Sitka to Host Conclave of SE Food Growers

Sentinel Staff Writer
    The secrets of mushroom growing, better composting and growing spinach leaves the size of dinner plates may be revealed at a conference this weekend in Sitka.
    The Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit is set for Friday through Sunday, with activities planned at Harrigan Centennial Hall and the SJ Campus. More than 100 growers and presenters are expected to attend.
    The summit will bring in experts from outside Sitka and Alaska to give workshops and presentations, with panel discussions giving gardeners and growers a chance to share knowledge.
    The idea behind the first Summit in 2015 was to bring together Southeast growers to learn from one another about producing local food in a challenging growing environment, and overcoming the obstacles of getting products to market. It’s been held every two years since then, giving growers a chance to reconnect, expand their knowledge and share experiences with a growing network of local food producers, said organizers.
    The first two summits were held in Petersburg and Haines, and this year is Sitka’s turn.
    Laura Schmidt, lead gardener for the Sitka Local Foods Network, said Sitka and Southeast growers have a lot in common, and can learn from each other.
    “They have challenging growing conditions; they often don’t have much access to soil or sun,” she said. “Once they’ve grown stuff, where do they sell it? Transportation and logistics are huge things for growers.”

Jennifer Nu, of Sustainable Southeast, at left, leads a tour of Moby, the Mobile Greenhouse, for Pacific High School staff this morning on the Baranof School ball field. The greenhouse was designed by a UA Southeast student and built by students from Juneau Douglas High School.  (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

    Schmidt runs St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and another garden in the 2900 block of Halibut Point Road. Produce grown is sold at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s Farmers Market and Chelan Produce. She was among 10 Southeast farmers who designed the curriculum for the summit this weekend.
    “We voted on all the things we wanted to learn about,” she said.
    The event kicks off 1 p.m. on Friday on the SJ Campus with an afternoon of opportunities to network with producers from around Southeast Alaska. Featured farms include Farragut Farm (Petersburg), Game Creek Orchards (Hoonah), Juneau Greens (Juneau), Middle Island Gardens (Sitka), Orsi Organic Produce (Auke Bay) and Sunnyside Farms (Haines).
    The day concludes with a potluck at 6 p.m. for participants and the community at Sweetland Hall.
    At 7 p.m. Friday is a presentation on “what grows best in Southeast,” followed by a screening of the film “Farmers for America.”
    The conference moves to Harrigan Centennial Hall for more activities on Saturday and Sunday.
    Presentations Saturday are on:
    – Pest Disease Management, Janice Chumley, UAF
    – Community Composting, Lisa Daugherty, Juneau Composts!
    – Farming in Fairbanks, Maggie Hallam, Cripple Creek Organics (Fairbanks)
    – Employees and Interns, Meghan Fehrman, Rogue Farm Corps (Oregon)
    – Cover Crops, Eero Ruuttila, Johnny’s Seeds (Maine)
    – PIA Composting, Brandon Thynes, Petersburg Indian Association
    – Growing Gourmet Mushrooms, Tristan Woodsmith, Fungi Perfecti (Washington State)
    Sunday is a chance to meet in small groups with different focus areas.
    The summit is presented by the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and Sustainable Southeast Partnership, with local growers and gardeners pitching in to help coordinate the conference here.
    Schmidt said she has attended the past two summits, and would recommend them for commercial growers and gardeners wanting to take their skills up a notch.
    “It’s just a fabulous resource,” she said. “Everyone’s doing exactly what you’re doing, and they’ve problem solved a lot of things. It’s very inspiring. It’s extremely helpful ... Instead of digging by yourself, you have a team to help make sense of what you’re doing better.”
    Andrea Fraga and her partner Kaleb Aldred, co-owners of Middle Island Gardens, are among three commercial agriculture businesses in town who grow produce for consumption, and will participate in the upcoming summit. (Schmidt said the conference is for those who grow produce for consumption, which excludes marijuana businesses.)
    On their one-third-acre island plot they grow numerous vegetables, including garlic, root crops, lettuce and kale, which they distribute to members of their Community Supported Agriculture business.
    Fraga said she’s also looking forward to sharing and learning at the upcoming summit.
    “For me it’s surprising how many folks in Southeast are doing commercial agriculture,” she said. “At the first one, it was really inspiring, there was a lot of good information for home gardeners as well. I enjoy the opportunity to learn from other growers in Southeast Alaska.”
    Lori Adams, owner of Down to Earth Garden in Sitka, will participate in two panel discussions, offering some tips on seed varieties, and how and whether to build the beds her business designs and builds.  
    Her 2,000-square-foot garden in the 2100 block of Sawmill Creek Road supplies produce to 14 weekly customers, her family, a restaurant and the family charter boat business.
    “The Farmers Summit is incredible to anyone that’s growing and trying to sell,” she said.
    Those wanting to attend the summit may register for the entire conference for as little as $60 (excluding meals), buy a day pass for $20 or attend a session for a donation. Meals are extra. The Sitka High and Blatchley Middle School music programs will be selling soup as a fundraiser Saturday and Sunday.
    Organizing partners in Sitka are the Sitka Conservation Society and Sitka Local Foods Network.
    Registration is available through, under the Farmers Summit tab.     

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At a Glance

(updated 5-30-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:15 pm Tuesday, May 30.

New cases as of Tuesday: 165

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 298,078

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,468

Case Rate per 100,000 – 22.64

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 58.70

Cases in last 7 days – 5

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,424

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






June 2003

Sitka Community Hospital board of directors has asked SEARHC to stop providing most health care services to non-beneficiary patients. “During the collaborative process SEARHC has said they’re happy to do anything they can do to help,” said SCH Administrator Bill Patten. “This is one of the things they can do – not provide services to non-beneficiaries.”



June 1973

What began 50 years ago in a Methodist parsonage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will be celebrated Sunday in Sitka. Les and Caroline Yaw’s four children invite the couple’s many, many friends to attend a golden wedding anniversary reception at the Centennial Building.