Innovative agent helps residents thrive
Sarah Lewis became the Southeast Alaska family and community development agent after working as a professional architect for 19 years and earning a master’s degree in social work. She sees connections between all three worlds. “It’s about helping people thrive in their environment,” she said.
Lewis, who is based in Juneau, already had a strong interest in food security before coming to Extension six years ago. She had trained as a Master Gardener and served on local foods groups in Juneau.
As a new agent, Lewis worked with other agents to sharpen her food preservation skills — and started offering classes. She teaches a variety of pickling and fermenting, canning, and preparing wild foods classes in Juneau and other Southeast communities when the travel budget allows.
She is known for innovative programs, such as the life skills class she teaches students called Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. She also coordinates Wild Kitchen Walks around Juneau. After the participants harvest wild foods on a hike, they prepare delicacies with Lewis, such as nettles pesto and pickled fireweed shoots.
Her programs respond to community needs. Lewis also educates potential entrepreneurs about the state’s cottage food business rules. After learning that the hospital needed someone to lead group diabetes prevention programs, she trained and started a year-long session last fall — and plans to start another this spring.
“I see myself as filling gaps in the community,” she said.