UAF Cooperative Extension Service to host ‘Starting a Cottage Foods Business’ as online webinar

Photo from Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation website page on Cottage Food Regulations

Join Sarah Lewis of the Juneau District Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service as she hosts a free webinar from her kitchen about the basics of starting a home-based, cottage foods business in Alaska. The class is from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22, using Zoom online meetings.

This class includes an intro to Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation‘s cottage foods (aka, home-based foods) regulations and information about the “non-potentially hazardous” food preservation methods that are allowed: dehydration, boiling water-bath canning, and pickling. In addition, Sarah will emphasize the best food safety and sanitation methods to use in a cottage foods business, and how a cottage foods business can continue sales during this time of social distancing.

This class is being offered in preparation for the 2021 season of Sitka Farmers Markets, which take place on eight Saturdays this summer. This is a good way for new and past vendors to familiarize themselves with the current cottage food business regulations in Alaska.

To register, contact Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440 or Please register by Monday, so you can receive the Zoom link in time.

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).

Vendor registration open for 2021 Sitka Farmers Markets

Vendor registration is finally open for the 2021 Sitka Farmers Markets. This 14th annual event is hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit working to improve Sitka’s food security. The new online vendor registration page,, is live and ready for vendors to sign up and pre-pay for their spots.

This summer there are eight Sitka Farmers 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, at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. In addition to table space under the building overhang and on the plaza, there are parking spots for food trucks and food carts.

All vendors will pay $40 per market, regardless of whether you have a table or a food truck. We have a special rate of $280 for vendors who register for all eight markets, which means you get one market free. Vendors can register for one or two markets, or all eight. We also have youth vendor program for ages 14 and younger, which is $20 for all eight markets. Vendors will need to supply their own tables (preferably 30×72-inch banquet tables, please no tables longer than eight feet), and in some cases their own 10×10-foot tents.

The Sitka Farmers Market is a community event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. Our focus is on local — fresh produce, fish, baked goods, prepared foods, cottage foods, arts and crafts — and all products must be made in Alaska (preferably in Sitka or Southeast Alaska, cooked foods may use non-local foods so long as the food is cooked on site).

We are holding the market entirely outside this year to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. While most people now are vaccinated against the coronavirus, there still are people who aren’t vaccinated and there are periodic hot spots where the illness flares up. We don’t want the market to be one of them. We encourage vendors and customers to wear masks, to use hand sanitizer, and to avoid bunching up while giving others six feet of space.

Vendors can pay using PayPal or credit/debit card. When you get to the Payment options, click PayPal and it should give you the option of using a PayPal account or four different types of cards (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover). If you prefer to pay by cash or check, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660.

Nalani James is the Sitka Farmers Market manager this summer (she’s on the right in the photo above). Laura Schmidt (left in photo) is our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the market. Charles Bingham is the assistant market manager.

For questions about the market, email us at or call the market phone at (907) 738-7310. More details about the market will be posted on the Sitka Local Foods Network website,, and shared on its Facebook pages — and — and on Twitter,

• 2021 Sitka Farmers Market Vendor Rules and Responsibilities

Join the 2021 Local Foods Challenge to make the Southeast Alaska food system more resilient


Food is not just about what we eat. It’s also about where it comes from and the connections it creates between people and places along the way. Join us on a journey to explore and transform Southeast Alaska’s food system by being part of the Local Foods Challenge.

As a participant in this Challenge, you will join others in reshaping and fostering resilience within our local and regional food systems while increasing community wellness for both the short and long-term.

We ask you to deepen your involvement in the local food system by cultivating and elevating your personal knowledge, skills, and connection to the local food system within your community.


When you sign up, you’ll take a survey to assess your involvement in 10 distinct categories of the local food system. Your challenge from May to September is to deepen your connection to the local food system by increasing your level of engagement for each category. The more levels you go, the more resilient our food system will be by September. At the end of the challenge, we will tally the progress of all of the challengers to discover how much we collectively shift our food system’s resilience.

To help you on this local food journey, we will connect you to resources related to all 10 categories, and we will share stories via email and social media to inspire and celebrate our successes.

The Local Foods Challenge is about building a community of Southeast Alaskans who care about local foods. We will share knowledge, resources, place-based advice, and best practices across our unique region.

Together we will forge a resilient, prosperous, and healthy Southeast Alaska.


You will be at different levels with each category, and over the course of this summer, you will increase your knowledge, skills, and engagement with each of them in ways that are meaningful and relevant to your life. Set realistic, specific, meaningful goals.

  • Check your email twice a month for announcements, inspiration, tips, and invitations to monthly skillshare workshops, virtual meet-ups, mini-challenges, and more.
  • Follow us on social media updates and reminders.
  • Check out our Resources page to get started, and our Calendar of Events for upcoming opportunities.
  • Share your success stories.
  • Nominate local foods experts who can share their knowledge and skills with others, and we will connect them to learners in their community.
  • Celebrate a Southeast Alaska season of abundance and resilience.

Questions? Email or post a comment on our Facebook page.

Pacific High School to host Pacific Planters garden start sale on Wednesday

The Pacific Planters program at Pacific High School will host a garden start sale from 1:30-4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, at the school.

The school has offered students a garden club and class for several years, even hosting MOBY the Mobile Greenhouse during the 2019-20 school year, and just created the Pacific Planters program. The students are growing the starts and selling them to raise money for the school activities fund. Starts available include runner beans, cucumbers, broccoli, peas, and more.

Customers are asked to park at the Crescent Harbor parking lot and walk over to the school at 509 Lincoln Street. The starts will be available on a table in front of the school. All starts are $3. Masks and social distancing are respected. For more details, call Bridgette Reynolds at 747-0525.

Sitka Tribal Enterprises to host open house Monday for new commercial kitchen


Sitka Tribal Enterprises (STE), the business arm of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, will host an open house from noon until 4 p.m. on Monday, May 17, at its new Cottage Industry Development Center, which is located in its former tannery space at 4608 Halibut Point Road (behind the Blueberry Inn). The new space includes a rental commercial kitchen and a classroom, which can be used by people to process and preserve their fish and game, foraging, and garden harvests, as well as for lessons.

“Due to Covid 19, food security was identified as a real concern, especially for the island community of Sitka that is highly dependent on transportation,” Sitka Tribe of Alaska Economic Development Director Camille Ferguson said.

Ferguson, who was born and raised in Sitka, said the tribe “looked within our community and realized that we have an abundant amount of resources right in our own backyards. Sitkans have been harvesting seafood, game, and edible foods from shorelines and forest. What was missing for the community was a place to process foods that would maintain a safe shelf life, and benefit should we be faced with a shortage of foods. STE also realized harvesting and properly packaging for local stores would help with small business and create a cottage industry stimulating the economy.”

Sitka Tribal Enterprises used CARES Act funding to convert part of its former tannery space into the commercial kitchen and classroom. STE hired James Sturm and his crew at Dubs Handyman (Conner and Cory Nelson, with subcontractor Terry Elixman of Liberty Construction) to transform the space.

“The Dubs team went above and beyond to create the kitchen, putting in the extra effort and thinking of how people harvest and the type of commercial equipment that would be needed,” Ferguson said. “One highlight to the kitchen is the walk-in cooler that can hold up to six deer — perfect for aging the meat at a controlled temperature and keeping the meat safe from bears.”

 Prices for renting the facility are available by emailing and soon will be posted on the Sitka Tribe of Alaska website at  

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 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.

Sitka Kitch to host Cooking Around The Campfire: Baking Flatbread With Andrew Jylkka class on May 23

Learn how to bake flatbread over a campfire during an outdoors Sitka Kitch class, Cooking Around The Campfire: Baking Flatbread With Andrew Jylkka. This class takes place from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, May 23, at the large covered shelter at Halibut Point Recreation Area.

Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company will show students how to make sourdough flatbreads over the fire. These fun and easy breads are a great addition to any cookout whether it’s in your backyard or on the beach. For this class, they’ll be paired with salmon falafel and a tasty sauce. We may even play with some ways to use them for a sweet treat.

You’ll come away from this class with some new recipes, an introduction to cooking on open fire, a jar of sourdough starter, and some great ideas to spruce up your summer cookouts.

The salmon burger meat is made possible by Sitka Mutual Aid and a portion of this class fee will be donated to support that. If you would like to donate to Sitka Mutual Aid or become a Sitka Conservation Society member you can do so here,, and here,

Andrew owns and operates Southeast Dough Company here in town. He’s a passionate cook who loves playing with recipes to incorporate ingredients found on these lands and in the oceans.

The class costs $40, which is part of our all-inclusive fee system (you no longer have to pay a class fee to register, then a separate food/supply fee). The Sitka Kitch will supply all of the food supplies for this class, but students will need to bring certain cooking items from a list provided before the class. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the class will be limited to 10 students, face masks must be worn, and social distancing must be observed.

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Friday, May 21. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. We need at least eight students to register and pre-pay to make this class happen.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-Op are now able to attend the classes for $30 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee). Please use the Sitka Food Co-Op ticket when you register and send an email to letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on our EventSmart page, (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. Please note there is a $5 charge for parking at Halibut Point Rec, which is payable to the State of Alaska.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We do offer one potential scholarship spot per class for people with limited incomes, so long as we have enough students registered to make the class happen. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $35). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

As you build your 2021 garden this spring, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article first appeared on this site in April 2010. It is repeated with some updates because much of the information remains current and newsworthy.)

As you start to plan your garden for this spring and summer, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry. The Plant A Row For The Hungry program (also known as Plant A Row or PAR) is a national campaign by the Garden Writers Association of America (which recently changed its name to the Garden Communicators International) that has its roots in Alaska.

In the cold winter of 1994, Anchorage Daily News garden columnist and former Garden Writers Association of America President Jeff Lowenfels was returning to his hotel after a Washington, D.C., event when he was approached by a homeless person who asked for some money to buy food. Lowenfels said Washington, D.C., had signs saying, “Don’t give money to panhandlers,” so he shook his head and kept on walking. But the man’s reply, “I really am homeless and I really am hungry. You can come with me and watch me eat,” stayed with Lowenfels for the rest of his trip.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels

The encounter continued to bother Lowenfels, even as he was flying back to Anchorage. During the flight, Lowenfels came up with an idea when he started writing his weekly garden column (the longest continuously running garden column in the country, with no missed weeks since it started on Nov. 13, 1976). He asked his readers to plant one extra row in their gardens to grow food to donate to Bean’s Café, an Anchorage soup kitchen. The idea took off.

When Anchorage hosted the Garden Writers Association of America convention in 1995, Lowenfels took the GWAA members to Bean’s Café to learn about the Plant A Row For Bean’s Café program. The Garden Writers Association of America liked the idea, and it became the national Plant A Row For The Hungry campaign (also known as Plant A Row or PAR). In 2002, the Garden Writers Association Foundation (now Garden Communicators International) was created as a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit to manage the Plant A Row For The Hungry program.

“I am not surprised by the growth of PAR,” Lowenfels wrote in a 2010 e-mail to the Sitka Local Foods Network. “It is now in all 50 states and across Canada and there are thousands of variations of the original program — from prison gardens for the hungry to botanical gardens donating their produce from public display gardens. This is because gardeners always share information and extra food, so the idea was a natural.”

It took five years for the program to reach its first million pounds of donated food, but the second million only took two years and the next eight years saw a million pounds of donated food (or more) each year. Since 1995, more than 20 million pounds of food (about 80 million meals, as of 2020) have been donated by American gardeners. Not only that, the program is getting ready to expand overseas to Australia, England and other countries with avid gardeners.

“We have supplied something in the vicinity of enough food for 50 million meals,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail. “Gardeners can solve this hunger problem without the government. And we don’t need a tea party to do it! Or chemicals, I might add, as author of a book on organic gardening!” Lowenfels is the author of Teaming With Microbes, written with Wayne Lewis. He released a second book, Teaming With Nutrients, as a follow-up to his first book, and in 2017 released a third book, Teaming With Fungi, as a second follow-up book.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2019 one out of every nine U.S. households experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. Many people skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going an entire day or more without food. About 35.2 million Americans, including 13 million children, have substandard diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they can’t always afford to buy the food they need. In recent years, the demand for hunger assistance has increased 70 percent, and research shows that hundreds of children and adults are turned away from food banks each year because of lack of resources. The demand has grown with the Covid-19 pandemic

According to the 2014 Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report, about one in six people in Sitka is food insecure. In 2013, there were 1,410 Sitkans (out of a population of about 9,000) and 766 families receiving food assistance (SNAP, aka food stamps). There also were 229 individuals who received food pantry assistance from the Salvation Army and 7,243 meals served through its lunch soup kitchen in 2013, and that number has grown substantially since then.

While many people credit Lowenfels for creating the Plant A Row For The Hungry program, Lowenfels says the real heroes are the gardeners growing the extra food and donating it to local soup kitchens, senior programs, schools, homeless shelters and neighbors. You can hear him pass along the credit to all gardeners at the end of this 2009 interview with an Oklahoma television station (video also embedded below).

“One row. That’s all it takes. No rules other than the food goes to the hungry. You pick the drop-off spot or just give it to a needy friend or neighbor. Nothing slips between the lip and the cup, I say,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail.

With all of the jobs lost because of the COVID-19 coronavirus quarantines in 2020-21, this year there will be even more people who need food assistance. It will be more important than ever to help get extra produce into our local food banks and soup kitchens.

For people wanting to Plant A Row For The Hungry in Sitka, there are several places that would love to help distribute some fresh locally grown veggies or berries to those who are less fortunate, such as the Salvation ArmySitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), local churches, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other organizations. The food the Sitka Local Foods Network grows at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden goes to the Sitka Farmers Market, school lunches and other programs.

People who participate in the Alaska Food Stamp program can use their Alaska Quest Cards to purchase produce and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market and other farmers markets around the state. People who participate in the  WIC (Women, Infants, Children) supplemental food program (operated in Southeast Alaska by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium or SEARHC) also can use special farmers market vouchers to buy fresh vegetables at the Sitka Farmers Market and other farmers markets in Alaska (this is part of the national WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program). The Sitka Local Foods Network matches up to $20 for produce purchased using WIC or SNAP benefits at the Sitka Farmers Market.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also takes donations of local produce to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets, and all proceeds are used to help pay for SLFN projects geared toward helping more people in Sitka grow and harvest local food. For more information, contact the Sitka Local Foods Network board members at

• Plant A Row informational brochure (2017)