Feeds:
Posts
Comments

What you put #OnMyFork matters. That’s the message behind American Farmland Trust’s ninth 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.

The 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. 22. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The other six Sitka Farmers Markets this summer are on Saturdays, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9.

“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 or share it on our Twitter page, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods. Please use the hashtags #SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and #SitkaFarmersMarket if you share a photo.

“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. There also is a People’s Choice category.

If you have ever been to the Sitka Farmers Market, you may already know it as setting 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.
  • 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.).
  • 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. In 2015, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top Alaska market in this contest. In 2016, the Sitka Farmers Market earned Best In Class honors in the contest. We have a couple of new wrinkles in 2017 (vendor rates back to 2015 levels, a new Alaska Grown booth featuring products from around the state, a kids vendor program, etc.), so this year could be the best yet.

Samia Savell of the Juneau office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be in Sitka on Friday, June 23, to meet with local food growers about her program’s services. She currently is setting up one-on-one meetings from 4-6 p.m. on Friday afternoon at the Sitka Public Library study room.

Among the services provided by the USDA NRCA’s Alaska program is nutrient management to improve soil quality, irrigation system design, energy conservation, and possibly funding for high tunnels if it will improve crop condition and varieties (the high tunnel program is geared toward conserving resources and is offered through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program).

If you are interested in learning more about the programs and how you can work with the USDA NRCA, or setting up a meeting, please contact Samia at (907) 586-7220, Extension 100, or email her at samia.savell@ak.usda.gov.

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a meeting for prospective and past vendors of the Sitka Farmers Market from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). There are a few changes to the vendor rules and table rates this year, so this is a good time to learn about them.

This is the ninth year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features seven markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 1, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). The Sitka Farmers Market was a community health initiative from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit.

The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers and gardeners, local fishermen, local bakers, and local artisans and craftspeople. Our emphasis is on local products from Sitka and Southeast Alaska. The farmers markets also are great Sitka gathering places.

A detailed description of the farmers markets and vendor forms can be found our websitehttp://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (scroll down or look in the right-hand column). If you have any questions, please email Sitka Farmers Market Manager Nina Vizcarrondo at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call her at (863) 286-9230.

• 2017 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated May 10, 2017)

Students learned how to make fruit leathers and how to dehydrate a variety of fruits and vegetables in the Just Dry It: Intro to Food Dehydration class on Monday, June 12, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. This was the first of six scheduled classes in the Preserving the Harvest food preservation class series offered this summer.

The class was taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a Sitka dietitian and health educator who has taught several cooking and food preservation classes for the Sitka Kitch. In this class, students learned how to dehydrate four types of fruit (bananas, blueberries, mangoes, and apples), dehydrate four types of vegetables (zucchini, peppers, green beans, and mushrooms), and make four types of fruit leather (blueberry, rosehip, strawberry-rhubarb, and rosehip-blueberry).

This was the first class in the Preserving the Harvest food preservation class series, which is sponsored by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). The other classes in the series are (underlined titles take you to the class registration page):

  • Rambunctious Rhubarb: Creative Ways To Use Rhubarb6-8:30 p.m., Monday, June 26, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, $27.50 registration fee
  • Simple Pickles and Sauerkraut 6-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 11, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, $27.50, registration fee
  • Jam Session: Preserving Jams and Jellies 6-8:30 p.m., Monday, July 24, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, $27.50 registration fee
  • Rose Hip Relish and More6-8:30 p.m., Date TBA (late September/early October), taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, $27.50 registration fee
  • Venison Jerky6-8:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 30, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart and Jasmine Shaw, $27.50 registration fee

The Sitka Kitch programming team is working on other classes to be offered later this summer and next fall. We also might reschedule the Clear the Freezer, Fill the Pantry community canning session for later this summer, but on a Saturday instead of during the week. Watch the Sitka Kitch page on Facebook or our online registration page to see when these and any future classes are scheduled.

When registering, students should prepay for the class through the Sitka Kitch online registration site, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com, using PayPal or credit/debit card. If you need other payment arrangements, contact Chandler or Clarice of Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 to arrange a time when you can pay with cash or check. To qualify for a partial refund, please notify us at least three days in advance if you need to cancel. The registration deadline is three days before each class so our instructors have time to purchase materials. Please email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org with any questions.

A slideshow of scenes from the food dehydration class follows below.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service handout, “Drying Fruits and Vegetables”

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service handout, “Fruit Leather”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Sitka Conservation Society will host a local foods tasting and recipe pouch making event for kids ages 7-10 from 2-3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21, at the Sitka Public Library.

This program will help kids learn how to make delicious, kid-friendly snacks from foods foraged from the Tongass National Forest. There also will be materials to make local foods recipe pouches and recipes to take home. This is a drop-in activity.

For more information, contact Maite Lorente at 747-8708 or Julia Tawney at 747-7509.

June is National Men’s Health Month, and June 12-18 is National Men’s Health Week, so the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Health Promotion Program will host a quick and heart-healthy food demonstration for men. The free cooking demonstration takes place from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, located inside the First Presbyterian Church (505 Sawmill Creek Road).

“It’s just a quick and healthy food demonstration, a one-pan meal that is lower fat, and baked, and some quick healthy snacks to make,” SEARHC Health Educator Heleena Van Veen said. “The menu is nothing fancy, but good eating, it is affordable and usually things we already have in our cupboards, and it tastes good!”

For more information, contact Heleena at 966-8614 or heleenav@searhc.org.

The SouthEast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) project, SouthEast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab (STAERL) on Monday, June 5, issued an advisory warning that people should not eat molluscan shellfish (bivalves such as clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, geoducks, cockles, etc.) harvested at North Starrigavan Beach North in Sitka.

This is one of several recent advisory warnings issued by SEATOR about elevated levels of the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins above the FDA regulatory limit of 80µg/100g. Recent warnings have been issued for all species of molluscan shellfish at three beaches in Ketchikan (with extremely high levels that could be deadly), Metlakatla, Craig, Kodiak and Hoonah. There also are species-specific warnings issued in Klawock and Skagway.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudo-nitzchia and Dinophysis.

The PSP advisories are for bivalve shellfish that have been recreationally or subsistence harvested. It does not apply to commercially harvested shellfish, which are tested before they enter the market. The advisory does not apply to other shellfish, such as crabs or shrimp, which do not carry PSP (unless you eat the crab butter or viscera).

The warnings, according to SEATOR, “This does not ‘certify’ any of our monitored sites. Conditions may change rapidly and data is site-specific. Caution should always be taken prior to harvesting.”

SEATOR posts updates and information to its website at seator.org/data, which can help provide Southeast Alaska residents with reliable information so they can choose whether or not to harvest shellfish. In addition to testing water samples weekly from certain Southeast beaches, STAERL also tests samples of butter clams, littleneck clams, and blue mussels (which is STAERL’s indicator species, because of how quickly blue mussels absorb saxotoxins).

In addition to the saxitoxins that cause PSP, the lab in Sitka has been monitoring for other blooms that cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). PSP and ASP can cause severe health problems, including death in some cases.

Since most beaches in Alaska aren’t tested for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership were formed in October 2014 to train people to test beaches in Southeast Alaska. In April 2015, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska opened a regional lab on Katlian Street, so samples could be tested in Sitka without having to be sent to the Lower 48, which delayed results. By testing for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership hope to be able to provide information so people can make informed choices whether or not to harvest or eat shellfish.

To learn more about harmful algal blooms and how they can raise the risk for PSP and ASP (amnesic shellfish poisoning, which also can be fatal), go to SEATOR’s resources page. If you have shellfish you recently harvested and want to test it, click this link to learn what you need to do to have it tested by STAERL or watch this video. SEATOR also has a new Facebook page, where people can find updates. Please contact STAERL at 747-7395 with any additional questions.