• Sitka’s first home horticulture stand opens for business under new zoning ordinance

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The first home horticulture stand has opened in Sitka, taking advantage of a new zoning ordinance passed by the Sitka Assembly last December.

Anam Cara Family Garden, owned by Tom Hart and Lisa Sadleir-Hart, opened on Wednesday afternoon, July 1, in front of the family home at 815 Charles St. The farm stand will be open from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesdays through the summer, according to the stand’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/GardenStandonCharlesStreet.

Before opening the home horticulture stand, the Hart/Sadleir-Hart family (which includes daughter, Muriel Sadleir-Hart) had to go through an extensive process with the city to get approval to sell their excess produce. The hope is the new process will be streamlined so the city’s planning commission can approve permits without home gardeners having to go all the way to the Sitka Assembly for approval.

“We started preparing for opening our garden stand a year ago when we approached the city planner at the time, Wells Williams,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, who also is president of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors. “He was absolutely supportive of our efforts and coached us through the ordinance change process that would allow the sale of produce from a garden stand on our property in a residential zone. We met with the Planning and Zoning commission three times and the City and Borough Assembly three times, then came back to the Planning and Zoning commission three times after the zoning ordinance was passed. We were really glad to have moved through the public process to ensure our neighbors were supportive of what we wanted to pursue. The total time from the initiation of the public process to the date we actually received our conditional use permit, took about nine months. We had our ‘open garden stand’ event on July 1 and are looking forward to testing this venue for selling our excess produce.”

The ordinance allows garden stands in residential areas, but they are limited to six feet by eight feet. And to reduce the impact on neighbors, stands can only operate four hours a day, two days a week, between May and October. The ordinance specifically doesn’t include livestock or animal products. Home gardeners who set up produce stands in front of their homes will be required to have a business license and pay city sales tax.

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• Panel looks at allowing garden sales at homes

Tom Hart at Anam Cara Garden

Tom Hart at Anam Cara Garden

(The following article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 3, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

By TOM HESSE
Sentinel Staff Writer

A potential zoning change that would allow gardeners to sell their extra produce from home started to take shape at Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.

Lisa Sadleir-Hart works in Anam Cara Garden

Lisa Sadeir-Hart works in Anam Cara Garden

The proposal was brought forth by Lisa Sadleir-Hart and Thomas Hart [who own Anam Cara Garden] during an August meeting. The idea is to allow Sitkans with large gardens to sell their produce from their homes, which would include those in R-1, R-1 MH, R-2, R-2 MHP, GI and LI zoned districts. Since the zoning revision was first proposed, the city planning department has been trying to shape the rules, and Planning Director Wells Williams told commission members that there are a number of forms they could take.

“Like anything else, it’s a fairly simple concept but it gets complicated fairly quickly,” Williams said.

Currently, you-pick style gardens are allowed under a conditional use permit. Williams said the new proposal, which is being called commercial home horticulture, could follow a similar path. The big difference would be that gardeners could sell their produce and have a small stand in their yards where they could sell it. Those differences could be an issue in some neighborhoods, said commissioner Chris Spivey.

“There are definitely a lot of concerns about the sheer fact of having anything commercial in an R-1,” Spivey said.

Because of that, requests for commercial home horticulture permits would be done on a case-by-case basis under the proposals now being considered. Planning staff tentatively proposed a conditional use system whereby applicants would need to notify neighbors and take their applications through the planning process.

Sadleir-Hart said a four-week process to obtain a permit would be appropriate for gardeners who are looking ahead to the next growing season.

“Most people who would be moving through this process would be moving fall through winter,” she said. “To me that would be plenty of time and just being a good neighbor.”

Some of the issues commission members raised were about the days and times when sales would be allowed, how large garden stands could be, and how best to handle applications.

After a discussion, the commissioners decided the best system may be to set hours on a permit-to-permit basis.

“It’s that way with a lot of conditional use permits that we do. It varies from neighborhood to neighborhood,” commission member Richard Parmalee said.

Specifics are far from being concrete, but stands 6 feet by 8 feet in size, with an awning, are in the current proposal. They would be temporary, so they would be up only during the growing season.

“You’re going to have people in the neighborhood that want something that is aesthetically pleasing or temporary and easily broken down,” Spivey said.

Commissioners did take out a items from the original proposal, regarding greenhouses and sheds.

Williams said the planning office would take the comments from Tuesday night’s meeting and start drawing up a draft proposal with more specifics. The issue will be discussed further when the panel meets on Sept. 16.

• Meet your vendors: Lori Adams of Down-to-Earth U-Pick Garden

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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.) 

A couple of miles outside of town, up Sawmill Creek Road, there is a thriving garden with everything from fennel and radishes to kohlrabi and raspberries. Lori Adams operates the Down-to-Earth U-Pick Garden at 2103 Sawmill Creek Rd.

Adams grew up on a farm in Oregon and met her husband Dale in high school through the church community. The couple came to Sitka in 1986 and worked as commercial fishermen. They now have two sons, Ben, 24, and Levi, 18. Ben has a degree in biology and fisheries, and works at the Sitka Sound Science Center as a Chum Resource Coordinator. Levi is studying foreign languages at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The family lived on a boat for 11 years (as Adams says, “It’s a great way to start out here.”) and moved around before settling down on Sawmill Creek Road.

In 2009, Adams started Down-to-Earth U-Pick, shortly after the Sitka Local Foods Network started the Sitka Farmers Market. Adams credits Florence Welsh, the “matriarch of the Sitka gardening community,” for teaching her much of the gardening knowledge she knows today. They were neighbors on Halibut Point Road before Adams moved up Sawmill Creek Road with her family.

LoriAdamsGiftBasketAdams had a serious passion for gardening from the beginning, but was frustrated that fruits and vegetables would come and go, and were not consumed. She wanted to share her produce with others. She contacted Wells Williams in the Sitka Planning Department with her idea and he responded, “You want to do WHAT?” Perplexed at first, Williams soon jumped onboard. He helped to rewrite the city bylaws so Adams would be able to start the U-Pick, and she was approved.

Although the garden requires a lot of upkeep, she loves it and spends hours every day tending to it. Dale, a hunting guide, often asks her, “Why can’t you just be a carrot lady?” And she answers that providing the community with diverse locally grown produce is her true passion. Adams likes to provide a variety of vegetables so that people can see what grows well in this climate. “There is always something someone can pick.” Sometimes one thing will get over-picked, but it’s never been a real problem. Her garden is so successful in part because she is particular in her composting. “I know what’s here, and I bring in the cleanest possible [additions].” She has a family of ducks on the property that help perform slug control and add fertilizer to the beds.

In operating the only registered U-Pick garden in Sitka, Adams has overcome many obstacles. Despite the fact that locals are positive towards her about what she’s doing, she says, “People who are really into local food aren’t my regular customers because they grow their own food, but they do support me.” She has some regulars to the garden, but often her clientele consists of families with kids who usually get their produce from the grocery store, but like to tour the garden. Adams tries her best to keep up with what the grocery stores are charging and seems to be doing a great job. “I’m not a making a living here, but it pays for itself.” Her fennel runs $4 each, peapods are $5 per plastic crate, and carrots are 20 cents each, no matter the size.

She encourages anyone and everyone to start a U-Pick and would love to help them with the venture. “It would be great if we could have U-Picks like this become more of a feasible option for the community [through having more people start them].”

LoriAdamsWithBookIn the future, Adams hopes to expand into all of her usable property, and either continue with her U-Pick garden or possibly transition to farming and supply for restaurants and other similar institutions.

You might have recently spotted Lori driving down the road in the newest addition to her family: a 1946 Chevy pickup with running gear from a 1991 Caprice. A few years back while in her late 40s, she decided that for her 50th birthday, she was going to buy herself an old truck. She has always loved them. “I grew up on a farm. I think it’s just part of the nostalgia.” Her and Dale drove all the way from Kentucky, where they bought the truck, to Seattle, to send it home on the barge.

When she’s not gardening or driving her sweet new ride, Adams likes to crochet and design patterns, scrapbook, and when traveling, watch the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri, as there isn’t a television at home. One of her favorite go-to breakfast meals consists of a toasted bagel (she used cranberry-orange the other day) with real butter, garlic scape pesto, a fried egg, and locally smoked salmon. She loves garlic scapes. She puts them on everything — even into her vanilla smoothies!

Follow her two-week-long road trip journey with Dale from Kentucky to Seattle in her new vintage pickup, as well as her life at the U-Pick Garden on her blog at http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/. In addition, Adams sells copies of her book, “How to Grow Vegetables in Sitka, Alaska,” a collection of her 2012 Daily Sitka Sentinel “Gardening in Southeast Alaska” columns, for $20 each.

Come visit Lori and pick some produce from her beautiful garden Monday through Saturday between noon to 6:30 p.m. She will be at the next three Sitka Farmers Markets (Aug. 9, Aug. 23, and Sept. 6) with samples of her produce, but is also at the garden by 3 p.m. on those Saturdays. A few weeks ago, she came to the market with garlic scapes pulverized with olive oil and spread on a cracker. The combination was a HUGE hit. At the last market, she brought her Down-to-Earth peapods and homemade jams. Come visit her at the market this Saturday!