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July2015SLFNNewsletterScreenshot

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the July 2015 edition of its newly launched monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This edition of the newsletter has brief stories about the Sitka Farmers Market opening its eighth season on July 4, how you can help us win $15,000 for the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and other programs in the Gardens for Good contest, a series of free food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops offered by the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Food program and UAF Cooperative Extension Service at Sitka Kitch, and the grand opening of the first home horticulture stand under a new zoning ordinance passed by the Sitka Assembly. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the registration form image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others.

SitkaKitch2015CanningClasses

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service are teaming up to offer a series of four free food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops on Thursday through Saturday, July 16-18, at the Sitka Kitch. There also will be free pressure canner gauge testing at the Sitka Farmers Market on July 18.

The Sitka Kitch is a rental community commercial kitchen project coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the Sitka Local Foods Network, located inside the First Presbyterian Church, 505 Sawmill Creek Road. The Sitka Kitch was a project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit designed to improve food security in Sitka while also providing a space for people wanting to get into the cottage food business or wanting to preserve their harvest for storage in the home pantry. Sitka Kitch officially opened in March 2015 after a series of renovations to make it pass Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation commercial kitchen food safety standards.

UAF Southeast Extension Agent Sarah Lewis of the Juneau District Office will teach four classes — Cottage Foods and Beyond, Pickling and Fermenting, Canning Salmon and Berries, and Canning Soups and Sauces. These classes are open to Sitka residents of all ages, but an adult must accompany those younger than 14 years old. Class sizes are limited to 16 people. Thanks to a grant from the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program, all ingredients, jars, and equipment will be supplied in class.

“The WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program is partnering with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service because their work complements our purposes, which is to help Native families reduce their risk for disease while working toward getting back to a traditional way of eating,” said SEARHC Health Educator Clara Gray, of the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program.

The SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program promotes healthy lifestyles by connecting Alaska Natives in Southeast Alaska to their culture. Members of the program learn how to harvest, cook, and preserve their traditional Alaska Native foods, which usually are healthier than heavily processed store-bought foods. In addition, participants learn traditional language, dancing, carving, weaving, and other skills that help reconnect them to their culture.

SarahLewisWithBoilingPotsThe UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers a variety of programs geared toward food, how to grow it, how to preserve it for storage, and how to make it into cottage foods you can sell. For those who can’t make the classes, the service offers a series of free online tutorials about home canning called Preserving Alaska’s Bounty.

“As a UAF Cooperative Extension Agent, I try to teach that family and community resilience are strengthened when local foods are used to cook meals at home,” Lewis said. “Through my food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops I offer the knowledge and skills needed for people to discover the nutritional benefits and financial stability that come from making and preserving homemade meals with local ingredients.”

Here are the details and schedules of the four classes:

  • Cottage Foods and Beyond, 2-4 p.m., Thursday, July 16 — Learn to safely make and legally sell your local foods. This class explains the DEC Cottage Foods Exemptions, as well as steps to take when you’re ready to go “beyond cottage foods.”
  • Pickling and Fermenting, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Thursday, July 16 — Sauerkraut, kim-chi, vinegars, pickled vegetables and non-alcoholic beverages. Come learn the basics of lacto-fermentation and vinegar pickling for tasty home-made snacks and digestive health.
  • Canning Salmon and Berries, 4-9 p.m., Friday, July 17 — Waterbath and pressure canning for people of all experience levels, with a focus on these two favorite Southeast foods.
  • Canning Soups and Sauces, 3-8 p.m., Saturday, July 18 — Home-canned soups and sauces save time, money and meal-time hassles. Come learn how to easily and safely pressure and waterbath can ready-to-eat meals and side dishes for your pantry.

In addition to teaching the four classes, Lewis will offer free pressure canner gauge testing at the Sitka Farmers Market, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 18, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian Street. She also will provide other resources about home canning and food preservation. To ensure safe canning, pressure canner dial gauges should be tested every year for accuracy.

Due to limited class space, please pre-register by Wednesday, July 15, to ensure a spot. To pre-register, contact Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.edu.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK Sitka Local Foods Network board members and supporters pose at the St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden on Monday. St. Peter's Fellowship Farm supplies most of the local produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. The other five Sitka Farmers Market dates are July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12. Pictured are, front row from left, Michelle Putz, Muriel Sadleir-Hart, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Kathy Jones. Back row, Matthew Jackson, Jonathan Adler, Peter Gorman, Jud Kirkness, Brandie Cheatham, Mary Therese Thomson, and Laura Schmidt.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
Sitka Local Foods Network board members and supporters pose at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden on Monday. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm supplies most of the local produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. The other five Sitka Farmers Market dates are July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12. Pictured are, front row from left, Michelle Putz, Muriel Sadleir-Hart, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Kathy Jones. Back row, Matthew Jackson, Jonathan Adler, Peter Gorman, Jud Kirkness, Brandie Cheatham, Mary Therese Thomson, and Laura Schmidt.

Sitka Local Foods Network uses St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and Sitka Farmers Market to improve food security in Sitka

During the stormy months of winter, most people in Sitka aren’t thinking about their gardens. But that’s when St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt is trying to figure out which vegetables to plant in which garden bed, starting seeds, and (if the soil isn’t frozen) amending the soil with seaweed and other nutrients to get an early start on the garden.

As the lead gardener since 2011, a contract position with the Sitka Local Foods Network, Schmidt is responsible for growing most of the fresh, local vegetables sold during the Sitka Farmers Markets each summer. She oversees food production at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, and at an extension garden located at Pat Arvin’s house.

Schmidt and her volunteer gardeners have about 3,000 square feet in production. Last year they grew about 300 pounds of rhubarb and 100 pounds of kale. “That’s a lot of kale,” Schmidt said. Besides kale and rhubarb, they also grow garlic, onions, potatoes, kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, fava beans, spinach, carrots, beets, nasturtiums, zucchini, cucumbers, and more.

“It’s fun to have it all come together. It’s nice to see it turn into food,” Schmidt said. “It’s a fun puzzle because every year is different, and how do we make it more productive.”

2015SitkaFarmersMarketFlierSitka residents will have a chance to celebrate their independence from store-bought and overly processed food at the first Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The other five markets will be on July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12.

“It’s very important. People come for the produce. It’s the prime attraction,” Sitka Farmers Market Manager Debe Brincefield said. “We have jams and jellies, bread, fish, and arts and crafts, but people bring their produce bags and are happy to fill them.”

The Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are two of the main projects of the Sitka Local Foods Network, and both projects came out of the second Sitka Health Summit, which took place in April 2008. The first garden beds were built and planted at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm by May 2008, and food grown at St. Peter’s was available for sale at the first Sitka Farmers Market in August 2008. Since then, both projects have been a growing concern.

These two projects came about because many in Sitka were concerned about food security, especially as the country entered a major recession in 2008. It’s estimated about 90-95 percent of the food eaten in Alaska is shipped here from the Lower 48 or foreign countries, and artificially cheap transportation made it easier for people to buy their food from the store than to grow or harvest it themselves, which was the norm in Sitka until the 1950s and 1960s. With so little food being grown locally, Sitka residents worried what might happen if fuel prices went up or if we had a natural disaster that destroyed our ports and/or airport.

There also were worries about how much longer residents could afford store-bought food, especially as Sitka food prices went up 43.6 percent from September 2003 to 2011, according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report (a 2012 Sitka Health Summit project). The report also noted that 1,410 Sitka residents participated in the food stamp program in 2013, about one-sixth of Sitka’s population of about 9,000. Sitka residents redeemed $1,645,702 in food stamp dollars in 2012, an increase of $201,000 from 2011.

The Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are two key elements for improving food security in Sitka, with education about gardening and food preservation being another key element.

“It helps people to connect the food to the market, and hopefully realize the Sitka Local Foods Network is the umbrella organization,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “We knew if we had a market, we had to have food to sell. We have a lead gardener in Laura who has grown and expanded the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and our extension garden at Pat Arvin’s every year. And we have generous people who donate produce from their gardens for us to sell, such as Jud Kirkness, Linda Wilson and my family.”

AK 2015 FMNP Poster SLFNTo help families struggling with food security, the Sitka Farmers Market became the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP (food stamps) and WIC nutrition benefits, including the Alaska Quest electronic benefits transfer cards used for SNAP. The Sitka Farmers Market also matches dollars spent on SNAP-approved foods (produce, fish, baked goods, barley products, etc.), which allows Alaska Quest card users to double their purchase by as much as $20 per person per market. That means a family of four with SNAP benefits can be matched up to $80. This year, the Sitka Farmers Market will partner with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) on a new program where SEARHC beneficiaries with chronic disease are prescribed vouchers for fruits and vegetables.

And the growing is spreading.

“As I was taking a walk around town the other day, I identified three new gardens,” Sadleir-Hart said. “They also have a new garden at the Pioneer Home where they’re growing food.”

For more information about the Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. To learn about being a vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, contact Debe Brincefield at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call 738-8683.

(Editor’s note: The story above appeared in the Weekender section of the July 2, 2015, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It was written by Sitka Local Foods Network board member/communications director Charles Bingham.)

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The first home horticulture stand has opened in Sitka, taking advantage of a new zoning ordinance passed by the Sitka Assembly last December.

Anam Cara Family Garden, owned by Tom Hart and Lisa Sadleir-Hart, opened on Wednesday afternoon, July 1, in front of the family home at 815 Charles St. The farm stand will be open from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesdays through the summer, according to the stand’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/GardenStandonCharlesStreet.

Before opening the home horticulture stand, the Hart/Sadleir-Hart family (which includes daughter, Muriel Sadleir-Hart) had to go through an extensive process with the city to get approval to sell their excess produce. The hope is the new process will be streamlined so the city’s planning commission can approve permits without home gardeners having to go all the way to the Sitka Assembly for approval.

“We started preparing for opening our garden stand a year ago when we approached the city planner at the time, Wells Williams,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, who also is president of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors. “He was absolutely supportive of our efforts and coached us through the ordinance change process that would allow the sale of produce from a garden stand on our property in a residential zone. We met with the Planning and Zoning commission three times and the City and Borough Assembly three times, then came back to the Planning and Zoning commission three times after the zoning ordinance was passed. We were really glad to have moved through the public process to ensure our neighbors were supportive of what we wanted to pursue. The total time from the initiation of the public process to the date we actually received our conditional use permit, took about nine months. We had our ‘open garden stand’ event on July 1 and are looking forward to testing this venue for selling our excess produce.”

The ordinance allows garden stands in residential areas, but they are limited to six feet by eight feet. And to reduce the impact on neighbors, stands can only operate four hours a day, two days a week, between May and October. The ordinance specifically doesn’t include livestock or animal products. Home gardeners who set up produce stands in front of their homes will be required to have a business license and pay city sales tax.

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What you put on your fork matters. That’s the message behind American Farmland Trust’s seventh annual Farmers Market Celebration. The celebration calls on shoppers to help identify the cream of the crop — the best of America’s farmers markets — and in Alaska we think that’s the Sitka Farmers Market.

SitkaFarmersMarketSignThe celebration calls on shoppers to help identify the best of America’s farmers markets. The summer-long event launched June 21 and runs through Sept. 23. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the summer is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The other five Sitka Farmers Markets this summer are on Saturdays, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12.

“The Celebration encourages market customers, family farmers, community activists – anyone who believes they’ve got the best farmers market in the country – to endorse their market in four special areas: Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food for All, Pillar of the Community, and Champion for the Environment,” said Susan Sink, American Farmland Trust vice president of development and external relations.

Shoppers are encouraged to use Instagram and join the local food community in saving farmland with their forks, as part of AFT’s “#OnMyFork” social media campaign. Supporters are encouraged to post pictures or videos of their farmers market to Instagram using the hashtag #OnMyFork. If you do post something about the Sitka Farmers Market, please tag our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork.

“While farmers markets have been growing in popularity, keeping family farmers on farmland remains a nationwide challenge,” Sink says. “Many family farmers are struggling to stay financially afloat and face daily pressure from development to sell their land. Farmers markets provide a wonderful opportunity for family farmers to sell directly to consumers and to help make a living on their land.”

bigcabbagewsFarmers markets have a lot to offer. Beyond the beautiful array of fresh and local food, farmers markets help family farmers thrive, connect us as a community and can be catalysts for both environmental and social good. That is why American Farmland Trust is giving away awards to farmers markets who are the Best in Class in four special areas — Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food for All, Pillar of the Community, and Champion for the Environment.

If you have ever been to the Sitka Farmers Market, you may already know that they are the gold standard for farmers markets in these areas. If you haven’t been to the market before, here are a few reasons why the Sitka Farmers Market deserves to be named one of America’s top markets:

  • Focus on Farmers — The Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market, has been working with local gardeners and small farmers to increase the amount of locally grown fruits and veggies in Sitka. Not only is locally grown food fresher and better tasting, but it’s better on the environment because it doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to Alaska. The Sitka Farmers Market also is a good place to participate in the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge to help improve Alaska’s food security.
  • Healthy Food for All — The Sitka Farmers Market was the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP (food stamps/Alaska Quest cards) and WIC vouchers for people benefitting from those programs. In addition, we have matching dollars of up to $20 per person per market available for SNAP-eligible foods (produce, fish, baked goods, barley products, etc.). This year we are partnering with SEARHC on a program where SEARHC beneficiaries with chronic diseases such as diabetes are prescribed vouchers for fresh produce.
  • Pillar of the Community — The Sitka Farmers Market not only serves as a community gathering place, but it also is a business incubator. It’s a good place for budding entrepreneurs to test ideas and products before going into full production. The Sitka Farmers Market emphasizes local, local, local, which helps put the focus on products from Sitka.
  • Champion for the Environment — It’s estimated that Alaska residents import about 90-95 percent of their food from the Lower 48 or foreign countries. By encouraging people to grow or harvest food locally, we’re cutting down on thousands of miles of transportation costs. That means less fuel is used, and fewer pollutants in the air.

To help shine a light on the Sitka Farmers Market, just go to http://markets.farmland.org/market/sitka-farmers-market/ and recommend our market. In past Farmers Market Celebrations, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust, the Sitka Farmers Market has been at or near the top among the Alaska rankings. Those rankings also helped us crack the recently released 101 Best Farmers Markets in America list compiled by TheDailyMeal.com.

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TheDailyMeal.com has ranked the Sitka Farmers Market on its 101 Best Farmers Markets in America 2015 list.

The Sitka Farmers Market ranks 99th in the national rankings. The Homer Farmers Market ranked 60th (although it was incorrectly listed as being from Arkansas) and was the only other Alaska market in the rankings.

#99 Sitka Farmers Market, Sitka, Alaska

Besides being a wonderful farmers market, the Sitka Market provides healthy eating education and entertainment for the community as a part of the Sitka Local Foods Network. The market is open Saturdays from July to September.

The Sitka Farmers Market will take place six times this summer, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on alternate Saturdays, July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. We offer a wide variety of locally grown produce, locally caught seafood, locally baked bread, and locally made arts and crafts. We also feature live music, and lots of family fun.

2015SitkaFarmersMarketFlier

Celebrate your independence from store-bought and factory-processed food this year by joining the Sitka Local Foods Network as it hosts the eighth summer of Sitka Farmers Markets in 2015. There will be six markets this year, starting on July 4 and taking place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 12. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked goods, locally made jams and jellies, live entertainment and music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons and Alaska Quest EBT for SNAP (food stamp) users. Debe Brincefield is the Sitka Farmers Market manager, with Francis Wegman-Lawless serving as assistant manager.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is a great way to connect with community members and support local entrepreneurs,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “Spending your dollars locally has a multiplying effect and helps your neighbors. We also encourage Sitkans to join the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge and support your local producers each week with $5. Dollars spent locally multiply in our community to the tune of about $3 for each dollar spent. So you get great local food and support your neighbors by spending locally.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community wellness project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. The markets are sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, the Alaska Farmers Market Association, the Alaska Division of Public Health Cancer Control Program, and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

“As with the past three seasons, we invite Sitkans who participate in food stamps to use their QUEST card at the market and we will match up to $20 per market for each food stamp participant in a household until resources are exhausted,” Sadleir-Hart said. “So for a family of four that could mean up to $80 extra dollars to shop at each market. Additionally, the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm stand will be working with the SEARHC Health Promotion program to debut a new fruit and vegetable prescription program at the market. SEARHC’s nutritionist will provide eligible beneficiaries with $5 vouchers to use at the farm stand to access local, fresh produce. The farm stand also will accept WIC farmers market and fruits and vegetable vouchers (FVV).”

To learn more about the market and how to be a vendor, contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Debe Brincefield at 738-8683 or by e-mail sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other info for potential vendors can be found on the Documents page at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

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