Food policy/food systems expert and author Mark Winne coming to Sitka to research new book

Nationally recognized food policy/food systems expert and author Mark Winne will be in Sitka from July 6-13 to do research on a new book, tentatively called “Food Town, USA,” where he examines the local food systems of eight to 10 small communities around the country.

“I’ll be visiting what may be America’s best little food town for research,” Mark wrote about Sitka on his website.

As part of his stay in Sitka, Mark will visit the Sitka Farmers Market, the Sitka Kitch, Sitka Food Co-Op, and a variety of local food businesses in town. He also will be part of a free community discussion about food from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11, at the Sitka Public Library. This event is co-hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Food Co-Op and moderated by Doug Osborne.

Mark’s career in food policy and food systems spans 40 years. From 1979 to 2003, Mark was the executive director of the Hartford Food System, a Connecticut nonprofit food organization. He is the co-founder of the now-closed Community Food Security Coalition where he also worked as the food policy council program director from 2005-12. During his time with the Community Food Security Coalition, he did some work to help get the Alaska Food Policy Council up and running.

He was a Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Fellow, a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Visiting Scholar, and a member of the U.S. Delegation to the 2000 Rome Conference on Food Security. As a writer on food issues, Mark’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, The Nation, Sierra, Orion, and Yes!, to name a few. He is the author of three books — Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of PlentyFood Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas; and Stand Together or Starve Alone: Unity and Chaos in the U.S. Food System, which was released at the end of 2017. All three books are published by Beacon Press.

Through his own firm, Mark Winne Associates, Mark speaks, trains, and writes on topics related to community food systems, food policy, and food security. He also serves as senior advisor to the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. He now lives in Santa Fe, N.M.

In an email he sent to various members of Sitka’s food community, Mark wrote:

“Food continues to become a larger but not fully acknowledged force in the lives of American communities. From health and nutrition, to food security, to economic development, to the simple need for a good quality of life, food can define a community’s identity as well as determine who benefits and who doesn’t. I am going to tell “stories” about eight to 10 small to mid-size cities and regions for whom a ‘food scene,’ a food consciousness, a sense of commitment to those who do not benefit from a growing prosperity, and an expanding number of local ‘food system’ stakeholders are on display if not actually working collaboratively. I want to know about the history of each community’s food evolution, what its key moments might have been, and who has played timely roles. The purpose of the story I’m telling about these places, which I am not claiming are exceptional, is to stress that food is a “bigger deal” than we think, and that if you take it seriously, food will not only lift up our quality of life, it will ensure that everyone can enjoy a better quality of life. I am selecting places that are not Berkeley, Boulder, or Brooklyn, but are understated and often overlooked.”

For more details about the community discussion about food on July 11, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com

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Check out the June 2018 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the June 2018 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter has short articles about Gimbal Botanicals winning the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, Sitka Farmers Market vendor registration information being available, an invitation for people to join the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, information about a variety of food classes at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, and information about the Sitka Local Foods Network 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 new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Sitka Farmers Market vendor registration information for 2018 now available

Registration for the 2018 Sitka Farmers Markets is open, and vendors looking to sell local food, arts and crafts, and other items at the markets can find all the vendor forms, information sheets, rules and regulations for this year by going to the Documents page on this site, or look at the bottom of this post for the documents. The forms include information about how to register your table for this year’s markets.

The 2018 Sitka Farmers Market manager is Nina Vizcarrondo, who managed the market last year and before that helped manage a New York City farmers market. She can be reached at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or (907) 738-9301 during the market season. Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham is assisting with the market again this year.

The dates for our 2018 Sitka Farmers Markets will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 7, July 21, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept. 15 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall at 235 Katlian Street. We hosted a vendor meeting on May 17, which was attended by Bruce Gazaway of the Food Safety Program from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

From noon to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, we are partnering with the Sitka Kitch and UAF Cooperative Extension Program to host a Starting A Cottage Foods Business class in Room 106 of the UAS Sitka Campus. This videoconference class taught by Sarah Lewis costs $10, and you can register at http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). Pre-registration is required and the registration deadline is 11 p.m. on Monday, June 11. Students taking the cottage foods business class will receive half off the table fee for their first market of the summer.

This year we don’t have many changes from last year, when the Sitka Local Foods Network rolled back its Sitka Farmers Market table prices to 2015 levels and simplified them. We hope this helps us reclaim some of the vendors we lost in previous years. The table fees will be $40 for a full table (slightly longer than eight feet) or $20 for a half table per market. We also have a deal where vendors who reserve space for and participate in all seven markets can receive a refund of one market fee after the season (so get seven markets for the price of six). There no longer is a price differential between indoor and outdoor booths (outdoor booths are charged the full table rate). We want to bring back some of the excitement to the markets, where it returns to being a community gathering place, and that means we have to make the market attractive to vendors.

If you are an Alaska food vendor and don’t have the time to host a table at the market, we might be interested in buying your products at wholesale rates or selling them on consignment at our Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand. We want to show Sitkans the variety of local food products available in our community and state. Last year we expanded our Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, and this year we plan to try some new products.

We are hosting a second year of the children’s vendor program, where kids get to become entrepreneurs and sell their own locally made food or arts and crafts. This program is modeled after the city’s program where children younger than age 12 buy a season permit to sell items near Harrigan Centennial Hall on cruise ship days. In our children’s vendor program, the fee is $10 for the full market season.

Nina is available to answer questions and to make suggestions that will help new and returning vendors adjust to any food regulation changes from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, updates to the Alaska Quest electronic benefits program and WIC (Women, Infants, Children) supplemental food program, etc. We hope to schedule a pre-market meeting or two for potential vendors between now and the first market.

There were several changes to the 2017 rules and responsibilities, but in 2018 the only major changes are we won’t have access to the Alaska Native Sisterhood Kitchen (if you want to use it to cook something for the market, you will have to contact ANS to rent the kitchen) and vendors will not be able to store equipment at ANB Founders Hall between markets. The last page of the rules and responsibilities packet has the vendor registration form for adult and child vendors.

In addition, we are trying to increase our labor pool of volunteers to help out with the market. We need people to help us set up, take down, sell produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, and more. If you are interested in volunteering, send us a note with your contact info. We usually have musicians play at the market, so we are gathering a list of music groups that want to perform.

For more information, contact Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com, or you can email the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. Tiffany Justice is the SLFN board liaison to the market (and board treasurer) and Charles Bingham is the SLFN board president, and both will assist with the market.

Sitka Farmers Market vendor forms

• 2018 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated April 30, 2018)

• Sitka Farmers Market vendor agreement to accept Alaska Quest SNAP EBT tokens (2017)

• Link to 2015 Farmers Market Resource Fact Sheets from Alaska Division of Agriculture

• 2015 City and Borough of Sitka Sales Tax Form for Sitka Farmers Market Vendors

• Cottage Food Fact Sheet — “Understanding Alaska’s Cottage Food Exemptions”

• Cottage Food Exemptions

• Washington Farmers Market Vendor Marketing Guide (March 2014)

• Guide to Operating a Successful Home-Based Food Business (March 2014 document from UAF Cooperative Extension Service and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation includes Alaska food safety information and regulations for farmers markets and other food sales)

Path To Prosperity business development contest application deadline closes May 31

Lettuce is picked at a hydroponic garden on Prince of Wales Island. (Photo by Bethany Goodrich)

Are you a resident of Southeast Alaska with an idea for a sustainable small business you want to start or expand? The Path To Prosperity business development competition application deadline closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, May 31.

Path To Prosperity (P2P) is a competition sponsored by Spruce Root Community Development (a subsidiary of Sealaska Co.) and The Nature Conservancy. It is offering two winning entrepreneurs a prize package worth $25,000 each in consulting/technical assistance to develop their business concept, along with support in finding investor funding. The first few years of the Path To Prosperity contest allowed applications from all types of businesses, but in 2017 the contest focused just on food businesses. This year the contest is back to being open to a variety of business types.

Dixie and Chris Booker of Mighty Bear Roots of Wrangell, one of the 2017 Path To Prosperity winners. 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.

The competition aims to grow local companies that will increase employment, have a positive social and economic impact on their communities, promote sustainable use of local resources, and increase entrepreneurial know-how and business leadership in Southeast Alaska.

Over five cycles, the Path to Prosperity (P2P) business development competition has received applications from nearly 200 businesses and start-ups from across Southeast Alaska and has provided intensive management training to 60 entrepreneurs during the signature Business Boot Camp weekends in Juneau.

The program’s success has garnered attention from beyond Southeast. In 2015, Path to Prosperity was presented a Silver Award for Excellence in Economic Development by the International Economic Development Council. Joe Morrison of Biz21 Consulting in Anchorage has praised the program for its results.

The Path to Prosperity Business Development Competition is open to individuals, for-profit businesses or tribal entities. Business ideas may include a new business or an expansion of an existing business. 501(c)3 nonprofits are not eligible. Applicants must be Southeast Alaska residents.

Rob Bishop of Game Creek Family Orchards in Hoonah, one of the 2017 Path To Prosperity winners. Game Creek Family Orchards supplies fruit trees, tree maintenance and support services, and fresh, locally grown apples to Hoonah 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.

Twelve finalists will be named in July 2018, and they will attend the weekend Business Boot Camp in September in Juneau to receive technical assistance in writing a business plan. The 12 finalists will submit their final business plans in December, and two business plans will then be selected as winners and each will receive an award of up to $25,000 for consulting and technical services to develop the business.

The 2017 winners were Mighty Bear Roots of Wrangell and Game Creek Family Orchards of Hoonah. Mighty Bear Roots is owned by Dixie and Chris Booker, and they run an aeroponic greenhouse that provides Wrangell with fresh produce. Game Creek Family Orchards is owned by Rob Bishop, and it supplies fruit trees, tree services, and apples to Hoonah and Southeast Alaska.

Other past Path To Prosperity winners include Wild Alaska Kelp Company (now known as Barnacle Foods) of Juneau and Skya’ana Coffee of Klawock in 2016; the Salty Pantry of Petersburg and the Sawmill Farm of Sitka in 2015; Port Chilkoot Distillery of Haines, Coppa of Juneau, and Fairweather Ski Works of Haines in 2014; and Raven Guitars of Wrangell and Alaska Legacy Wood Homes and Products of Icy Strait in 2013.

For information about how to apply and the application process, click this link. You can apply online at this link. Ashley Snookes is the competition administrator, and she can be reached at ashley@spruceroot.org or 907-209-9570. For general questions about the contest, send email to grow@spruceroot.org or call 907-586-9251.

Gimbal Botanicals wins $1,500 prize in Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Gimbal Botanicals owner Hope Merritt, right, poses with her new interns, Nora Skeele, left, and Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield, during a recent trip to harvest seaweed. Gimbal Botanicals recently won $1,500 in the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, and Hope used the prize to hire interns to help her harvest, process and market her local wild food products. (Photo courtesy of Gimbal Botanicals)

Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals makes a sale during a 2014 Sitka Farmers Market (Photo by Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network)

With a young child eating into her time and a need to expand her business, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals wanted to hire a couple of interns to help harvest and process her beach asparagus, seaweed, kelp and other local wild foods. This month, Hope received a check for $1,500 after winning the established business category in the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The contest was for Sitka food businesses looking to start or grow their operations and was to provide two $1,500 prizes — one for established businesses and one for start-up businesses (younger than 2 years old) — but there were no entries in the start-up business category so no prize was awarded in that category.

“The Sitka Local Foods Network has had a long relationship with Hope and Gimbal Botanicals at the Sitka Farmers Market, so we’re excited to be able to help Hope grow her business,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “One of the reasons we launched this contest this year was to try and encourage new local food businesses or the expansion of existing businesses so we have more local food available for Sitka residents. With her local wild foods business, Hope and Gimbal Botanicals provide a true taste of Sitka.”

Gimbal Botanicals has been in business for about a decade, and Hope has been selling a variety of local wild foods such as tea blends, beach asparagus, etc., at the Sitka Farmers Market, Sitka Food Cooperative, to local restaurants and caterers, at Sitka businesses such as Wintersong Soaps and Evergreen Foods, on Allen Marine cruises, and in Juneau, Hoonah and other communities. She also sells her local wild food products on her website, http://www.gimbalbotanicals.com.

“I will use this award to increase my womanpower and in so there should be more products available,” Hope said. “I have already hired two women and because harvesting is still slow we are starting on marketing. We are working with Salt and Soil Marketplace (a regional food hub based in Juneau) right now to get products on their website. I would like to expand my availability with the Sitka Food Co-op. I have also considered a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, where farmers sell shares in their crops), or a CSH, Community Sustained Harvesting, as I might call it. In this model, customers would order in advanced from me for the whole season. Every time I harvest (about once every two weeks) customers would get their amount of fresh beach asparagus. It’s like pre-marketing.”

From left, Nora Skeele, Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield and Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals harvest seaweed. (Photo courtesy of Gimbal Botanicals)

With the prize money, Hope hired interns Nora Skeele and Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield, who already have been helping out with harvests and will help out with processing and sales. In addition, Hope is helped by her partner, Dan Littlefield, and her mother-in-law, Roby Littlefield.

“This money will help me continue to bring local sea veggies to local markets, beach asparagus and seaweeds as well as my teas,” Hope said, who added that she plans to continue to sell her products at the Sitka Farmers Market. “I am hoping for a bigger presence at the Sitka Food-Co-op this year, making nutritious foods more available for those who value them. All of my products are 100-percent organic. Bringing wild-harvested beach asparagus to the local markets brings a super nutritious food that would otherwise be unavailable to the consumer here in Sitka and Juneau.”

Hope said she takes pride in being able to ethically harvest her sea veggies, which keeps the products sustainable.

“It’s not good enough for me to try to be ethical and sustainable with our fragile eco-systems,” Hope said. “I take great care to ensure sustainable harvesting. The resources I harvest from are healthy and abundant enough to handle the effects of commercial harvesting. If that changes, then we will no longer have those products available.”

Hope also is working with Sitka Tribe of Alaska Social Services to develop an agreement, which hasn’t started yet, where she harvests for those tribal members who can’t get out to harvest themselves.

This was the first year of the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, and the Sitka Local Foods Network hoped there would be more entries. “In addition to providing more local food here in Sitka, we want the contest to encourage Sitka food businesses to enter some of the larger innovation contests, such as Path to Prosperity or the Symphony of Seafood,” Bingham said. “But we’re happy for Hope and Gimbal Botanicals, because this business is a good example of how a Sitka foods business can be innovative while sharing the taste of Sitka.”

“I’d like to express my gratitude for this award and the work that Sitka Local Foods Network does in this community,” Hope said. “By promoting local food we are taking valuable steps forward as a community to be more healthy and food secure. This is a passion of mine and why I continue to operate Gimbal Botanicals. I could not operate without the help of friends and family. Gimbal Botanicals is sustained through all the hours that family and friends have donated to the cause working often for tea and beach asparagus. Thanks to my family for supporting and understanding the importance of local, not just for its nutrition but as a way of life. With the expansion of my family, time has shifted and I am unable to produce what I could before motherhood. I will use the money to hire help with harvesting, processing, marketing and at the farmers market.”

Sitka Kitch to host rescheduled Starting a Cottage Foods Business class at UAS Sitka Campus

Learn what the basics of starting and running a cottage foods business as Sarah Lewis teaches students students how to Start a Cottage Foods Business from noon to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, in Room 106 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

This class was originally scheduled for April 14 at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, but was canceled due to problems on the Juneau end where the class will be taught. This was the seventh class of the Seasonal Cooking class series this spring at the Sitka Kitch.

Sarah Lewis — the home, health and family development agent for the Juneau office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service — will teach this class by videoconference from Juneau. Students will learn about state laws regarding home food businesses, and get ideas for businesses you might take to the Sitka Farmers Market or local trade shows.

The class fee is $10, and there is no supply fee for students in Sitka. Class space is limited, so register early. The registration deadline for this class is 11 p.m. on Monday, June 11. The Sitka Local Foods Network is offering students of this class half off their Sitka Farmers Market vendor fee for the first market of the season where they host a table. Representatives from the Sitka Local Foods Network/Sitka Farmers Market and the Sitka food safety office of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation are planning to attend so they can answer any questions potential cottage foods business owners may have.

Register online at https://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com/ (click on class title) and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal. To pre-pay by cash or check, contact Chandler, Claire, or Clarice at 747-7509 to arrange payment. For more information about the class series, contact Jasmine at 747-9440.

Check out the May 2018 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the May 2018 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter has short articles about a garden work party at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm on May 4, an update on spring garden classes and a new class series from the Sitka Kitch, an Sitka Farmers Market vendor meeting on May 17, an update on our sponsorship program, 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 (@SitkaLocalFoods).