Eat Local Challenge encourages Southeast Alaskans to do more with local foods

The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC), in partnership with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, announces this year’s Eat Local Challenge.

The seven-day challenge starts Monday and runs from Sept. 20-26, encouraging Southeast Alaskans to increase their involvement with the local food system in their community by including as many locally grown, harvested, or foraged ingredients in their daily meals as possible.

This means purchasing local seafood, vegetables, and cottage food products directly from local food producers, farmer’s markets, and retailers that carry local items. Participants also can celebrate the bounty of the region’s wild foods by including foods that they hunted, foraged, fished, or grew themselves. Be sure to shop the local farmers markets and local retailers this weekend. (NOTE: The last Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall.)

The goal during this seven-day challenge is for participants to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local food system in their community. Participants are encouraged to share their skills and knowledge with others cultivating a practice of gratitude around local food.  For more details, check out the Local Foods Challenge page on the Salt & Soil Marketplace website, https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/eatlocalchallenge.

Anyone can participate by following the Salt and Soil Marketplace’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SaltandSoilMarketplace/) or the Southeast Alaska Local Foods Challenge Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LocalFoodSEAK/) for the Challenge Question of the Day. Participants submit their answer and photo of their local food meal either directly on Facebook or via email (localfoodschallenge.seak@gmail.com). The challenge includes daily giveaways and a grand prize for those who complete the challenge by participating all seven days.    

The Eat Local Challenge is the culminating event of the season long Southeast Local Foods Challenge in which participants have been encouraged to increase their participation in their local food systems through five main categories: Harvest & Stewardship, Eat, Reduce Food Waste, Celebrate & Gratitude, and Buy Local. Organizers aim for the challenge to foster a network of local eaters to support each other and their local food producers during a time when food security is increasingly important.

 “The Challenge is for everyone to do a little more to strengthen the local foods system,” said Jennifer Nu, SAWC Local Foods Program director. “The process of learning is never-ending. When we practice and master these skills, we can share what we know with others. Collectively all of these actions contribute to strengthening our food system and our region.”

The 2021 Local Food Challenge partners include the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, and other partners around Southeast Alaska. More details can be found on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website, https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/localfoodchallenge-welcome

Here’s how to participate:

  1. Follow @saltandsoilmarketplace on Instagram and Facebook
  2. Check the SEAK Local Food Facebook page each day and post or email a photo of your local meal AND answer the daily challenge question. Submissions can be posted directly on the Facebook page or emailed to localfoodschallenge.seak@gmail.com.
  3. One winner will be randomly selected each day to receive a gift from Salt and Soil Marketplace in the mail.
  4. Participate all seven days to be eligible for a $50 gift card from Salt and Soil Marketplace to be randomly selected at the end of the challenge.
  5. Use the hashtag #locafoodschallengeseak and spread the word.

Scenes from the seventh Sitka Farmers Market of the 2021 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK

TABLE OF THE DAY — Hillary Hoepfner, left, of the Hog Hole receives the Table of the Day Award from Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James during the Sept. 11 market. Hillary sold hot dogs, sausages, and drinks. She received a certificate, a tote bag, a t-shirt, a bottle of Bearinade BBQ/marinade sauce, a bottle of Moosetard mustard, a bag of Alaska Flour Company barley cereal, and a Sitka Farmers Market special label Theobroma chocolate bar. The last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Vendors can register online (by Thursday before each market) at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More details about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

We had torrential downpours at times, but we still gathered for a wet seventh Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 11. We are winding down our market season, and have just one market left this summer.

Due to a growing COVID-19 count, we instituted a face mask policy this summer to try and protect our customers and vendors from the coronavirus. That face mask policy will be in force when we hold our eighth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. We ask all customers and vendors to wear masks.

The markets are being held outside this year to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We haven’t had as many booths as in previous years, but the smaller market seems to be working. We still have fresh local produce, as well as a variety of Alaska Grown value-added products, local eggs, mushrooms, and arts and crafts. We should have some cooked food at Saturday’s market. We do have a couple of new vendors registered for this market, and we’d love to see a fish vendor or a baked goods vendor, too.

The Sitka Local Foods Network needs a volunteer or two to help set up the market, sell produce during the market, and take down the market after it’s over. If you’re interested in helping us with the market, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or Nalani James at (808) 778-9888.

By the way, Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James will teach a Sitka Kitch class a few hours after the market ends on Sept. 18 about how to make Zuppa Toscana. One of the ingredients in Zuppa Toscana is kale, and the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand will offer one bundle of kale at half price to students registered in the class. You can learn more and register for the class by going to http://sitkakitch.evertsmart.com.

We also are recruiting new vendors, and they can register and pay their vendor fees by going to https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

The Sitka Local Foods Network does take WIC farmers market coupons and Alaska Quest SNAP EBT cards, and offers a matching program for produce purchased at the SLFN farm stand (if you buy $5 of produce, you will receive $10 worth).

A slideshow of scenes from the seventh market of the summer is posted below.

Check out the September 2021 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the September 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the last two markets of the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market season, information about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, an update on new high tunnels at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm where we grow our produce, an invitation to join our board of directors, and information about our 2021 sponsorship program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter 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. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2021 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY — Mother-daughter booth Aurora Cooper, left, of Rory’s Rocks, and Jaycie Karsunky, second from left, of Rose Lane Co. Candles and Decor, receive the Table of the Day Award from Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James, third from left, and volunteer Al Staumont right, during the Au. 28 market. Aurora sold a variety of painted abalone shells, while Jaycie sold homemade candles. They received a certificate, a tote bag, a t-shirt, a bottle of Bearinade BBQ/marinade sauce, a bottle of Moosetard mustard, a bag of Alaska Flour Company barley cereal, and a Sitka Farmers Market special label Theobroma chocolate bar. The last two Sitka Farmers Markets of the summer are scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11 and Sept. 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Vendors can register online (by Thursday before each market) at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More details about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

Heavy rain was in the forecast, but we hit a welcome dry window of weather when the Sitka Local Foods Network hosted with its sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, Aug. 28. It rained heavily before the market, but it dried up to only a few short squalls during the market.

Due to a growing COVID-19 count, we instituted a face mask policy this summer to try and protect our customers and vendors from the coronavirus. That face mask policy will be in force when we hold our fourth Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept 11, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. We ask all customers and vendors to wear masks. Our last market of the summer is Sept. 18.

The markets are being held outside this year to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We haven’t had as many booths as in previous years, but the smaller market seems to be working. We still have fresh local produce, as well as a variety of Alaska Grown value-added products, local eggs, mushrooms, and arts and crafts. We should have some cooked food at Saturday’s market. We do have a couple of new vendors registered for this market, and we’d love to see a fish vendor or a baked goods vendor, too.

The Sitka Local Foods Network needs a volunteer or two to help set up the market, sell produce during the market, and take down the market after it’s over. If you’re interested in helping us with the market, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or Nalani James at (808) 778-9888.

We also are recruiting new vendors, and they can register and pay their vendor fees by going to https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

The Sitka Local Foods Network does take WIC farmers market coupons and Alaska Quest SNAP EBT cards, and offers a matching program for produce purchased at the SLFN farm stand (if you buy $5 of produce, you will receive $10 worth).

A slideshow of scenes from the sixth market of the summer is posted below.

Pacific High School receives USDA Farm To School grant for edible garden

RAISED EXPECTATIONS – Pacific High School ninth-grade student Henrey Ward brushes dirt from a garlic bulb he pulled Monday morning (Aug. 30, 2021) from raised garden beds behind the building. Dozens of students from the school picked garlic, rhubarb, potatoes and other vegetables, as well as gathered berries and pruned trees, while the school body took advantage of fair weather to harvest crops and winterize their campus. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by Reber Stein, used with permission) Bottom photo is Pacific High School students planting garlic (Photo Courtesy of Mandy Summer).

The Sitka School District’s Pacific High School is one of two schools in Alaska to receive a Farm To School (F2S) grant from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. The grant is for $50,000 and will be used to improve Pacific High School’s edible garden.

The USDA Farm To School grant program in 2021-22 will support 176 grant-winners from around the country, serving 6,800 schools and more than 1.4 million students. The other Alaska site to receive a grant was the Cordova School District, through its nonprofit partner the Copper Valley Watershed Project.

According to the USDA’s list of Farm to School grants and their project descriptions, “The Pacific High School (PHS) Edible Garden project will support the installation of an edible garden, adjacent to both PHS and Baranof Elementary School (BES). PHS is a school of choice, serving high-needs students who have been underserved in the traditional system, and BES serves all of the district’s grades K-1 students. The edible garden will be used as an experiential outdoor classroom and integrated into both schools’ curriculum. Food produced will supply the Pacific High School meal program and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska summer meal program, in addition to being consumed as part of school and partner agency learning experiences.”

Pacific High School principal Mandy Summer said the grant will be used in several ways.

“The F2S grant is a total of $50,000 of funding for one year which we intend to use to hire a school gardener,” Summer wrote in an email. “This person will be responsible for overall planning and maintenance of the school garden, organizing a PHS garden committee, creating a sustainability plan that will address future maintenance needs, and developing curricular resources to assist teachers (PHS and Baranof) in leading garden experiences with their students.  Until now, PHS has not had a staff member solely dedicated to working in the garden and developing garden resources and activities, which has slowed the growth of our Farm to Table program. It is our hope that the funding provided though the Farm to School grant will provide the means for us to grow produce year-round for our school breakfast and lunch program, and expand curricular resources to enable more students to have learning experiences in the garden.”

When she was a teacher at the school, before she was promoted to principal, Summer helped create the school garden a decade ago. In recent years, Pacific High School hosted MOBY the Mobile Greenhouse (a portable greenhouse built on a trailer that travels to different communities around Southeast Alaska) and the Pacific Planters school garden club sold plant starts this spring.

“Pacific High has been teaching gardening classes for 10 years now and expanding our garden space behind the school for six,” Summer wrote. “This grant will involve Baranof through the development of elementary-aged curricular resources by the school gardener, in partnership with teachers from Baranof who are interested in getting their students out in the garden. We purchased a 24×48 (foot) greenhouse last year with funding from a partnership grant with Sitka Tribe of Alaska. However before we can put the greenhouse up, we need to excavate for the foundation, level the site, and put in some French drains. This is estimated to cost approximately $25,000, which we will do (through) a fundraising campaign for this fall.”