Come March I find myself starting to fantasize about fresh wild strawberries! - BC

Come March I find myself starting to fantasize about fresh wild strawberries! – BC

The months of March and April have been filled with initial evaluations with the Community Catalysts to understand where the most feasible opportunities exist for food sustainability. Outlined below are the projects in progress at community and regional scales.

 

Community Projects

Hoonah: Community Garden                                                                                                                               

The Hoonah Indian Association built a community garden, the next step is to work on community engagement and investment. We’ll kick off the community garden May 1st and 2nd with soil building activities and seaweed collecting with youth involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program, students from the 5th grade, and community members who signed up for plots. Following the soil preparation events at the beginning of May, we will hold a community meeting and serve foods that are grown easily in the garden and hold a planting day led by a local master gardener. Additionally, we are working to complete the tool inventory for the community garden and to build a three-bin compost system.

 

Kasaan­: Community Wild Foods Harvest Event                                                                                            

Carrie Sykes, Kasaan Community Catalyst, and I are planning a Community Wild Foods Harvest event.  This event will  focus on bringing together community members to harvest and processes wild foods. Community elders and the Organized Village of Kasaan will lead the harvesting and processing event for school children, elders, and other community members.  The event will be in June. We will jar Beach asparagus, goose tongue, fiddle head fern, and spruce tip jelly, and dry Hudson Bay tea.

 

Kake: Commercial Greenhouse                                                                                                                          

Within the next three years a greenhouse will be built that is heated by waste heat energy from a diesel powerhouse. We are in the preliminary planning stages now. Representatives from the Inside Passage Electric Company, Alaska Center for Energy and Power, the Village of Igiugig, Organized Village of Kake, and Chena Hot Springs Controlled Environment met to discuss greenhouse design options, activities to achieve community involvement, and potential business plans in late March. Adam Davis, Kake Community Catalyst, and I, are now working to build local capacity to prepare for this greenhouse.

 

Fish to Schools Program Evaluation

The goal of these evaluations is to assess community capacity in Kasaan, Hydaburg, Hoonah, & Kake to begin maximize the Fish to Schools Program. I am working with Tracy Gagnon, Community Sustainability Organizer from Sitka Conservation Society, and Community Catalysts to coordinate assessments in Kasaan, Hydaburg, Hoonah, and Kake. We will meet with school district staff, school food service, local fisherman, DEC permitted processors/tenders, teachers, students and other local entities in each community to assess capacity to begin or develop a Fish to Schools program.

 

Regional Projects                                                                                                                                                              

Farm and Fish to Schools Conference: I submitted a letter of intent on behalf of Southeast Conference to apply for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program: Conference/Events to support a state conference: Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to School Conference. This is the first time such an event will be hosted in Southeast Alaska with a focus on regional opportunities and networking among schools, food cultivators, food processors, Native organizations, and community agencies. The proposed conference would be scheduled for spring 2015 in Juneau.

Goals:

  • The formation of a network of local food producers, processors, distributors, school buyers and educators; improve health outcomes, strengthen local economies by keeping more “food dollars” within local economies; and reinforce cultural/traditional place-based practices.
  • 100 participants representing: educators and food service managers from the 17 School Districts within Southeast Alaska; local food growers; fish processors; community members interested in becoming food producers; Native organizations; University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service; health professionals; Native elders; local chefs; and community and economic development agency representatives.
  • Two-day conference to showcase opportunities for connecting local food producers to our region’s school lunch programs and to provide background information on programs and local agencies, successful models in action, ideas for local projects, and opportunities for networking. Time will be allocated for action planning including networking with agencies and resources to launch, initiate, and enhance local Farm to School programs, to promote local food resources, place-based and culturally appropriate implementation, and community vitalization.

Potential presenters: representatives from the Alaska School Lunch Program, Alaska School Nutrition Association, Alaska Farm to Schools, University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service, Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Sitka Conservation Society, USDA Alaska Farm Service Agency, traditional food experts and Native Elders, the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, and health educators.

Key agency partners for planning this conference include:

  • Southeast Conference
  • Alaska Farm to Schools
  • Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District
  • University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service
  • Sustainable Southeast Partnership
  • Sitka Conservation Society
  • Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

That’s all for now- over the next couple of weeks I will visit the communities and post updates and photos!

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