Mighty Bear Roots, Game Creek Family Orchards win 2017 Path to Prosperity contest

Rob Bishop of Game Creek Family Orchards in Hoonah poses with some of his fruit trees. Game Creek Family Orchards supplies fruit trees, tree maintenance and support services, and fresh, locally grown apples to and Southeast Alaska. After years of experimenting with local and disease resistant rootstocks, Game Creek Family Orchards has developed a reputation for producing apple trees uniquely crafted to thrive in Southeast Alaska.

Two Southeast Alaska businesses have won a contest for innovative entrepreneurs. Mighty Bear Roots in Wrangell and Hoonah’s Game Creek Family Orchards will each receive prizes of $25,000 for winning top honors in the Path to Prosperity business competition. Winners were presented with their awards on Thursday evening (Feb. 23) at the annual Innovation Summit in Juneau.

Path to Prosperity, or P2P, is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and Spruce Root Inc.  This sustainable business development competition grows entrepreneurs whose businesses will have a positive economic, social and environmental impact on communities all across Southeast Alaska. In 2017, the contest focused on food security and food businesses. In 2018, the contest will be open to a variety of business types when it opens in April.

Dixie and Chris Booker of Mighty Bear Roots of Wrangell. Mighty Bear Roots is an aeroponic greenhouse start-up that will provide the community of Wrangell with a local source of fresh healthy produce. The clean and green operation will utilize energy efficient full spectrum LED lighting, solar panels, rain catch and ground-to-air heat transfer systems to reduce its ecological footprint while growing delicious, healthy food that doesn’t need to be barged in.

Mighty Bear Roots is an aeroponic greenhouse start-up that will provide the community of Wrangell with a local source of fresh healthy produce.

“The Path to Prosperity has really helped us organize our thinking around our business” says Dixie Booker, the company’s co-founder. “We are excited for the potential to enhance our community’s food security and bring fresh produce to Wrangell. I highly recommend P2P for anyone who wants to start or further a small business.”

Game Creek Family Orchards supplies fruit trees, tree maintenance and support services, and fresh, locally grown apples to and Southeast Alaska.  After years of experimenting with local and disease resistant rootstocks, Game Creek Family Orchards has developed a reputation for producing apple trees uniquely crafted to thrive in Southeast Alaska.

Over the past four years, P2P has received 197 applications from 24 Southeast Alaska communities representing 12 different industries. In addition, 60 entrepreneurs have participated in P2P’s intensive Business Boot Camp workshops. There are now 11 Path to Prosperity winners in Southeast Alaska, all of whom continue to grow and build their businesses in ways that contribute to the community, are environmentally sustainable and are profitable.

“We’re very excited about not only this year’s winners but the entire group of 12 finalists we brought to our Business Boot Camp in September,” says Paul Hackenmueller, Spruce Root program manager and P2P administrator. “Each year the competition has grown more competitive. You can see the impact the program and, more importantly, our contestants are having on their local communities and the region.”

There are more and more signs that P2P, which began as a unique experiment in 2013, has proven itself as a dynamic program that’s making a difference in Southeast Alaska.

“These food businesses don’t only create local jobs; they also decrease the environmental impacts of shipping and transport, and provide food security and healthy food choices in our communities,” says Christine Woll, who directs Southeast Alaska programs for The Nature Conservancy. “These types of businesses are key to building a prosperous triple-bottom-line future for Southeast Alaska.”

Continued Growth
After focusing on food, the 2018 competition will once again be open to sustainable businesses from any industry. “Strengthening local food systems in Southeast Alaska is important to The Nature Conservancy and Spruce Root, but we know there are businesses of all stripes that can benefit from the P2P experience,” Hackenmueller says. “We’ve already seen a lot of interest in the 2018 competition, so I anticipate we’ll see another group of passionate, motivated entrepreneurs for out next Boot Camp in the fall.”

About Spruce Root
Our goal is to build community resiliency. We believe a strong locally controlled economy creates the foundation for a healthy and thriving community. Spruce Root promotes economic development and job creation in Southeast Alaska by providing access to small business loans and business advisory services. Spruce Root is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.

Spruce Root was founded by Haa Aaní LLC in 2012 under Haa Aaní Community Development Fund Inc. with the goal of improving access to capital for entrepreneurs in Southeast Alaska.

Learn more at www.spruceroot.org | 907.586.9251 |  grow@spruceroot.org

About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy envisions a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives. As a non-profit conservation organization, the Conservancy is committed to solving big challenges to nature and human well-being. For nearly 30 years, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has crafted lasting science-based conservation solutions with diverse partners all across the state. Learn more at www.nature.org/alaska.

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Check out the October 2017 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the October 2017 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes brief items about the Sitka Farmers Markets being named the top market in Alaska in online national voting, the Sitka Health Summit taking place on Oct. 11-13, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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 new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

• Northwest Farm Credit Services awards grants to Alaskans Own and Sitka Kitch projects

From left, Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association and Anya Grenier of the Alaskans Own Seafood community supported fishery project receive a check for $4,500 from Michael Wittman of Northwest Farm Credit Services to help promote local seafood for Alaskans.

From left, Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association and Anya Grenier of the Alaskans Own Seafood community supported fishery project receive a check for $4,500 from Michael Wittman of Northwest Farm Credit Services to help promote local seafood for Alaskans.

image003Northwest Farm Credit Services recently awarded two rural community grants to help fund a pair of local foods projects in Sitka. The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association received $4,500 for its Alaskans Own Seafood community supported fisheries program, and the Sitka Local Foods Network received $1,975 for a series of basic culinary skills classes to take place in March at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen (which is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society with assistance from the Sitka Local Foods Network).

“The support of Northwest Farm Credit Services will allow ALFA to improve and expand Alaskans Own so we can provide premium seafood to more rural residents,” said Linda Behnken, ALFA’s executive director.  “We believe healthy fisheries and healthy fishing communities go together and with this grant support we will reinvest in both.”

Alaskans Own connects residents of Alaska’s rural communities with great Alaskan seafood through monthly subscriptions. Subscription sales support ALFA’s research and conservation work to promote sustainable fisheries and sustainable fishing communities. Click here for KCAW-Raven Radio’s coverage of the grant.

From left, Dorrie Farrell and Kristy Miller of the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen advisory team and Sitka Local Foods Network president Lisa Sadleir-Hart receive a check for $1,975 from Michael Wittman of Northwest Farm Credit Services to support a Sitka Kitch project to teach basic culinary skills to people wanting to get jobs in the food/restaurant industry. The classes will take place in March.

From left, Dorrie Farrell and Kristy Miller of the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen advisory team and former Sitka Local Foods Network president/interim Sitka Kitch project coordinator Lisa Sadleir-Hart receive a check for $1,975 from Michael Wittman of Northwest Farm Credit Services to support a Sitka Kitch project to teach basic culinary skills to people wanting to get jobs in the food/restaurant industry. The classes will take place in March.

“Sitka Kitch will use the resources to launch a basic culinary training series taught by Chef Kathy Jones (executive chef for the Westmark Sitka Hotel),” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Sitka Kitch interim coordinator and former Sitka Local Foods Network board president. “Chef Kathy will model the four-session training on a curriculum from Indianapolis. She sees it as a way to get local Sitkans trained on entry-level culinary skills that could land them jobs in one of Sitka’s many restaurants or food-related businesses.”

The Sitka Kitch basic culinary skills training series is modeled after a similar program designed to help give people work skills for the restaurant/catering industry offered by a hunger relief nonprofit called Second Helpings in Indianapolis. More details about the Sitka Kitch basic culinary skills program will be announced in the next week or so. The classes also will be open to Sitka residents wanting to improve their home culinary skills.

Sitka Kitch is a community wellness project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit designed to improve food security in Sitka. The different parts of the project include creating a community kitchen Sitka residents can rent to prepare food for their small businesses or to preserve their family harvest of fish, game, or garden veggies; expanding Sitka’s emergency food storage capacity; and providing education about cooking and preserving food and building family emergency food pantries.

Northwest Farm Credit Services is committed to helping rural communities succeed. In 2015, Northwest FCS awarded 62 rural grants totaling more than $134,000 to projects in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Since the program’s inception in 2007, the company has presented 464 rural grants totaling more than $948,000.

The next rural grant deadline is Feb. 1, with two other deadline cycles later in the year. If you think your rural project may be eligible for a grant, visit http://northwestfcs.com/Stewardship/Rural-Communities for more information and an application.

Northwest FCS is a financial cooperative providing financing and related services to farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, commercial fishermen, timber producers, rural homeowners and crop insurance customers in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Northwest FCS provides approximately $13 billion in loans and is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of borrower-owned lending institutions that provide approximately $221 billion in loans to rural America. For more information, go to http://northwestfcs.com.

• Check out the December 2015 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

SLFNDecember2015NewsletterScreenshot

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the December 2015 edition of its newly launched monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This edition of the newsletter has brief stories about how one 140-character tweet won the Sitka Local Foods Network $20,000 from Tom’s of Maine, how the opening of the new Sitka Biotoxin Lab on Katlian Street will mean safer shellfish in Southeast Alaska, and an appeal for new first-year gardening families for the garden mentor 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 registration form 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.

• Three community wellness projects receive MAPP Tier 2 grant funding from SEARHC

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Three Sitka community wellness projects will each receive $10,000 in funding through the MAPP (Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships) Tier 2 grants from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).

SEARHC-logo-rgb-150-web“Fostering health and wellness in a community is complex and multifaceted,” SEARHC Health Educator Lauren Hughey said. “We are pleased to support these three projects with MAPP Teir 2 funding because while each project has a different approach. All will make Sitka a healthier place to live.”

Earlier this year, the Sitka Health Summit collected MAPP data about community health issues in Sitka, identifying healthy weight as a key focus area. In order to help more Sitkans achieve a healthy weight, SEARHC and the Sitka Health Summit requested project proposals that addressed this key area using the identified strategies that also address the health status of Alaska Native people.

Projects must use one of these strategies and plan an intervention based on evidence-based policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes. PSE changes will increase access to and use of traditional and other healthy foods or increase health literacy by making them more readily available at home, work, and in the community. PSE changes are long term changes and reach a large proportion of the population. PSE changes can occur in the community, tribal organizations, schools, healthcare systems, childcare facilities, worksites, or in families.

Here are brief descriptions about the three projects to receive MAPP Tier 2 grant funding:

  • Sitka Seedling Farms (project info provided by Matthew Jackson) — Sitka Seedling Farms is an initiative to meet Sitka’s food system needs in a thought-out, comprehensive way. Many food-related initiatives have been proposed over the last several years, but most have stalled for lack of space. Sitka Seedling Farms, which is a finalist in the Paths to Prosperity economic development contest for Southeast Alaska, will solve this problem by exploring innovative land relationships with major landowners in our community to develop the resources Sitka’s food system needs to thrive, such as production space for food entrepreneurs, community greenhouses, food storage and processing facilities and more. Sitka Seedling Farms is currently in the land exploration phase. Please contact Matthew Jackson with questions or comments at 907-821-1412.
  • Sitka Community Playground (project info provided by Lynne Brandon) — The grant award is to assist with the Sitka Community Playground Project Phase II, the design process. The design will help with the subsequent fundraising effort. The Phase III goal is to construct the new playground during the summer of 2017. Phase I was establishing a steering committee with volunteers, getting Assembly approval for the playground location at Crescent Harbor Park playground incorporating one of the three tennis courts, creating a funding plan and a timeline with tasks. The Sitka Community Playground project also is a 2015 Sitka Health Summit community wellness project.
  • Hames Center Elder Connect project (project info provided by Caitlin Blaisdell) — The Hames Center‘s Tier 2 grant will be used to create delegated senior hours for everyone older than age 65 and their caregivers to use our gym floor free of cost. These hours will incorporate group fitness activities, serve as an indoor walking space, create senior service information dissemination, and spark active, social groups for our growing senior demographic. Through bringing seniors together at the Hames Center with transportation assistance, we aim to remove many of the obstacles, such as social isolation, transportation limitations, and fixed income restrictions, that seniors may face in maintaining their physical and mental well-being all year round. The Hames Center Elder Connect project also is a 2015 Sitka Health Summit community wellness project.

Selected projects are awarded up to $10,000 for the project period of Nov. 1, 2015, through Oct. 31, 2016. For more information about the MAPP Tier 2 grant program, please contact Lauren Hughey at 966-8797 or lauren.hughey@searhc.org.

 

• Sitka Farmers Market earns top ranking from Alaska in American Farmland Trust’s Farmers Market Celebration

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FARMMARKETCELEB_LOGO_DThank you to everybody who supported the Sitka Farmers Market in the seventh annual American Farmland Trust‘s Farmers Market Celebration, which ended on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Your votes helped the Sitka Farmers Market rank as the top farmers market in Alaska in all five categories — People’s Choice, Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food For All, Pillar of the Community, and Champion for the Environment. We ranked 49th nationally in Champion of the Environment, 55th in People’s Choice, 57th in Healthy Food For All, 57th in Pillar of the Community, and 58th in the Focus on Farmers categories.

SitkaFarmersMarketSignIf you’re not familiar with the American Farmland Trust’s Farmers Market Celebration, you can learn more here. The Sitka Local Foods Network hosted six Sitka Farmers Markets this summer — on Saturdays, July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

While our markets are over for the summer, the Sitka Local Foods Network will host a fresh produce booth from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, Sept. 26, downtown near St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral at our 21st annual Running of the Boots fundraiser.

• Sitka Local Foods Network receives Strengthening Organizations grant from the Alaska Community Foundation

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Alaska CF headerThe Sitka Local Foods Network is one of 15 nonprofits in Alaska — two from Sitka — to earn a “Strengthening Organizations Program” grant from the Alaska Community Foundation.

The 15 grants totaled $75,353, with both Sitka organizations winning $4,600. The Island Institute, which partnered with the Sitka Local Foods Network to produce the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report in 2014, is the other Sitka organization to be awarded a grant.

The grant-winners “were recognized for their initiative in building internal structures to enhance capacity. Grant proposals ranged from requests for leadership development support, funding for staff to attend conferences, financial management training, digitizing collections for website purposes, and much more,” according to an Alaska Community Foundation press release.

The Sitka Local Foods Network applied for the grant to take a step toward the next level as a growing organization. It plans to use the grant to create a formal fundraising and business plan, with the intent to start putting money aside to hire a part-time staff person to take over some of the group’s day-to-day duties from the volunteer board of directors. Other than a few select positions which are contracted out, such as the Sitka Farmers Market manager and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener, the organization is entirely operated by volunteers.

“That is not sustainable in the long run,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart told the Daily Sitka Sentinel. “We have to start thinking about staffing in the long run, and that requires capital. We’re moving in that direction.” She also said the grant will help the network become “more strategic in how we use precious volunteer energy.”

The Sitka Local Foods Network will work with consultants from the Foraker Group, an organization that provides support and training to Alaska nonprofit organizations, to develop the fundraising and business plan. The grant was written by Matthew Jackson, the board vice-president.

The Alaska Community Foundation’s Strengthening Organizations Program is unique in the funding it makes available to nonprofits, as it focuses on internal capacity building, rather than programs or outreach. This program awards capacity building grants up to $10,000, with typical awards ranging from $3,000-$5,000, to 501(c)(3) nonprofits or equivalent organizations, which may include tribes, schools, churches and local government agencies and programs.

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and the next deadline is Sept. 1. The Alaska Community Foundation program staff strongly encourages interested applicants to submit drafts for review a minimum of two weeks before the deadline. For more information or to apply, visit The Alaska Community Foundation at http://alaskacf.org/grants or call (907) 274-6705.