U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska harvest Tlingít potato garden for community

The community is invited to help harvest the U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tlingít potato garden at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4. This workday and educational opportunity will be at the Sitka Ranger District office, located at 2108 Halibut Point Road. Staff will provide information on how to care for Tlingít potatoes, their biology, history, and cultural aspects.

Volunteers from the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program, the gardening class from Pacific High School, and others from the community planted the potatoes in April in the sunny plot of land the Sitka Ranger District provides to serve as the shared potato garden. School and tribe volunteers assist in the harvest, but community involvement is also needed.

Participants should come prepared for the weather as all activities will occur outdoors. Attendees are asked to wear boots and gardening gloves, and bring hand trowels and buckets of kelp to incorporate into the soil after harvesting.

Potatoes will be dried and prepared for storage. Many of the potatoes harvested will be saved as next year’s seed potatoes. The rest of the harvest will be shared among the volunteers and through the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and Social Services Department.

For the third year in a row, the potato garden will help support food security in Sitka and be an ambassador for heirloom varieties of vegetables throughout Southeast Alaska.

“This year, we shared Maria’s ‘Tlingít’ seed potatoes with Supanika Ordonez and Timothy James Ackerman and their children. Timothy’s grandmother was Maria Ackerman Miller, whom the potatoes were named after,” says Michelle Putz, project coordinator and lead gardener for the Sitka Ranger District. “It’s exciting that our potato project has allowed this historic and delicious food to end up back in the hands —and the dirt—of the ancestors who brought it forward to scientists. Because of Forest Service and Sitka Tribe’s efforts to cultivate and share this potato and information about it, this unassuming potato has gone full circle.”

Supanika and her children (shown in the photos) were thrilled to grow Maria’s potatoes.

“We recently bought a house in Juneau and we were hoping to grow some of Maria’s potatoes with our sons. Last year, we had gotten some [seed potatoes] from Maria’s daughter in Bellingham (Wash.), but they had been cross-bred with a purple potato variety. We had hoped that some were Tlingít potatoes, but the crop was all purple,” Supanika said. “This spring, the Forest Service gave us some Maria’s seed potatoes from the Forest Service/Sitka Tribe potato garden. As they started to pop out of the ground, our 3-year-old would say ‘great-grandma’s potatoes’ every time we walked by. The boys had fun harvesting this week. We got quite a crop, so we have enough to save and plant next year too.”

Sitka District Ranger Perry Edwards, adds, “We could not be happier than to bring this potato back to the family that brought it to us in the first place.”

Tlingít potatoes (sometimes called Maria’s potatoes) have been present in Tlingít gardens for more than 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile* and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800’s.

All are invited to learn and assist in this workday. For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 907-747-2708 or michelle.putz@usda.gov.

*Zhang, Linhai with Charles R. Brown, David Culley, Barbara Baker, Elizabeth Kunibe, Hazel Denney, Cassandra Smith, Neuee Ward, Tia Beavert, Julie Coburn, J. J. Pavek, Nora Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer. Inferred origin of several Native American potatoes from the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska using SSR markers. Euphytica 174:15-29

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The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 30 percent of the nation’s surface drinking water to cities and rural communities and approximately 66 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 900 million forested acres within the U.S., of which over 130 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

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UAS-Sitka Campus to host annual class on Southeast Alaska mushroom identification

The University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus Office of Continuing Education will host the class “Southeast Mushrooms: With Kitty LaBounty” on Sept. 12-15.

This three-day class takes place from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, and from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15, at the UAS-Sitka Campus (with field trips). The course fee is $50 and students should dress for the outdoors, bring waxed paper and a bucket for gathering.

This course is designed to introduce students to the mushroom flora of Southeast Alaska. The focus will be on the use of taxonomic keys for identification of fungi and recognition of both edible and poisonous mushrooms. Cooking and preservation of mushrooms will be discussed. Field trips are followed by in-class identification of collected mushrooms.

There is a maximum of 18 students allowed in this class. Please contact the Office of Continuing Education at (907) 747-7700 for further information.

Fish to Schools program launches annual coho salmon donation drive for commercial fishermen

The Annual Fish to Schools Coho Donation Drive starts on Monday, Aug. 19.

The Sitka Fish to Schools program brings communities together around a food that is culturally, traditionally, and economically important to Sitka. By integrating locally caught seafood into Sitka school lunch programs, Fish to Schools fosters a deeper youth understanding of local seafood, teaching children that salmon require respect in both harvest and habitat. Coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, the hope is this program will lay the groundwork on how fishing works and inspires children to either support or become involved in the industry.

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie Wednesday (April 25, 2018) during lunch at the school. The elementary school was hosting fishermen who donated part of their catch to the Fish to Schools program. The program is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society and provides fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School, the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The Fish to Schools program (click here to see short video) started as a community wellness project of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit. It quickly spread from providing one monthly fish option in one Sitka school lunch to providing weekly fish options at all Sitka schools (including some not in the Sitka School District). The Sitka Fish to Schools program has been used as a model for school districts all over the state, and helps teachers with lesson plans about fishing in Alaska. The program also seeks photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

While the donation drive targets commercially caught FAS (frozen at sea) coho salmon, there is room for yelloweye rockfish donations. But please don’t target yelloweye rockfish for the program — it only wants yelloweye that are accidentally caught.

The drive will run from Aug. 19 through Sept. 5. To donate, tell scale operators how many fish you would like to donate as you offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish).

If you have any additional questions, please contact Heather Bauscher of the Sitka Conservation Society at (907) 747-7509 or heather@sitkawild.org.

Sitka Tribe, Forest Service continue Tlingít potato garden for community

The USDA Forest Service Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska will work together again from 10:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, April 19, at the Sitka Ranger District (2108 Halibut Point Road) to create an educational opportunity and traditional food source for community members. Forest Service staff and the tribe will share how to grow Tlingít (sometimes called Maria’s) potatoes, and share the biology, history, and cultural aspects of these interesting potatoes.

Since 2017, the Sitka Ranger District has provided a sunny plot of land to serve as the shared Tlingít potato garden. Together, the Tribe and the Forest Service provide the seed potatoes to plant the garden. The Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and the gardening class from Pacific High School will again assist with the planting.

Community involvement is also needed to get the garden planted. Volunteers are asked to bring boots, gardening gloves, and shovels. Five-gallon buckets of seaweed to incorporate into the soil are beneficial, too. Members of the community who help tend the shared garden may receive more than gratitude as their reward.

“Last fall we harvested 90 pounds of potatoes. We shared the harvest among those helping out and through the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program. And this year, we will be expanding the garden so we can grow even more potatoes,” said District Ranger Perry Edwards. “This project teaches people how to grow and sustain a traditional food, while supporting the need for food security among Sitka Families. It’s also a fun and very sustainable way to celebrate Earth Day.”

Tlingit potatoes have been present in Tlingit gardens for over 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile* and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800’s.

This work day and educational opportunity will be from 10:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, April 19, at the Sitka Ranger District office, located at 2108 Halibut Point Road. For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 907-747-2708 or michelle.putz@usda.gov.

*Zhang, Linhai with Charles R. Brown, David Culley, Barbara Baker, Elizabeth Kunibe, Hazel Denney, Cassandra Smith, Neuee Ward, Tia Beavert, Julie Coburn, J. J. Pavek, Nora Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer. Inferred origin of several Native American potatoes from the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska using SSR markers. Euphytica 174:15-29

Sitka Conservation Society to host annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sunday, Nov. 18

The Sitka Conservation Society is hosting its annual Wild Foods Potluck on starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Please bring a dish featuring ingredients that were fished, foraged, hunted, or cultivated in Southeast Alaska. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and dinner will begin at 5:45 p.m.

This event is open to the entire community. Come celebrate Alaska’s wild food bounty.

The Sitka Conservation Society could never pull off an event this big without help from volunteers, members, and our community. Interested in volunteering at the potluck or want more information? Contact info@sitkawild.org or call 747-7509. Current members should be able to pick up their 2019 SCS calendar at the dinner.

Forest Service, Sitka Tribe to harvest Tlingit potato garden for community on Oct. 19 (changed to Oct. 24)

The U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska will harvest the Tlingít community potato garden — and present scientific and cultural information about the unique crop — at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, at the Sitka Ranger District office, 2108 Halibut Point Road (NOTE: According to the flier posted at the library, this event has been moved to 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24). Participants from the community will receive information on how to grow Tlingít potatoes, as well as their biology, history, and cultural aspects.

Michelle Putz stands in the Tlingít potato garden at the U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District office.

The Sitka Ranger District provides the sunny plot of land to serve as the shared potato garden and tends the garden over the summer. Volunteers from the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program, the gardening class from Pacific High School, and others from the community planted the potatoes in April. School and tribe volunteers are expected to assist in the harvest, but community involvement is also needed. Attendees are asked to wear boots and gardening gloves, and bring hand trowels or shovels. Five-gallon buckets of kelp to incorporate into the soil after harvesting also would be beneficial.

All of the potatoes will need to be dried and prepared for storage. Many of the potatoes harvested will be saved as next year’s seed potatoes. Depending on the size of the harvest, the group will share the harvest among the volunteers and through the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and Social Services Department.

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some of the potato plant’s flowers.

The potato garden was started in 2017, partially, to support food security in Sitka.

“We’re excited about this year’s harvest because of the size and vigor of this year’s potato plants. The plants are more than three times the size of last year’s plants, so we are hopeful that we’ll have a really good harvest,” said Perry Edwards, Sitka District Ranger. “We also look forward to learning more about the genetic make-up of our harvest from the scientists who have studied them over the last year.”

Tlingit potatoes (sometimes called Maria’s potatoes) have been present in Tlingit gardens for over 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile* and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800’s.

This work day and educational opportunity will be at the Sitka Ranger District office, located at 2108 Halibut Point Road. Participants should come prepared for the weather as all activities will occur outdoors. For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 907-747-2708 or mputz@fs.fed.us.

*Zhang, Linhai with Charles R. Brown, David Culley, Barbara Baker, Elizabeth Kunibe, Hazel Denney, Cassandra Smith, Neuee Ward, Tia Beavert, Julie Coburn, J. J. Pavek, Nora Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer. Inferred origin of several Native American potatoes from the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska using SSR markers. Euphytica 174:15-29

UAS-Sitka Campus to host annual class on how to identify Southeast Alaska mushrooms

The University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus Office of Continuing Education will host the class “Southeast Mushrooms: With Kitty LaBounty” this weekend.

This three-day class takes place from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8, and from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 9, at the UAS-Sitka Campus (with field trips). The course fee is $50 and students should dress for the outdoors, bring waxed paper and a bucket for gathering.

Click on image to enlarge

This course is designed to introduce students to the mushroom flora of Southeast Alaska. The focus will be on the use of taxonomic keys for identification of fungi and recognition of both edible and poisonous mushrooms. Cooking and preservation of mushrooms will be discussed. Field trips are followed by in-class identification of collected mushrooms.

There is a maximum of 18 students allowed in this class. Please contact the Office of Continuing Education at (907) 747-7700 for further information.

In addition to the Southeast Mushrooms class, the next Natural History Seminar presents “Mushroom Poisoning and Mycotoxins: The bad side of eating mushrooms and moldy food.” This presentation with Sam David starts at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, in Room 229 on the UAS Sitka Campus.