Scenes from the second Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer

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Anna Wane, Tamie Parker-Song and Heather Hanson pose with some of the produce from Heather’s and Alli’s Garden. This was one of the new booths at the market this week.

The wind was blustery, but it didn’t rain when we held the second of the seven Sitka Farmers Markets of the 2016 summer on Saturday, July 16, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

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Andrea Fraga and Kaleb Aldred of Middle Island Organic Produce, another of the new booths at the market this week.

We had several new vendors at this market, but not as many customers as usual. We had four booths selling produce, two selling beach greens, another selling homemade bread, another with homemade tamales, and even some frybread.

We always welcome new vendors who want to sell produce they’ve grown, fish they’ve caught, and local cottage food products they’ve made. To learn more about how to be a vendor, contact Matthew Jackson at (907) 821-1412 or jackson.mw08@gmail.com or Brandie Cheatham at (907) 687-9927 or vista_brandie@yahoo.com.

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Jeren Schmidt of Sitka Spruce Catering dishes up a homemade tamale for a customer.

The next Sitka Farmers Market will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, at the ANB Founders Hall. The other markets this summer are on Saturdays, Aug. 13, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, and Sept. 10. The Sitka Farmers Markets receive sponsorship funding from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the American Farmland Trust’s eighth annual Farmers Market Celebration.

A slideshow of scenes from the second Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer is below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sitka Kitch to offer Preserving the Harvest class series this summer

 

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kitch_logo_mainYou grew it, harvested it and/or caught it, so now what do you do? The Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen will be offering the Preserving the Harvest class series to teach Sitkans how to store the summer’s bounty so they can use it during the winter.

This class series features six classes covering a variety of food preservation methods. Students will learn how to safely preserve their food, so it won’t spoil or cause illness. The classes on schedule are:

  • Simple Pickles and Sauerkraut 6-8:30 p.m., Monday, July 18, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart and assisted by Jasmine Shaw, $20, plus food/supply fee
  • Low-Sugar Jams and Jellies 6-8:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 1, taught by Jasmine Shaw and assisted by Callie Simmons, $27.50, plus food/supply fee
  • Canning Salmon6-8:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 22, taught by Ellen Ruhle and assisted by Jasmine Shaw, $27.50, plus food/supply fee
  • Chutneys and Salsas6-8:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 29, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart and assisted by Betsy Decker, $27.50, plus food/supply fee
  • Apple and Fruit Butters6-8:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 12, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart and assisted by Betsy Decker, $27.50, plus food/supply fee
  • Community Kale Celebration6-8:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 26, Cooking demonstrations featuring kale recipes by chefs Kathy Jones and Barbara Palacios (not a class), entrance fee $10.

The Sitka Kitch was a project of the 2013 Sitka Health Summit, and the project is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society in partnership with the Sitka Local Foods Network. The Sitka Kitch can be rented to teach cooking and food preservation classes, by local cottage food industry entrepreneurs who need a commercial kitchen to make their products, and for large groups needing a large kitchen for a community dinner. To learn more about how to rent the Sitka Kitch, please go to the website at http://www.sitkawild.org/sitka_kitch.

To register for classes, go to our online registration page at http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com/ and click on the class name. We now have a PayPal option so people can pay the registration fees before the class. There are food/supply fees for most of the classes, which are split between the students, and those are paid by cash or check (made out to the Sitka Conservation Society) at the class. Other than for the Kale Celebration event, each class has a limited number of spots available, so register early. Registration for each class closes at 11:55 p.m. on the Friday before the class.

If you have any questions about the class series, please email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org.

Building a Local Food System: Keith Nyitray of Finn Island Farm and the Sitka Food Co-Op

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(Editor’s Note: The Sitka Local Foods Network’s Bulldog on Baranof intern this summer, Claire Chang, is writing the Building a Local Food System series of articles about Sitkans working to improve food security. This is the first article of the series.)

As owner of Finn Island Farm and general manager of the Sitka Food Co-Op, Keith Nyitray is committed to improving access to quality, affordable food on a local level.

DSCN0863Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, Nyitray arrived in Alaska after college in 1979 to pursue mountaineering. He has had his fair share of rugged adventures, including a 10-month, 1,500 mile solo expedition across the Arctic Brooks Range that he wrote about for National Geographic in 1993. When he arrived in Sitka for the first time 17 years ago, the town’s “wonderful community” inspired him to stay.

Nyitray says he learned to garden “at his grandfather’s knees.” He operates his farm and lives on Finn Island, located three miles from Sitka in the Kasiana Islands. On about 2,000 square feet of garden space, he produces plant starts and vegetables, and he also maintains a greenhouse and raises chickens.

Compared to other gardens in Sitka, one of the biggest advantages of the farm’s location on an island is what Nyitray calls the “270 degrees of sun” his garden receives. Annually, he sells 5,000 to 6,000 plant starts to True Value, to private individuals, and through the Sitka Food Co-Op. He sells most of his mature vegetables — such as green beans, zucchini, lettuce, beets, broccoli, English cucumbers, and peppers — through private trades and through the co-op.

KeithNyitrayRobertBainesExplainSitkaFoodCoOpNyitray helped establish the Sitka Food Co-Op in 2011 to help meet the needs of the community. “A lot of people were struggling financially at the time,” Nyitray said, “and food prices were going up and down.”

According to Nyitray, the co-op provides Sitkans access to organic, healthy food at lower prices than local markets. Co-op members make purchases through food distributors online, and the bulk orders are shipped to Sitka as freight on barges. Organic apples purchased through the co-op, for example, cost half as much as organic apples at the grocery stores in Sitka. In addition, the co-op provides individuals with unique dietary needs, especially families with children who have allergies, with access to a wider variety of foods than local markets.

What started as a cooperative of 13 families now has more than 220 members, and sales are projected to exceed $260,000 this year. Nyitray explained that the “slow growth approach” has allowed the organization to keep membership fees at affordable levels while including as many community members as possible.

SitkaFoodCoOpKeithNyitrayMany co-ops, often in big cities or areas with large universities nearby, raise significant capital to open a retail storefront before going into operation. In contrast, the Sitka Food Co-Op does not yet have a retail store, and Nyitray describes the Sitka co-op as a “hybrid between a non-profit buyers club and a for-profit co-op.” This model, which prioritizes the co-op’s connection with the community, is consistent with Nyitray’s belief in “food for people, not for profit.”

The success of the Sitka Food Co-Op has even inspired other rural Alaskan communities, such as Petersburg and Kodiak, to ask Nyitray about starting their own co-ops. Nyitray is excited about supporting these new co-ops, as one of the “seven cooperative principles,” a set of ideals for the operation of cooperatives, is “cooperation between cooperatives.”

Nyitray describes his roles on Finn Island Farm and with the Sitka Food Co-Op as “the most rewarding jobs or positions he has ever had.” He views his work as an embodiment of the saying, “think globally, act locally.” In working toward food security in Sitka, Nyitray has been able to see “definite, positive, immediate results.”

IMG_9866For instance, Nyitray says the competition from the co-op has already led some local grocery stores to reduce some of their prices. Having previously been involved in politics, he finds these results especially gratifying. “In politics, the work was very challenging, but not always very rewarding. You could work really hard, but rarely see results.”

He also enjoys the relationships with community members that he forms through his work. “When people purchase stuff from you they are actually saying thank you,” he explains. “They appreciate the service and the quality of food and the savings. It’s very social. I know everyone by name.”

In the future, Nyitray hopes the Sitka Food Co-Op will be able to include even more members and eventually open a retail store. A retail store helps reach more people in the community who are not members of the co-op and allows shoppers to use food stamps and other forms of food assistance as payment. As he works to serve community, Nyitray will continue to enjoy some of the smaller perks of his job. “I like the organic oranges that I get,” he says, “because I like the juice.”

To learn more about Finn Island Farm, contact Keith Nyitray at knyitray@yahoo.com. To learn more about the Sitka Food Co-Op, contact Nyitray at sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com, or visit the co-op website at http://sitkafoodcoop.org.

Scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer

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SitkaFarmersMarketSignAfter raining the night before, we ended up with some sun when we held the first of the seven Sitka Farmers Markets of the 2016 summer on Saturday, July 2, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

The market was a bit smaller than usual, partially because of competition with the Fourth of July booths at Baranof Elementary School and because of our attempts to refocus the market to put more of an emphasis on local food. We did have some new vendors at the market, and there were a couple of discussions from potential vendors asking about space at the next market.

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Jessica Gill was one of our new vendors this market with Marco’s Munchies dog treats.

We always welcome new vendors who want to sell produce they’ve grown, fish they’ve caught, and local cottage food products they’ve made. To learn more about how to be a vendor, contact Matthew Jackson at (907) 821-1412 or jackson.mw08@gmail.com or Brandie Cheatham at (907) 687-9927 or vista_brandie@yahoo.com.

The next Sitka Farmers Market will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 16, at the ANB Founders Hall. The other markets this summer are on Saturdays, July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, and Sept. 10. The Sitka Farmers Markets receive sponsorship funding from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the American Farmland Trust’s eighth annual Farmers Market Celebration.

A slideshow of scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer is below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Check out the July 2016 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

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The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the July 2016 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 on Saturday, changes to the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, a student-built school garden at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, and info about several sh. 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.