A few quick updates from Sitka! I recently attended the Tongass Collaborative Stewardship Group meeting in Juneau along with a few other SCS staff members. I was able to make some valuable connections with state staff and further conversations on our young-growth projects. This also led to me meeting with Rep. Kreiss Tomkins and a request for state funding to further SCS efforts with young-growth. We hope that it will lead to more funding and catalyzation of young-growth markets and will couple with our 2014 National Forest Foundation (NFF) grant proposal. The NFF proposal is part of their Community Capacity and Land Stewardship (CCLS) program and allowed SCS to develop and coordinate past young-growth projects like the Red Alder installation in Sitka and the young-growth bike shelter. This year’s proposal revolves around the construction of a ‘small home’ or ‘tiny house.’ SCS will partner with University of Alaska Southeast and other community groups to construct a pilot home incorporating the choice of locally sourced materials into the curriculum. The course will provide vocational training that addresses not just techniques, but material sourcing, stimulating local markets and exploring a construction model that is affordable and suited to Southeast communities.
Another project I am working on is coordinating a student group from the University of Michigan. UM students in the School of Natural Resources and Environment have chosen to work with SCS for the design and execution of their masters thesis. Eight students will be working on land management issues on Kruzof Island. Scott Harris and I will serve as mentors and guides for the team along with Chris Leeseberg from the US Forest Service. The students will also provide info for the Collaborative Stewardship Group for feedback and input.
Lastly, I have been focusing heavily on the ‘Sitka Food Hub’ initiative. We are currently working on a business plan after meeting with regional catalyst Alana Peterson. The food hub revolves around a commercial kitchen space that will provide opportunities for community education, training opportunities for food based careers and lower the barrier to entry for food based entrepreneurs. All of this is achieved with a flexible kitchen space and equipment that can be rented a la carte by ‘tenant’ customers. We have a list of local entrepreneurs interested in working with the kitchen once we are able to provide some kitchen space. We are also working with an extension agent in Juneau to offer some canning/nutrition classes for the community later this summer. Tracy Gagnon with SCS has offered to help us in developing some curriculum ideas.