Emma Widmark worked with the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Services for years, in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region and throughout Southeast Alaska. As a home economist, she shared proper nutrition, cooking tips, health and safety advice and home decorating help with people in rural villages.
"These are things that one should learn while you're going to school, except that they're no longer taught in school," Widmark said. "People think that home economics are not needed, but we have a real lack of information because no one bothered to educate people about these things."
In the Yukon-Kuskokwim, that sometimes meant explaining serving sizes on the food guide pyramid.
The University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service celebrates its 75th anniversary with a gala at the House of Wickersham from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. sept. 24.
"When they talk about 6 or 7 servings, they kind of think of what they normally eat at home or a restaurant," Widmark said. "A serving size of meat is the size of a pack of cards."
In Southeast Alaska, it meant sharing the dangers involved in canning fish.
"When canning began we knew very little about it and very little about the bacteria that could grow," Widmark said. "As time has passed, we've had the opportunity to learn more things."
The Cooperative Extension Service turned 75 on July 1 and is celebrating its anniversary with a gala blowout at the House of Wickersham from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sept. 24.
As part of the celebration, the service is soliciting any recipes - traditional, family or otherwise - that include salmon, sourdough or berries, three Southeast Alaska staples. The recipes are due Aug. 31 and may be included in an upcoming CES publication. Some will also be featured in the Juneau Empire.
Send a copy of your recipe to firstname.lastname@example.org, mail it to Korry Keeker, c/o Juneau Empire, 3100 Channel Drive, Juneau, AK 99801, or drop it off at the Empire's front desk during office hours, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
"We want to make this very specific to the Southeast," said Sonja Koukel, Juneau district extension agent with the home economics program. "And that's why we're asking for participation from Haines to Metlakatla. It would be really rewarding for people to get their family recipes into a possible publication for the university
At the party, several of the cooks who submit recipes will prepare their dishes for the crowd. Dale Wygant will play accordion.
"I think it will be really fun to get some historical perspective on what people ate and how they have kept that continuity and tradition within their families," Koukel said.
The Cooperative Extension Service was created as a result of the 1914 Smith-Lever Act, which allocated money for the cooperative administration of agricultural extension education by the USDA and state land-grant colleges. In Alaska, James Wickersham, the territorial delegate to the U.S. Congress, lobbied for legislation in 1915 that set aside 250,000 acres in Fairbanks for the college that became UAF. The school was founded in 1917 as Alaska's land-grant college.
Korry Keeker can be reached at email@example.com.