Please wear masks for the Sitka Farmers Market this Saturday

Over the past month, Sitka has seen a major spike in COVID-19 cases and now has as many cases as it did during the peak of the pandemic this fall.

With that in mind, the Sitka Local Foods Network asks customers and vendors to be COVID-aware during the Sitka Farmers Market this Saturday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, July 31, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall). We still plan to hold the market, but we don’t want to contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

One of the reasons we’re holding the market outside this summer is because we figured there might be a spike or two in COVID-19 rates. Being outdoors is a good way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We also ask all customers and vendors to wear masks, even if you are vaccinated. Other than getting one of the vaccines, a mask is the best protection against COVID-19 spread. In addition, we request people give each other at least six feet of space, and not attend the market if they are feeling sick.

When you visit a vendor’s table, please point out which items you’re interested in and let the vendor get them for you. This will reduce the amount of handling of food items.

At this point, the only change we’ve seen to local and state safety guidelines is Sitka’s new mask mandate passed July 29 by the Sitka Assembly, so our plan is to hold the market on Saturday. But we ask people to do all they can to prevent the spread. Thanks.

By the way, 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, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or Nalani James at (808) 778-9888. We plan to start setting up about 8-8:30 a.m. and should have everything packed up by 2 p.m.

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 at the Sitka Farmers Market, and offers a matching program for produce purchased at the SLFN farm stand (if you buy $5 of produce, you will receive $10 worth).

Scenes from the second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer

Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James, left, presents the Table of the Day Award for July 17 to Charlie Bower, who sold a variety of mushrooms he cultivated and gathered, as well as other mushroom products. Charlie received a certificate, a tote bag, a bag of salad mix, and a jar of Foraged and Farm kelp pickles. The next Sitka Farmers Market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Vendors can register online (by Thursday) 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.

It was cool and overcast when the Sitka Local Foods Network held its second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, July 17, perfect weather for a market.

Due to a growing COVID-19 count, we instituted a face mask policy to try and protect our customers and vendors from the coronavirus. That face mask policy will be in force when we hold our third Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, 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.

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, 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 second market of the summer is posted below.

Sitka Local Foods Network hosts first Sitka Farmers Market of 2021

After hosting a greatly limited market with only produce booths in 2020, the Sitka Local Foods Network kicked off its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets on Saturday, July 3, at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall with more booths and more community connection.

This was the first of eight markets this summer, our 14th season of markets. The other markets are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, all at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall, 330 Harbor Drive.

We are recruiting more vendors for our upcoming markets, and potential vendors can register and pay vendor fees at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. If you have any questions, you can contact Charles Bingham at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or 623-7660. We also are recruiting volunteers (to help set up, take down, and sell) and musicians for the markets.

In addition, the Sitka Local Foods Network and Middle Island Gardens will have limited produce sales on non-market weeks through the Salt and Soil Marketplace online sales website. Sales open online at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. on Thursday, with pick-up scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, July 10, 24, Aug. 14, and Sept. 4, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street.

Anam Cara Family Garden also will sell jams and jellies on Salt and Soil Marketplace, but people will need to pick those up from the garden at 815 Charles Street on Saturday.

If you are new to the Salt and Soil Marketplace, you will need to set up a Sitka account on the site and the click Shop Now and dial in the Sitka products. This site also sells products in other communities, but there are no deliveries to Sitka.

A slideshow of scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the summer is posted below.

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the July 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 launch of the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market season, 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).

Sitka Farmers Market kicks off 14th season on Saturday

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets with its opening market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. This will be the first of eight full markets this summer, with the other markets taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, all at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

“After last year’s COVID-19 pandemic limited our markets to only produce booths, we’re happy to be getting back to some normalcy this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our eight markets this year will still have some COVID safety measures, such as being held entirely outdoors and encouraging everybody to use face masks. But we will have a variety of fresh local produce, fish, homemade baked goods, cottage foods, cooked food, arts and crafts, and more. We missed the community aspect of the markets last year, so it will be nice to have some of our vendors back this summer.”

The Sitka Farmers Market gots its start from the second Sitka Health Summit, held in April 2008, when Sitka residents chose two food-related community wellness projects to work on for the next year — to create a local foods market and to start a community greenhouse. Later in April, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church made its backyard available for growing produce, which became St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and by August the first of three Sitka Farmers Markets was held. Those projects led to the creation of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The Sitka Local Foods Network continues to host the Sitka Farmers Market, and also runs a farm stand selling produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The SLFN farm stand also sells Alaska Grown value-added products from around the state. Last year when the market was simplified due to COVID, the Alaska Grown products were dropped. This summer, the Alaska Grown products are back, with Barnacle Foods kelp products from Juneau, Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood, and more. New this year are Foraged and Found kelp products from Ketchikan, Moosetard mustard and BBQ sauce products from Fairbanks, and some special Sitka Farmers Market-label chocolate bars from Sitka’s own Theobroma Chocolates.

“We still are recruiting vendors for the markets, but we do expect Middle Island Gardens with fresh produce at all eight markets, and the Hog Hole hot dog stand at all eight markets,” Bingham said. “In addition, at our first market we have Harriet and Ron McClain of Fish Bone Studio with arts and crafts, Pamela Ash with arts and crafts, Ashley and Dustin Ward and family of Ward Craft with arts and crafts and cottage foods, and Charlie Bower with cultivated mushrooms.”

New this year is an online vendor registration site, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com, where potential vendors can register and pay for their vendor fees. Nalani James, who was market co-manager last year, will manage the markets this summer, with Charles Bingham and Amanda Anjum assisting. There also is a youth vendor program for vendors age 14 and younger. Potential vendors can email sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call Charles Bingham at 623-7660 with any questions. Potential musicians and volunteers also can call Bingham, if they want to help.

New high tunnels help grow more produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

Since its origin as a small communal garden located in space behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church in April 2008, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown much of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market.

Coordinated by the Sitka Local Foods Network, with Laura Schmidt serving as lead gardener for the past decade, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown in efficiency and production so there are more fresh veggies available for Sitka residents.

In recent years, that means the addition of high tunnels, also called hoop houses. High tunnels look like greenhouses, but don’t have the heaters, powered ventilation systems or evaporative coolers commonly found in greenhouses. Even without those extras, high tunnels can extend the growing season and even counter the effects of a cold, wet summer such as the one we had in 2020 when it seemed like it rained just about all the time.

It started with a small, used high tunnel a former Sitka Local Foods Network board member donated to the group when she moved out of town. That small high tunnel, which still is in use at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, has been at the communal garden for about 5-6 years now. It was first used as a place to start seedlings and now has chard and kale growing in it.

In the spring of 2020, the Sitka Local Foods Network board approved the purchase of a 16×28 quonset hut-style high tunnel, manufactured by Oregon Valley Greenhouses and sold locally through Spenard Builder’s Supply. This high tunnel was constructed by a volunteer crew coordinated by Laura Schmidt, and was planted in time for the 2020 summer.

That high tunnel saved our 2020 Sitka Farmers Market season, as it helped protect some of the more fragile plants from the extreme cold and rain we had that year. That prompted the Sitka Local Foods Network to buy another 16×28 high tunnel of the same make and model, plus we added an automated venting system and fan to both of the new high tunnels.

Despite the nice weather last week, the 2021 spring has been cold and wet so the produce still needs better weather to kick into gear. But the new high tunnels will greatly help us keep Sitka in produce this summer.

Click this link, if you want to support the Sitka Local Foods Network’s efforts to grow more healthy produce for Sitka residents. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown farm designation, which shows the Sitka Local Foods Network’s commitment to growing produce in a sustainable manner with the minimal use of chemical fertilizers.

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about an update on plans for the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market, 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).

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about an update on plans for the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market, 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).

Another update about the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market and our plans for a safe event

We’re not ready to take vendor registrations yet, but the Sitka Local Foods Network is closer to having its plans set for our 14th season of the Sitka Farmers Market. We do have dates and a location now, but we have to rewrite our vendor agreements to discuss our new COVID-19 reality and we’re waiting to hear if we received a grant that will help us reduce our vendor fees.

Right now we are looking at hosting eight markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, on the plaza outside the museum end of Harrigan Centennial Hall. This year’s market will be entirely outdoors to limit the spread of COVID-19, and we still will need people to mask up.

Last year we were able to host a very scaled back market, using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering system during the week and having customers pick up their produce on Saturdays. This year we plan to have a hybrid format, where some produce will be posted online during the week for early ordering and then pick-up at the market, with regular day-at-market sales also taking place where people pick and choose what veggies they want to buy while at the market. In addition, in our non-market weeks we plan to have a small-scale online sales program with either a delivery or pick-up service planned (we are still deciding how this will work).

Now that vaccines are available and more people in Sitka are becoming vaccinated, we feel like we can do more this year such as allow socializing and having more people around. At the same time we have COVID-19 and its variants in our midst, so we still plan to require masks and hand-washing to help prevent the spread.

Our main reason for holding the market outside is because we worry being inside puts too many people on top of each other and probably isn’t safe. We still need to work out our configuration for the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall, so we know how many booths we can support, but we should be able to have people use the benches around the outside of the building. Vendors will need to provide a two-foot-by-six-foot table, but there is an overhang so most booths should be protected from the rain. There are a limited number of electrical outlets outside, for those booths needing power.

We also should be able to host food trucks, which can park next to the plaza with their windows facing the building (most of them have already done this at other events). If you are planning to cook food at the market, your booth will have to be at least 10 feet away from any of the overhangs, so they will need to set up a table and 10×10 farmers market/event tent (about $115-$120 at Sitka True Value) on the plaza. They also will need to provide their own small camp stove or BBQ grill for cooking, and may need a generator for power since we can’t have long cords creating a trip hazard.

We have big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. Last year, we bought a second high tunnel so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. That worked so well, we bought a third high tunnel this winter and we’re already planting veggies inside it.

Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for more than a decade, and deserves a lot of respect for how much produce she grows on the small patch of land we have access to behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church. We thank St. Peter’s for allowing us to continue growing food for the community on its property. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has received a Certified Naturally Grown designation the past two years.

The Sitka Farmers Market is about local food, but it’s so much more. It’s about community and providing local entrepreneurs with a place to sell their products. We really enjoy seeing everybody come together to see their neighbors and friends at the market. That’s a big reason we want to host the market. One aspect of the market is it serves as a business incubator, a place for people to try out a new business, and we lost that last year when we had to scale things back to just our produce vendors.

We are excited to bring the market back to Sitka, and hope people enjoy our eight markets this summer. The full markets will allow non-produce vendors to participate, and maybe even some arts-and-crafts vendors.

Since we will have to increase the space between booths around the market, we will have some space limitations. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s main focus is on local food, so food booths who book by a certain date will have priority, with arts-and-crafts booths filling leftover open spaces. We want to be able to involve as many vendors as possible, so hopefully we’ll be able to fit everybody in the space without making it too crowded.

We are working with state WIC and SNAP programs to see if we can accept benefits every week, or only when we have our larger markets. Our goal is to provide fresh local produce to all residents, especially those low-income residents who might not be able to afford it. Anyway, we still are trying to finalize details and hope to have an update soon.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. Nalani James will be our Sitka Farmers Market manager this year. We will need volunteers to help set up and take down the market each week, and to sell produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the April 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 winners of the 2021 Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, the PFD application deadline on Wednesday night and how people can donate through the Pick.Click.Give. charitable giving program when they file for their PFDs, an update on plans for the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market, 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).