Fall is an exciting time of year in Southeast Alaska- there are fish, game, berries, mushrooms and gardens to harvest and eat.
A few local and regional food sustainability projects have been completed and there is a Southeast Farm and Fish to School Conference and a Mobile Greenhouse to look forward to!
Invigorating Alaska’s Food System with Wild Foods: Wild Foods Harvest, Kasaan
Check out the short video that showcases the Kasaan Wild Foods Harvest, an event that was facilitated through partnerships with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, the Cooperative Extension Service, the Organized Village of Kasaan, the Sitka Conservation Society and Southeast Conference (see full post here). Watch the video to learn about a growing community of Alaskan residents, communities and organizations who are dedicated to invigorating Alaska’s Food System with wild foods.
The Southeast Conference Annual Meeting was held in Wrangell this year. This was a venue that brought together economic development and government agency representatives, advocates and private business representatives from throughout the region to present and discuss pertinent issues, projects and plans for Southeast Alaska. Transportation, mining, timber, maritime and energy sectors were well represented. Additionally, I had the opportunity to moderate a Food Sustainability Panel that consisted of four presentations and a question and answer session. Presenters included Bob Christensen, the coordinator of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership; myself; Carrie Sykes, the Economic Development Director for the Organized Village of Kasaan; and Carmen Landers, Megan and Jonathan Fitzpatrick from the Thorne Bay School Greenhouse.
I began with a brief introduction to the topic of food sustainability and what that means and looks like for southeast Alaskan’s. Bob followed up with an overview of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and examples of projects in each of the sectors. The presentation I gave was a summary of the results from the Southeast Alaska Food System Assessment cultivator survey (view report here), regional opportunities, and current regional and local food sustainability projects I am coordinating.
The last two presentations focused on some specific local food sustainability projects. Carrie shared the Totem Café project and the video that highlights the Kasaan Wild Food Harvest. The final presentation was led my Carmen Landers, a 16 year old student from Thorne Bay High School. Carmen manages the Throne Bay Greenhouse year round and led the presentation. The greenhouse is heated by a GARNS wood fired boiler and also provides heat to the school, and has LED lights (more on the greenhouse here).
This proved to be an exceptional venue and opportunity to showcase some of the exciting work that is taking place around the region to promote more local and regional projects.
A Mobile Greenhouse is currently in the design phase. Kaden Phillips, a UAS Construction Technology student, and his mentor Robin Gilcrest, UAS professor of Construction Technology are designing a greenhouse to be built on a trailer. High school construction class at Juneau Douglas High School will build the greenhouse beginning in January. This easily replicable, mobile unit constructed of locally sourced materials (when possible), will travel to different locations around the region or within communities for the duration of the growing season. The greenhouse will likely be housed at schools and engage youth in activities related to growing food in a controlled environment. Curriculum will be developed using existing resources and will incorporate science, math, health and culinary classes. This will be a very low risk, visible demonstration project to help identify youth and other community members interested in growing food at a larger scale, in a controlled environment.
Southeast Conference was awarded a USDA Farm to School Conference grant. This is the first time such an event will be hosted in Southeast Alaska with a focus on regional opportunities and networking among schools, local food cultivators, food processors, Native organizations, and community agencies. The Conference will be held in Juneau April 2 -3.
The goal of the Southeast Alaska specific Farm and Fish to School Conference is to promote the formation of a network of local food producers, school business managers, cooks and educators; improve health outcomes; strengthen local economies; and reinforce cultural and traditional place-based practices. It will feature opportunities, agencies and resources for projects; successful models in action; methods to integrate local foods into daily meal preparation; cooking demonstrations and recipes for local foods; place-based, culturally appropriate implementation; and local foods procurement. The conference will serve as a vehicle to connect food producers to a sizeable local market and facilitate the formation of a network of Southeast food producers to enable problem solving and access to resources to launch, initiate and enhance local food production.
Stay tuned for more information regarding the Conference and email GrowSoutheast@gmail.com to stay updated by email.