Sitka Local Foods Network teams up with ANS to host Fourth of July booths on Tuesday

The Sitka Local Foods Network is teaming up with the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4 to host Fourth of July booths from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street).

This event came together after the usual Fourth of July booths at the Baranof Elementary School playground were canceled. The goal is to provide a similar family friendly and fun event, while helping the ANS raise money to attend Grand Camp Convention in Portland, Ore., this fall and helping the Sitka Local Foods Network raise money to help improve food security in Sitka.

ANS will have hot food to sell, and the Sitka Local Foods Network will have a table featuring Alaska Grown food products and SLFN swag. There also will be a variety of artisans, food vendors, music and fun and games.

Booths will be available to rent for $60 for six hours (NOTE: Since this was posted, table prices have been reduced to $40 for six hours), and participants in the July 1 Sitka Farmers Market will receive a $10 deduction on their booth fee. To learn more about the event, click this link to listen to a June 28 interview on KCAW-Raven Radio. For booth reservations, contact Debe Brincefield of ANS at 738-4323.

City planner launches new working group to examine food security in Sitka and Alaska

Did you know Alaska is one of the top five most food insecure states in the nation? Sitka chief planner Michael Scarcelli is launching a new group to change that, especially in Sitka which Scarcelli considers “food insecure.”

“I know there has already been a great amount of exceptional work done in regards to local and regional food security reports and efforts,” Scarcelli wrote in an email. “The focal point of this discussion is to include:

  • “A brief overview of that work
  • “How food has been addressed in past and current comprehensive planning documents in relation to economy, socio-culture, community health, and environmental topics
  • “A discussion about the opportunities, strengths, challenges, and gaps within Sitka now
  • “How the Planning and Community Development programs can create incentives and remove barriers to help the community better provide food security, while also promoting the public health and safety of all Sitkans.
  • “A focus on opportunities for every day food security: lowering costs of food and increasing access to healthy food for the community at large
  • “Planning for the low-risk, but high impact catastrophic food emergency (including syncing Comprehensive Plan, Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plans, and Local Emergency Plans and efforts)
  • “Consensus building on final recommendations”

This informal working group will collaborate with me to draft some suggestions and information to a future Planning Commission discussion on the topic and may include suggestions for zoning changes, conditional uses and development standards for horticulture and agriculture, as well as a suggestion for how to better prepare for a catastrophic or major event that would impact food security in terms of long-range hazard mitigation planning.

In an interview, Scarcelli said in addition to a cataclysmic event that impacts food security (such as a tsunami), there are everyday events such as rising fuel costs or late barges that impact food security in Sitka. After he graduated from law school, Scarcelli bought a farm where he grew heirloom vegetables in Michigan, so he has practical experience in food issues. He thinks increasing the amount of food produced in Sitka is a win to the triple-bottom line. There are advantages to Sitka in the use of renewable energy, a shorter distance for the food to travel, better health to the community, and new jobs.

“One area I am specifically asking for help on is bringing a range of citizens to the table that offer different viewpoints, expertise, skills, and business perspectives,” Scarcelli wrote. “If you know of someone or a group that has an interest in this topic, please forward this invite. Included in this email are individuals that indicated interest in this group, chair and liaison to the Planning Commission, chair and liaison to the local emergency planning commission, and various business owners I felt may have an interest in the topic.”

In his email, Scarcelli included copies of six different local, regional and statewide food security reports that all can be found at this link on this website (scroll down), https://sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/documents/. He makes special note of the 2014 Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report.

Scarcelli has yet to set a time for the group’s first meeting, but he did include a Doodle poll with a few possibilities to try to find the time that works best for the most people. For more information, contact Scarcelli at 747-1815 or michael.scarcelli@cityofsitka.org.

Sitka Local Foods Network to host seven Sitka Farmers Markets in 2017 summer

The Sitka Local Foods Network is bringing the excitement back to the Sitka Farmers Market, which opens its 10th season of markets on Saturday. There will be some new innovations at the market, and some of the vendors who skipped last year’s markets are back this summer.

“Last year was a learning experience for us,” said Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham, who is assisting Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo. “We tried to make the market’s focus be more on local food and less on arts and crafts, but we didn’t have enough local food producers to make up for the lost craft vendors. We lost some of the community-gathering feel to the market with the lost vendors. This year we returned to our 2015 vendor rates, which is bringing back many of lost vendors. We want the market to be a community happening again. The market is a great way to connect with neighbors and support local entrepreneurs.”

Other new innovations this year include a kids vendor program for youth ages 12 and younger, and new Alaska Grown food products for sale at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand. In addition to freshly grown produce from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, there will be Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Evie’s Brinery fermented foods from Anchorage, and Kahiltna Birchworks birch syrup products from Palmer. There still is a focus on local and Alaska food products, with the Alaska Grown products being a way to inspire Sitka food entrepreneurs to try making new food items locally. The more local products we have, the more the money circulates in Sitka’s economy.

“Come support our local farmers, artisans and musicians,” Vizcarrondo said. “By keeping our money local, we create a more sustainable economy.”

The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The other markets this summer take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, at ANB Founders Hall.

The markets feature a variety of locally grown produce, seafood, cottage foods, a hot lunch, locally made arts and crafts, live music and fun. The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefits transfers (EBT) and WIC coupons. We have a matching program where SNAP and WIC clients can double up to $20 of their benefits in local produce.

“In recent years we’ve been proud to welcome Alaska Quest EBT and WIC shoppers at the market,” Bingham said. “It is so important to make sure local food is accessible to everyone.”

The April 2008 Sitka Health Summit planted the seeds for the Sitka Farmers Market, as Sitka residents chose starting a local foods market as one of their community wellness initiatives for the year. About the same time, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church was looking for a way to put some recently cleared land behind the church’s See House into use for a community project. St. Peter’s offered to lease the land to the group that became the Sitka Local Foods Network for $1 a year, and in May 2008 a group of Sitka residents built raised garden beds and planted a variety of crops. Later that summer, there was enough produce grown at St. Peter’s to supply our first three Sitka Farmers Markets starting in August 2008.

There were five markets in 2009, followed by six markets each year from 2010-15 and now seven markets in 2016. Led by lead gardener Laura Schmidt, the production of local produce at St. Peter’s has grown each year, and there now are satellite gardens, such as the one on land owned by Pat Arvin. Most of the food grown at St. Peter’s and the satellite gardens is sold at the Sitka Farmers Market, but there has been enough for the Sitka Local Foods Network to also have a table when Chelan Produce is in town and to sell to local school lunch programs and restaurants. The money raised helps support the Sitka Local Foods Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in its mission “to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.”

To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how you can become a vendor, contact Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. The Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/, has more info on the markets and links to vendor rules and registration forms. The Sitka Local Foods Network receives sponsorship funding from the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), and the Sitka True Value.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s Preserving the Harvest class on creative ways to use rhubarb

Students learned how to make a variety of dishes featuring rhubarb in the Rambunctious Rhubarb: Creative Ways To Use Rhubarb class on Monday, June 26, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. This was the second 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 make a curried rhubarb lentils dish (served over rice), a rhubarb chutney, a jalapeño rhubarb chutney, rhubarb pickles, rhubarb ketchup, and a rhubarb salsa. (Most of the recipes came from the book The Joy Of Rhubarb).

This was the second 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):

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 sitehttp://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 Rambunctious Rhubarb class follows below.

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New kids vendor program helps young businesses at the Sitka Farmers Market

Do you have a kid with a head for business? The Sitka Local Foods Network is introducing a new kids vendor program at the Sitka Farmers Market that might be what your kid needs to become a successful entrepreneur.

This program is for kids age 12 or younger who want to sell local food or arts and crafts at the Sitka Farmers Market this summer. Kids can sell fresh veggies from their garden, homemade baked goods, or their own jewelry, just for example.

How it works is kids rent a half-table (about four feet of space) for $10 for the full season (good for all seven markets, not just one). They follow the same rules as the adults when it comes to cottage foods or local arts and crafts, and parental supervision is encouraged. We’ve had a couple of kid vendors at the market before, but never a program just for them.

Our markets this year are 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).

For more information, contact Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or by email at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. The farmers market rules, responsibilities and registration packet is attached below (and the registration form is the last page, just circle the kids vendor program note).

• 2017 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated July 3, 2017)

What you put #OnMyFork matters during ninth annual Farmers Market Celebration

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 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to be in Sitka to meet with growers

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.