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Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Southeast Partnership’

The Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Spruce Root Inc. have officially released a report, “Current and Potential Economic Impacts of Locally Grown Produce in Southeast Alaska.” The report, which was first presented at the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit held in February in Haines, was written by the McDowell Group.

“This study is the first to measure the amount of produce grown in Southeast Alaska,” said Dan Lesh, a research analyst with the McDowell Group. “Even though I’m an avid gardener and lifelong Southeast Alaskan, I was surprised at the high level of gardening we found through the survey. It was also interesting to see what crops people are growing and which are the most productive.”

The 47-page study surveyed residents of several Southeast Alaska communities to try and find out how much food they grew locally, and how much was imported. For example, even though 38 percent of Southeast Alaskans garden, only 4.4 percent of the vegetables eaten in the region were produced locally (and 95.6 percent were imported from the Lower 48 or overseas).

Southeast Alaskans spent $19 million on imported veggies in 2016, and many of those veggies can be grown here in the region. While commercial growers in Southeast Alaska only sold about $180,000 in locally grown produce, gardeners and commercial growers spent about $1.8 million to support growing food in the region. Money spent on locally grown produce tends to circulate within the region instead of going elsewhere.

“There is tremendous opportunity to expand commercial and home-scale food production in Southeast Alaska,” said Lia Heifetz, food security regional catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. “This contributes to community and regional food security. There is also significant opportunity to create economic activity through support services — like the local production of seeds and soil, or local sources of agriculture infrastructure and tools — as well as adding value to raw agricultural products. In addition to supporting services, either growing your own food or supporting our region’s food producers through farmers markets, or online farmers markets, like the Salt & Soil Marketplace, is a great way to contribute to localizing our food system.”

The report includes a breakdown of what veggies commercial growers in the region are growing, and what they’re selling for. It also includes a breakdown of what households are growing and consuming. There are charts showing food purchases over the years, and vegetable consumption.

There also is information on trends within the region when it comes to growing veggies, and how that impacts the economy. It details some of the challenges for the region, and what’s being done to meet those challenges. In addition, the report touches on the food security of the region.

“The commercial agriculture industry in Southeast Alaska is clearly at a small scale right now, but there is room for growth and a variety of creative opportunities exist to expand the economic impacts of the industry,” Lesh said. “A lot of new businesses have been created in recent years, with support from Path to Prosperity business competition and other sources. Looking forward to seeing where those businesses go.”

• Current and Potential Economic Impacts of Locally Grown Produce in Southeast Alaska (PDF file)

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logo_southeast-alaska-watershed-council_15Farmers and fishermen in Southeast Alaska will soon be able to expand their markets through a recent grant to the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and its partners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grant was part of more than $56 million in local and community food system and organic research grants announced on Sept. 28. This was the only project from Alaska to receive funding.

The grant award is for $496,840, with a match of $178,327, and it will be used to sell and distribute local foods throughout the region over the next three years.  This is the grant description posted with the list of grant winners in the Local Food Promotion Program:

Localizing the Food System in Southeast Alaska: Building Markets and Supply Award

In Southeast Alaska, a more reliable food supply and improved access to local food are critical to self‐reliance and community resiliency. The vast majority of food consumed in Southeast Alaska is shipped in by barge or plane thus increasing its cost and decreasing its nutritional value. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC) and its diverse partners propose to increase the consumption of, access to, and production of Southeast Alaska (SEAK) local foods. This will be accomplished by developing new market opportunities using a food hub model. Through a two‐part approach, SAWC and partners will; 1) provide critical training, technical assistance, and business development services to local food entrepreneurs; and 2) increase the consumption of and access to locally produced products through the development of the Southeast Alaska Food Hub Network (SEAK‐FHN).

The Southeast Alaska Watershed Council is working with Haa Aaní, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and the Takshanuk Watershed Council (Haines) to develop the regional food hub, which they hope will improve food security in the region while also developing new food-related businesses.

TraysOfSalmonPortionsAccording to a post on the Southeast Alaska Watershed Council website, “In Southeast Alaska, improved access to local foods and a more reliable food supply are critical components of self-reliance and community resiliency. Residents of the region’s rural communities face high and rising costs of living, a declining state economy, and dependence upon air and water transport for delivery of basic commodities including food and petroleum products. According to a report commissioned by the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, 95 percent of the food purchased in Alaska is imported, often shipped through extensive supply chains arriving by truck, airplane, and barge.

“The high cost of imported foods and lengthy supply chain make Southeast Alaska communities vulnerable to unforeseen disruptions in larger national food and transport systems, and send local dollars outside of the state. Many communities throughout the region have begun prioritizing the development of a localized food system to promote economic development, increase food security, and bolster the resiliency of Southeast Alaska communities.”

savethedateIn an interview with KSTK-FM radio in Petersburg, SAWC Executive Director Angie Flickinger said the system would be based on an online marketplace, allowing producers such as existing farms in Haines and Petersburg to sell their products throughout the region. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition is based in Wrangell and has member community watershed coalitions in Haines, Skagway, Juneau and on Prince of Wales Island.

“And we would allow consumers to go on there and purchase foods,” Flickinger said. “We would set distribution centers where we would aggregate those foods and either ship them out, or set up a date where folks from the community could come and pick up those foods.”

Flickinger said the coalition hopes to build two distribution centers in Juneau and Haines. Both distribution centers will have cold-storage facilities, and will be certified by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for food safety. The project also will help host the second biannual Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit on Feb. 24-27, 2017, in Haines.

Flickinger told KSTK that this idea was sparked from a feasibility study the Takshanuk Watershed Council did last year examining the market for local foods in Haines.

“So that kind of helped spawn this concept where we thought if we combined a lot of these producers who are based throughout the region, we could create a bigger market and make it more accessible.”

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Terrence McCrobie builds three Hoonah Healing Community Garden plots for the Hoonah Senior Center in May 2015. (Photo by Kathy McCrobie)

By Kathy McCrobie
SEARHC Traditional Foods Project Assistant

Creating the Hoonah Healing Community Garden was Bob Starbard’s idea. He is the Hoonah Indian Association‘s (HIA) Tribal Administrator. He worked with Bob Christensen from Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), and by 2012 our first plots had been built.

I was hired by SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) as the Traditional Foods Project Assistant. When I took over for the 2013 growing season, I really had no gardening experience. I posted notices for the community to let them know the garden was available. We had 22 plots available for growing, and that summer half were in production.

Many community members made important contributions; our gravel business donated two large loads of fine sand and the time and skills shared made building the garden easier. Soon there was a dirt sifter to screen out the many rocks in the local dirt and heavy equipment leveled the ground. The Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District in Juneau sold us 14 berry plants at a discounted price. A community member donated 30 strawberry plants. Our space was soon coming together.

Most of our gardeners have prior gardening experience. Some used their own soil. Last year the zucchini, broccoli, potatoes, beets, bush beans and snap peas did well. The biggest challenge came from the ravens. After putting in starts, out of their curiosity, they would fly down when everyone left and pull them up.

We ask that our gardeners not use fish in their compost so the bears won’t come by to check us out and so far the deer have left the plots alone. Lia Heifetz from the Sustainable Southeast Partnership was a big help with our garden last year; she acquired some fence to protect our plots from critters. We hope to get the fence up this year. Lia also came to the William and Mary Johnson Youth Center to teach the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hoonah about composting with her worm bin and then we gathered seaweed for the garden.

For 2015 we are off to a great start with six returning and four new gardeners. Community members donated 20 raspberry plants and 20 gooseberry plants. Through the program, I purchased and planted a Nadine plum tree and a Terry Berry apple tree. My husband volunteers at the Hoonah Senior Center and is helping me with the traditional foods plot, as well as planting three plots for the seniors.

I just received an email from Lauren Hughey, a Community Health Educator based out of SEARHC Sitka. What exciting news! They just received a diabetes grant carry-forward. With the approval of this grant, Hoonah will receive $1,650 with the main goal of reducing the financial barriers to gardening for American Indian/Alaska Native diabetic patients. This grant will pay for plot fees and gardening supplies in the community garden: soil, seeds, raised-bed repair supplies, shovels, pots, gloves, buckets, and cold frames.

If you are ever in Hoonah please stop by to see us.   The garden is in town next to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Sharing about the Hoonah Healing Community Garden lets our and other communities be informed that food security starts with us. Also that it really does work! For additional information, feel free to contact me at kathymc@searhc.org.

A slideshow of Hoonah community garden photos from former Sitka Local Foods Network board member Cathy Lieser is posted below.

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kitch_logo_mainOn Monday, March 9, a couple of dozen people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Sitka Kitch community commercial kitchen, located at Sitka First Presbyterian Church (505 Sawmill Creek Road).

The new community commercial kitchen came out of a food security project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit. Sitka residents decided a community kitchen would serve several functions as a place to teach cooking and nutrition classes, a place to teach food preservation classes, a place for small cottage food businesses to have access to a rental commercial kitchen, etc. It is a place for education, business incubation, and community cultivation about food in Sitka.

The Sitka Kitch project (note, new website for scheduling) is a partnership between the Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka First Presbyterian Church, Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Food Co-op, Sitka Health Summit, Sustainable Southeast Partnership, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (Sitka District Office). The kitchen recently was renovated after the church received a $13,000 community blessings grant from the Northwest Coast Presbytery.

sikta_kitch_sheet-791x1024During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Marjorie Hennessy of the Sitka Conservation Society and Sustainable Southeast Partnership discussed the history of the project and some of its goals. Then she and Cyndy Gibson, representing Sitka First Presbyterian Church, cut the ribbon.

Please check out the linked brochure for the current rental rates, which are tiered depending upon the planned use of the facility. This kitchen does meet Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation commercial kitchen food safety standards, but renters are required to get all of their other required permits (business license, food-handling permits, etc.) before renting the kitchen. Groups that already regularly use the facility for deliveries, such as the Sitka Food Co-op and Everything Organic Sitka, will continue to use the facility.

For more information about Sitka Kitch rentals, check the website, contact sitkakitch@sitkawild.org or call the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509. Eventually the management will switch over to the church.

A slideshow is posted below the brochure with photos from the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

• Sitka Kitch informational brochure

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The Sitka Health Summit congratulates the folks at Sitka Kitch and First Presbyterian Church on their $13,000 grant. The funds will go a long way towards renovation of their community kitchen. "Sitka Kitch is a community collaboration to augment and strengthen Sitka's workforce through the development of food-based curriculum and training." It is an initiative of the Sitka Health Summit. From left are Patrick Williams, Marjorie Hennessy, Clara Gray, Cheri Hample, Martina Kurzer, Suzan Brawnlyn, Cyndy Gibson, and Betsy Decker. (Photo Courtesy of the Sitka Health Summit)

The Sitka Health Summit congratulates the folks at Sitka Kitch and First Presbyterian Church on their $13,000 grant. The funds will go a long way towards renovation of their community kitchen. “Sitka Kitch is a community collaboration to augment and strengthen Sitka’s workforce through the development of food-based curriculum and training.” It is an initiative of the Sitka Health Summit. From left are Patrick Williams, Marjorie Hennessy, Clara Gray, Cheri Hample, Martina Kurzer, Suzan Brawnlyn, Cyndy Gibson, and Betsy Decker. (Photo Courtesy of the Sitka Health Summit)

kitch_logo_mainThe Sitka First Presbyterian Church and the Sitka Conservation Society are pleased to announce the official opening of the Sitka Kitch, a new community commercial kitchen for Sitka.

Please join us to commemorate this exciting event. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 9, at the Sitka Kitch, in the First Presbyterian Church, 505 Sawmill Creek Road. Light refreshments courtesy of the Back Door Café will be served.

Sitka Kitch is a community initiative that arose from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit, and is a truly collaborative and partner-rich project. The Sitka Conservation Society, First Presbyterian Church, Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Food Co-op, Sitka District Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership have all contributed to turn Sitka’s dream of a community kitchen into reality. Sitka Kitch received $13,000 from the Northwest Coast Presbytery Community Blessings Grant. These funds went directly towards renovating the church’s kitchen so that ‘Sitka Kitch’ could meet the requirements of becoming an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)-certified commercial kitchen.

sikta_kitch_sheet-791x1024The Sitka Kitch now is ready to function as a shared-use community kitchen. Our goal is to provide food-based education, at various levels, to the greater Sitka community. With these renovations completed, the Kitch can offer a DEC-certified commercial kitchen to local entrepreneurs and small businesses for an affordable hourly rate. Instructors interested in developing and offering food-based classes may also rent the kitchen and space. The Kitch also hopes to develop and provide career and technical training, and community canning events.

Through multi-use access to a commercial kitchen, Sitka Kitch’s goals are to support a sustainable local foods culture, spark local foods entrepreneurship and empower the community to become more independent and food secure. This will continue to be the delivery location for the Sitka Food Co-op and Everything Organic Sitka. Sitka Farmers Market and other cottage food industry vendors who need to process food products in a commercial kitchen now will have a place they can rent.

For more information on using Sitka Kitch, please contact sitkakitch@sitkawild.org.

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Registration has begun for the inaugural Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to Schools Conference, which takes place April 2-3 at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

This event will be the first regional opportunity focused on building connections between Alaska’s school systems and local food entrepreneurs. Anyone interested in bringing more local foods into our school system is invited to collaborate and connect with regional experts to strengthen fish and farm to school programming across the state.

Southeast Conference, the regional economic development organization, is coordinating the conference in conjunction with the newly formed Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a diverse network of organizations working together on community sustainability in Southeast Alaska.

Farm&Fish-logo-on-photos Cropped“Often we find that the barriers to achieving access to local, healthy foods can be overcome if we work together as a region to make this initiative a priority,” said Alana Peterson, program director of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Haa Aani, Community Development Fund Inc. “By bringing all the key players together for a conference we are hoping to achieve just that.”

Fish and farm to school programming offers significant economic, environmental cultural and nutritional opportunities to our rural communities and region.

“Schools in southeast received more than $500,000 last year to buy Alaskan produced foods through the Nutritional Alaska Foods to Schools grant program.” said Shelly Wright, Executive Director of Southeast Conference. “However, schools are often limited by what they can procure. There are untapped opportunities for, farmers, fishermen and small business in our region. We are eager to break down barriers and grow the opportunities for everyone.”

Online registration and more detailed conference information is available at http://www.seconference.org/southeast-farm-and-fish-schools-conference. Register before Feb. 28 to be eligible for a travel stipend. For more information, contact Lia Heifetz at growsoutheast@gmail.com.

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