• Meet your vendors: Linda Wilson of Seaview Garden and Jewelry Arte

LindaWilson

SitkaFarmersMarketSign(This is part of a new series of “Meet your vendors” articles, where Sitka Local Foods Network Intern McLane Ritzel is writing features about our regular Sitka Farmers Market vendors.) 

Taking a stroll through this summer’s Sitka Farmers Markets, several perfectly baked rhubarb pies may have caught your eye. Outside in the tent next to the Sitka Local Foods Network produce tent, stood the talented gardener and craftswoman Linda Wilson, a Sitka local for the past three decades who owns Seaview Garden and Jewelry Arte.

Wilson’s father was in the USDA Forest Service. Wilson was raised in California until the age of 6, when her family moved to Ketchikan. A few years later, her father moved the family to Sitka and then to Juneau for his work. Wilson attended high school in Juneau, but yearned to be back in Sitka where they had bought a house in 1975 out on Halibut Point Road. The family returned to Sitka after Wilson’s father retired from the USDA Forest Service in 1982. Wilson lost both her mother and her brother to illnesses, and has been taking care of her father in Sitka since his retirement.

LindaWilsonWithZucchiniIn Sitka, Wilson fell into gardening, because outside of the house is where she felt she had the most control and freedom. Inside the house was dad’s territory. She ripped out her salmonberry bushes in 2004, and learned how to grow broccoli when she met Florence Welsh. Today, she grows carrots, snap peas, greens including kale, collard, and lettuce, and rhubarb. She loves composting and mostly uses coffee grounds and spent grains. At the Sitka Farmers Markets, she sold collard greens and delicious pies. Strawberry-rhubarb is her favorite.

This year, she has been growing zucchini and tomato plants inside her newly established high tunnel via a NRCS grant. She thanks those in the community who helped her put up the high tunnel, and particularly market vendor Kerry MacLane’s instrumental assistance. Even though she has retired from the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, Linda was one of the original board members. She also was one of the first managers of the Sitka Farmers Market, and she organized the first Let’s Grow, Sitka! education event.

LindaWilsonWithPieWilson loves making homemade pizza from scratch with homegrown tomatoes, onions, sliced zucchini, nasturtiums, broccoli, garlic, and basil. She says, “I grow tomatoes because it’s a challenge, and I’m gonna get it.” She also makes a mean pesto with carrot top greens. When she produces an overabundance of produce, she donates to the Salvation Army.

She loves to go mushroom foraging, and also picks berries to make a variety of jams. Her favorite is blueberry-huckleberry jam.

From 1985 until 2007, Wilson managed one of the local gift shops in town, where they sold authentic Russian imports. From 2003 to 2006, she also worked on a cruise ship in the Baltic Sea where she lectured on Russian arts and crafts, knowledge she had gained while managing the gift shop. Today, she works part-time with the Sitka Economic Development Association (SEDA), takes care of her father, and makes beautiful sculpted wire jewelry with gemstones.

Every February, Wilson makes a two-week trip down to one of the biggest jewelry shows in the world. She has attended the show 12 out of the past 13 years. Her favorite stones are fossils: coral, ammonites, and sand dollars, because, she says, “They used to be living.” She has a rock shop in her house where she houses her jewelry making studio with beautiful stones and lapidary equipment including a slab saw, trim saw, grinder, and rock tumbler, throughout. “Nature makes amazing things.”

LindaWilsonsJewelryWhen she is not out in the garden, tending to her father, or making jewelry, Wilson loves “petting kitty bellies.” They have two cats, Spike and Sandy, at home, though many more are buried out back. “Serving as compost,” Wilson jokes.

If you don’t see her at the Sitka Farmers Market, make sure to check out Linda Wilson’s beautiful jewelry at the Island Artists Gallery, an artists cooperative on Lincoln Street. Her jewelry makes great gifts for yourself, family members, and friends.

• Sitka growers to contribute to local CSA venture

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

One of the latest trends in farming is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which enables people to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. Renee and Brian Pierce, who own the locally made kelp products and wild berry jelly shop Simple Pleasures of Alaska, are working with Sitka growers to start a small CSA venture with local produce during the summer growing season.

Renee Pierce said that instead of the CSA being a true farmers’ cooperative, she will buy produce from several local growers — including Florence Welsh of the Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals, Judy Johnstone of Sprucecot Gardens, Evening Star and Fabian Grutter of Eve’s Farm, and Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens. The CSA also will include produce from the Pierce Family’s Simple Pleasures garden.

The Sitka CSA will start small, with membership slots for just 25 families the first year. Renee Pierce said of those 25 slots, only about 10 memberships are left. CSA members will commit to paying $50 plus tax every other week, which will give the member families a selection of produce that includes some organic produce purchased from Organically Grown Company of Portland, Ore. During the months when Sitka growers aren’t producing many vegetables, there will be more produce purchased from Organically Grown Company. There also will be an option to buy bread at $6 a loaf beyond the price of the produce box.

The produce selection includes many crops that can be grown in Sitka — such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, green beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, tomatoes, etc. But with the Organically Grown Company providing some of the produce, CSA members also can choose items that aren’t regular Sitka crops — such as bananas, lemons, limes, pineapples, oranges, etc.

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce said she has worked with Organically Grown Company for about four years, purchasing organic produce for the Pierce family and several friends and other Sitka residents who heard about the venture (at one point she had about 60-70 families buying from her). She said she orders produce by the case, and it is available for pick-up from 3-6 p.m. every other Monday afternoon at the Simple Pleasures store next to Kettleson Memorial Library. The first pick-up day for the Sitka CSA is March 29 (which will be for the 15 or so families that already have reserved a spot in the CSA), and the next pick-up day is April 12. CSA members are encouraged to bring their own bags and/or boxes on pick-up days.

The pick-up days are slated to be during the weeks between the every-other-week Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, which will give local growers and buyers the opportunity to buy and sell local produce for both. Renee said there will be some produce extras for families that want to adjust their allotments, but everybody’s allotted produce value will be $50. If you add from the extras you will need to pay the difference, and if you give up some produce you don’t want so your value dips below $50 there are no refunds. She said the CSA is being done as a community service and it’s meant to just break even so the bills get paid.

To learn more about the Sitka CSA, contact Renee Pierce at 738-0044 (cell) or 747-3814 (home). You also can e-mail her at mpierce@ptialaska.net.

• Sitka Local Foods Network contracting for 2010 St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener

Darby Osborne, Doug Osborne, Kerry MacLane and Maybelle Filler pick radishes at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm before the first Sitka Farmers Market in 2008

Darby Osborne, Doug Osborne, Kerry MacLane and Maybelle Filler pick radishes at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm before the first Sitka Farmers Market in 2008

The Sitka Local Foods Network is contracting for a lead gardener to help manage our activities at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm community garden this summer. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (SPFF) is growing, and we’re adding new garden beds so we can grow more crops. The vegetables grown at SPFF are sold at the Sitka Farmers Market to help support the efforts of the Sitka Local Foods Network, with some crops also going to local church and charity groups. Here is the lead gardener contract description.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm 2010 Lead Gardener Contract Description

Work Experience: 2-3 years of varied vegetable gardening experience, preferably with at least one year in Southeast Alaska. This includes planning, cultivating, harvesting, composting and preparing vegetables for sale or preservation, as well as putting the garden to rest for the season.

Contract Requirements:

  • Develop a garden plan that includes succession planting in conjunction with the SPFF tri-coordinators (board members Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne and Maybelle Filler)
  • Conduct soil testing and amend the soil to improve soil quality using available resources (i.e., seaweed, bone meal, etc) in conjunction with the SPFF tri-coordinators and volunteer work parties
  • Cultivate plant starts using seeds provided by the SLFN and make recommendations for SPFF seed start kits to be distributed at the Let’s Grow Sitka event on March 14, 2010
  • Use organic gardening practices
  • Host 3 initial planting parties (from 2-4:30 p.m. on three Saturdays, May 15, May 22 and May 29) i.e., coordinate with the SPFF tri-coordinators to plan and direct work
  • Direct 75 percent of the garden work parties, i.e., these are tentatively scheduled for Wednesdays 4:30-6 p.m. and Saturdays 2-3:30 p.m. (on non-Sitka Farmers Market Saturdays) during the months of June, July and August, plus the first half of September, but can be negotiated.
  • Plan and oversee the harvest of the garden for the first five 2010 Sitka Farmers Markets (harvest usually takes place early on market-day mornings, July 17, July 31, August 14, August 28 and September 4)
  • Develop a method for quantifying the amount of vegetables harvested from SPFF and implement it
  • Maintain the composting and watering systems
  • Direct any questions or concerns to the SPFF tri-coordinators

Compensation: A total of $1,500 paid in three installments (May 15, July 15 and September 15) plus 5 percent of the SPFF harvest – this compensation schedule is open for negotiation.

If interested in the SPFF lead gardener contract, e-mail a resume that includes two local references that can speak to your gardening ability and a letter of interest by February 20th to 3akharts@acsalaska.net. Direct questions to Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or Doug Osborne at 747-3752.

• Chena Hot Springs greenhouse a model for Sitka greenhouse project

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One of the five focus areas for the Sitka Local Foods Network is to build a community greenhouse in Sitka. This will serve several functions, such as extending our growing season, allowing us to grow a wider variety of produce and expanding our capacity to grow fruits and vegetables in Sitka. The Sitka Local Foods Network has been looking at several locations around town and recently submitted a proposal for a possible site (more details as they become available).

Anyway, there is a model for a successful greenhouse here in Alaska, and it’s worth looking at so people from Sitka can see the possibilities.

Chena Hot Springs, located about 60 miles from Fairbanks, is working toward becoming a more sustainable community and an important element of this vision is being able to produce more of their own food locally. In 2004, Chena Hot Springs Resort installed a 1,000-square-foot test greenhouse that has become the only year-round producing greenhouse in Interior Alaska (click here to read more).

The hoop house greenhouse was able to maintain an interior temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit, even when outside temperatures dipped to minus-56 (the 134-degree difference is the largest ever recorded for a controlled environment facility in the U.S.). The greenhouse is heated by geothermal energy from the hot springs (165-degree water running through pipes embedded in concrete floor slabs). Click here for a downloadable report (as a PDF file) on the economic benefits of the project.

After the successful first year or two of production, Chena built a new 4,320-square-foot greenhouse to provide the resort’s restaurant with a greater variety of fresh produce on a year-round basis. Under optimal conditions the nearly 14,000 lettuce plants can grow nearly 150,000 heads of lettuce in a year. They also have 450 different tomatoes, including six Dutch varieties, a cherry tomato variety, a grape tomato variety, a beefsteak tomato variety and three intermediate cluster varieties. They also grow green beans, peppers, cucumbers and numerous greens and herbs (click here for a photo gallery). Chena Hot Springs Resort is working in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (click here for a link to the UAF AFES).

Chena Hot Springs Resort, which uses geothermal and other waste heat for power, will host the Fourth Annual Chena Renewable Energy Fair on Saturday, Aug. 22. Click here for more information.