Learn the basics of starting a home-based food business on June 21

Learn what the basics of starting and running a cottage foods business as Sarah Lewis teaches students How to Start a Cottage Foods Business (also known as a home-based food business) from 4-5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21, at the Sitka Public Library.

This class is designed to help vendors prepare for the upcoming Sitka Farmers Markets hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network.

Sarah Lewis — the home, health and family development agent for the Juneau office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service — will teach this class live in Sitka. Students will learn about state laws regarding home-based food businesses, and get ideas for businesses you might take to the Sitka Farmers Market or local trade shows. The first hour will be spent discussing rules and regulations, and the second part of the class will be for questions and answers.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is offering students of this class half off their Sitka Farmers Market vendor fee for the first market of the season where they host a table (as a rebate). Representatives from the Sitka Local Foods Network/Sitka Farmers Market and (hopefully) the Sitka food safety office of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation are planning to attend so they can answer any questions potential cottage foods business owners may have.

For more information about the class, contact Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network at 907-623-7660 or Jasmine Shaw at the UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District Office at 907-747-9440.

Pacific High School to host spring garden plant sale on Friday and Saturday

The garden program at Pacific High School will host a garden plant sale from 2-4 p.m. on Friday, May 5, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, at the SouthEast Alaska Career Center (SEACC) building, 205 Baranof St. (the building behind the school).

The high school has offered students a garden club and class for several years, even hosting MOBY the Mobile Greenhouse during the 2019-20 school year. In September 2021, Pacific High School received a USDA Farm To School grant for its edible garden project. The students are growing the starts and selling them to raise money for the school activities fund. The students have flower, herb, kale and other veggie starts available.

Customers are asked to park at the Crescent Harbor parking lot and walk over to the school at 509 Lincoln Street. The starts will be available on a table in front of the school. All starts are $6-8, and people can pay with cash or checks. Masks and social distancing are respected. For more details, call 907-747-0525.

As you build your 2023 garden this spring, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article first appeared on this site in April 2010. It is repeated with some updates because much of the information remains current and newsworthy.)

As you start to plan your garden for this spring and summer, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry. The Plant A Row For The Hungry program (also known as Plant A Row or PAR) is a national campaign by the Garden Writers Association of America (which recently changed its name to the Garden Communicators International) that has its roots in Alaska.

In the cold winter of 1994, Anchorage Daily News garden columnist and former Garden Writers Association of America President Jeff Lowenfels was returning to his hotel after a Washington, D.C., event when he was approached by a homeless person who asked for some money to buy food. Lowenfels said Washington, D.C., had signs saying, “Don’t give money to panhandlers,” so he shook his head and kept on walking. But the man’s reply, “I really am homeless and I really am hungry. You can come with me and watch me eat,” stayed with Lowenfels for the rest of his trip.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels

The encounter continued to bother Lowenfels, even as he was flying back to Anchorage. During the flight, Lowenfels came up with an idea when he started writing his weekly garden column (the longest continuously running garden column in the country, with no missed weeks since it started on Nov. 13, 1976). He asked his readers to plant one extra row in their gardens to grow food to donate to Bean’s Café, an Anchorage soup kitchen. The idea took off.

When Anchorage hosted the Garden Writers Association of America convention in 1995, Lowenfels took the GWAA members to Bean’s Café to learn about the Plant A Row For Bean’s Café program. The Garden Writers Association of America liked the idea, and it became the national Plant A Row For The Hungry campaign (also known as Plant A Row or PAR). In 2002, the Garden Writers Association Foundation (now Garden Communicators International) was created as a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit to manage the Plant A Row For The Hungry program.

“I am not surprised by the growth of PAR,” Lowenfels wrote in a 2010 e-mail to the Sitka Local Foods Network. “It is now in all 50 states and across Canada and there are thousands of variations of the original program — from prison gardens for the hungry to botanical gardens donating their produce from public display gardens. This is because gardeners always share information and extra food, so the idea was a natural.”

It took five years for the program to reach its first million pounds of donated food, but the second million only took two years and the next eight years saw a million pounds of donated food (or more) each year. Since 1995, more than 20 million pounds of food (about 80 million meals, as of 2020) have been donated by American gardeners. Not only that, the program is getting ready to expand overseas to Australia, England and other countries with avid gardeners.

“We have supplied something in the vicinity of enough food for 50 million meals,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail. “Gardeners can solve this hunger problem without the government. And we don’t need a tea party to do it! Or chemicals, I might add, as author of a book on organic gardening!” Lowenfels is the author of Teaming With Microbes, written with Wayne Lewis. He released a second book, Teaming With Nutrients, as a follow-up to his first book, and in 2017 released a third book, Teaming With Fungi, as a second follow-up book.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2019 one out of every nine U.S. households experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. Many people skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going an entire day or more without food. About 35.2 million Americans, including 13 million children, have substandard diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they can’t always afford to buy the food they need. In recent years, the demand for hunger assistance has increased 70 percent, and research shows that hundreds of children and adults are turned away from food banks each year because of lack of resources. The demand has grown with the Covid-19 pandemic

According to the 2014 Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report, about one in six people in Sitka is food insecure. In 2013, there were 1,410 Sitkans (out of a population of about 9,000) and 766 families receiving food assistance (SNAP, aka food stamps). There also were 229 individuals who received food pantry assistance from the Salvation Army and 7,243 meals served through its lunch soup kitchen in 2013, and that number has grown substantially since then.

While many people credit Lowenfels for creating the Plant A Row For The Hungry program, Lowenfels says the real heroes are the gardeners growing the extra food and donating it to local soup kitchens, senior programs, schools, homeless shelters and neighbors. You can hear him pass along the credit to all gardeners at the end of this 2009 interview with an Oklahoma television station (video also embedded below).

“One row. That’s all it takes. No rules other than the food goes to the hungry. You pick the drop-off spot or just give it to a needy friend or neighbor. Nothing slips between the lip and the cup, I say,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail.

With all of the jobs lost because of the COVID-19 coronavirus quarantines in 2020-22, this year there will be even more people who need food assistance. It will be more important than ever to help get extra produce into our local food banks and soup kitchens.

For people wanting to Plant A Row For The Hungry in Sitka, there are several places that would love to help distribute some fresh locally grown veggies or berries to those who are less fortunate, such as the Salvation ArmySitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), local churches, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other organizations. The food the Sitka Local Foods Network grows at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden goes to the Sitka Farmers Market, school lunches and other programs.

People who participate in the Alaska SNAP (food stamp) program can use their Alaska Quest Cards to purchase produce and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market and other farmers markets around the state. People who participate in the  WIC (Women, Infants, Children) supplemental food program (operated in Southeast Alaska by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium or SEARHC) also can use special farmers market vouchers to buy fresh vegetables at the Sitka Farmers Market and other farmers markets in Alaska (this is part of the national WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program). The Sitka Local Foods Network matches up to $20 for produce purchased using WIC or SNAP benefits at the Sitka Farmers Market.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also takes donations of local produce to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets, and all proceeds are used to help pay for SLFN projects geared toward helping more people in Sitka grow and harvest local food. For more information, contact the Sitka Local Foods Network board members at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• Plant A Row informational brochure (2017)

Defenders of Wildlife offers electric fence incentive in Southeast Alaska

An electric fence around a Sitka chicken coop.

Most people who garden in Southeast Alaska, or raise chickens, have run into problems with bears, or deer, or even the little critters such as mink or ermine, getting into the garden or coop.

One remedy is an electric fence, and the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife has a program for people in Southeast Alaska and on the Kenai Peninsula that reimburses residents and property owners for 50 percent of the total electric fence installation cost (up to $500).

“Electric fencing is a safe and effective way to prevent conflict with bears over common attractants like gardens, fruit trees, beehives, chicken coops, compost piles, etc.,” program manager Isabel Grant said. The program is designed to help promote the coexistence of people and natural wildlife in communities.

An application and brochure about the program can be found here, https://defenders.org/sites/default/files/2022-08/got-grizzlies-brochure-2022-Alaska.pdf. You also can email Isabel at IGrant@defenders.org.

Transition Sitka, Sitka Local Foods Network work to bring community gardens back to Sitka

In the spring of 2016, Sitka’s main community garden, Blatchley Community Garden was closed. Since then, Sitka hasn’t had a true community garden. But that soon might change.

Joel Hanson, who is part of the community sustainability group Transition Sitka and recently joined the board of the Sitka Local Foods Network, has been working on a proposal to create two community gardens. Both are about half an acre with 50 or more 10-foot-by-20-foot garden plots each, and located on city property. One is located off Osprey Street, next to the Vilandre baseball field next to Blatchley Middle School. The other is located near the top of Jarvis Street, near where the Sitka Homeless Coalition is building a new tiny house community for the unhoused.

More details, including maps, are included in the two linked handouts at the bottom of this story.

“Community gardens plant the seeds for a solution to community food security,” Hanson said. “They create a sense of place and cooperative engagement. They promote health, advance equity, encourage inclusion and foster resiliency. They are for people of all ages.”

“Rebuilding a community garden in Sitka has been a major need as far as food security in the years since Blatchley Community Garden was closed,” Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham said. “We have a lot of people in town who want to grow their own food, but they live in an apartment or on a boat and don’t have the space to garden. This gives them a place to grow their own produce. When Blatchley Community Garden was closed, all of the spaces were being used and there was a waiting list. This proposal fills that need and allows space for expansion.”

Over the past few months, Hanson has been meeting with city officials and committees/commissions, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, and other organizations to develop the proposal linked below. These community gardens still need approval before they can be developed. Once approved, we will need to raise money for supplies, recruit volunteers or hire workers to develop the land (which may involve cutting trees and leveling off soil), and more.

If you are interested in volunteering, helping raise money to build the gardens, having a plot in one of the gardens, or just staying in touch with what’s happening, please click this link and complete the short survey, https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SitkaGardens. For more details, contact Joel Hanson at 907-747-9834 or email captainjoel@alaskan.com.

• Sitka community gardens project prospectus (with maps of both locations)

• Two-page Q&A sheet with more information

Learn how to graft apple trees with Brad Smith

Some Sitka residents may remember a Sitka Health Summit project from 2010 to plant dozens of apple, crabapple, and cherry trees around town. One learning experience from that project is it takes a bit of work to make these trees produce fruit.

Brad Smith will host an apple-tree grafting workshop from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, in the smokestack building on the Sitka Fine Arts Camp campus.

The class requires an RSVP, and is by donation. Half of any proceeds go to Sitka Fine Arts Camp. It’s an introductory class. If there is enough interest, Brad will host another class later in the week.

Participants will learn about rootstock, scion, how to practice at grafting, and if you have a good place for it, you can take home a baby apple tree.

Also I will have scion wood available the rest of that week for free to take. There will be a few different varieties of apple and pear. I want to encourage you to graft apple varieties onto local crabapples, and try putting pear wood onto mountain ash. If you are interested in any of this, email Brad Smith at scion@fastmail.com.

The class is brought to you by the Agrarian Sharing Network, an Oregon-based group focused on hosting events to distribute high-quality and rare fruit-tree genetics and seeds freely to the public.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference April 17 to Sitka

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will teach a certified food protection manager workshop on Monday, April 17. This is a one-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Fairbanks, Glennallen, Haines, Homer, Juneau, Klawock, Palmer, Sitka, Skagway, Soldotna, Talkeetna, Tok, Unalaska, and Valdez, plus other locations that may arrange for the class.

certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and participants will take a proctored computer-based exam at the end of the class. The reason the registration deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here, and the registration deadline is Monday, April 3 (note, if anybody in Sitka wants to take the class and it’s past the deadline, contact Jasmine Shaw at the number below).

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in a room TBA at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Julie Cascio at (907) 745-3677 (Palmer number) or jmcascio@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Julie at least three weeks before the class.

Also, the ServSafe book ($70) and certification exam ($85) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.

In order to receive your CFPM, you are only required to pass the exam. Taking the training course is optional. If you have previously taken the course and passed the exam, you may wish to only schedule an exam. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service is working to create a network of exam proctors throughout Alaska.

Alaska Farmers Markets Association hosts annual meeting and summit online on March 24

The Alaska Farmers Markets Association will host its annual meeting and summit on Friday, March 24, online using Zoom. The meeting takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the theme is Growing Strong(er) Markets.

This year’s keynote speaker is Ziona Brownlow from the nonprofit Food For Thought Alaska. Guest speakers include Sara Dylan Jensen, who has been the manager of the Snohomish Farmers Market and also is a leader in social media; and Ben Feldman, the outgoing executive director of the national Farmers Market Coalition.

There also will be a guest panel about value-added products featuring representatives from Gustavus Grown/Stellar Botanicals, Tundra Tonics, and Wildland Chocolate.

Before the annual meeting and summit, there will be a pre-summit screening from 6-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, of Rhythms of the Land, an ode to Black farmers in the USA.

Registration for this event is free, but it is required to participate. To register, go to http://www.alaskafarmersmarkets.org/events.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service to host Scrappy Cooking 101 class with Jennifer Nu

Learn how to make your own vegetable stock, bone/fish broth, and pectin with Jennifer Nu from Ecotrust and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership in a “Scrappy Cooking 101” workshop.

This event takes place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, at the Sitka Lutheran Church kitchen (downstairs behind the church, please use street parking and not the lot behind the church). The workshop is free, but registration is required.

Jennifer will also lead a focused discussion on what happens to food waste in Sitka, how to start composting, and tips and tricks for reducing food waste in your household.

To register or ask questions, contact Jasmine Shaw with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service at jdshaw2@alaska.edu or 907-747-9440. 

Southeast Alaska Master Gardeners to offer ‘Practical Landscaping for Southeast Alaska’ classes

Planning Your Garden (1)

Practical Landscaping for Southeast Alaska is a series presented by the SEAK Master Gardeners Association, in collaboration with the Juneau Public Library, and is an opportunity to look at the practical aspects of design as well as providing a chance to explore creative possibilities of your own, unique garden.

These classes are offered in person at the Mendenhall Valley Library in Juneau, and virtually. We would love to see you in person but realize not everyone can make it. Zoom will be available to those that register HERE and fill out this brief form.

February 16th 5:45-7:45pm
Landscape Design Considerations
This session will focus on the practical considerations for landscape design. Examine how and where sun enters your yard in different locations, wind direction and ferocity, where water settles in your yard, what features are already there to be incorporated into the design.

Merrill Jensen is a horticulturist who became first manager of the Jensen-Olsen Arboretum in 2007. While there, he succeeded in getting national collection status for the largest documented collection of primula, primroses in North America – an outstanding feat. He also as created the garden design and flow.

When Your Yard is a Swamp: Drainage Solutions When You Have Too Much Water
This session explores various options for those areas in your yard that can’t compete with two weeks of record-breaking rain and for those areas that seem to bog down from our typical weather. Explore options and perspectives from our experienced panel.

Ed Buyarski has been gardening in the rain in Southeast Alaska since 1983. He has gardened in Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, and Haines. 2022 was a record breaker with 105 measured inches at his place near Tee Harbor. Still, good crops were harvested of garlic, potatoes, beets, carrots and much more. Thanks to plenty of compost, a lot of timely rain, some sun, and using plenty of plastic to warm the soil and plants harvest happens. Hoop houses also allowed him to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and even some corn. Lots of primroses and other perennial flowers also brighten up his gardens. Promotion of lawn reduction and more food production here is his religion and you can often hear him preaching on KFSK and KTOO during the gardening season as well as in classes and workshops sponsored by the Master Gardeners and University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

Danielle Brown-Farrell, MG class of 2016. Dani is the owner of Sunny Slope Organic Farm, which runs a successful community supported agriculture (CSA) in the growing season, sells both perennials and annuals in the spring, and provides landscaping expertise.

George Campbell is the owner of Little Diggers and Landscaping, LLC. George has been providing expertise in landscaping since 2017 utilizing heavy equipment.

March 16th, 5:45-7:45pm
Color as a Design Element in the Landscape
Color draws us into gardens more than any other element, well maybe besides berries, birds, or for a rest. Is that your objective–to use more color? Gardeners sometimes think only of flower color in their garden. Yet, many other features of plants can be drawn upon for color. Objects and structures also can be used as bold anchors or features to build on or around a landscape. Ginger will present inspirational ways to mix or think about color as you build, renovate, or invigorate your garden’s evolution.

Ginger Hudson is the current manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, a CBJ Parks & Rec facility. She came to Juneau from Anchorage where she worked for the Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage as the Special Horticulture Projects Manager. Ginger has operated her own landscape design business in addition to teaching design and maintenance. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Environmental Design, and is an Advanced Master Gardener. Join Ginger and her staff in Juneau at JOA this summer where she is delighted to lead native plant walks, Primula tours, and public garden tours.

Building the Bones of a Landscape; Pathways, Rocks, and Patterns
Landscaping is a language; it shows us how to manage ourselves in the world. Choosing the plants is the very last stage of landscape design, long before picking the color of the Rhododendrons, dealing with the mechanics of the site drives the design considerations. Activities and lifestyle demands are addressed by access and transport considerations. In an illuminating session, Margaret will illustrate some of the principles and methods for creating, or remodeling a landscape that functions well for the purposes desired by the users, and able to be managed over time as the garden matures.

Margaret Tharp and David Lendrum, Landscape Alaska, shared that when they came to Juneau there were not even lawns in the valley, they started in their front yard in Lemon Creek and built nurseries in several parts of the community. Margaret graduated with a master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and was given a standing ovation for developing a salvage and reuse method for the native understory. She has designed much of our public and private landscape in her practice, including Thunder Mountain High School, the Alaska Capitol, Mendenhall Library, Ethel Lund SEARHC clinic, Treadwell Historic Park, and the residences of Ginger Johnson, Christine Zack and Jo Pegues. The only “1 Percent for Art” ever awarded for Landscape Architecture was her design for the Juneau Police Station. David is a lifelong “Hort”, with many positions including Juneau’s initial Arboretum, Soil and Water Conservation, and Landscape

April 20th, 5:45-7:45pm
The Secret Garden: The Power of Garden Rooms
This session explores the power of creating special spaces within the larger garden that allow themes, whimsy, and the pure delight of the unexpected. Find out how Garden Art, Whimsy, Themes and so much more can become a captivating and welcome addition to your landscape. Explore different types of themes and take your space from the average garden to the wow factor of your garden design. Learn about visual impact and sensory awareness using sight, sound, and smell. Learn the steps to discover your own secret garden.

Pat Hartman has spent the last 40 years planning, replanning, and growing ornamental plants, vegetable gardens and Garden Railroads throughout the Western United States. Her current garden contains various Garden Rooms which include meditation, whimsy, theme areas and spectacular views. In 2012 Pat completed the Alaska Master Gardener Class. Pat is a plant aficionado, world traveler, Garden Railroad geek, and active member of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardeners Organization serving as Web Manager. She currently serves as the American Primrose Society President and Chairs the ICRA for Primula committee. She incorporates Primula into her Garden Rooms that she has grown from seed, purchased, or shared from friends.

Water Features: Because Sometimes Living in a Rainforest isn’t Wet Enough
This session will explore fountains, waterfalls, ponds that have been found on the Juneau Master Garden Tour. Look at what our neighbors have done to enhance their space through their garden’s water features.

Registration link for all programs in this series: bit.ly/3K3iLjZ

If you have questions, please contact committee chairperson Corinne Conlon at dirtgirlgardening@gmail.com