• Sitka Economic Development Association to host Sitka Seafood Innovation Summit

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The Sitka Economic Development Association (SEDA) invites anyone interested in developing the opportunities of our local and regional seafood industry to attend the Sitka Seafood Innovation Summit at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1, in the Sheet’ka Kwáan Naa Kahídi.

Presenters will provide examples of some innovative products and processes now being developed and marketed. Learn how the Iceland Ocean Cluster model is working, and how Iceland, despite a 60 percent reduction in their codfish harvest, has used innovation to increase the value of each pound of fish harvested by more than 400 percent.

Want to learn more? Then come to this free event sponsored and hosted by the Sitka Economic Development Association. For more information, contact Garry White, 747-2660.

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• Wilcox family of Sitka completes cross-country run from California to New Jersey to raise awareness about GMOs in our food

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WilcoxFamilyRunMapAfter nearly 3,000 miles and six months of running, the Wilcox family from Sitka reached its finish line Saturday, July 19, in Ocean City, N.J., to complete its cross-country run across the country to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food system and the roles of large agribusiness companies, such as Monsanto, in making it difficult for consumers to know which food contains GMOs.

Fifteen-year-old David Wilcox decided he wanted to run across country back in 2010, when he read about another teenage runner to complete the USA crossing, so he and his father, Brett, 53, started training. In January, Brett quit his job as a behavioral health clinician and David’s mom, Kris, put her cleaning business on hold, and the family rented out its home in Sitka. Brett and David started the run on Jan. 18 in Huntington Beach, Calif., and started running about 20 miles a day, six days a week. While Brett and David ran, Kris and David’s younger sister, Olivia, 13, drove ahead on the course in the used pick-up truck and trailer the family purchased for the trip. Along the way, Brett and David took turns pushing a runner’s stroller loaded with their supplies for the day, water bottles, lunch, some GMO-free lettuce seeds, GMO literature, a few copies of Brett’s book, We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie, Book One, and the 15-year-old family dog, Angel. (Note, after awhile, Angel decided she didn’t like riding in the stroller and preferred riding in the truck, so the Wilcox family adopted a new dog, Jenna, while in Texas.)

DavidAndBrett“Being able to run 20 miles with David is a good thing,” Brett said. “Running with him for 20 miles a day, day after day for six months across 13 states is a great thing. I got to know David far better than I would have in our routines back in Sitka. I have a lot of respect for David for sticking with it even when it was tough going. Of course our run would not have been possible if Kris and Olivia had not been there to support us. Our last day’s run included a big radio interview and a police escort to the beach. Kris and several other runners joined in and ran with us. We passed through a cheering crowd as we entered the boardwalk. It was a special moment. Of course, the fact that Kris and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the same day we finished our run gave the whole occasion a fairy tale sort of ending.”

The Wilcox family decided to use the run to raise awareness about our food supply because the family is vegetarian, and they don’t like seeing more GMOs enter the food supply, and consumers not being able to find out which foods have GMOs. “Running For a GMO Free USA was the perfect cause for us. We learned that virtually all people — regardless of location — oppose chemically-saturated genetically modified organisms,” Brett said.

Trying to find GMO-free food on the run did become an issue for the family, and for part of the trip they stopped eating corn tortillas because of how much of our nation’s corn now has GMOs (they did find some Navajo corn tortillas they decided to try). GMOs also are in soy, sugar beets, and several other plants, and they may soon be coming to potatoes used by large fast food corporations. Along the way, the Wilcox family passed through St. Louis just in time to participate in the annual March Against Monsanto (an international event on May 24 this year) right outside Monsanto headquarters. Last year, the Wilcox family hosted a March Against Monsanto event in Sitka.

BrettWilcoxAtMonsantoHeadquartersWhen they planned the run, the Wilcox family hooked up with several anti-GMO groups across the country, and those groups helped connect the family to local media outlets and runners where they could spread their message. The anti-GMO groups helped the Wilcox family raise some funds and find places to stay for the trip, and there were two Indiegogo crowd-funding campaigns coordinated by Owen Kindig of Sitka (the first campaign raised $7,500 when it closed in January, and the current campaign still has 40-plus days left to run and has raised roughly $1,400). Along the way, Brett and Kris regularly updated the family’s Running the Country blog and Facebook page. Different media groups covered the run (here’s a link to our story before the run), and the media coverage increased as Brett and David neared the finish line. In recent weeks there has been coverage from small media outlets and large ones, such the Philadelphia Inquirer and Runner’s World magazine. Here is a link to the KCAW-Raven Radio story that aired July 21 about the Wilcox family run.

DavidWHIZNewsInterviewBrett and David trained for the run, but soon realized their training was a little lacking in LSD (long, slow, distance) runs. David won the Southeast Conference (Region V) cross-country running title in October, but most of his runs during the season were about five miles. Brett, a regular bike commuter, also ran shorter distances, and he and David had one or two longer runs a week. Running 20 miles a day, six days a week resulted in a lot of blisters, several worn-out pairs of shoes, and a couple of injuries along the way. Brett was hobbled early in the run by a bad foot, David had a bad leg, and Brett said he plans to have minor surgery in the near future for another injury.

“I had a couple of months where I couldn’t run, so instead I just walked,” David said. “Probably the best day for me was the day the fourth chiropractor fixed me. He was really nice to us, he let us take a shower. I told him where it hurt, and he told me what was wrong and he told me he was going to fix it and I was sort of wondering if he could really fix it. A muscle that’s supposed to be on the inside of my hip was on the outside. He pulled it over and told me I was fixed. Then he adjusted something else that I didn’t even know was wrong. He also worked on my mom and dad.”

As the miles piled up, the Wilcox family enjoyed the scenery. But sometimes the weather was a bit too hot for folks used to a temperate rain forest and then there were the ticks.

“Pennsylvania was probably the most beautiful state, but I could never live there because it’s too hot and humid,” David said. “I can’t wait to get back to Sitka so I can run the trails and not have to worry about ticks.”

WilcoxFamiyFinishesCrossCountryRunNow that the Wilcox family is done with the run, the next plan is to go to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of Congress and various agencies about GMOs. They already have meetings scheduled with Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and hope to add a meeting with Sen. Mark Begich. “It will be fun to pass on to them what we learned from our cross-country run,” Brett said.

The family also will be doing more fundraising to help pay for the trip. “Our run is now over but we’ve spent far more than we’ve received from donations,” Brett said. “If you’d like to help us out with our expenses, please donate online at RunningTheCountry.com or at Indiegogo.com. The name of our Indiegogo fundraising campaign is ‘Help the Wilcox Family Finish Strong.’ Thanks to all the people who have helped us help David achieve his big dream to run across the USA.”

• Sitka to host three-day Gathering in conjunction with two-week Introduction to Ethnobotany course

Salmonberries await picking near the entrance to Sitka National Historical Park

Salmonberries await picking near the entrance to Sitka National Historical Park

This month Sitka will host a two-week Introduction to Ethnobotany course on May 19-30, and as part of that course there will be a three-day UAF Kuskokwim Campus Ethnobotany Program All-Hands Gathering for stakeholders on May 29-31 held in conjunction with the class. As part of the Gathering, there will be a couple of events open to Sitka residents interested in ethnobotany and the uses of local plants.

The Gathering is sponsored by the Ethnobotany Certification Program of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kuskokwim Campus (Bethel), and the Gathering will serve as a chance for stakeholders (students, instructors, elders, colleagues) to to get together to celebrate the program’s first five years, plan the next five years, and network with each other.

The schedule is still being finalized, but the first public event will be on Thursday, May 29, when the 10 ethnobotany class students will make their presentations from 3-5 and 6-8 p.m. (with a break for a bring-your-own dinner) in Room 229 of the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

At 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, May 31, keynote speaker Anore Jones (author of Plants That We Eat) will  share her passion for traditional foods of the subarctic. This event will be at the Yaw Classroom at the Sitka Fine Arts Campus.

The Gathering will conclude at 5:30-9 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, with a community potluck dinner/local foods feast and Native dancing at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi. This event will feature a Native chant from our Hawaiian friends, vending tables, as well as music from the Sitka rock band Slack Tide. The Gathering will provide a main course, some desserts and beverages for this event, and people are encouraged to bring side dishes featuring local food.

For more information, contact Kuskokwim Campus Ethnobotany Program Coordinator Rose Meier, PhD, at 1-907-474-6935 (voice), 1-907-474-5952 (fax) or by email at rameier@alaska.edu.

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• Sitka Maritime Heritage Society annual meeting features stories of harvesting and sharing foods from our local waters and shores

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Local food will be the focus when the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society holds its annual meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi. The meeting’s program topic is Harvesting and Sharing Foods from our Waters and Shores: Stories of Sitka’s Oldest Family Tradition. There will be mingling and refreshments starting at 6:30 p.m., with the program running from 7-9 p.m.

The meeting’s format, as in past years, is to have a panel of individuals with stories and experiences to share about the topic. In the second half of the program, the floor will be opened up to stories from the audience. The panel host and moderator will be longtime troller Eric Jordan.

According to the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society’s website:

Being able to get our food for our families from the ocean and shores is a big reason for living here. In fact, for many of us, it’s a big reason to live, period: the collective effort with friends and family, teaching and learning, the satisfaction of a productive day on the water (never dull!), the deep contentment of having food put up to feed our children and elders. As in past annual meetings, we are expecting a lot of laughter, and a lot of learning about our fellow Sitkans, this place we live in, family and history. Oh, and cookies.

For more information about the annual meeting, go to the group’s website, send email to sitkamaritime@gmail.com, or contact new executive director Carole Gibb at 747-3448.

 

• Wilcox family prepares to run across country to raise awareness about Monsanto

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DavidWilcoxSpeaksAtMayMarchAgainstMonsantoRallyA Sitka family is gearing up for a cross-country run in January to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and the dubious practices of agriculture giant Monsanto.

David Wilcox, 15, and his father, Brett, will begin their 3,000-mile from Huntington Beach, Calif., to Cape May, N.J.,  with stops in St. Louis (home of Monsanto) and Washington, D.C. David and Brett will receive support from mom, Kris, and sister, Olivia. The current Southeast Conference-Class 3A high school cross-country running champion from Sitka High School, David is hoping to become the second-youngest runner to complete a run across the United States (he recently found out there was a younger runner who did a similar run back in 1928). The family hosted March Against Monsanto events in Sitka in May and October as part of an international movement against the company’s practices.

“Running across the USA! Wow! David and I are growing more and more excited to pound pavement, run trails, meet people, and advocate with millions of like-minded Americans for a GMO free USA!” Brett Wilcox said.

Even though the run won’t start until January, the Wilcox family has several activities planned for December to help publicize and raise funds for the project. Brett recently self-published a book, We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie, Book One. Brett and the rest of the Wilcox family will be at Old Harbor Books for a book-signing from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, and he will give a reading and book-signing at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15, at Kettleson Memorial Library.

BrettWilcoxWithBookIn addition, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, David will run 100 laps of the Moller Park track as a fundraiser for the trip. People can pledge per lap, or pledge lump sums at this event. Other runners are encouraged to join in the fun by running in Sitka or wherever they are and recording their laps. Also at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, the Wilcox family will have a table at the Elvis Monthly Grind at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi.

“The topic of genetic modification can be heavy and confusing–confusing primarily because Monsanto and other chemical giants don’t want us to know about the problems associated with modern chemical-based agriculture,” Brett Wilcox said. “We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie is a fun, fast and creative approach designed to cast light on Monsanto’s products, poisons and lies. I wrote We’re Monsanto to give mainstream Americans the power to say no to Monsanto’s GMOs, say no to agricultural imperialism, and to say no to Monsanto’s lies. Once we understand that Earth’s natural biodiversity and agroecology are the true solutions to feeding a hungry world, we free ourselves from Monsanto’s poison-saturated false promises.”

To learn more about the run, you can read this Dec. 2, 2013, article from the Daily Sitka Sentinel or go to the Wilcox family website, Running The Country. The family also has created a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.com, Running for a GMO-Free USA, where it hopes to raise money to help pay for the trip. In addition, Brett moderates a Facebook group, March Against Monsanto SE Alaska, and a group page about the run called, Running The Country.

• Seventh annual Sitka Health Summit helps celebrate a culture of wellness in Sitka

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The seventh annual Sitka Health Summit is coming up, and this year’s event features health fair, lunch-and-learn, community planning day and community wellness awards.

This annual event got its start in 2007, when leaders from Sitka Community Hospital and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) got together to try and build bridges between their health organizations. Working with other partners, they created the Sitka Health Summit as a way to help improve the health culture in Sitka.

Summit_LogoThis year’s summit opens with the Sitka Community Health Fair, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. This event features workers from the Alaska Health Fair Inc., who will provide a variety of medical tests such as cholesterol checks, glucose tests, vision screenings, flu shots, and more. It also includes informational booths from a variety of health-related programs in Sitka.

At noon on Monday, Sept. 23, at Kettleson Memorial Library will be a lunch-and-learn with Dr. Don Lehmann, a local physician and sports medicine specialist. He will give a brief talk called “Whistle While You Walk,” which will feature highlights about Sitka’s trail system. Participants can enter for a chance to win a set of walking sticks.

The “Community Planning Day: Selecting Sitka’s Wellness Goals” is from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, at Sweetland Hall. This all-day event is when members of the community get together and select two community wellness projects to work on this year. The two projects will receive $1,500 in seed money, plus facilitation to help get the project going. Last year’s three winning projects included the Sitka Downtown Revitalization project, Walk Sitka‘s work in applying for a Walk Friendly Communities award, and the Sitka Community Food Assessment. Some of the top projects from previous years include the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community award applications in 2008 and 2012, the Choose Respect mural at Blatchley Middle School to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence, the Sitka Outdoor Recreation Coalition’s Get Out, Sitka! project to get more families and kids outdoors, supporting the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center as a community resource, etc. There also have been several projects related to local foods, such as creating a Sitka Farmers Market, expanding community gardens and building a community greenhouse, planting dozens of fruit trees around town, promoting more local fish in school lunches, community composting,, and more. The first 65 people to RSVP will receive a free lunch (contact Clara Gray at clara.gray@searhc.org).

Finally, this year’s Sitka Community Wellness Champion Awards will be presented as part of the Monthly Grind at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi on Katlian Street. The awards are made in a variety of categories, such as physical fitness, nutrition, tobacco control and policy, holistic health, injury prevention, and general wellness.

For more information, call Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or go to the Sitka Health Summit’s website at http://www.sitkahealthsummitak.org/.