First Baptist Church community garden has limited space available for new gardeners

Were you one of the many Sitkans who lost your garden plot two years ago when the Sitka School District closed Blatchley Community Gardens? The small community garden in front of Sitka’s First Baptist Church has some (limited) space available to grow veggies this year.

The community garden at First Baptist Church is located on the Crabapple Drive side of the church’s property at 514 Halibut Point Road. Some of the ground will need some work, but there is a pile of topsoil by the garden for those building raised garden beds.

Sam Pointer, who is coordinating the space for the church, said about a quarter of the garden’s space is available to Sitka gardeners, and possibly more. To learn more about how you can sign up to use space at the church garden, contact Sam at 623-7775 or dad4lyf@yahoo.com.

In the meantime, we are looking for more community garden space in Sitka. If you have garden space available, contact Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com.

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Sitka Tribe of Alaska and partners celebrate fifth annual Sitka Herring Camp

A Mount Edgecumbe High School student examines herring gills under a microscope. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Goodrich)

Students in Sitka schools have been diving deep into the study of herring during Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s fifth annual Herring Camp. The Herring Camp programming was centered on the cultural and ecological importance of Pacific herring and timed to coincide with the arrival of herring in Sitka Sound. Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff spent a week at both Mount Edgecumbe High School and Sitka High School studying herring anatomy and collecting oceanographic data. Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff also examined marine food webs with Blatchley Middle School and will present a “Herring in the Hallways” microscopy event at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School next week.

A Sitka High School student collects plankton aboard a Sitka Herring Camp research cruise. (Photo courtesy of Tara Racine)

Students and teachers have responded positively to the herring programming. Chohla Moll, MEHS science teacher said, “The STA Herring Camp curriculum is an amazing integration of science and traditional ecological knowledge. It illustrates to students the strong connection between the knowledge of their elders and the scientific information they are learning in school.”

The purpose of Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Herring Camp is to invest in youth skills, providing students with hands-on science experience and exposing them to Alaska-based career opportunities. Kyle Rosendale, Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Fisheries Biologist said, “We hope students will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of their local ecosystems and be motivated to become the next generation of stewards for important cultural and ecological resources like herring.”

Students who participated in the Herring Camp learned scientific techniques, gained exposure to traditional ecological knowledge, and connected with Sitka professionals working on natural resource management. The week-long high school camp sessions included dissection labs, discussions on cultural connections and herring ecology, oceanographic and morphometric data analysis, an introduction to fisheries management techniques, career path discussions, and a research cruise during which students applied a variety of field observation and data collection skills.

Herring provide a rich topic of study for local students. Sitka Sound is the last remaining population of herring in the state that consistently provides a significant subsistence herring egg harvest. Sitka herring eggs are shared widely throughout Alaska. Herring are a forage fish and a critical part of the marine food web, providing food for other important species such as lingcod, coho salmon, king salmon, halibut, sea lions and humpback whales. Coastal archeologist Iain McKechnie called herring the “central node of the marine ecosystem”, adding “they aren’t the base, they aren’t the top, but they are the thing through which everything else flows.

Herring Camp (aka, Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo, or Knowledge of Herring Camp) was started in 2014 and was originally held at Sitka National Historical Park. Now in its fifth year, the Herring Camp has grown to reach classrooms in four local schools and is made possible through collaboration with MEHS, the Sitka School District, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, the Sitka Conservation Society, the Sitka Sound Science Center, and Allen Marine. Rosendale explains, “Collaboration is absolutely critical to the success of Herring Camp; we couldn’t do it without our collaborators, all of whom have made important contributions to herring outreach and education in Sitka.”

Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s work with Blatchley students was also a part of another community collaboration on herring and food webs. In addition to working with Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff, BMS science teacher Stacy Golden also planned lessons with Charlie Skulkta, Jr., St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge, the Alaska Raptor Center, and a boat trip to St. Lazaria.

Financial support for this initiative was generously provided the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

This year’s camp is held in loving memory of Michelle Ridgeway of Oceanus Alaska. Michelle was a passionate scientist and youth educator. She helped get the Herring Camp off the ground in 2014 and was an integral part of the camp every year until her passing in January of 2018. Her creativity and enthusiasm are deeply missed.

• Baranof Elementary students pick veggies they grew at the Russian Bishop’s House garden

CABBAGE PATCH KIDS- Baranof Elementary School first-grader Alice Ann Ricketts, 6, carries a cabbage out of the Russian Bishop’s House garden Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. First-graders were harvesting the vegetables they planted last spring when they were kindergartners during the annual event. Teachers and students were planning on making a soup with their harvested vegetables. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

CABBAGE PATCH KIDS — Baranof Elementary School first-grader Alice Ann Ricketts, 6, carries a cabbage out of the Russian Bishop’s House garden Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. First-graders were harvesting the vegetables they planted last spring when they were kindergartners during the annual event. Teachers and students were planning on making a soup with their harvested vegetables. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, this photo appeared on Page 1 of the Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, edition)

• Sitka Local Foods Network, other groups make free dirt available for Sitka gardens

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Get FREE Dirt to start a gardenFor the second straight year, free dirt is now available to the people of Sitka for their gardening needs.

Your Sitka Local Foods Network (SLFN) worked with and formalized an agreement with the City and Borough of Sitka, Sitka School District, and the Blatchley Community Gardens to provide free dirt to individuals, families, and non-commercial entities for developing fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens and beds.

The free community dirt pile is located at Blatchley Community Gardens, behind Blatchley Middle School. The pile is to the right (north) of the community garden and only dirt between the signs should be removed. People can remove dirt at any time, although avoiding school hours when school is in session is preferred.

“This is raw dirt, mostly from land development in forest and muskeg lots around Sitka,” SLFN Board Member Michelle Putz said. “It is NOT top soil, but it is a good starting point for gardens when mixed with locally purchased lime and sand, and locally purchased or produced compost, manure, and other organic materials.” The Sitka Local Foods Network asks that gardeners not remove sand, rocks, live kelp or live creatures from local beaches to build their soil.

People taking dirt should bring their own shovels and containers for dirt, and some sifting of tree roots and other debris may be required. To make sure there is enough for everyone, SLFN asks Sitkans to take as much as you need but please do not use it for commercial use or developing a lot. People who are coming for dirt need to respect the gardens, gardeners, compost, equipment and other materials at the Blatchley Community Garden site by only taking dirt from the pile and not removing or using anything else at the site.

“One of the most asked questions SLFN gets is ‘where can I get dirt to start a garden?’ We recognize that dirt is scarce in Sitka, and we wanted to try to do something about it,” Putz said. “Making soil, the starting point of all gardens, more available to people really helps us to meet our mission of increasing the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. We hope that people will take all the dirt they need to build new and larger vegetable, fruit, and flower beds, planters and gardens.”

Thanks to the local contractors, such as Tisher Construction in 2015 and Troy’s Excavating in 2014, who provided the dirt. The Sitka Local Foods Network hopes to continue to provide free dirt, as needed. However, compost will not be given away or created at this time.

Those with questions or wishing to help volunteer on this or other SLFN projects should call Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

• Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo will teach middle school students about herring during spring break

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HerringBranchesThe Sitka School District and the Outdoor Foundation, in partnership with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Sitka National Historical Park, will host a free, week-long marine science and culture camp during spring break, March 16-20, for 20 sixth-grade, middle-school students. (NOTE: On Feb. 23, this program was opened up to all middle school students, grades 6-8, and the priority deadline was extended to March 6.)

Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo — Knowledge-of-Herring Camp — provides students the chance to explore the cultural and ecological importance of herring in a hands-on camp. Participants will use cutting-edge technology while working with renowned marine ecologist Michelle Ridgway to study Pacific herring in the field and in the lab. Students who participate in the camp will gain valuable experience conducting scientific research and will gain a deeper understanding of the critical role herring play in Southeast Alaska’s marine ecosystem, as well as the cultural significance of this keystone species.

Daily camp activities will include observing herring and other marine wildlife during marine field trips, conducting research throughout Sitka Sound and in the lab, learning about herring’s cultural significance from Native elders and culture bearers, exploring Sitka’s coastline to learn about critical herring habitat and using advanced scientific technology. Each daily session, held from 12:30-5:30 p.m., will conclude with a presentation or field activity lead by scientists, Native elders or local herring experts.

Applications are available at the Sitka National Historical Park visitors center, 106 Metlakatla St., at Blatchley Middle School, or they can be downloaded at http://www.nps.gov/sitk. All applicants must be in the sixth grade. Interested participants should submit an application by Feb. 20 to receive priority consideration. Completed applications should be returned to staff at Sitka National Historical Park’s visitor center. The hours of operation for the visitor center are Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For additional information, please contact Ryan Carpenter at 747-0121.

• Kathy Hope Erickson’s salmon/potato patties win top honors in Fish To Schools recipe contest

Members of the panel of judges sample one of the recipes in the Fish To Schools Recipe Contest at the Sitka Seafood Festival on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, at the Sheldon Jackson Campus/Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Members of the panel of judges sample one of the recipes in the Fish To Schools Recipe Contest at the Sitka Seafood Festival on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, at the Sheldon Jackson Campus/Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Recipe Contest FinalKathy Hope Erickson claimed top honors in the Fish To Schools recipe contest during the Sitka Seafood Festival, and two younger chefs tied for second place.

Kathy submitted a recipe for salmon and potato patties, which she served with a special chili ketchup, and won a gift certificate to Ludvig’s Bistro for her efforts. Tying for second place were Zoe Trafton, age 8, with her recipe for salmon mac and cheese, and Ava Newell (with her father Mike), age 8, with her recipe for coconut pecan rockfish with a blueberry dipping sauce. Zoe and Ava both won t-shirts. A panel of nine judges, including a couple of students, rated the recipes.

In all, eight local chefs submitted recipes for the contest, which was hosted by the Sitka Conservation Society, which coordinates the Sitka Fish To Schools Program to put more healthy local seafood into school lunches. The other recipes included sesame-veggie salmon cakes with tangy apple slaw by Beth Short-Rhoads and her daughter Kat Rhoads, age 6; salmon pinwheels from Judi Ozment; healthy salmon fish fingers from Anna Bisaro; baked salmon with dill from Matt Jones; and salmon-veggie wraps from Charles Bingham.

The purpose of the contest was to collect kid-friendly fish entree recipes that can be made for school lunches as part of the Fish to Schools program. The dishes should be healthy and easy to make (no special appliances). Baking the fish is preferred over frying, and recipes should be low in sodium and fat. The top seafood dishes will be used in school lunches at the Sitka School District, the state-run Mount Edgecumbe High School, and the private SEER School.

The top three recipes are posted below, and all eight recipes can be found in the attachment. For more information about the recipe contest and the Sitka Fish To Schools Program, click this link or call Sophie Nethercut or Tracy Gagnon of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509.

• 2014 Fish To Schools Recipe Contest Submissions (attachment includes all eight recipes)

School Lunch Salmon Patties With Chili Ketchup (Makes 12)

Winning Recipe submitted by Kathy Hope Erickson, Sitka

  • KathyHopeErickson1 pint jar salmon
  • 2 cups cooked potatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped onions
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon onion seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salad herbs – dried
  • 12 Ritz crackers

Mix all, form into patties, fry in heated vegetable oil, or alternatively, spray with cooking spray and bake in 400-degree oven.

Chili Ketchup

For dipping fish patties: Combine 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 4 1/2 teaspoon onion, and 3/4 cup ketchup.

 

Coconut Pecan Rockfish With Blueberry Dipping Sauce

2nd place: Submitted by Mike and Ava Newell (age 8), Sitka

  • MikeAndAvaNewel1 lb. rockfish fillets
  • 1 T coconut milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 C pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 C shredded coconut
  • 2 T plain breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place rockfish on baking sheet. Pour coconut milk over fish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Combine pecans, coconut, and bread crumbs in a bowl. Press coconut mixture onto top of fish fillets. Bake for 15-20 minutes, just until fish is opaque throughout

Blueberry Dipping Sauce

  • 1 C wild blueberries, rinsed
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/4 C coconut milk
  • 1/2 T cornstarch
  • salt

Place blueberries and water in small saucepan. Simmer until berries burst. Strain berries through fine mesh sieve into small bowl. Add coconut milk to bowl. Pour sauce back into saucepan. Mix cornstarch with a little bit of cold water until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to sauce. Stir and heat until boiling. Continue to boil until desired thickness. Serve with rockfish

 

Salmon Mac ‘n Cheese
2nd place: Submitted by Zoe Trafton (age 8), Sitka

  • ZoeTrafton1 cup cooked salmon, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar and jack recommended)
  • 2 cups shell pasta
  • ½ cup finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ cup Alfredo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Boil shells in medium pot. Sauté onions and mushrooms for three minutes. Add salmon to mushrooms and onions. Drain water and add pasta. Add cheese. Add Alfredo sauce and hot sauce. Mix carefully. Add spices and serve.

• Fish to Schools seafood recipe contest seeks kid-friendly dishes at Sitka Seafood Festival

Recipe Contest FinalDo you have a favorite kid-friendly and healthy fish entree recipe that uses local seafood? The program wants you to enter your dish in its recipe contest at the .

Do you have a favorite kid-friendly and healthy fish entree recipe that uses local seafood? The Fish to Schools program wants you to enter your dish in its recipe contest at the Sitka Seafood Festival.

The contest is free, just type up your recipe and email it to Sophie Nethercut of the Sitka Conservation Society at sophie@sitkawild.org. You also will be asked to make up a batch for sampling. A panel of local residents will judge the recipes at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Sitka Seafood Festival’s main tent on the Sheldon Jackson Campus, and the winners receive prizes (including a gift certificate for Ludvig’s Bistro for the grand prize).

2014SSFSchedule5The purpose of the contest is to collect kid-friendly fish entree recipes that can be made for school lunches as part of the Fish to Schools program. The dishes should be healthy and easy to make (no special appliances). Baking the fish is preferred over frying, and recipes should be low in sodium and fat. The top seafood dishes will be used in school lunches at the Sitka School District, the state-run Mount Edgecumbe High School, and the private SEER School.

Samples of the dish (enough for at least 15 people to nibble) should be brought by 4:15 p.m. on Saturday to the Sitka Seafood Festival main tent at Sheldon Jackson Campus for judging. Entrants are encouraged to print out a copy of the recipe to include with your samples, and bring a photo of you making the dish (if possible).

For more information, click this link or call Sophie at 747-7509. This is one of many events as part of this year’s Sitka Seafood Festival, which has events on July 31-Aug. 2 at various locations around Sitka. Additional info about the Sitka Seafood Festival can be found here.