How to use WIC coupons, Alaska Quest SNAP cards or credit/debit cards at the Sitka Farmers Market

Have you ever come up a bit short of cash while shopping at the Sitka Farmers Market? Well, there are other methods to use.

The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept the Alaska Quest EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards for people on SNAP (formerly called food stamps). We also accept WIC farmers market coupons. In both cases, we match up to the first $20 for produce (on WIC) or produce and other SNAP-eligible foods (on Quest).

While many of our vendors have attachments on their cellphones that allow them to run credit or debit card transactions, sometimes it’s hard to get an Internet signal in the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We sell tokens (wooden nickels) at our Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth, next to our farm stand outside, that people can use like cash with vendors at the market.

Here is a short primer on how to use each type of transaction:

WIC Farmers Market Coupons

WIC Farmers Market Coupons may only be used at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, found outside in the parking lot.

Present your coupons, and we will match the value up to $20 for produce (so $20 in WIC coupons gives you $40 in value). Our WIC matching program is for produce only and does not include our Alaska Grown products, due to WIC restrictions

Alaska Quest Cards (SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer)

Bring your Alaska Quest card to the Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth, found outside in the parking lot next to the SLFN farm stand booth.

We swipe your card and give you wooden nickels (tokens) for the value you think you will spend on produce, Alaska Grown products, bread, jams or jellies, or other food that is not meant to be eaten at the market. You can use your wooden nickels at the SLFN farm stand booth, and with certain vendors that have signed agreements to accept SNAP wooden nickels (ask us which vendors have signed agreements when you swipe your card). We will match up to $20 in wooden nickels for produce at the SLFN farm stand.

No cash change will be given for people using SNAP wooden nickels (available in $1 and $5 increments). If you have leftover wooden nickels at the end of the market, take them back to the SLFN swag booth and we will credit them back to your SNAP account. This credit must be done at the same market.

Credit/Debit Cards

While some of our vendors can run credit/debit cards at their booths, there are many that can’t. If you are low in cash and want to run your credit/debit card to buy something at the market, stop by the Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth and we will run your credit/debit card and give you wooden nickels in $5 or $10 increments.

You can then spend your credit/debit card wooden nickels like cash with many of the vendors at the market (most booths will have a sign saying they accept credit/debit card wooden nickels). Credit/debit card tokens may be used for food and non-food items, and customers may receive cash as change.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s Preserving the Harvest class on simple pickles and sauerkraut

Students learned how to make pickled squash and sauerkraut during the Simple Pickles and Sauerkraut class on Tuesday, July 11, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. This was the third of six scheduled classes in the Preserving the Harvest food preservation class series offered this summer.

The class was taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a Sitka dietitian and health educator who has taught several cooking and food preservation classes for the Sitka Kitch. In this class, students learned how to make a variety of fermented foods, with the focus on squash pickles and sauerkraut (many of the recipes came from the food preservation book So Easy To Preserve, which is produced by the University of Georgia with the book’s meat and fish recipes coming from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service). She also discussed how probiotics help with digestion and gut health.

This was the third class in the Preserving the Harvest food preservation class series, which is sponsored by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). The other classes in the series are (underlined titles take you to the class registration page):

  • Jam Session: Preserving Jams and Jellies — 6-8:30 p.m., Monday, July 24, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, $27.50 registration fee (NOTE: Class is full. Email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org to ask about a waiting list)
  • Ring Around the Rose Hip: Rose Hip Relish and More — 6-8:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 18, taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, $27.50 registration fee
  • Venison Jerky — 6-8:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 30 (this date may change), taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart and Jasmine Shaw, $27.50 registration fee

The Sitka Kitch programming team is working on other classes to be offered later this summer and next fall. Watch the Sitka Kitch page on Facebook or our online registration page to see when these and any future classes are scheduled.

When registering, students should prepay for the class through the Sitka Kitch online registration sitehttp://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com, using PayPal or credit/debit card. If you need other payment arrangements, contact Chandler or Clarice of Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 to arrange a time when you can pay with cash or check. To qualify for a partial refund, please notify us at least three days in advance if you need to cancel. The registration deadline is three days before each class so our instructors have time to purchase materials. Please email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org with any questions.

A slideshow of scenes from the Simple Pickles and Sauerkraut class follows below.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service free publication “Pickles and Relishes”

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service free publication “Sauerkraut”

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the June 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 Market kicking off its 2017 season on Saturday (July 1), information about Fourth of July booths co-hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network and Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, and details about a new working group about food security in Sitka and Alaska. 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 Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s Preserving the Harvest class on creative ways to use rhubarb

Students learned how to make fruit leathers and how to dehydrate a variety of dishes featuring rhubarb in the Rambunctious Rhubarb: Creative Ways To Use Rhubarb class on Monday, June 26, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. This was the second of six scheduled classes in the Preserving the Harvest food preservation class series offered this summer.

The class was taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a Sitka dietitian and health educator who has taught several cooking and food preservation classes for the Sitka Kitch. In this class, students learned how to make a curried rhubarb lentils dish (served over rice), a rhubarb chutney, a jalapeño rhubarb chutney, rhubarb pickles, rhubarb ketchup, and a rhubarb salsa. (Most of the recipes came from the book The Joy Of Rhubarb).

This was the second class in the Preserving the Harvest food preservation class series, which is sponsored by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). The other classes in the series are (underlined titles take you to the class registration page):

The Sitka Kitch programming team is working on other classes to be offered later this summer and next fall. We also might reschedule the Clear the Freezer, Fill the Pantry community canning session for later this summer, but on a Saturday instead of during the week. Watch the Sitka Kitch page on Facebook or our online registration page to see when these and any future classes are scheduled.

When registering, students should prepay for the class through the Sitka Kitch online registration sitehttp://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com, using PayPal or credit/debit card. If you need other payment arrangements, contact Chandler or Clarice of Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 to arrange a time when you can pay with cash or check. To qualify for a partial refund, please notify us at least three days in advance if you need to cancel. The registration deadline is three days before each class so our instructors have time to purchase materials. Please email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org with any questions.

A slideshow of scenes from the Rambunctious Rhubarb class follows below.

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New kids vendor program helps young businesses at the Sitka Farmers Market

Do you have a kid with a head for business? The Sitka Local Foods Network is introducing a new kids vendor program at the Sitka Farmers Market that might be what your kid needs to become a successful entrepreneur.

This program is for kids age 12 or younger who want to sell local food or arts and crafts at the Sitka Farmers Market this summer. Kids can sell fresh veggies from their garden, homemade baked goods, or their own jewelry, just for example.

How it works is kids rent a half-table (about four feet of space) for $10 for the full season (good for all seven markets, not just one). They follow the same rules as the adults when it comes to cottage foods or local arts and crafts, and parental supervision is encouraged. We’ve had a couple of kid vendors at the market before, but never a program just for them.

Our markets this year are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 1, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street).

For more information, contact Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or by email at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. The farmers market rules, responsibilities and registration packet is attached below (and the registration form is the last page, just circle the kids vendor program note).

• 2017 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated July 3, 2017)

What you put #OnMyFork matters during ninth annual Farmers Market Celebration

What you put #OnMyFork matters. That’s the message behind American Farmland Trust’s ninth annual Farmers Market Celebration. The celebration calls on shoppers to help identify the cream of the crop — the best of America’s farmers markets — and in Alaska we think that’s the Sitka Farmers Market.

The celebration calls on shoppers to help identify the best of America’s farmers markets. The summer-long event launched June 21 and runs through Sept. 22. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The other six Sitka Farmers Markets this summer are on Saturdays, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9.

“The Celebration encourages market customers, family farmers, community activists – anyone who believes they’ve got the best farmers market in the country – to endorse their market in four special areas: Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food for All, Pillar of the Community, and Champion for the Environment,” said Susan Sink, American Farmland Trust vice president of development and external relations.

Shoppers are encouraged to use Instagram and join the local food community in saving farmland with their forks, as part of AFT’s “#OnMyFork” social media campaign. Supporters are encouraged to post pictures or videos of their farmers market to Instagram using the hashtag #OnMyFork. If you do post something about the Sitka Farmers Market, please tag our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork or share it on our Twitter page, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods. Please use the hashtags #SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and #SitkaFarmersMarket if you share a photo.

“While farmers markets have been growing in popularity, keeping family farmers on farmland remains a nationwide challenge,” Sink says. “Many family farmers are struggling to stay financially afloat and face daily pressure from development to sell their land. Farmers markets provide a wonderful opportunity for family farmers to sell directly to consumers and to help make a living on their land.”

bigcabbagewsFarmers markets have a lot to offer. Beyond the beautiful array of fresh and local food, farmers markets help family farmers thrive, connect us as a community and can be catalysts for both environmental and social good. That is why American Farmland Trust is giving away awards to farmers markets who are the Best in Class in four special areas — Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food for All, Pillar of the Community, and Champion for the Environment. There also is a People’s Choice category.

If you have ever been to the Sitka Farmers Market, you may already know it as setting the gold standard for farmers markets in these areas. If you haven’t been to the market before, here are a few reasons why the Sitka Farmers Market deserves to be named one of America’s top markets:

  • Focus on Farmers — The Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market, has been working with local gardeners and small farmers to increase the amount of locally grown fruits and veggies in Sitka. Not only is locally grown food fresher and better tasting, but it’s better on the environment because it doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to Alaska.
  • Healthy Food for All — The Sitka Farmers Market was the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP (food stamps/Alaska Quest cards) and WIC vouchers for people benefitting from those programs. In addition, we have matching dollars of up to $20 per person per market available for SNAP-eligible foods (produce, fish, baked goods, barley products, etc.).
  • Pillar of the Community — The Sitka Farmers Market not only serves as a community gathering place, but it also is a business incubator. It’s a good place for budding entrepreneurs to test ideas and products before going into full production. The Sitka Farmers Market emphasizes local, local, local, which helps put the focus on products from Sitka.
  • Champion for the Environment — It’s estimated that Alaska residents import about 90-95 percent of their food from the Lower 48 or foreign countries. By encouraging people to grow or harvest food locally, we’re cutting down on thousands of miles of transportation costs. That means less fuel is used, and fewer pollutants in the air.

To help shine a light on the Sitka Farmers Market, just go to http://markets.farmland.org/market/sitka-farmers-market/ and recommend our market. In past Farmers Market Celebrations, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust, the Sitka Farmers Market has been at or near the top among the Alaska rankings. In 2015, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top Alaska market in this contest. In 2016, the Sitka Farmers Market earned Best In Class honors in the contest. We have a couple of new wrinkles in 2017 (vendor rates back to 2015 levels, a new Alaska Grown booth featuring products from around the state, a kids vendor program, etc.), so this year could be the best yet.

Samia Savell of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to be in Sitka to meet with growers

Samia Savell of the Juneau office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be in Sitka on Friday, June 23, to meet with local food growers about her program’s services. She currently is setting up one-on-one meetings from 4-6 p.m. on Friday afternoon at the Sitka Public Library study room.

Among the services provided by the USDA NRCA’s Alaska program is nutrient management to improve soil quality, irrigation system design, energy conservation, and possibly funding for high tunnels if it will improve crop condition and varieties (the high tunnel program is geared toward conserving resources and is offered through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program).

If you are interested in learning more about the programs and how you can work with the USDA NRCA, or setting up a meeting, please contact Samia at (907) 586-7220, Extension 100, or email her at samia.savell@ak.usda.gov.