• Sitka’s ‘Fish to Schools’ project to be honored during Wednesday’s fish lunch at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School

Sitka’s Fish to Schools project will be honored with the grand prize of the Alaska Farm to School Challenge during the fish lunch from 11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11, at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. Alaska First Lady Sandy Parnell and Alaska Division of Agriculture Director Franci Havermeister will be in attendance to present the award.

Sitka’s Fish to Schools project came out of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, when increasing access to locally harvest fish in school menus was chosen as one of the community’s top four health priorities for the year. The project started with a monthly fish lunch entrée option at Blatchley Middle School, then expanded to Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary and Pacific High School. The program now is twice-monthly, and it has grown with the support of the Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka School District, local fishermen, and other community members. The program has become a successful model for what can be done in other parts of the state.

“We are excited to honor Sitka in its efforts, and appreciate that First Lady Sandy Parnell also see the value in projects like this that highlight both Alaska’s youth and natural resource bounty,” Havermeister said in a press release.

For more information about Sitka’s Fish to Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon at 747-7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org.

• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 11, at ANB Hall

Mark your calendars, because the 2012 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Don’t forget to set your clocks to spring forward so you can get ready to grow.

This annual event brings together local garden supply stores, local gardeners, landscapers and anybody who is interested in learning how to grow food and/or flowers. Sitka Local Foods Network Vice President Linda Wilson, who is coordinating the event with SLFN Board Member Cathy Lieser, was interviewed during the Morning Edition show Thursday on KCAW-Raven Radio and she provided more details about this event (click the link to listen to the interview), which helps Sitka residents get excited about the upcoming garden season.

There will be a wide variety of individuals and businesses with booths for the event, with some booths providing gardening information geared toward and others selling gardening supplies. Lunch will be available for purchase. Here is a tentative list of some of those planning to host booths:

  • Linda Wilson, Sitka Farmers Market, Grow a Row for the Market
  • Cathy Lieser, Let’s Grow Sitka, Sitka Local Foods Network
  • Doug Osborne. Sitka Local Foods Network?
  • Johanna Willingham, Pacific H.S./Sitka Farmers Market backup.
  • Jud Kirkness, Sicka Waste compost project, Fruit tree map
  • Tom Hart, compost, NZ composter ?
  • Kerry MacLane. Pest management
  • Lisa Sadleir-Hart. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm
  • Laura Schmidt, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm/Seed swap & share
  • Maybelle Filler, ???
  • Stanley Schoening, Chickens, fig trees, UAF Cooperative Extension Service
  • Judy Johnstone, High Tunnel program
  • David Lendrum, Guest speaker 3:15, info on new/unusual varieties for Southeast Alaska
  • Jeren Schmidt, Sitka Spruce Catering, lunch for purchase
  • Robert Gorman, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, history of Experimental Station
  • Andrianna Natsoulas, Food Sovereignty
  • Tracy Gagnon, Sitka 4H Club
  • Eve Grutter, Chickens, produce
  • Adam Chinalski, Model greenhouse
  • Penny Brown, Garden Ventures – products for sale
  • Amanda Grearson, True Value – products for sale
  • Lowell Frank, Spenard Building Supply Garden Center ??
  • Michelle Putz, Locally grown environmental benefits?
  • Rick Peterson, Gardening 101 – easiest to grow, need to amend soil, etc…
  • Lori Adams, Down-to-Earth U-Pick Garden – garden promotion and information
  • Mike Tackaberry/Robin Grewe, White’s Inc. – products for sale
  • Mandy Summers, Pacific High School
  • Kelly Smitherman, National Park Service – garden at Bishops House, etc…
  • Lisa Teas, Sitka Farmers Market art debut
  • Florence Welsh, Forget-Me-Not Gardens, local garden booklet, possible plant starts
  • Hope Merritt, Gimbal Botanicals herbal teas – info on wild herbs and herbs to grow

Right after the three-hour Let’s Grow Sitka event ends, guest speaker Dave Lendrum of Juneau will speak at 3:15 p.m. on “New Vegetable Varieties, Small Fruits, and Ornamentals for Southeast Alaska.” Lendrum is a landscape designer who just finished a two-year term as president of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardener Association and with his landscape architect wife, Margaret Tharp, owns Landscape Alaska.

Dave’s life has evolved in partnership with the natural world. He grew up in California on an organic u-pick vegetable farm, learning horticulture from his parents and the 4H club. He did nursery work and continued his post-college adventure in Ecuador by starting a fresh market produce business. After being a city horticulturist at the Eugene (Ore.) Parks Department, Dave started his first nursery, Western Oregon Perennials. A few years later, he found himself in a high-temperature photosynthesis lab at Stanford. In the Pacific Northwest, Dave restored old estate gardens. When he heard Alaska’s call, he moved north to Elfin Cove. Dave and his wife started Landscape Alaska in Juneau 28 years ago. They design and build landscapes on every scale and have won numerous awards both locally and nationally. In addition, Dave is the landscape superintendent for the University of Alaska Southeast and the Southeast representative on the statewide invasive species organization (SNIPM).

For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka, contact Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings, weekends) or lawilson87@hotmail.com, or Cathy Lieser at 978-2572. The two event fliers for this event are posted below as Adobe Acrobat files (PDF files).

• Main flier for 2012 Let’s Grow Sitka event

• Flier for Dave Lendrum presentation after Let’s Grow Sitka event ends

• Pacific High School and Sitka Conservation Society partner up to serve local fish in school lunches

Pacific High School student Jessie Young, left, co-principal Sarah Ferrency, center, and lunch coordinator Johanna Willingham load rockfish into the freezer at Pacific High School. an alternative high school in Sitka, Alaska. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY GAGNON / SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

Pacific High School student Jessie Young, left, co-principal Sarah Ferrency, center, and lunch coordinator Johanna Willingham load rockfish into the freezer at Pacific High School. an alternative high school in Sitka, Alaska. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY GAGNON / SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

Pacific High School now serves local seafood in the cafeteria and joins the growing ranks of schools connecting to local foods. Starting Wednesday, Feb. 1, Pacific High students will have a choice of local seafood dishes twice a month due to a partnership with the Sitka Conservation Society.

Sitka, Alaska, is the ninth largest fishing port in the country, but only recently did school children have access to the abundance of local seafood in school lunches. The project began in 2010 after getting more fish in school lunches was voted on as one of Sitka’s four health priorities at the Sitka Health Summit. The Sitka Conservation Society took the lead on the project and partnered with Blatchley Middle School in the winter of 2010-11 school year and then with Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School in 2011-12 to launch a Fish to Schools program. Due to the success of that program, it has evolved and spread to another school in the community.

Tracy Gagnon, Fish to Schools coordinator at Sitka Conservation Society said, “To kick off the new partnership, SCS’s Fish to Schools program will cook with Pacific High students to rally support for local fish lunches. A favorite recipe will be chosen for an upcoming Fish to Schools benefit.”

LOCALLY MADE– Americorps Volunteer Lauren Hahn, left, and Pacific High School students in the culinary arts program, Brendan Didrickson and Jenny Jeter, prepare a lunch of Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1. This was the first Pacific High lunch in the Fish to Schools program. The program began in 2010 as a Sitka Health Summit project when Sitka Conservation Society joined Blatchley Middle School to serve locally caught fish in school lunches. Since then, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and now Pacific High have joined the twice-monthly program. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, SCS is inviting commercial fishers to join students at Keet for lunch. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, printed in the Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, edition)

LOCALLY MADE– Americorps Volunteer Lauren Hahn, left, and Pacific High School students in the culinary arts program, Brendan Didrickson and Jenny Jeter, prepare a lunch of Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1. This was the first Pacific High lunch in the Fish to Schools program. The program began in 2010 as a Sitka Health Summit project when Sitka Conservation Society joined Blatchley Middle School to serve locally caught fish in school lunches. Since then, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and now Pacific High have joined the twice-monthly program. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, SCS is inviting commercial fishers to join students at Keet for lunch. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, printed in the Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, edition)

Unlike at the middle and elementary schools, Pacific High (the Sitka School District’s alternative high school) has more flexibility in the dishes it prepares with local fish. For example, the first Pacific High local seafood lunch will be Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice. Students help prepare the meals through the school’s culinary arts program. Every student earns their food handlers’ card and annually they cycle through a six-week cooking class. Students graduate high school with enough experience to enter into the cooking industry, bringing with them the knowledge to prepare scratch meals with healthy and local ingredients.

“We are striving to change the system by incorporating more local and traditional foods that the students want to eat,” said Johanna Willingham, Pacific High School lunch coordinator. “Through our innovative food-based meal program, the students are learning valuable life skills by developing recipes they enjoy and cooking with their local bounty.”

The Fish to Schools program creates new partnerships by uniting the local conservation organization and high school with community-based processors and fishermen. That partnership allows more students access to healthy lunches, as fish are packed with vitamins, proteins and omega-3 fatty acids that promote healthy hearts and healthy brains.

“Our community depends on the fish that comes out of the ocean, yet our school lunches were so disconnected from our local resources,” said Beth Short-Rhoads, Fish to Schools volunteer organizer, mother and fishing woman. “Thanks to Fish to Schools, our children now have access to local seafood. The fact that it is incredibly healthy is an even bigger bonus.”

There are more than 9,000 schools across the United States involved with local Farm to Schools programs. The majority of the programs serve land-based foods in the cafeterias, so Pacific High adds another layer by providing local seafood to students. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of the growing farm — or fish — to school movement across the country,” Gagnon said.

The Fish to Schools program also serves up local fish dishes at Blatchley Middle School and Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School on the second and fourth Wednesdays during the school year. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the program is honoring local commercial fishermen by inviting them to join the students at lunch so they can share the meal and answer questions the students may have about the fish. (Editor’s note: On Feb. 6, Tracy Gagnon, Beth Short-Rhoads and students Grace Gjertsen, Zofia Danielson and Sienna Reid were interviewed by Robert Woolsey about the We Love Our Fishermen! promotion on the Morning Edition show on KCAW-Raven Radio.)

The Sitka Conservation Society has been working to protect the temperate rain forest of Southeast Alaska and Sitka’s quality of life since 1967. SCS is based in the small coastal town of Sitka, in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest. For more information, go to http://www.sitkawild.org. To learn more about the Fish to Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon at tracy@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.

• Sitka Conservation Society hosts wild foods potluck on Wednesday, Nov. 2

The Sitka Conservation Society will host its second annual wild foods potluck on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with food served at 6 p.m.

Come celebrate Alaska’s bounty with friends and family. Bring a dish featuring food fished, foraged, hunted or cultivated in Southeast. If you don’t have any wild foods to share, just garnish your dish with a local plant. After dinner is served there will be a short presentation by SCS Community Sustainability Coordinator Tracy Gagnon about the Fish To Schools program.

There also will be presentation by Sitka High School musicians and booths from the Sitka Local Foods Network, the Slow Food Southeast Alaska group, the Sitka Sound Science Center, Sitka Trail Works, Recycle Sitka, Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition, Sitka 4H Club, Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Mt. Edgecumbe High School Youth for Environmental Action, Sitka Seafood Festival and more.

Prizes will be given for first place in the following categories: Best Entree, Best Side, Best Dessert, Most Creative, and Incorporation of the Most Local Ingredients. Entries should include a wild/local food. Pick up an entry form at the front table when you arrive at the potluck.

This event is open to the entire community; you do not need to be a Sitka Conservation Society member to attend. Non-alcoholic hot drinks will be provided.

For more information, contact Ashley Bolwerk at the Sitka Conservation Society office at 747-7509.

• Wild Foods Potluck flier (opens as PDF file)

• Fish to Schools program to serve fish lunches at two schools twice a month

The Fish to Schools program will kick off this year’s schedule of serving fish lunches at school on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Local fish lunches will be served every second and fourth Wednesday of the month at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary and Blatchley Middle School as a hot lunch option. This is a Sitka Health Summit project that got started last year with once-a-month fish meals at Blatchley, so this is a major expansion of the program. The goal is to get more wild, local fish into school lunches.

These fresh and tasty meals will be prepared with locally caught fish donated by Seafood Producers Cooperative and Sitka Sound Seafoods. Encourage your children to eat healthy and choose fish for lunch. It’s yummy and good for you.

Sitka Conservation Society Community Sustainability Organizer Tracy Gagnon was interviewed about the program on Aug. 22 on KCAW-Raven Radio, and you can listen to the interview at this link. For more information about the project, contact Tracy at 747-7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org.

• Sitka Conservation Society, UAF Cooperative Extension Service host organizational meeting for Sitka 4H club

Sitka Conservation Society Community Sustainability Organizer Tracy Gagnon holds a flier introducing a new 4H club for Sitka.

Sitka Conservation Society Community Sustainability Organizer Tracy Gagnon holds a flier introducing a new 4H club for Sitka.

The Sitka Conservation Society and Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host an organizational meeting for a new Sitka 4H club from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at Room 215 at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus.

4H is a national youth development organization that empowers young people to reach their full potential. In Alaska, the 4H program is part of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service. There used to be a 4H club in Sitka many years ago, but that club ceased operations. More information about the new Sitka 4H club can be found by clicking here.

The Sitka Conservation Society is working with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service to start a new club that will focus on Alaska way-of-life traditions, including but not limited to fishing, gardening, food preservation, baking, hiking and survival skills. Join in the harvest by learning to catch, hunt and grow your own food with other Sitka families. This program is organized by the families involved and led by parent volunteers.

The organizational meeting on Sept. 13 will discuss program logistics. Contact Tracy Gagnon at 747-7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org for more information. An RSVP is appreciated.

• Sitka 4H club registration/interest flier