The voting period for the 14th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration is open and people can go online and support their favorite farmers markets through Sept. 19. After being sponsored under various names by the American Farmland Trust during its early years, this year the Trust is teaming up with the Farmers Market Coalition to host the contest.
They also have increased the prize money, with the top farmers market winning $5,000, second place receiving $2,500, third place $1,500, fourth place $750, and fifth place $250. Only the top three finishers won cash last year, and there was just $5,000 total instead of this year’s $10,000.
Last year, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top market in Alaska again. The Sitka Farmers Market has been the top vote-getter in Alaska for the past five years, and seven of the past eight years. The contest uses online voting, but each email address is only allowed to vote once so people can’t stuff the ballot box. Voting opened on June 20 this year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made several major changes to the Sitka Farmers Markets in 2020 and some of those are carried forward into 2021. We are trying to return to a semblance of normal in 2022, but we still are watching for more COVID-19 outbreaks.
In 2020, we had a greatly scaled back market, a switch to an online ordering system, a new pick-up event location, and new health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We had a fuller market in 2021, with the market entirely outdoors at a different location to prevent COVID-19 spread. This year we are back at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, where we hosted our first 12 years of markets. While we do have an indoors component this year, people still are encouraged to wear face masks if we are in High or Moderate risk levels to help prevent COVID-19 spread. Even though most Sitka residents have been vaccinated, COVID-19 remains present and there are many variants.
This year we plan seven full markets in our 15th season, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 2, 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27, Sept. 10, and 24, at the ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street) and Baranof Island Housing Authority parking lot next to ANB Hall. Nalani James will manage the markets again this year, with Charles Bingham assisting. At the markets, depending on which vendors register, we plan to have fresh local produce, fish, cottage foods, homemade baked goods, hot food, food trucks, arts and crafts, live music, and more. We added a new online vendor registration website last year, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. We also still have our youth vendor program.
Barring the end of the pandemic, all of our volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We ask our customers to wear masks and give people space during the market. We want to encourage community connection and small businesses at the markets, but this is a healthy activity and we don’t want to spread the coronavirus.