Twelve sustainable Southeast Alaska businesses vie to win two $25,000 prizes in Path to Prosperity contest

Angela Ketah, back left, and family of Sitka Flowers & The Chocolate Moose, which makes and sells its own handmade chocolates in Sitka

The Path to Prosperity sustainable business development competition has selected this year’s cohort of 12 businesses (including three from Sitka) to advance to the second round of the competition. Started by Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy in 2013 and run by Spruce Root, Path to Prosperity is an award-winning competition for small businesses and start-ups located in Southeast Alaska. As usual, several of the finalists are businesses centered around the use of local foods.

In Round 2 of the competition, finalists will participate in Path to Prosperity’s innovative Business Boot Camp where they will get access to resources, work with mentors, and receive one-on-one consulting to develop their business models and plans. In February 2021, two finalists will be selected to win $25,000 each to grow their businesses. The following 12 businesses were selected as this year’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Primary Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Today, Allen Bird, Ketchikan
  • Caffeinated Raven, Alison Bremner (Marks), Juneau
  • Coastal Heating and Repair, James Jensen, Yakutat
  • Equinox, Cameo Padilla, Sitka
  • Gastineau Grains, Kate Higgins, Juneau
  • Integrative Mushroom Solutions, Uyanga “Angie” Mendbayar, Juneau
  • Jellyfish Donuts, Brianna Krantz, Ketchikan
  • Kaasei Training and Consulting, Naomi Michalsen, Ketchikan
  • Sitka Flowers & The Chocolate Moose, Angela Ketah, Sitka
  • TIDES Education Associates (no website), Nancy Douglas, Sitka
  • Well-Being, Adrianna Oliva, Ketchikan
  • Xíinaansdla, Marita Tolson, Hydaburg

From offering Haida cultural immersion in a traditional longhouse, to creating tasty snacks from spent grain, to incorporating culture-based learning into Alaska’s school systems, the 2020 Path to Prosperity finalists are defining Southeast Alaska’s local products and services, creating jobs, and driving local, sustainable, economic growth.

Nancy Douglas of TIDES Education Associates (TIDES stands for Teaching with Indigenous Design for Every Student)

Shgen George of TIDES Education Associates, a new business just getting started

“Path to Prosperity accelerates the growth of small businesses throughout the region by bringing businesses together to network, work with experts, and write their business plans,” says program administrator Ashley Snookes. A total of 18 entrepreneurs from six communities applied to Path to Prosperity in 2020. “Businesses have been hard-hit this year, and we want to do everything we can to help them, our communities, and our region thrive.”

One of the unique opportunities in Path to Prosperity this year is the program’s focus on minority-led businesses. “Southeast Alaska is a diverse region, and we hope the program will be especially beneficial to Alaska Natives and other minority communities this year,” says Snookes. The 2020 program is sponsored largely by the Minority Business Development Agency, which defines minority-led businesses as United States citizens who are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Hasidic Jews, Native American, and Pacific Islanders. Ownership by minority individuals means the business is at least 51% owned by such individuals.

The M/V Equinox, a charter tour company owned by Cameo Padilla

Over the past eight years, Path to Prosperity has received more than 260 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 22 communities. The program has trained 89 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 15 winners $510,000 to build their local businesses. All of the participants have been trained in the “triple-bottom-line” approach to building a business by learning to measure their profitability as well as the environmental and social impacts of their business. Competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), Foundroot (Haines), Village Coffee Company (Yakutat), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and more.

Path to Prosperity is a Spruce Root program. Spruce Root provides local entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources in the form of loan capital, business coaching, workshops, and competitions. Together, these programs support both new and existing businesses in Southeast Alaska and empower business owners through increased self-sufficiency. To learn more about Path to Prosperity or Spruce Root’s other services, visit their website at or email


Voting open in 12th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration

The voting period for the 12th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration is open and people can go online and support their favorite farmers markets through Sept. 20. This year, the top farmers market wins $1,000, with second place receiving $500.

Last year, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top market in Alaska and finished ninth in the Pacific region. The Sitka Farmers Market has been the top vote-getter in Alaska for the past three years, and five of the past six year. 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 22 this year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several major changes to the Sitka Farmers Markets this year. We have a greatly scaled back market with two new co-managers (Ariane Goudeau and Nalani James), 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. Click this link to hear a KCAW Morning Interview with Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham discussing the changes.

Basically, this year people create Sitka accounts using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online portal,, and order their produce from 5 p.m. on Tuesday through 8 p.m. on Thursday each week from July through September. We will have a weekly pick-up event (with Middle Island Gardens) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street). All of our sales this year will be done online, and no sales will happen at the pick-up events on Saturday. In addition, all of our volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves and we ask you to wear masks and stay with your cars when you arrive at the pick-up event while one of our greeters brings you your order.

Click this link to learn more about some of the changes this year, and click this link to see some photos from our June 20 pick-up event. Click this link to sign up for our weekly Sitka Farmers Market newsletter that comes out on Tuesday afternoons and lets people know what’s available each week.

Sitka Local Foods Network introduces new tote bags for July 4 Sitka Farmers Market

The Sitka Local Foods Network has a new logo this year, and that means it’s time to put it on a tote bag.

Our new tote bags will go on sale for $12 each with this week’s produce, which will be for sale from 5 p.m. on Tuesday through 8 p.m. on Thursday on the Salt and Soil Marketplace, Those tote bags ordered during the week can be picked up from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at our produce pick-up event at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (by the See House, behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street). The tote bag sales help support the Sitka Farmers Market and other Sitka Local Foods Network efforts each year, such as growing local produce, connecting people to garden education, and sparking entrepreneurs with the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

The bag is 10 ounces of durable cotton (so you can wash it), and there is a wooden button so you can close the bag to keep items from falling out. In addition to using the bags to haul your Sitka Farmers Market produce purchases, you can reuse it when you shop for groceries. They are a great way to help reduce plastic waste when you shop.

Our new logo was created by Alyssa Russell and Lisa Gilardi of The Hullabaloo Studio, under consultation with the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors.

We still have about 25-30 of our 2019 Sitka Farmers Market tote bags left for sale, and they are available for $10 each when you order from Salt and Soil Marketplace. These make great gifts, and they can handle a lot of groceries.

Scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2020 summer

Thank you to everybody who helped us test our new procedures for the Sitka Farmers Market on Saturday, June 20. There is no market this weekend (June 27), but we will hold produce pick-up days every Saturday in July, August and September this summer.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’re having to change a lot of our operation this year, and Saturday gave use a chance to see how things will work out. We have a greatly scaled back market this summer, due to state mandates and space limitations. Right now, we have converted to a market where people order produce online, then pick it up on Saturday.

We will take a break this week (June 27), but then we will have market pick-up days every Saturday in July (4, 11, 18, 25), August (1, 8, 15, 22, 29), and September (5, 12, 19, 26). We will open up our online ordering portal on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website,, from 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, until it closes at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 2. Our next pick-up time is from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 4, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located by the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street). This is where we grow most of our produce for the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

“We wish we could have a regular farmers market, but we’re glad we’re able to at least do this, get fresh, local produce into the hands of Sitka residents,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network which is hosting its 13th season of Sitka Farmers Markets. “We miss the camaraderie and vendors of a normal market, and we hope to be able to go back to that next summer. In the meantime, it is what it is, and we’re trying to make the best of the situation.”

On June 20, we had the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand and Middle Island Gardens as vendors, but there may be additional vendors using Salt and Soil Marketplace that will sell food products in Sitka later this summer. Most of those vendors will distribute their products at our pick-up days, although they may not be physically present.

We expect to start taking WIC farmers market coupons and SNAP Alaska Quest EBT cards beginning with the July 4 pick-up day. Thanks to grants from the White E, Sitka Legacy Fund and The Alaska Community Foundation, people using WIC and SNAP benefits will be able to use $5 of their benefits to receive a $20 small basket of produce from the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand. Since you won’t be able to use Salt and Soil Marketplace, you will need to call our Sitka Farmers Market phone at 738-7310 or email us at to reserve your basket, You will need to bring one WIC coupon or your Alaska Quest card to the pick-up site so we can process your order. There is a limit of one small basket of produce per family per week for WIC/SNAP benefits.

Due to COVID-19, we are trying to minimize exposure as much as possible. This means using the online format to reduce our handling of cash and checks. It also means all of our volunteers are gloved and masked (and our request that you also mask up). When you arrive to pick up your produce, we ask you park in one of the parking spaces at the top of the hill and turn off your engine. We will get your name and bring you your produce basket so you can transfer the produce into your own tote bag or box (we do need our plastic baskets back).

A slideshow of scenes from the first market is posted below.

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Check out the June 2020 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the June 2020 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about an update on the Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans for the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, a story about our new logo, an update on the last day to make Pick.Click.Give. donation changes, an invitation to join our board of directors, and a thank you to those businesses and individuals sponsoring us for 2020. 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).