Sitka Farmers Market to host meeting May 17 for prospective and past vendors

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, May 17, 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. We hope to have Bruce Gazaway, the Sitka food safety inspector from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, at the meeting to go over food safety practices.

This is the 11th year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features seven markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 7, July 21, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept. 15 — 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 website, http://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 (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660.

• 2018 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated April 30, 2018)

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Celebrate local farmers and gardeners on Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 1

Alaskans will celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 1. On this day, Alaskans are encouraged to support local agriculture by seeking out and purchasing products produced in Alaska and educating youth about the vital role that agriculture plays in our economy. This is Alaska’s version of National Ag Day (which took place on March 20 this year, when many parts of Alaska were still thawing out).

Here are a few ideas from the Division of Agriculture on how to celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day:

In Sitka, you can celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day by starting a food garden (even a couple of containers on your deck can provide you with potatoes, carrots or greens). Teachers are encouraged to offer a lesson plan or two about the importance of agriculture in Alaska and in Sitka. Here’s a linkto an article about how Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Also, the Sitka History Minute feature on KCAW-Raven Radio has had several episodes about agriculture in Sitka (click here to listen to a feature about the potato in Sitka, click here to listen to a feature about the Sitka Agricultural Station, and click here to listen to a feature about the cows of Iris Meadows).

During the growing season, please support the Sitka farmers and production gardeners listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book(chief contact in parentheses) — Anam Cara Family Garden (Lisa Sadleir-Hart), Blatchley Community Gardens (David Nuetzel, this garden closed in 2016 and there is a group seeking a new location for what will be called Sitka Community Gardens, but its 2018 status is unknown), Down To Earth U-Pick Garden (Lori Adams, switched to a CSA in 2017 and no longer is a public u-pick garden), Finn Island Farm (Keith Nyitray, this farm closed), Sprucecot Gardens (Judy Johnstone), and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (Laura Schmidt/Sitka Local Foods Network). There also are a few Sitka farms and production gardens not listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book, such as Beyond Leafy LLC (Jimmy and Leslie Kranz), Middle Island Gardens (Andrea Fraga/Kaleb Aldred), and Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Garden (Florence Welsh).

Many of these farms and gardens will be vendors during the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 7, July 21, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept 15 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). There will be a Sitka Farmers Market vendor meeting from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street) where rules and responsibilities will be discussed.

Volunteers needed to help us get St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden ready

A to-do list of chores at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden

The Sitka Local Foods Network is creating a pool of volunteers to help us get the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and our satellite gardens ready to grow food for the summer. Volunteers are encouraged to attend a gardening work party from 2:30-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, at the garden.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (611 Lincoln St.). This communal garden is where we grow most of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s The People’s Garden program. The People’s Garden works across USDA and with partners to start and sustain school gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and small-scale agriculture projects in rural and urban areas with the mission of growing healthy food, people and communities.

If you want to help us prepare the garden for planting, amend soil, clean up the garden, and plant seeds, contact St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt at 738-7009 to let her know about your availability. During the spring, Laura usually is working in the garden most weekdays, and she’s looking for a couple of assistants each day instead of hosting regular work parties on the weekends.

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School hosts We Love Our Fishermen lunch as part of Fish To Schools program

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie during a “We Love Our Fishermen” lunch on Wednesday (April 26) at the school. The elementary school was hosting fishermen who donated part of their catch to the Fish to Schools program. The program is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society and provides locally caught fish dishes and education about fishing as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School, the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School. The Fish to Schools program was a project of the Sitka Health Summit. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Alaskans Own seafood program opens 2018 membership sales

Alaskans Own (AO), a community-supported fishery (CSF) program run by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), has opened and is receiving subscription orders for the 2018 season.

Alaskans Own was the first community-supported fishery (CSF) program in Alaska. Now in its ninth year, AO was created to connect consumers to small-boat fishermen, ensure that more fish caught in Alaska stays in Alaska, and create a sustainable source of revenue to support ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network, which engages fishermen and scientists in conservation and research initiatives.

Similar to community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, CSF programs address an important environmental and socio-economic need by strengthening consumer-producer relationships. By forward-funding a season of seafood, subscribers invest in sustainable harvest and the rural fishermen who catch their fish, as well as supporting the web of seafood-related jobs that provide the economic backbone for our coastal communities.

There are four-month and six-month subscriptions available starting in May. The six-month subscriptions allow people to keep receiving fish through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Subscriptions include a mix of premium locally hook-and-line caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

Alaskans Own has just released its prices — choose either monthly installments or pay all at once and receive 5 percent off.

Sitka CSF Prices:

  • Four-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-August, 20 lbs total), $355 paid in full or $94 monthly payment
  • Four-Month Feed-A-Family share (10 lbs/month, May-August, 40 lbs total), $668 paid in full or $176.25 monthly payment
  • Four-Month Feed-A-Neighborhood share (20 lbs/month, May-August, 80 lbs total), $1,240 paid in full or $327.50 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-October, 30 lbs total), $535 paid in full or $94 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Family share (10 lbs/month, May-October, 60 lbs total), $970 paid in full or $170.83 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Neighborhood share (20 lbs/month, May-October, 120 lbs total), $1,880 paid in full or $323.33 monthly payment

Non-Sitka CSF Prices (available in Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seattle):

  • Four-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-August, 20 lbs total), $375 paid in full or $99 monthly payment
  • Four-Month Feed-A-Family share (10 lbs/month, May-August, 40 lbs total), $708 paid in full or $186.25 monthly payment
  • Four-Month Feed-A-Neighborhood share (20 lbs/month, May-August, 80 lbs total), $1,320 paid in full or $347.50 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-October, 30 lbs total), $565 paid in full or $99 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Family share (10 lbs/month, May-October, 60 lbs total), $1,030 paid in full or $180.83 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Neighborhood share (20 lbs/month, May-October, 120 lbs total), $2,000 paid in full or $343.33 monthly payment

“AO’s model is unique from other CSFs because it is not only connecting customers to the fishermen that caught their fish, it is supporting a range of fishermen-sourced conservation initiatives,” says Alyssa Russell, ALFA’s Communications Director. “We’re so excited to be bringing customers another year of sustainably-caught, delicious seafood.”

Customers who don’t live in one of Alaskans Own’s CSF cities (Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seattle) can also partake by setting up a custom order with the Alaskans Own staff, who can be reached at alaskansownfish@gmail.com or (907) 747-3400.

Shares and seafood boxes can be purchased on our online store at alaskansown.com

Alaskans Own is a non-profit, community supported fisheries program.  Joining Alaskans Own is about a lot more than buying great fish. It’s an investment in the health of both fish and fisherman, in a cleaner environment, more vibrant local economies and a better future for Alaska. Learn more about our Fishery Conservation Network at alfafish.org

Alaska Legislature removes barriers for community seed sharing

The seed library at the John Trigg Ester Library, just outside Fairbanks.

Gardeners and community members can now participate in local seed exchanges and opportunities for seed sharing without onerous regulations on the books.  House Bill 197, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Johnston (R-Anchorage, Girdwood, Indian) passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday (April 18), after receiving bipartisan support last week in the House.

Over the last several years, community seeds libraries, such as the one at the John Trigg Ester Library just outside Fairbanks, have been springing up organically around the state, offering opportunities for gardeners to share seeds and stories of growing great Alaskan plants. To encourage these libraries to flourish and allow more Alaskans to participate in this time-honored tradition, House Bill 197 removes regulatory barriers for community seed saving and sharing.

“I was intrigued when this idea was brought to me by community members” Rep. Johnston said. “It didn’t make sense that such homegrown, community-centric activity would be regulated in the same way as commercial operations.”

The labeling requirements for noncommercial seed sharing will now be the seeds’ common name, information on the seed library, and a label denoting any toxic treatment of the seeds. Additionally, the seed library must display the statement, “Not authorized for commercial use and not classified, graded, or inspected by the State of Alaska.” Currently there are more than two pages of requirements for seeds that are shared within the state.

“Improving community unity, access to healthy produce and decreasing food insecurity have brought the Legislature together, and I’m pleased to see the bill get so much support,” Rep. Johnston said.

House Bill 197 now heads to Gov. Bill Walker for his signature.

Alaska Division of Agriculture launches Restaurant Recognition program for restaurants using Alaska Grown produce

Are you using Alaska Grown produce in your restaurant? The new Restaurant Recognition program is for you. Please follow this link if you wish to sign up.

This program is developed by the Alaska Division of Agriculture to recognize and support restaurants around the state who are working to purchase local produce from Alaska farms or interested in doing so.

We are offering free advertising and promotional materials to the first 50 qualified applicants. This will include radio advertising, print advertising, social media campaigns, marketing materials, Alaska restaurant directory mobile application, and a specially designed Restaurant Recognition logo for use in each restaurant. The terms of the program include that as a local restaurant you must purchase Alaska Grown produce such as: salad greens, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, berries … the list goes on.

Any Alaska Grown produce item in any amount will qualify you for the program. What we ask for in return is some reporting on what produce you buy, in what quantity, from whom, and how many menu items you serve local produce in, among a few other questions. Details on communication will be included when you are accepted into the program. Click this link for a directory of Alaska Grown producers to shop.

The timeline of the program will begin on May 15, with the final reporting to be completed by Sept. 30.

For more information or for help finding Alaska Grown produce sources, contact Lyssa Frohling at (907) 761-3853 (Palmer number) or lyssa.frohling@alaska.gov.

• Alaska Grown Restaraunt Rewards brochure