Spruce Root, Sustainable Southeast Partnership, other groups to host 2021 Kelp and Oyster Farming Workshop

Spruce Root, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, and other organizations are offering a free, online workshop that will provide tools and training for Alaska Natives in Southeast Alaska interested in starting kelp, oyster, or multi-species ocean farms. The workshop will begin on the evening of Thursday, March 18, and continue with day-long sessions on Friday and Saturday, March 19-20. The workshop will be delivered using Zoom.

This workshop is co-hosted by Spruce Root, Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP), Ecotrust, GreenWave, the Organized Village of Kake (OVK), the Native American Agriculture Fund, and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF).

The program is free, but space is limited to 24 participants –– selected through an application process. Project partners at Spruce Root will review applications and select participants based on the thoughtfulness of responses to application questions. The application period closes on Feb. 19. Selected applicants will be notified by Feb. 26.

Topics covered include:

  • an overview of kelp and oyster harvest and cultivation, and field identification of seaweed species
  • logistics of collecting, growing, and purchasing seed
  • farm site evaluation and planning, leasing, and permitting
  • farm design and build out
  • harvesting and processing techniques, and quality handling
  • business planning and farm financing
  • and more.

Information and instruction will be provided by GreenWave, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Spruce Root, The Native Conservancy, and others. 

All interested Southeast Alaska residents are invited to apply, however, priority will be given to Southeast Alaska Native residents.

Participants will need access to the internet and a computer, tablet, or smartphone in order to participate in the sessions and view presentations and panel discussions. 

Following the workshop, participants may be eligible for one-on-one mentoring and, pending safety and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in farm tours and other hands-on activities at a later date. Participants will be expected to attend and complete the workshop to be eligible for mentoring and hands-on activities.

Materials, final workshop times, and other workshop information will be distributed to selected participants prior to the technical workshops.

If you have questions about this program, you can contact Aaron Ferguson (aaron@spruceroot.org) or Lindsay Olsen (lindsay@greenwave.org). Click this link for the online application.

Southeast Alaska Traditional Plants Summit and Celebration goes online on Oct. 1-3

The Southeast Alaska Traditional Plants Summit and Celebration will take place on Oct. 1-3 using Zoom online meetings. There will be presentations from 1-4 p.m. each day, a plant talk meet-and greet from 4-5 p.m., and interactive discussions from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

This event is open to elders, youth, harvesters, and interested community members. It is a virtual gathering to bring together Alaska Native plant harvesters from around Southeast Alaska to learn, appreciate, and network with each other to celebrate traditional edible and medicinal plants, and to discuss and share respectful harvesting guidelines, protocols, and best practices to share with their communities. The summit will also feature plant videos and a food sovereignty showcase of projects from around Southeast Alaska.

The event will use Zoom, but people can call in by telephone, if desired. Registration is required. There is no cost to join. Here is the link to register, https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrdeqoqDorGNGTDAXMAApAttDZdC99S-c0. To access a draft schedule, click this link.

This event is being organized by the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, Spruce Root, Kaasei Training and Consulting, and Planet Alaska, with support from the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF). Special thanks to Haa Tóo Yéi Yatee culture camp and Huna Heritage Foundation.

We are thankful to our respectful harvesting working group for helping plan this event and draft a white paper of respectful harvesting guidelines for Southeast Alaska, based on the work of the Kayaaní Commission and harvesters from around Southeast Alaska. These guidelines will be sent to all registered participants to be discussed at the last evening session. For questions, please contact Jennifer Nu at jennifer@sawcak.org

Moby the Mobile Greenhouse to spend rest of year at Pacific High School in Sitka

Pacific High School gardening class teacher Maggie Gallin, center right facing camera, shows Moby the Mobile Greenhouse to her students during Friday’s class.

During the Pacific High School gardening class last Friday (Feb. 15), school social worker Maggie Gallin, who teaches the class, was showing the students around Moby the Mobile Greenhouse when she asked the students to visualize what they wanted to grow in the greenhouse this year. Moby arrived in Sitka earlier in the week, just in time for the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit.

The students already have raised garden beds outside the school where they grow more traditional food crops for Sitka, such as lettuce, kale, potatoes, carrots, etc. So the students were a bit more daring in their choices.

George wants to try growing citrus. Hannah wants to grow peppers, Doug wants to grow bell peppers, while Karl and Jayvan want to try growing corn. These are crops that need a greenhouse to grow in Sitka, and they won’t grow well outside. Our climate isn’t hot enough.

“Our culinary program is really strong,” Gallin said. “But we have a garden program and a subsistence program that we want to get stronger. This will be a mini-learning lab for us on a small scale, and the students want to experiment.”

Pacific High School gardening class students discuss what crops they want to grow in the garden beds inside Moby the Mobile Greenhouse.

Pacific High School is Sitka’s alternative high school, which promotes different styles of learning and more personal attention. Principal Mandy Summer, who taught gardening classes before she became principal, said the school built its first raised garden bed in 2010 after Phil Burdick’s English class read the Paul Fleischman novel Whirligig, and the garden bed served as a place to put the whirligigs the class made where they could catch the wind. To supplement the novel, the class read articles about how to grow plants.

Over time the project grew into two classes, including one on how to build things such as more garden beds, a composter, a sifter and other items for the garden. There now are about a half-dozen raised garden beds behind the school.

The addition of Moby the Mobile Greenhouse will elevate the garden class project at Pacific High School. Moby the Mobile Greenhouse is a tiny house greenhouse project that travels to different schools in Southeast Alaska by Grow Southeast in partnership with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Spruce Root and the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition. It was built with support from the University of Alaska Southeast, the Juneau School District, the Nature Conservancy and the Sitka Conservation Society. Before coming to Sitka, Moby spent a year each in Kake, Hoonah and Yakutat.

“Our (Pacific High’s) theme this year is growth and legacy, and Moby fits our theme,” Gallin said. “The students will be leaving something behind, and they’ll be contributing something that’s individually fulfilling.”

Moby is the size of a tiny house, and it can be pulled behind a pick-up truck. There are six small garden beds inside about waist height (three on each side), plus there are places for hanging baskets. In addition, there are rain gutters to catch rainwater to use in the garden beds. The program’s link includes a handout about Moby and a downloadable curriculum for the teachers to use.

The Pacific High School garden program already has several student-built raised garden beds, a composter, a sifter, and a small older greenhouse (from a kit) behind the school.

“Part of having Moby here is for our partnership with Baranof Elementary School, where our kids can be mentors,” Summer said, adding that in time the school hopes to grow enough food for the school lunches at both Pacific High and Baranof Elementary. There is a plot of land behind the school where Summer, Gallin and others at the school are hoping to expand the garden program, and that includes having a greenhouse or high tunnel to extend the garden season. “The plan is to have a more permanent structure.”

“Moby the Mobile Greenhouse travels to a different rural Southeast Alaska community, each growing season to kickstart interest in growing local produce, especially among young people,” said Jennifer Nu, a local foods director for the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and a community food sustainability catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. “We hope that the greenhouse inspires a new wave of vegetable gardeners, builders, local food system advocates in Sitka and beyond. Pacific High School was chosen for strong leadership, commitment to hands-on, place-based, project-centered learning that also has wellness and community at the heart of its mission. Students at Pacific High will share their learning experience with children at Baranof Elementary school and possibly students even younger. Moby will mobilize a longer-term vision as a local food system learning center for educators around the region.”

Pacific High School garden class students and class teacher Maggie Gallin (in stocking cap with back to camera) check out Moby the Mobile Greenhouse during their class on Friday, Feb. 15.

Pacific will have Moby through October, when the garden season ends. The students will still work through the summer, even though school won’t be in session. While Moby is in Sitka, the students discussed dressing up the mobile greenhouse with Native formline drawings.

“I’m excited for more fresh produce in lunch, and working with kids,” sophomore Melissa Gibson said.

“I want to grow stuff and take care of it,” sophomore George Stevenson added.

While in Sitka, Claire Sanchez of the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program will work with Gallin. There also will be other gardeners who might help with the class. The staff at Pacific hopes having Moby in Sitka will encourage more people in town to garden.

“One of the stats Sustainable Southeast Partnership wants us to track is how many gardens are inspired by Moby,” Gallin said.

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