Levi Adams, Andrew Jylkka win $1,500 prizes in third annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company baked sourdough bread in Wrangell before moving to Sitka earlier this year.

Levi Adams of Forage and Farm holds white and rainbow chanterelle mushrooms he harvested

One winner plans to cultivate mushrooms. The other is a baker who is selling bread and fermented foods to Sitka residents. Congratulations to Levi Adams of Forage and Farm and Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company, who won the two $1,500 prizes in the third annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

“We had some really good entries this year, but these two rose to the top,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the contest. “Even with the coronavirus outbreak, Andrew is actively baking and selling his bread. Levi is still getting his business started, but his entry was the most thoroughly written and researched, by far, of any we’ve received in the three years we’ve hosted the contest. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods into the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so we hope our prizes encourage local food entrepreneurs here in Sitka.”

The Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest has $1,500 prizes for each of two categories, start-ups (less than two years old) and existing businesses. This year all of the entries were in the start-up category, but since Andrew already was baking and selling bread and had a history of baking in Wrangell, his entry was moved to the existing business category so there could be two awards. “We felt both entries were deserving of awards,” Bingham said.

In his entry, Levi wrote, “My business will provide the opportunity for Sitkans to experience the healthful and flavorful addition of fresh and dried wild and cultivated mushrooms, both native and exotic to their daily routines. Forage and Farm will strive to meet the growing demand for culinary and medicinal fungi in the community by foraging fresh wild mushrooms in the warm seasons and bringing them to market at the Sitka Food Co-op, as well as distributing through an independent CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) program (Levi’s mother, Lori Adams, operates the Down To Earth Gardens CSA in Sitka). In the colder seasons, cultivated mushrooms will be provided.”

With several scouting trips under his belt, Levi said he is waiting for commercial harvest permits from the USDA Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (state forests). While waiting for the permits, Levi said he plans to gather red alder and hemlock logs so he can cultivate mushrooms on his family’s property. He also is looking to purchase refrigerator and dehydrator equipment to store and process the mushrooms.

“With funds obtained from the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest I will redouble my efforts toward cultivation. I hope to bring a large number of diverse and nutritious mushroom species to the market as soon as possible,” Levi wrote. “Nothing supercharges my sense of purpose like applying permaculture principles to foraging and farming, and understanding that I can leverage those efforts to enrich and enliven my community. For partnering with me in this, the Sitka Local Foods Network has my deep gratitude and respect.”

Since moving to Sitka, Andrew has been baking about 50 loaves for Sitka Food Co-op deliveries and also selling through social media. He also was scheduled to teach a Sitka Kitch class on baking brioche before the coronavirus forced its postponement. In addition to baking his bread, Andrew has been making sauerkraut and kimchi to sell.

“Southeast Dough Company does not aim to just make a good loaf of bread,” Andrew wrote in his entry. “The goal here is to continue building on the positive food culture that exists in Sitka and strengthen the foundations of our community. I have a strong belief that good food brings people together and allows them an avenue to connect to one another that they may otherwise not find. My chosen medium for this product is bread. The mixing of water, flour, salt, and yeast has been at the heart of society for millennia and the breaking of bread is symbolic of neighbors coming together to build lasting connections.”

Andrew currently is using his home kitchen to bake his bread, and he estimated he could ramp up production to 400 loaves a week in his current kitchen. But he really wants to move into a larger commercial kitchen and possibly hire an assistant.

“This prize will help me take the next step to move out of my home kitchen and into a commercial space. I’m excited to be able to offer my products more consistently to the members of this community,” Andrew wrote. “I would love to participate in the farmers market, and I understand that everything is a waiting game right now so no worries there. I also need to make some decisions as to when I chose to expand with everything that’s going on.”

Last year’s winners were Brittany Dumag of Castaway (food cart with Cuban pork sandwiches using Alaska pork) and Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers (fermented foods), with a special youth winner award for Abigail Ward of Sitka Spices (meat and fish rubs). In 2018, the winner was Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals (beach greens and local teas).

An update about the 2020 Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans

Usually the Sitka Local Foods Network has announced the dates of the summer’s Sitka Farmers Market by now. But, as most of you are aware, these are not ordinary times.

We had been making our usual plans, and even had dates we planned to announce about now, but with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak we had to go into wait-and-see mode. We even hired two new people to coordinate the Sitka Farmers Market this year — Ariane Martin Goudeau and Nalani James — because we’re losing our market manager of the past three years, Nina Vizcarrondo, to Coast Guard relocation.

Even though we’re in wait-and-see mode, the SLFN feels it does need to update the community.

First, we had big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. We bought a second high tunnel, which has been erected on the site, so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for about 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.

Regardless of whether we hold the Sitka Farmers Market or not, we will grow produce this summer at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Sitka’s food security needs more local food, so we plan to find ways to get the food into the community, somehow, someway.

If all things were normal, our plan was to hold seven Sitka Farmers Markets again this summer for our 13th season. Our tentative dates are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 4, July 25, Aug. 8, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, Sept. 5, and Sept. 19, all at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

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, if it’s possible.

But we don’t know when our shelter-in-place orders are going to end and we can start returning to normal. We are researching alternative ways to get our fresh produce into the hands of Sitka residents. We want to provide fresh produce, but also need to be conscious of everybody’s health during an outbreak.

That may mean going to an online portal, such as the Salt and Soil Marketplace out of Juneau, which has been expanding into Sitka and other towns in Southeast Alaska. Middle Island Gardens, Gimbal Botanicals, and a couple of other Sitka businesses have used Salt and Soil Marketplace, so it’s not a new concept. How it works for Sitka is vendors post their products online, and from Tuesday through Thursday Sitka residents go online and order what they want, with a delivery usually on Saturday.

This is great and relatively easy, except you lose the community aspect of the market when it’s online. Also, the Sitka Farmers Market serves as a business incubator, and we lose that when we can’t have a market.

There’s another thing we lose, and that’s the ability to accept WIC farmers market coupons and SNAP Alaska Quest EBT cards, which is how we get local produce into the hands of lower-income Sitkans. We are still trying to work that problem out. We want to get fresh local produce into this part of the community, because Sitka has some major inequality with about one in every six residents on some form of food assistance program. Our mission is “to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” so we have to make sure we include getting food to lower income people.

We will come up with a plan of some sort to make sure we do get produce into the hands of all Sitkans, but we have to be conscious of not spreading the coronavirus. It may mean we donate produce to a local food bank for distribution, or we donate some produce to WIC/SNAP beneficiaries and skip the normal reimbursement we’d get from the state. We have our White E grant to match WIC/SNAP benefits, so we can use that grant to help distribute the food, and absorb some of the loss through our general fund. It’s within our mission, and we can afford to do it for a few months.

Ideally, we will host our Sitka Farmers Markets as normal. But these are unusual times. We will look at what’s happening in mid-May, and we will make a further announcement then as to what our plans are. Hopefully we will be recruiting vendors for our market. If not, we will start setting up an account so people can order produce online.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Sitka Local Foods Network board chairman Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service to host online Master Gardener class for Sitka

The Sitka Master Gardener training— originally scheduled to start on Wednesday, March 25, and then postponed due to coronavirus precautions — will become distance-delivered and start on Monday, March 30.

Participants will meet from 6-8:30 p.m. on Mondays with the Juneau Master Gardeners class, through May 11. Because the Juneau training has already begun, additional classes will be scheduled online for Sitka participants at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays from April 1-22 to make up some of the hours missed. There also is one class session from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 25.

The session will provide basic and practical horticultural training on a wide range of topics, including how to design, plant and maintain successful gardens in Southeast Alaska. The classes will follow the Alaska Master Gardener program coordinated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

The UAF Cooperative Extension Service will host the session and the additional classes via Zoom webinar. The Juneau class is taught by Extension agent Darren Snyder, experts, and other Extension agents and staff. The Sitka additions will be organized by Extension assistant Jasmine Shaw and University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus biology professor Kitty LaBounty. Those also will be available by Zoom, through home internet.

Participants will commit to providing at least 40 hours of volunteer service to their communities within a year of completing the class. Trainees will be provided opportunities to share their skills with the community through various service projects and other venues.

Registration and additional details are available at http://bit.ly/SitkaMG. The $300 fee includes an Alaska gardening manual (Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook) and a $150 deposit that will be refunded if service hours are completed within a year. For more information, contact Jasmine Shaw at jdshaw2@alaska.edu.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers free online gardening classes

The Kenai District Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service is offering a series of free online gardening classes.

These classes start on Thursday, March 19, and continue through May 21. You can find out more and register at this link. All of the classes start at 5:30 p.m., with most of the classes being on Thursdays and the other classes on Tuesdays.

Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, UAF Cooperative Extension Service offices are closed to the public, so hopefully this online class series will help gardeners get their fix as they build their gardens this spring and summer. The link above also include access to some national online gardening classes.

Check out the March 2020 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the March 2020 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend and Pick.Click.Give. deadlines, the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest deadline on March 6, a fundraiser to help us build a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, an invitation to join our board of directors, an update on Sitka Kitch Winter Baking Series classes and a fundraiser event, and an invitation to sponsor us for 2020. 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 Kitch to host Winter Baking Series class ‘Dumplings With Serena Tang’ on March 24

Learn how to make Asian-style dumplings in the sixth class of the new Winter Baking Series at the Sitka Kitch. The Dumplings With Serena Tang class takes place from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, at the Sitka Kitch community commercial kitchen.

Come learn about the really broad history of dumplings.  Once you understand the basics of how to make your very own dumpling wrappers — the world is your oyster.

In this class you’ll learn how to 1) make dumpling dough, 2) make wrappers, 3) make dumpling fillings, 4) fold different styles of dumplings, 5) cook dumplings in different styles (boiled, steam, pot stickers, etc.). and finally 6) how to make different sauces to accompany your dumplings. We’ll also go over standard East Asian flavor profiles and the locavore reasoning behind why different spices/flavors are in different cultures.

If you have any dietary restrictions or other preferences, let us know.  Dumplings are super versatile, but for learning’s sake we’ll be focusing on Chinese-style cabbage-and-pork dumplings (which can easily become vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian, etc.).

Serena, who works as a law clerk for the Alaska Court System, has a pretty broad culinary background. Growing up in Texas with Chinese-Malaysian parents, Serena has always been curious about the history of food and the reason why certain things are the way they are.  Serena’s been making dumplings with her parents since she was a little kid. She taught a similar class to the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program.

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. 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. The class costs $40, which is part of our new all-inclusive fee system (you no longer have to pay a class fee to register, then a separate food/supply fee). You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on our EventSmart page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment.

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 sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Sitka Food 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. If you register with the discount and can’t attend the class, the person who uses the ticket should be a co-op member or agree to pay the $10 discount difference.)

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. Contact Chandler at SCS for more details about the scholarship. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch.

Also, the registration deadline for the fifth class in the Winter Baking Series, Brioche (and Pizza) With Andrew Jylkka, is 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, at the Sitka Kitch. This class takes place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, at the Sitka Kitch. Details on other classes in the series will be posted as they become available.

In addition, the Sitka Kitch is hosting a vegetarian Indian food buffet fundraiser and silent auction from 5:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, at Beak Restaurant. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the silent auction closes at 7:30 p.m. Seating is limited for this event, so register early. The cost is $40, with all proceeds going to the Sitka Kitch to promote new classes.

Students should enter the Sitka Lutheran Church through the back entrance (through the alley off Harbor Drive by the old Bev’s Flowers and Gifts location). The door on the right should be open for students to enter. Please do not park in the church’s back parking lot. Please use the public parking lots off Harbor Drive.

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 sitkakitch@sitkawild.org 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.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s second Winter Baking Series: Sourdough Bread With Carolyn Rice class

Students learned how to make make sourdough bread during the fourth class of the Sitka Kitch‘s Winter Baking Series, Sourdough Bread With Carolyn Rice (Take Two), on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Sitka Kitch rental commercial kitchen. This was the second time Carolyn taught the class, after several people weren’t able to get into her first class on Jan. 14.

Carolyn is an Alaska Fellow working with the Sitka Conservation Society and USDA Forest Service, and her class taught how to create and feed a sourdough starter, as well as how to bake sourdough bread using a variety of bread flours. She also explained why she named her sourdough starter Xavier and why others should give their starters a name. Students were able to take home a small bit of Xavier so they could build their own sourdough starters, and they each took home a ball of bread dough to proof overnight and bake the next day.

The next class in the Winter Baking Series will be Brioche (and Pizza) with Andrew Jylkka, who just moved to Sitka from Wrangell and bakes for Beak Restaurant. This class will take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. (note earlier start time) on Tuesday, March 17, at the Sitka Kitch. The class costs $40 ($30 for Sitka Food Co-op members who are current on their dues, only one discount per family), and the registration deadline is late night on Sunday, March 15.

After that, the next class in the series will be Dumplings With Serena Tang, from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, at the Sitka Kitch. Serena, who is of Chinese-Malaysian descent, will teach Asian-style dumplings (probably cabbage and pork) that can be modified for people with different dietary needs. The class costs $40 ($30 for Sitka Food Co-op members who are current on their dues, only one discount per family), and the registration deadline is late night on Sunday, March 22.

More classes in the series will be announced as their information is finalized.

Also, the Sitka Kitch is hosting a vegetarian Indian food buffet fundraiser and silent auction from 5:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, at Beak Restaurant. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the silent auction closes at 7:30 p.m. Seating is limited for this event, so register early (this event is starting to fill up and will close soon). The cost is $40, with all proceeds going to the Sitka Kitch to promote new classes.

A slideshow of scenes from the sourdough bread class is posted below.

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