• Florence Welsh releases free update of her popular guide for Sitka gardeners

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Florence Welsh with copies of her Sitka gardening book

Florence Welsh with copies of her Sitka gardening book

One of Sitka’s best known gardeners is Florence Welsh, who heads up The Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens. The Welsh family has been gardening in Sitka since 1984, and the garden on Davidoff Street has been used to teach other gardeners what works in Sitka. Several years ago Florence wrote a guide to help other gardeners take advantage of her family’s experiences trying to grow edible and ornamental plants in Sitka using organic methods. This past winter, Florence updated her book and today she released the new version of the guide as a PDF file (see link below), and she is starting a blog about local food from Sitka called SitkaVores.

“We are sharing this gardening guide with the hope that it will be of some use to other gardeners in this challenging environment,” Florence said.

The book includes information about how to prepare your garden for Sitka’s short growing season, including how to set up your home for plants you may need to start inside. She talks about using sand and seaweed in the garden to help with drainage and fertilizer. The guide also lists many of the plants, bushes and trees the Welsh family has grown in its garden, including the specific varieties that did best in Sitka. There also are several photos from the garden.

Sitka Farmers Market Co-Managers Debe Brincefield, left, and Ellexis Howey, right, present the Table Of The Day Award to Florence Welsh and her daughter Cory Welsh of Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens at the sixth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2014 summer on Saturday, Sept. 5, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall in Sitka. The Welsh family has one of the larger gardens in Sitka, raising a variety of veggies including cabbage, carrots, zuccini, potatoes, greens, and more. Florence received a gift bag with fresh greens, fresh carrots, fresh rhubarb, and a copy of the Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook. This concludes the seventh year of Sitka Farmers Markets, hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network. While the Sitka Farmers Market is over for the summer, we will host a produce table at the 20th annual Running of the Boots, with registration at 10 a.m., costume judging at 10:30 a.m. and race at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, near St. Michael of the Archangel Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Lincoln Street. For more information about the Sitka Farmers Markets and Sitka Local Foods Network, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/, or check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK)

Sitka Farmers Market Co-Managers Debe Brincefield, left, and Ellexis Howey, right, present the Table Of The Day Award to Florence Welsh and her daughter Cory Welsh of Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens at the sixth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2014 summer on Saturday, Sept. 5, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall in Sitka. The Welsh family has one of the larger gardens in Sitka, raising a variety of veggies including cabbage, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, greens, and more. Florence received a gift bag with fresh greens, fresh carrots, fresh rhubarb, and a copy of the Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook.

The Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens is one of Sitka’s most productive gardens when it comes to producing food, and Florence occasionally has a booth at the Sitka Farmers Market to sell her produce. The garden grows berries, fruit trees, herbs/mints, and a wide variety of vegetables. She includes some instructions with the vegetables, and the guide also includes a timeline for seed starting so you know when to plant. The guide ends with information about invasive plants, insects and slugs, and a list of useful seed catalogs and websites.

The homemade booklet, which Florence used to print out herself, now is available posted online (see link below). It also will be posted in the Documents section of this website.

• February 2015 update of Florence Welsh’s Forget-Me-Not Gardens gardening guide for Sitka

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• Sitka Local Foods Network looks to fill vacancies on its board of directors

The 2014-15 Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors. Front row, from left, Suzan Hess, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Maybelle Filler. Back row, from left, Beth Kindig, Lauren Fetzer, Michelle Putz, and Charles Bingham. Not pictured are Jack Ozment, Milt Fusselman, and Rick Armstrong.

The 2014-15 Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors. Front row, from left, Suzan Hess, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Maybelle Filler. Back row, from left, Beth Kindig, Lauren Fetzer, Michelle Putz, and Charles Bingham. Not pictured are Jack Ozment, Milt Fusselman, and Rick Armstrong.

Are you interested in promoting and encouraging the use of locally grown, harvested and produced foods in Sitka and Southeast Alaska? The Sitka Local Foods Network could use you on its board of directors.

The Sitka Local Foods Network currently has two vacancies on its nine-person board of directors, with the possibility of additional spots opening up in January.

Board members are concerned about increasing access to local food for all Sitka residents. They also are concerned about rising food prices in Sitka, and they want to advocate for more community and family gardens in Sitka.

Board members help direct the Sitka Local Foods Network, a non-profit that promotes the harvest and use of local food in Sitka. In addition to setting the focus of the group, board members also help on a wide variety of projects such as the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center, and the Sitka Local Foods Network Education Committee. In addition, over the years our board members have supported community food-related projects such as the Blatchley Community Garden, Let’s Grow Sitka, the Sick-A-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food Assessment project, Sitka Fish-To-Schools, the Sitka fruit-tree-planting project, other school education projects and more.

To apply for a spot on the board, please fill out the attached application and submit it to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.org. The Sitka Local Foods Network board is a working board, which means each board member also participates in one of our four focus groups (farmers market, fellowship farm, education committee, and greenhouse). For more information, contact Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985.

Our current board members and the year their terms end are:

  • 2014 — Milt Fusselman, Charles Bingham, one vacant seat
  • 2015 — Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Michelle Putz, Maybelle Filler
  • 2016 — Beth Kindig, Matthew Jackson, one vacant seat

We also are looking to increase our pool of volunteers who will help out during the various projects hosted by the network each year (no formal application needed, just send us your name/contact info and what types of projects you enjoy).

The next Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13, in the upstairs meeting room at the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church. The board generally meets from 6:30-8:30 p.m. (with a brief finance committee meeting from 6-6:30 p.m.) on the second Monday of each month, except during the summer (June, July, August) when board members are busy working with the Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden.

• Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors application

• Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors job description

• Meet your vendors: Linda Wilson of Seaview Garden and Jewelry Arte

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SitkaFarmersMarketSign(This is part of a new series of “Meet your vendors” articles, where Sitka Local Foods Network Intern McLane Ritzel is writing features about our regular Sitka Farmers Market vendors.) 

Taking a stroll through this summer’s Sitka Farmers Markets, several perfectly baked rhubarb pies may have caught your eye. Outside in the tent next to the Sitka Local Foods Network produce tent, stood the talented gardener and craftswoman Linda Wilson, a Sitka local for the past three decades who owns Seaview Garden and Jewelry Arte.

Wilson’s father was in the USDA Forest Service. Wilson was raised in California until the age of 6, when her family moved to Ketchikan. A few years later, her father moved the family to Sitka and then to Juneau for his work. Wilson attended high school in Juneau, but yearned to be back in Sitka where they had bought a house in 1975 out on Halibut Point Road. The family returned to Sitka after Wilson’s father retired from the USDA Forest Service in 1982. Wilson lost both her mother and her brother to illnesses, and has been taking care of her father in Sitka since his retirement.

LindaWilsonWithZucchiniIn Sitka, Wilson fell into gardening, because outside of the house is where she felt she had the most control and freedom. Inside the house was dad’s territory. She ripped out her salmonberry bushes in 2004, and learned how to grow broccoli when she met Florence Welsh. Today, she grows carrots, snap peas, greens including kale, collard, and lettuce, and rhubarb. She loves composting and mostly uses coffee grounds and spent grains. At the Sitka Farmers Markets, she sold collard greens and delicious pies. Strawberry-rhubarb is her favorite.

This year, she has been growing zucchini and tomato plants inside her newly established high tunnel via a NRCS grant. She thanks those in the community who helped her put up the high tunnel, and particularly market vendor Kerry MacLane’s instrumental assistance. Even though she has retired from the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, Linda was one of the original board members. She also was one of the first managers of the Sitka Farmers Market, and she organized the first Let’s Grow, Sitka! education event.

LindaWilsonWithPieWilson loves making homemade pizza from scratch with homegrown tomatoes, onions, sliced zucchini, nasturtiums, broccoli, garlic, and basil. She says, “I grow tomatoes because it’s a challenge, and I’m gonna get it.” She also makes a mean pesto with carrot top greens. When she produces an overabundance of produce, she donates to the Salvation Army.

She loves to go mushroom foraging, and also picks berries to make a variety of jams. Her favorite is blueberry-huckleberry jam.

From 1985 until 2007, Wilson managed one of the local gift shops in town, where they sold authentic Russian imports. From 2003 to 2006, she also worked on a cruise ship in the Baltic Sea where she lectured on Russian arts and crafts, knowledge she had gained while managing the gift shop. Today, she works part-time with the Sitka Economic Development Association (SEDA), takes care of her father, and makes beautiful sculpted wire jewelry with gemstones.

Every February, Wilson makes a two-week trip down to one of the biggest jewelry shows in the world. She has attended the show 12 out of the past 13 years. Her favorite stones are fossils: coral, ammonites, and sand dollars, because, she says, “They used to be living.” She has a rock shop in her house where she houses her jewelry making studio with beautiful stones and lapidary equipment including a slab saw, trim saw, grinder, and rock tumbler, throughout. “Nature makes amazing things.”

LindaWilsonsJewelryWhen she is not out in the garden, tending to her father, or making jewelry, Wilson loves “petting kitty bellies.” They have two cats, Spike and Sandy, at home, though many more are buried out back. “Serving as compost,” Wilson jokes.

If you don’t see her at the Sitka Farmers Market, make sure to check out Linda Wilson’s beautiful jewelry at the Island Artists Gallery, an artists cooperative on Lincoln Street. Her jewelry makes great gifts for yourself, family members, and friends.

• Sitka Local Foods Network named Alaska’s lone finalist in 50 States for Good contest

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The Sitka Local Foods Network has been selected as the Alaska representative in the fifth annual 50 States for Good contest, where one representative nonprofit organization from each state and the District of Columbia compete for a chance to win $10,000 from Tom’s of Maine.

Supporters of the Sitka Local Foods Network can take part in a public vote to help the organization share in $150,000 total grants from Tom’s of Maine (15 awards of $10,000 each). Voting is simple, just go to http://www.50statesforgood.com/, and follow the instructions. People can vote once per day for one nonprofit finalist during the period from 8 a.m. Alaska time (noon Eastern) on Monday, Sept. 16, through 4 p.m. Alaska time (8 p.m. Eastern) on Tuesday, Oct. 15. A free Facebook account is required for voting, and people who do not already have an account can go to https://www.facebook.com/ to create one.

The 50 States for Good program was created to help uncover local nonprofit groups that address a variety of community needs and engage volunteers to get the work done. This year’s finalists offer a diverse range of community services, such as improving access to local foods, working with people who have autism, helping street teens, supporting the needs of low-income residents, providing food and hygiene products to the homeless, building playgrounds, and more.

The Sitka Local Foods Network works on a variety of food-oriented projects in Sitka, a community of 9,000 people on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska. Even though there is no commercial agriculture on the island, the Sitka Local Foods Network created the Sitka Farmers Market, which sells produce grown at the organization’s St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and from family backyard gardens. The Sitka Local Foods Network also is trying to build the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center, which will be a commercial greenhouse providing local produce and bedding plants for residents, and an education center teaching local students about gardening. Education is another focus of the network, which hosts the annual Let’s Grow Sitka garden exhibition in March and brings nationally known speakers to town to teach about gardening, seeds and greenhouses.

“We are honored to be chosen to represent Alaska in the 50 States for Good competition,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, president of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors. “If we are successful, we hope to further food production in Sitka using a host of strategies, such as creating an additional community garden, offering seed money to the community greenhouse and education center working group, or helping the school district jump start a school-based garden program. An award of $10,000 from Tom’s of Maine can really help Sitka make strides in improving its local food system.”

The 51 finalists (one from each state plus the District of Columbia) were selected from a pool of about 1,100 nominated nonprofit organizations by an independent panel of judges that included Huffington Post columnist Lisa M. Dietlin, Cool People Care president Sam Davidson, assistant features editor covering social good for Mashable.com Matt Petronzio, and The Vampire Diaries star and nonprofit founder Ian Somerhalder.

“A desire to do more for a favorite can often be hindered by a lack of time to volunteer or the financial means to make a donation,” said Susan Dewhirst, goodness programs manager at Tom’s of Maine. “The 50 States for Good program makes it easy for anyone to have an impact and directly help organizations that are bringing goodness to communities in a variety of creative and inspiring ways.”

For several decades, Tom’s of Maine, a natural products company focused on oral and personal care products, has donated 10 percent of its profits back to the community and encourages its employees to use 5 percent (12 days) of their paid time off to volunteer every year. For more information, visit http://www.tomsofmaine.com/ or like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TomsofMaine. Voting information will be at both links.

To learn more about the Sitka Local Foods Network and some of its community projects, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ or like the organization’s new Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork.

• Sitka Local Foods Network board reorganizes; recruiting three new board members and other volunteers

The 2011-12 Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at its winter board retreat on Dec. 3, 2011. From left are Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne, Maybelle Filler, Cathy Lieser, Robin Grewe, Linda Wilson and Kerry MacLane. Not pictured is Tom Crane.

The 2011-12 Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at its winter board retreat on Dec. 3, 2011. From left are Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne, Maybelle Filler, Cathy Lieser, Robin Grewe, Linda Wilson and Kerry MacLane. Not pictured is Tom Crane.

The Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors has a new president. Lisa Sadleir-Hart has taken the spot following the recent resignation by founding president Kerry MacLane, who wants to devote more time to getting the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center built and other projects.

Joining Lisa as board officers for 2013 are Cathy Lieser as vice president, Linda Wilson as secretary and Maybelle Filler as treasurer. Kerry remains on the board, for now, but will leave the board once replacement board members are found. The Sitka Local Foods Network currently needs three new board members to complete the board of directors. In addition to Kerry’s planned departure, we recently had two board members move out of town.

Board members are concerned about increasing access to local food for all Sitka residents. They also are concerned about rising food prices in Sitka, and they want to advocate for more community and family gardens in Sitka.

Board members help direct the Sitka Local Foods Network, a non-profit that promotes the harvest and use of local food in Sitka. In addition to setting the focus of the group, board members also help on a wide variety of projects such as the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, Blatchley Community Garden, Let’s Grow Sitka, the Sick-A-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food Assessment project, Sitka Fish-To-Schools, other school education projects and more.

To apply for a spot on the board, please fill out the attached application and submit it to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.org. For more information, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985.

We also are looking to increase our pool of volunteers who will help out during the various projects hosted by the network each year (no formal application needed, just send us your name/contact info and what types of projects you enjoy).

The next Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalists Fellowship Hall (408 Marine St.). The board generally meets from 6:30-8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, except during the summer when board members are busy working with the Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden.

• Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors application

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host March 26 meeting to discuss Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

Sitka residents interested in building a Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center pose with Shane Smith of the Cheyenne, Wyo., Botanic Gardens (front row, second from right) after he spoke at a March 12, 2013, meeting about the greenhouse.

Sitka residents interested in building a Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center pose with Shane Smith of the Cheyenne, Wyo., Botanic Gardens (front row, second from right) after he spoke at a March 12, 2013, meeting about the greenhouse.

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a meeting from 7-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, at Harrigan Centennial Hall to continue discussions about creating a Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center.

The construction of a community greenhouse will help Sitka increase its access to fresh, locally grown produce all year round. The greenhouse also will serve as an education center, helping local residents learn about what it takes to grow fruits and veggies in Sitka, Alaska. This was a Sitka Health Summit project from 2008 that recently regained momentum.

The group currently is looking to build a 30-foot-by-52-foot greenhouse, possibly at the Sheldon Jackson Campus near the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center. Other locations are being considered, but this has been the best potential offer of a site since the start of the project. To learn more, contact Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or Kerry MacLane at 752-0654.

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host March 12 meeting to discuss Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

Shane-SmithAre you interested in helping Sitka increase its access to fresh, locally grown produce all year round? The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a gathering from 7-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, at Harrigan Centennial Hall to discuss plans for the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center.

Building a community greenhouse and education center was a community wellness goal from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, but over the years there were a few problems (usually with securing land) bringing the project to fruition. It now appears the Sitka Fine Arts Camp will allow us to build a 30-foot–by-52-foot greenhouse on the Sheldon Jackson Campus, next to the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center. This is the closest we’ve come to being able to start building a greenhouse.

In addition to the availability of land, we have been offered locally harvested wood to build the greenhouse frame, which will be modeled after another successful greenhouse built near Sitka in 2011.

Please join us on Tuesday to learn more about this exciting project. In addition, Shane Smith, the executive director and founder of the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Botanic Gardens and author of the Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion, will be at the meeting to provide advice based on his experiences building a similar project. Shane Smith also will give a presentation on greenhouses and high tunnels from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus Room 229, and he’ll have a booth at the Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St.

“The Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center would be a tremendous asset to our town and we’ve never been closer to making that dream become a reality,” Sitka Local Foods Network President Kerry MacLane said.  “Having Shane’s expertise and guidance to draw from just puts us that much closer to making this happen this year.”

For more information, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654.