be handling most of the actual testing and diagnosis of the seawater and shellfish. He said right now the lab is focused on subsistence and sports harvests, but down the road it’s hoping to become FDA-certified so it can test commercial harvests.

Esther Kennedy is the STA Environmental Specialist, and she said “every week I go plankton hunting.” This summer all of her tests were at Starrigavan State Recreation Area, but now that the lab is open she will be able to test in more areas, “wherever you think people might harvest shellfish.”

pe-fig1“I think this will help our food security,” Kennedy said. “People will be able to see this abundant resource of shellfish, and now they’ll have better information about whether it’s safe to harvest.”

In addition to the Sitka staff, the program also trains monitors from 12 partner villages to test in their areas, which range from Ketchikan on the south to Yakutat on the north. These monitors come to Sitka twice a year for training, with their most recent training in early November. A slideshow of photos from the training is posted below.

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

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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.

• The Garden Show returns to KCAW-Raven Radio spring programming lineup

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For more than 20 years, Mollie Kabler and Kitty LaBounty have taken to the airwaves during the spring months for The Garden Show on KCAW-Raven Radio.

The show returned to the programming lineup earlier this month and airs from 5:30-6 p.m. on Saturdays from April through June, or longer into the summer if work schedules permit. Topics include timely tasks for gardening in Southeast Alaska, taking on-air questions, and themes around basic and more advanced gardening of vegetables, flowers, fruit, etc.

Mollie and Kitty both have been gardening in Sitka for more than 25 years, and they also have gardening experience from their childhoods in Wisconsin (Mollie) and Oregon (Kitty). They both have passed the Master Gardener classes offered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

To call the show with gardening questions, call 747-5877 between 5:30-6 p.m. on Saturday.

• Sitka Tribe of Alaska starts testing for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and other marine biotoxins

Esther Kennedy of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department samples water near the Starrigavan Recreation Area dock for marine biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning. (Photos by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Raven Radio)

Esther Kennedy of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department samples water near the Starrigavan Recreation Area dock for marine biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning. (Photos by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Raven Radio)

PSPTestingEquipmentThe Sitka Tribe of Alaska and its other tribal partners in Southeast Alaska have begun testing for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and other marine biotoxins.

The first-year testing program was detailed in a March 24 story on KCAW-Raven Radio, with each of the tribal partners concentrating on one particular spot in their communities (at Starrigavan Recreation Area in Sitka, where two people were sickened in October 2013) as the tribal testers become more comfortable with the testing procedures. Once the technicians become more proficient, and the regional testing lab is built, the program will be expanded to other beaches in Southeast Alaska. The second part of the two-part series aired on April 9 and discussed the benefits to commercial shellfish operations of having a lab in Southeast Alaska.

The Southeast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) program to study harmful algal blooms was announced in October, and Sitka Tribe of Alaska hosted a regional training in November. SEATT partners include Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Klawock Cooperative Association, Craig Tribal Association, Yakutat Tlingít Tribe, Petersburg Indian Association, Organized Village of Kasaan, and the Central Council of Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA). In addition to the grant to create the partnership, Sitka Tribe of Alaska also received a second grant to create a regional lab in Sitka to help monitor HABs in Southeast Alaska.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudonitzchia and Dinophysis.

Being able to put trained monitors in several Southeast Alaska communities, the hope is the health risk can be reduced. Each technician will make weekly reports to the lab, which will help harvesters have better information as to the safety of their shellfish.