• Meggan Turner and Kathy Branch win Table of the Day at fifth Sitka Farmers Market

Sitka Local Foods Network Quest Card coordinator Muriel Sadleir-Hart, far left, Sitka Farmers Market assistant market manager Jasmine Shaw, second from left, and Sitka Local Foods Network board member Robin Grewe, right, present the Table of the Day Award to Meggan Turner, center, and Kathy Branch for the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the season, on Sept. 1, 2012, at ANB Hall. Meggan and Kathy sold organic bread, pasta in gift jars, jams, jellies, pie fillings, and dehydrated fruit. The Sitka Local Foods Network board selects a Table of the Day winner from the vendors at each Sitka Farmers Market of the season, and the winners receive prizes such as a fifth-anniversary market tote bag, produce and a check.

The final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15, at ANB Hall (235 Katlian St.). The Sitka Local Foods Network is seeking volunteers to help set up tables and tents before the market starts, and to tear down and pack up the market after it ends. We need volunteers for this last market. If you have a strong back and helping hands, please contact Johanna Willingham at 738-8336 for more details. Also, if you are a vendor who wants to accept Quest and debit card tokens, please contact Johanna. For more information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and the Sitka Farmers Market, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/

• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 11, at ANB Hall

Mark your calendars, because the 2012 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Don’t forget to set your clocks to spring forward so you can get ready to grow.

This annual event brings together local garden supply stores, local gardeners, landscapers and anybody who is interested in learning how to grow food and/or flowers. Sitka Local Foods Network Vice President Linda Wilson, who is coordinating the event with SLFN Board Member Cathy Lieser, was interviewed during the Morning Edition show Thursday on KCAW-Raven Radio and she provided more details about this event (click the link to listen to the interview), which helps Sitka residents get excited about the upcoming garden season.

There will be a wide variety of individuals and businesses with booths for the event, with some booths providing gardening information geared toward and others selling gardening supplies. Lunch will be available for purchase. Here is a tentative list of some of those planning to host booths:

  • Linda Wilson, Sitka Farmers Market, Grow a Row for the Market
  • Cathy Lieser, Let’s Grow Sitka, Sitka Local Foods Network
  • Doug Osborne. Sitka Local Foods Network?
  • Johanna Willingham, Pacific H.S./Sitka Farmers Market backup.
  • Jud Kirkness, Sicka Waste compost project, Fruit tree map
  • Tom Hart, compost, NZ composter ?
  • Kerry MacLane. Pest management
  • Lisa Sadleir-Hart. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm
  • Laura Schmidt, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm/Seed swap & share
  • Maybelle Filler, ???
  • Stanley Schoening, Chickens, fig trees, UAF Cooperative Extension Service
  • Judy Johnstone, High Tunnel program
  • David Lendrum, Guest speaker 3:15, info on new/unusual varieties for Southeast Alaska
  • Jeren Schmidt, Sitka Spruce Catering, lunch for purchase
  • Robert Gorman, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, history of Experimental Station
  • Andrianna Natsoulas, Food Sovereignty
  • Tracy Gagnon, Sitka 4H Club
  • Eve Grutter, Chickens, produce
  • Adam Chinalski, Model greenhouse
  • Penny Brown, Garden Ventures – products for sale
  • Amanda Grearson, True Value – products for sale
  • Lowell Frank, Spenard Building Supply Garden Center ??
  • Michelle Putz, Locally grown environmental benefits?
  • Rick Peterson, Gardening 101 – easiest to grow, need to amend soil, etc…
  • Lori Adams, Down-to-Earth U-Pick Garden – garden promotion and information
  • Mike Tackaberry/Robin Grewe, White’s Inc. – products for sale
  • Mandy Summers, Pacific High School
  • Kelly Smitherman, National Park Service – garden at Bishops House, etc…
  • Lisa Teas, Sitka Farmers Market art debut
  • Florence Welsh, Forget-Me-Not Gardens, local garden booklet, possible plant starts
  • Hope Merritt, Gimbal Botanicals herbal teas – info on wild herbs and herbs to grow

Right after the three-hour Let’s Grow Sitka event ends, guest speaker Dave Lendrum of Juneau will speak at 3:15 p.m. on “New Vegetable Varieties, Small Fruits, and Ornamentals for Southeast Alaska.” Lendrum is a landscape designer who just finished a two-year term as president of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardener Association and with his landscape architect wife, Margaret Tharp, owns Landscape Alaska.

Dave’s life has evolved in partnership with the natural world. He grew up in California on an organic u-pick vegetable farm, learning horticulture from his parents and the 4H club. He did nursery work and continued his post-college adventure in Ecuador by starting a fresh market produce business. After being a city horticulturist at the Eugene (Ore.) Parks Department, Dave started his first nursery, Western Oregon Perennials. A few years later, he found himself in a high-temperature photosynthesis lab at Stanford. In the Pacific Northwest, Dave restored old estate gardens. When he heard Alaska’s call, he moved north to Elfin Cove. Dave and his wife started Landscape Alaska in Juneau 28 years ago. They design and build landscapes on every scale and have won numerous awards both locally and nationally. In addition, Dave is the landscape superintendent for the University of Alaska Southeast and the Southeast representative on the statewide invasive species organization (SNIPM).

For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka, contact Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings, weekends) or lawilson87@hotmail.com, or Cathy Lieser at 978-2572. The two event fliers for this event are posted below as Adobe Acrobat files (PDF files).

• Main flier for 2012 Let’s Grow Sitka event

• Flier for Dave Lendrum presentation after Let’s Grow Sitka event ends

• Rising grocery prices raise food insecurity concerns in Sitka

(NOTE: The following letter to the editor appeared in the Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

Dear Editor,

Many in Sitka are feeling squeezed not only by rising fuel costs, but also by escalating food costs. The September 2011 Alaska Food Cost Survey, conducted by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, calculated Sitka’s weekly food cost for a family of four as $198.41. This is a 44-percent increase since 2006, when the same market basket cost was $138.14. Sitka’s food costs are 57 percent higher than in Portland, Ore., 37 percent more than in Anchorage and 30 percent more than in Juneau.

Feeding America 2011 statistics report that 11.7 percent of Sitka’s borough is “food insecure.”  This translates to 1,030 Sitkans and other Baranof Islanders who sometimes are completely without a source of food on a regular basis.

Kids Count Alaska 2009-2010 reports that 46 percent of Sitka’s school age children and youth live in families receiving some form of public assistance i.e., Denali KidCare, food stamps, or Alaska Temporary Assistance. This is a 10-percent increase since 2007.

Alaska behavioral risk factor data from 2009 show that only 23 percent of Alaskans consume the recommended five fruits and vegetables each day and only 17 percent of adolescents eat five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. One of the primary reasons for this low intake is inadequate access to affordable, quality produce.

These combined statistics paint a picture of increasing vulnerability when it comes to securing nutritious food on a regular basis. In the nutrition and public health world, this tenuous access to healthy food is known as food insecurity. So, how can Sitka, collectively and creatively, respond to food insecurity? Sitka can respond by INCREASING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE LOCAL FOOD.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is working towards improving access to nutritious, local foods through five interconnected strategies. Together, these five strategies can move Sitka toward a more food-secure future. They are:

  1. Promoting traditional and customary food gathering and preservation.
  2. Developing the Let’s Grow Sitka gardening campaign to assist Sitkans in learning to grow some of their own food.
  3. Growing the number of community gardens to augment the garden behind Blatchley Middle School. The 4-year-old St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is a recent example.
  4. Coordinating regular Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer growing and gathering seasons.
  5. Creating a community greenhouse and promoting commercial greenhouses to increase year-round access to local fruits and vegetables.

If you are interested in supporting this effort, please commit to one of the following actions:

  • Attend the Let’s Grow Sitka extravaganza as part of Artigras from noon-3pm on March 11, 2012, at the ANB Hall to learn how to grow your own food
  • Volunteer to work at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm this spring or the Sitka Farmers Market this summer
  • Support the Sitka Farmers Market which begins July 7, 2012, and runs every other Saturday morning through Sept. 15, 2012.
  • Mail a tax-deductible, year-end contribution to the Sitka Local Food Network at 408-D Marine Street, Sitka, AK 99835.

Together, we can make food security a reality in Sitka.

Sincerely,

Sitka Local Foods Network Board and Friends
(Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Charles Bingham, Kerry MacLane, Doug Osborne, Ellen Frankenstein, Maybelle Filler, Robin Grewe)