Scenes from the second Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer

Table of the Day: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, presents the Table of the Day award to Peter Williams of Humpback Farms during the second Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer, held Saturday, July 15, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Peter sold lettuce, salad mixes, micro-greens and rhubarb. He received a Sitka Local Foods Network apron, a Biorka Beets t-shirt, some walking onions and some rhubarb.

There was a strange blue cast to the sky and a bright, hot thing beaming down on us when we held our second Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season on Saturday, July 15, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street).

While our cold weather this spring means we don’t have as much produce as we like, we still had about three dozen vendors at the market (between those inside ANB Founders Hall and those outside in the Baranof Island Housing Authority parking lot) so there was a nice variety of items being sold. Vendors sold harvested foods (such as chaga tea and traditional medicinal tinctures), homemade baked goods, banana-Nutella crepes, hot seafood dishes, fresh smoothies, reindeer hot dogs, blackcod tips, arts and crafts, and home-baked bread. We also had an expanded selection of Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9. To learn how to be a vendor at the market, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a new kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

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

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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.

Sitka Local Foods Network to host seven Sitka Farmers Markets in 2017 summer

The Sitka Local Foods Network is bringing the excitement back to the Sitka Farmers Market, which opens its 10th season of markets on Saturday. There will be some new innovations at the market, and some of the vendors who skipped last year’s markets are back this summer.

“Last year was a learning experience for us,” said Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham, who is assisting Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo. “We tried to make the market’s focus be more on local food and less on arts and crafts, but we didn’t have enough local food producers to make up for the lost craft vendors. We lost some of the community-gathering feel to the market with the lost vendors. This year we returned to our 2015 vendor rates, which is bringing back many of lost vendors. We want the market to be a community happening again. The market is a great way to connect with neighbors and support local entrepreneurs.”

Other new innovations this year include 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. 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, and Kahiltna Birchworks birch syrup products from Palmer. 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 our local farmers, artisans and musicians,” Vizcarrondo said. “By keeping our money local, we create a more sustainable economy.”

The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, 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 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, 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 coupons. We have a matching program where SNAP and WIC clients can double up to $20 of their benefits in local produce.

“In recent years we’ve been proud to welcome Alaska Quest EBT and WIC shoppers at the market,” Bingham said. “It is so important to make sure local food is accessible to everyone.”

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 in 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 the 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, contact Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or 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. The Sitka Local Foods Network receives sponsorship funding from the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), and the Sitka True Value.

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.

Janice Chumley to give presentation on integrated pest management June 5 at the library

Janice Chumley, who is the integrated pest management tech for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, will be in Sitka on Monday and Tuesday, June 5-6, for one-on-one consultations with local gardeners/farmers. She also will give a presentation about integrated pest management in greenhouses and high tunnels from 6-7 p.m. on Monday, June 5, at the Sitka Public Library (note, this is a location change from what was announced in April).

“I have been employed as a pest scout for that past 19 years and enjoy working with growers of crops large and small across Alaska,” said Chumley, who is based out of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service’s Kenai Peninsula District Office. “My work has been varied from home gardeners (like me) to commercial potato, hay, mixed vegetable producers, to peony producers. I have had to privilege to learn and work with many folks across the state and now I have funding to be able to come to Southeast.”

Chumley originally was scheduled to come to Sitka in May, but had to change her travel schedule due to illness.

“I hope that your schedule will allow time for us to visit and discuss any established pests you encounter along with a few new ones that might be heading north,” Chumley said. “Since IPM (integrated pest management) focuses on the least toxic approach, that is where we start, but all concepts are discussed and it is up to you to make an informed choice for your growing conditions. If you would like a site visit please let me know how to find you and if you have any specific concerns.”

For more information, contact Chumley at 1-907-262-5824 or jichumley@alaska.edu, or contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.edu.

Date changed to May 26 for spring garden class about raising trees

There is one spring garden class left on this year’s schedule, but the date has been changed. The “Everything You Need To Know About Trees” class taught by Jud Kirkness now will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Friday, May 26, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street).

The class is free, but donations to the Sitka Local Foods Network will be accepted.

For more information about the class, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520. Other classes may be added at a later date if we find volunteers to teach them.

Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Spruce Root Inc. release report on the economic impacts of local produce in Southeast Alaska

The Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Spruce Root Inc. have officially released a report, “Current and Potential Economic Impacts of Locally Grown Produce in Southeast Alaska.” The report, which was first presented at the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit held in February in Haines, was written by the McDowell Group.

“This study is the first to measure the amount of produce grown in Southeast Alaska,” said Dan Lesh, a research analyst with the McDowell Group. “Even though I’m an avid gardener and lifelong Southeast Alaskan, I was surprised at the high level of gardening we found through the survey. It was also interesting to see what crops people are growing and which are the most productive.”

The 47-page study surveyed residents of several Southeast Alaska communities to try and find out how much food they grew locally, and how much was imported. For example, even though 38 percent of Southeast Alaskans garden, only 4.4 percent of the vegetables eaten in the region were produced locally (and 95.6 percent were imported from the Lower 48 or overseas).

Southeast Alaskans spent $19 million on imported veggies in 2016, and many of those veggies can be grown here in the region. While commercial growers in Southeast Alaska only sold about $180,000 in locally grown produce, gardeners and commercial growers spent about $1.8 million to support growing food in the region. Money spent on locally grown produce tends to circulate within the region instead of going elsewhere.

“There is tremendous opportunity to expand commercial and home-scale food production in Southeast Alaska,” said Lia Heifetz, food security regional catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. “This contributes to community and regional food security. There is also significant opportunity to create economic activity through support services — like the local production of seeds and soil, or local sources of agriculture infrastructure and tools — as well as adding value to raw agricultural products. In addition to supporting services, either growing your own food or supporting our region’s food producers through farmers markets, or online farmers markets, like the Salt & Soil Marketplace, is a great way to contribute to localizing our food system.”

The report includes a breakdown of what veggies commercial growers in the region are growing, and what they’re selling for. It also includes a breakdown of what households are growing and consuming. There are charts showing food purchases over the years, and vegetable consumption.

There also is information on trends within the region when it comes to growing veggies, and how that impacts the economy. It details some of the challenges for the region, and what’s being done to meet those challenges. In addition, the report touches on the food security of the region.

“The commercial agriculture industry in Southeast Alaska is clearly at a small scale right now, but there is room for growth and a variety of creative opportunities exist to expand the economic impacts of the industry,” Lesh said. “A lot of new businesses have been created in recent years, with support from Path to Prosperity business competition and other sources. Looking forward to seeing where those businesses go.”

• Current and Potential Economic Impacts of Locally Grown Produce in Southeast Alaska (PDF file)