Two Sitka businesses make the finals in 2019 Path to Prosperity sustainable business development competition

Volunteers and staff of the Sitka Food Co-Op during one of the twice-monthly food deliveries held at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Two Sitka businesses — the Sitka Food Co-Op and M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals — have been chosen as finalists in the 2019 Path to Prosperity sustainable business development competition, joining 11 others from Southeast Alaska in the second round of the contest. Started by Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy in 2013 and now run by Spruce Root, Path to Prosperity (P2P) is an award-winning competition for small businesses and start-ups located in the region.

Customers wait to pay their bills during a recent Sitka Food Co-Op food delivery.

The Sitka Food Cooperative, or Sitka Food Co-Op, is “a buying club on steroids,” according to general manager Keith Nyitray. The group started in 2011 as a way for local residents to order healthy food for less than what they’d pay in Sitka grocery stores. It now works with local food producers, giving them a venue to sell their products during the twice-monthly delivery days.

“Being selected as a finalist in the P2P competition is indeed an honor and we look forward to meeting and possibly working with all the other finalists and, more importantly, we look forward to learning how to grow our business and increase our positive social and environmental impacts here in Sitka and SE Alaska,” Nyitray wrote in an email. “For the past eight years the Co-op has been growing (pardon the pun) organically and we’re now on the verge of a major expansion. It’s definitely a challenging time and that’s where the professional and technical support we’ll get through the P2P competition (and from Spruce Root) will come in handy and help us ‘Bring Good Food & Community Together’ to a much greater degree.”

The M/V Adak is a WWII-era tugboat owned by Brendan and Rachel Jones that serves as a bed and breakfast.

Owned by Brendan and Rachel Jones, the M/V Adak is a WWII-era tugboat that serves as a bed and breakfast in Sitka. Even though the business may not, at first glance, have much to do with local food, the Jones family has added a local food component.

“The Joneses join up with third-generation Sitka troller Karl Jordan to provide Alaska’s first sustainable pescatourism experience,” Brendan Jones wrote in an email. “This joint venture will provide guests the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a commercial fishermen, trolling Sitka Sound and Cape Edgecumbe, followed by a night on a vintage World War II tugboat, as Beak chef Renee Trafton instructs guests on how to prepare king salmon. Alaska’s Native heritage, as well as environmentally sound fishing and living practices will be highlighted as visitors gain insight into life on a remote Alaska island.”

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. Nine of the 13 finalists deal with food first, and a couple of others also have food as a secondary focus to the business. Sitka is the only community to have more than one business make the finals this year. The following businesses were selected as this year’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Costal Seaweed, Theresa Abbas, Juneau
  • Around the Bay Lodging, Susan Ritchie, Wrangell
  • Foundroot, Leah Wagner, Haines
  • Gale Force Gardens, Stephanie Jurries, Craig
  • Jellyfish Donuts, Brianna Krantz, Ketchikan
  • Kaawu Shellfish Co., Anthony Lindoff, Hoonah
  • Kootéeyaa Koffee House, Lee Wallace, Saxman
  • M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals, Brendan Jones, Sitka
  • Sagebrush Dry Gear, John Peterka, Kake
  • Sitka Food Co-Op, Keith Nyitray, Sitka
  • Tamico, Inc., Carrie J. K. Martinsen, Petersburg
  • Tommaso Shellfish, James Greeley, Whale Pass
  • Village Coffee Co., Justyne Wheeler, Yakutat

“Each year, Path to Prosperity receives exciting new business ideas from startups throughout our region, with this year being more competitive than ever,” says program administrator Ashley Snookes. A total of 43 entrepreneurs from 12 communities applied to Path to Prosperity in 2019. “An essential component to economic growth in our region is the growth of small businesses, and we are thrilled to help these businesses thrive.”

A guest of the M/V Adak holds up a couple of king salmon

According to UAA’s Center for Economic Development’s State of Entrepreneurship report, startups contribute 4,000 to 6,000 new jobs to Alaska’s economy each year, with Southeast Alaska contributing the highest percentage of businesses per population in the state. From oyster farming and kelp harvesting in our pristine ocean waters, to truly Alaskan experiences for visitors, to manufacturing the best dry bags one could ask for, the 2019 Path to Prosperity finalists are defining the local products and services of the last frontier, creating jobs, and driving local, sustainable, economic growth.

Over the past seven years, Path to Prosperity has received more than 250 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 22 communities. The program has trained 76 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 13 winners $460,000 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. Previous competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), The Salty Pantry (Petersburg), Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and others.

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, workshop, 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 www.spruceroot.org or email grow@spruceroot.org. Also, to learn about the Path to Prosperity Master Class (deadline to register is July 31, cost is $450), click this link, https://www.spruceroot.org/2019masterclass.

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Free webinar offered on crop insurance options for shellfish and aquatic plants in Alaska

AgriLogic Consulting LLC, the USDA Risk Management Agency, and the Alaska Farm Bureau will host a free online webinar on crop insurance options for shellfish and aquatic plants in Alaska at 8 a.m. Alaska time on Thursday, July 25.

Ben Thiel from the USDA Spokane Risk Management Agency Regional Office and Nicole Gueck, a Risk Management Specialist with AgriLogic Consulting will discuss the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Crop Insurance Program as it applies to the shellfish/aquaculture/mariculture industry in Alaska.

Please register in advance for this meeting at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/c60c9ald28f926bd7c24e00bf0acd2b8. For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/303267853958012/

Check out the July 2019 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the July 2019 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the first Sitka Farmers Market on Saturday, the Sitka Local Foods Network applying for Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a new Cooking With Kayla Caprice class series at the Sitka Kitch, and an invitation to join the Sitka Local Foods Network’s 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 Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Sitka Local Foods Network to host seven Sitka Farmers Markets during the 2019 summer

The Sitka Local Foods Network is kicking off its 12th season of markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). We rebuilt some of the vitality of the market over the last couple of years, and now we’re hoping to build on that momentum.

“We learned a lot over the past couple of years, and we hope we’ve been able to move on from our mistakes and make the markets better,” said Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham, who is assisting Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo for the third year.

“We regained a lot of the vendors we lost in 2016, and that brought back a lot of the community-gathering-place feel to the market. We still want to see more local food producers at the market, but we know now we need to develop those outside the market, which is one reason we launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in 2018. We want the market to be a great way to connect with neighbors and support local entrepreneurs.”

New this year is the Bicycle Benefits program, where people who ride their bikes to the market and show their Bicycle Benefits helmet stickers can get 20 percent off produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market. The Sitka Local Foods Network also has applied for a Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, where most of the produce sold at the SLFN farm stand is grown.

Other new innovations started in 2017 included a kids vendor program for youth ages 12 and younger, and new Alaska Grown food products for sale at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand. Both are continuing in 2019. In addition to freshly grown produce from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, there will be Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Evie’s Brinery fermented foods from Anchorage, Barnacle Foods kelp salsa and kelp pickles from Juneau, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, and Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood.

We also have fish vendors back this season. There still is a focus on local and Alaska food products, with the Alaska Grown products being a way to inspire Sitka food entrepreneurs to try making new food items locally. The more local products we have, the more the money circulates in Sitka’s economy.

“Come support your community at our farmers markets,” Vizcarrondo said. “By working toward Sitka’s food sovereignty, shopping local reduces our food miles. Food doesn’t get any fresher than this.”

The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The other markets this summer take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 27, Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, at ANB Founders Hall. The markets feature a variety of locally grown produce, seafood, cottage foods, a hot lunch, locally made arts and crafts, live music and fun.

The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefits transfers (EBT) and WIC farmers market coupons. We have a matching program where SNAP and WIC clients can double up to $20 of their benefits in local produce. We are the only farmers market in the state authorized to match WIC farmers market coupons. The past two years we received grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop (the White E) to help with the matching program.

“In recent years we’ve been proud to welcome Alaska Quest EBT and WIC shoppers at the market, and the last two years the White E has helped us match those produce benefits,” Bingham said. “It is so important to make sure local food is accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy.”

The April 2008 Sitka Health Summit planted the seeds for the Sitka Farmers Market, as Sitka residents chose starting a local foods market as one of their community wellness initiatives for the year. About the same time, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church was looking for a way to put some recently cleared land behind the church’s See House into use for a community project. St. Peter’s offered to lease the land to the group that became the Sitka Local Foods Network for $1 a year, and in May 2008 a group of Sitka residents built raised garden beds and planted a variety of crops. Later that summer, there was enough produce grown at St. Peter’s to supply our first three Sitka Farmers Markets starting in August 2008.

There were five markets in 2009, followed by six markets each year from 2010-15 and now seven markets since 2016. Led by lead gardener Laura Schmidt, the production of local produce at St. Peter’s has grown each year, and there now are satellite gardens, such as one on land owned by Pat Arvin. Most of the food grown at St. Peter’s and the satellite gardens is sold at the Sitka Farmers Market, but there has been enough for the Sitka Local Foods Network to also have a table when Chelan Produce is in town and to sell to local school lunch programs and restaurants. The money raised helps support the Sitka Local Foods Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in its mission “to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.”

To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how you can become a vendor or volunteer, contact Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or Charles Bingham at 623-7660, or email us sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. The Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/, has more info on the markets and links to vendor rules and registration forms. In addition to vendors, we always need volunteers to help us set up and take down the market and to sell food at the SLFN farm stand.

The Sitka Local Foods Network receives sponsorship funding from the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), the Sitka White Elephant Shop (the White E), the Sitka True ValueHarry Race PharmacyALPS Federal Credit Union, Sea Mart, Market Center, and a host of individuals.

Also, don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the 11th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration. The Sitka Farmers Market was the top market from Alaska in 2017 and 2018.

Vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the 11th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration

This week, American Farmland Trust announces the launch of its 11th annual Farmers Market Celebration, set to run through Sept. 20. The Celebration is a national effort to promote the importance of family farmers and farmers’ markets, while also raising awareness about the loss of America’s farmland.

We encourage you to recommend the Sitka Farmers Market, which regularly ranks as one of Alaska’s top markets in this national contest. We finished first for Alaska in 2018, first in 2017 and second in 2016. The Sitka Farmers Market is a project of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

There is no better way to nourish ourselves and celebrate the people that nourish our communities than by supporting your local farmers market. That’s why for its 11th summer, AFT’s Farmers Market Celebration encourages market shoppers, family farmers, community activists, and anyone who believes in the power of local food to endorse their favorite market in four categories:

  • Focus on Farmers
  • Healthy Food for All
  • Pillar of the Community
  • Champion for the Environment

At the end of the Celebration, AFT will present awards to the top markets in each of the four categories above. AFT will also recognize a “People’s Choice” winner and the top three most recommended markets in each state. All summer long, farmers and shoppers are encouraged to use the hashtag #OnMyFork to show off the best of what their market has to offer and to highlight the importance of our food choices in supporting family farmers. We want to showcase the markets that make your community proud, so join the conversation and share your story with AFT on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

We ask people who post anything about the Sitka Farmers Market to please tag our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, tag our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket, and/or share it on our Twitter page, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods. Please use the hashtags #SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and #SitkaFarmersMarket if you share a photo.

Local food and local food producers are the foundation of local economies and communities. Farmers and consumers both benefit.  Studies show that producers that participate in farmers markets have a 10 percent greater chance of staying in business, and people who shop at the local markets save 25 percent a year in food costs.

To endorse your favorite farmers market, visit markets.farmland.org. The Celebration began at 8 a.m. Alaska Standard Time (noon EST) on June 27,  and closes at 8 p.m. AST (midnight EST) on Sept. 20.

Sitka Farmers Market vendor meeting to be held on Tuesday, June 11

Have you thought about being a vendor at the Sitka Farmers Markets, but need more info before you commit? The Sitka Local Foods Network, the nonprofit that hosts the markets, will hold a vendor meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, at the Sitka Public Library.

Join us to learn more about the vendor rules and responsibilities. The meeting will be led by Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo and assistant manager Charles Bingham, who will try and answer your questions about the market. We hope to have a representative from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s food safety program at the meeting to discuss state food service regulations. We also will take market registrations at the meeting.

This year our markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays this summer — July 6, July 27, Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). You can learn more about being a vendor at this link.

The Sitka Kitch, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service’s Juneau office, will host a “Starting A Cottage Foods Business” class from noon to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19, in Room 106 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. Sarah Lewis of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service will teach the class by videoconference from Juneau and she will detail what types of foods can be sold under a cottage foods exemption. The class costs $10, with the money going to the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. Students who take the class and then bring a food business to the Sitka Farmers Market will get half off their first market’s table fee. You can learn more about the class at this link.

For more information about the Sitka Farmers Market, email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com, or call Nina at 738-9301 or Charles at 623-7660.

Check out the June 2019 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the June 2019 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about vendor registration being open for the 2019 Sitka Farmers Markets, the Sitka Kitch hosting a class on starting a cottage foods business, and an invitation to join the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directorsEach 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).