Sitka Conservation Society to host annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sunday, Nov. 18

The Sitka Conservation Society is hosting its annual Wild Foods Potluck on starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Please bring a dish featuring ingredients that were fished, foraged, hunted, or cultivated in Southeast Alaska. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and dinner will begin at 5:45 p.m.

This event is open to the entire community. Come celebrate Alaska’s wild food bounty.

The Sitka Conservation Society could never pull off an event this big without help from volunteers, members, and our community. Interested in volunteering at the potluck or want more information? Contact info@sitkawild.org or call 747-7509. Current members should be able to pick up their 2019 SCS calendar at the dinner.

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Sitka Conservation Society to host annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sunday, Nov. 12

The Sitka Conservation Society is hosting its annual Wild Foods Potluck, starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. It’s more important than ever to come together to celebrate all the ways the Tongass National Forest feeds and sustains us. Please bring a dish that features ingredients that were fished, foraged, hunted, or cultivated in Southeast Alaska.

Did you know that Sitka Conservation Society is celebrating its 50th year? At the potluck, SCS will have an amazing photography display showcasing 50 years of grassroots conservation activism. SCS dug through its archives to find old photos and videos from the early days of Sitka Conservation Society to pair with newer photos, illustrating the enduring legacy of conservation in Sitka. Also, if you’re a SCS member or want to become one, you can pick up your 2018 SCS calendar at the potluck.

The potluck is open to the entire community, especially SCS members, friends, family, and anyone else interested in learning about the Sitka Conservation Society. Come celebrate Alaska’s wild food bounty with your friends and neighbors.

Interested in volunteering at the potluck or want more information? Contact info@sitkawild.org or call 747-7509.

Sitka Conservation Society to host its annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sunday, Nov. 13

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The Sitka Conservation Society will host its annual Wild Foods Potluck from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Please bring a dish featuring ingredients that were fished, foraged, hunted, or cultivated in Southeast Alaska. Prizes will be awarded for first place in the following categories — Best Dish, Best Dessert, and Most Creative.

The event will highlight subsistence stories and the work performed by the Sitka Conservation Society over the last year. SCS members can pick up their 2017 SCS Calendars at the potluck.

The potluck is open to the entire community, especially SCS members, friends, family, and anyone else interested in learning about the Sitka Conservation Society. Come celebrate Alaska’s wild food bounty with your friends and neighbors.

Interested in volunteering at the potluck or want more information? Contact the Sitka Conservation Society at info@sitkawild.org or call 747-7509.

• Sitka Seedling Farms project to host informational lunch meeting on Dec. 18

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Farm DesignSitka Seedling Farms is an initiative to meet Sitka’s food system needs in a thought-out, comprehensive way. Many food-related initiatives have been proposed over the last several years, but most have stalled for lack of space.

Sitka Seedling Farms, which is a finalist in the Paths to Prosperity economic development contest for Southeast Alaska, will solve this problem by exploring innovative land relationships with major landowners in our community to develop the resources Sitka’s food system needs to thrive, such as production space for food entrepreneurs, community greenhouses, food storage and processing facilities and more. Sitka Seedling Farms is currently in the land exploration phase.

To learn more about this local foods systems project, there will be an informational lunch meeting from noon until 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18, at the Larkspur Café. Please contact Matthew Jackson with questions or comments at 907-821-1412. Also, please feel free to sign this online letter of support to the city to help promote the project.

• Sitka Seedling Farms business plan executive summary (Fall 2015)

• Potential Sitka Seedling Farms community farm design (by Monique Anderson)

• Sitka Conservation Society to host its annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sunday, Nov. 15

Wild foods potluck poster 2015 - CRAB

The Sitka Conservation Society will host its annual Wild Foods Potluck from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.).

Please bring a dish featuring ingredients that were fished, foraged, hunted, or cultivated in Southeast Alaska. Prizes will be awarded for first place in the following categories — Best Dish, Best Dessert, and Most Creative.

The event will highlight subsistence stories and the work performed by the Sitka Conservation Society over the last year. SCS members can pick up their 2016 SCS Calendars at the potluck.

The potluck is open to SCS members, friends, family, and anyone else interested in learning about the Sitka Conservation Society. Come celebrate Alaska’s wild food bounty.

Interested in volunteering at the potluck or want more information? Contact Sophie Nethercut at sophie@sitkawild.org or call 747-7509.

• Alaska’s potential for increasing agricultural potential immense; hard work, clear vision needed

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(The following is a commentary about increasing Alaska’s access to local food by Alaska Food Policy Council co-chairs Liz Snyder and Victoria Briggs. It originally ran in the Sept. 10, 2015, edition of the Homer News.)

 

If you’ve visited a local farmers market recently, you’ll appreciate the bounty of delicious, healthy food that Alaska can produce when cultivated by knowledgeable, dedicated hands.

The prospects for increasing this bounty are immense. To take full advantage of our agricultural potential, we will need political will, consumer advocacy, recruitment and education of new farmers, financial support and incentives and a long-term vision. This vision, of course, will also need to take into account the changing climate in which Alaska farmers grow our food.

Imagine a glacier that retreats, then expands for several years, only to retreat again, repeating this process over and over. Such has been the history of agriculture in Alaska. We’ve experienced several booms and busts of both enthusiasm and productivity since the early 1900s.

Booms were the result of such things as co-development with gold mining, collaboration with local businesses, federal support of farming settlements and agricultural innovations. Busts came when challenges (that still exist today) got the better of farmers — the temptation to grow too big too fast, unsustainable and mismanaged support mechanisms, high costs and resulting debt; competition from the Lower 48, infrastructure designed for resource development instead of agriculture, inexperience and being far from home, a lack of replacements for retiring farmers, and, of course, climate.

Today, farmers and consumers are enjoying a boom of interest and enthusiasm around local foods. While it’s true that we send about 1.9 billion Alaska dollars out of the state each year to import food (which supplements the impressive $900 million worth of subsistence and personal-use foods), the good news is that direct sales between farmers and consumers are strong (13 times greater than the national average), Alaska farmers are notoriously tenacious and innovative, and demand continues to motivate increases in supply.

What we have now is a fantastic opportunity to throw a wrench into the boom/bust cycle, expand on the status quo and ultimately pump about $2 billion into, instead of out of, the Alaska economy each year — in effect, supporting the local farmers we know and love, strengthening our food system, lowering food costs, and increasing food security and resilience.

Of course, strengthening our food system will require both short-term goals and long-term planning. When it comes to climate change and agriculture, we’ve got three courses of action to consider:

  1. reduce our impact;
  2. respond to current changes; and
  3. prepare for future changes.

In the Lower 48, agriculture is a major contributor to climate change with high fossil fuel use (to manufacture pesticides and fertilizers, and to operate machinery) and greenhouse gas emissions from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

In Alaska, however, the relative scales of agriculture and pest pressure are small. Our primary agriculturally related contribution to climate change is through the importation of approximately 95 percent of our food, which requires the burning of fossil fuels to power transport. Just think of the impact we could have if we expanded Alaska agriculture in thoughtful, sustainable ways to simultaneously produce more food and reduce total greenhouse gas emissions.

With respect to responding to current changes in Alaska’s climate and preparing for the future, we have a host of actions that are either already being taken or need to be taken. These actions should use the best natural, economic and social science information available.

Such preparations include the conservation of arable land; crop diversification and expansion into new growing zones; anticipation of changes in water distribution and quality; measures to address changes in pest, disease and invasive species pressures; education and support of new farmers focused on sustainable agricultural development, and construction of weather-resistant food caches and transportation routes.

Of course, in reality there is an even longer list of recommendations that can be made to strengthen Alaska’s food system, but all of these recommendations will need to be made in light of the climate changes we’re experiencing now and those that lie ahead. The Alaska Food Policy Council is dedicated to helping develop, share and advocate for policies that will result in an Alaska food system that is sustainable, resilient and healthy — and we ask our local, state, and federal leaders to tune in to the issues of food security and climate change and make them a priority. The health of our great state depends on it.

Liz Snyder and Victoria Briggs are co-chairs of the Alaska Food Policy Council, or AFPC. To learn more about food security in Alaska, find the following research resources on the AFPC webpage (akfoodpolicycouncil.wordpress.com):

Building Food Security in Alaska (a report commissioned by AFPC).

• A three-part series of articles (Part I, Part II, Part III) on circumpolar agriculture by Stevenson et al. (2014) and

• An article entitled “Food in the Last Frontier” by Snyder and Meter (2015).

• Sitka added as site for UAF Cooperative Extension Service agriculture grant-writing seminar

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The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will offer a free grant-writing workshop from 1-5 p.m. on Monday, March 30, to help Alaskans apply for federal grants relating to local food production and farmers markets.

Palmer Extension agent Steve Brown will teach the free workshop from 1 to 5 p.m. in Palmer and by videoconference in Kenai, Homer, Nome and Fairbanks. At the request of Sitka residents, on Wednesday, March 25, Sitka was added as an additional site for the videoconference.

The 2014 farm bill authorized $30 million annually for grants to be awarded nationally through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The program awards competitive grants to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local and regional markets. According to USDA, farmers market grants will support farmers markets and other producer-to-consumer activities, while the local food promotion grants will support enterprises that aggregate, store, distribute and process local and regional food.

The workshop will be offered at the Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer, the Kenai Community Library, Kenai Peninsula College in Homer, the district Extension office in Fairbanks at 724 27th Ave. and the Northwest Campus, B West, in Nome. The Sitka location for the workshop is Room 106 of the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

The preferred registration deadline is Friday, March 27, but since Sitka was added as a site so close to the presentation walk-in participants will be allowed at this location. For more information or to register, call the Palmer Extension office at 907-745-3360. Sitka residents should pre-register by contacting Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.gov.