The 2019 Southeast Alaska Farmer's Summit took place this year in Sitka. A group from communities on Prince of Wales traveled to the summit. They share their stories here.  

Arianna George-Sheakley and Sarah Jenkins get their spring seeds started at the Coffman Cove School Greenhouse

Southeast Island School District-Agricultural Program 

The Farmer’s summit was one of the most valuable conferences I have been able to participate in. Working in Agricultural Education with Southeast Island School District, there are many resources available to glean information about growing, but few can consider the local conditions we have here is Southeast Alaska.  I learned so much about techniques and materials that work for Southeast Alaskan growing conditions. I wish I had learned a lot of it years ago! It was also reassuring to learn that other growers are struggling with our cold soils, full shade, lots of rain and limited shopping opportunities.  

The Farmer’s Summit was great for its formal presentations and its opportunity for one on one conversations.  During the Summit, there was so much information that I could barely get into my notebook or quickly take a picture of a innovative idea on a slide. I only had two pages left in my notebook by Sunday afternoon.  In addition to the formal presentations, there was plenty of opportunity for one-on-one conversations with other participants. Coming from Prince of Wales Island where we know everyone, it can be intimidating going into a venue of strangers.  Within the first night in Sitka, we made friends with our dormmates. By the end of Friday, Sweetland Hall was full of familiar friendly faces and delicious food. Now that we are back on the farm(s), we can rattle off the farmer’s name and the techniques they used in the situation we’re working on.

Since we have returned from the summit we got into full swing with spring planting and preparing for the coming season. Some tips we are already trying out: bringing some apple trees into the greenhouse, restructuring the tomato rollers, ordering varieties of seeds with proven track records, winterizing the vermicompost bins and ordering several Victorinox knives.  I feel much more prepared for the coming year of growing with the students at Southeast Island School District.  

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Megan Fitzpatrick

 

Coffman Cove School Greenhouse February 2019

Our Experience at the Southeast Alaska Farmer’s Summit 2019 in Sitka, AK

The collection of like-minded and positive-thinking people was extremely motivational for me. The individual presentations showing some amazing farms of all natures, specialties, and sizes was fantastic to see. A confirmation that there is more than one way to do it out here! Seeing other farmers present their operations and show their successes, as well as their failures, was the most invaluable to me. The struggles they endured and persevered through inspired me to continue to persevere through the difficulties that we face our own operations. Our entire crew returned from the conference absolutely saturated with new information, but with a new vigor for our beautiful farm! The series of networks and friends that were made at the Summit are people I can’t wait to continue to share information (and secrets) with and hopefully watch all of us grow even more from this already thriving community. 

Rose Ruel

Greenhouse tech

Coffman Cove

Students test tomato support beans at the Coffman Cove School Greenhouse

I am so grateful to have had the experience of attending the Southeast Farmers Summit this year.  I am inspired by the food growers and composters of this region.  Each presenter was so interesting and shared valuable information such as tried and true methods, favorite seeds or tools.  I have returned to Thorne Bay School greenhouse with tips on improving our worm bins, new varieties and method of growing garlic and most of all determination from seeing it can be done even under difficult conditions!  Thank you to the organizers and farmers of the Southeast Summit and the beautiful town of Sitka for a most memorable weekend.

Sincerly,

Kimberly Skarda

Thorne Bay School

Americorps Volunteer

Thorne Bay School Greenhouse- First transplants, students with Kim Skarda, Spring 2019

It was incredibly inspiring to see the personal drive and outright ingenuity of like minded people in the region. The summit proved that there are many hard earned solutions to the natural challenges of this climate. It was encouraging to learn that nearly all of us are learning and growing in a trial - by - fire fashion, while making do with what little we have available, and still finding time to experiment and think outside the box. All in all, the summit fully captured the essence of the lifestyle that we have all come to embrace living here in Southeast Alaska.

Eric Bazzett

Americorps volunteer,

Coffman Cove

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