Sitka wins top market in Alaska honors for fifth straight year in America’s Farmers Market Celebration

The Sitka Farmers Market ranked as the top market in Alaska, 15th in the Pacific region and 113th nationally during the America’s Farmers Market Celebration voting that ended earlier this week. This was the 13th year of the contest, which this year was co-sponsored by the American Farmland Trust and the Farmers Market Coalition.

This is the fifth straight year the Sitka Farmers Market has been the top market in Alaska, and seventh time in eight years. The contest uses online voting, but each email address is only allowed to vote once so people can’t stuff the ballot box. Voting opened on June 21 and ended Sept. 19. The Sitka Farmers Market picked up 81 online votes, its highest total ever.

“This was the second year we had to make adjustments due to Covid-19, but we were more like a normal market this summer than last. Last year we stripped it down to just produce vendors and had an online ordering system with weekly pick-ups at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. This year we were able to add other vendors and hold an outdoor market at Harrigan Centennial Hall, and I think the community was glad to see produce, mushrooms, arts and crafts, and more this year,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market. “Our main goal was to safely distribute locally grown produce without spreading the coronavirus. I’m glad we were able to do that.”

This year’s People’s Choice Award, for the top market nationally, went to the Columbia (Mo.) Farmers Market earning the market a $2,500 prize. Second place and $1,500 went to the Oxford (Miss.) Community Market, while third place and $1,000 went to the Monroe (Conn.) Farmers Market. Rounding out the top-five markets in the standings were the Snellville (Ga.) Farmers Market in fourth place, and the Durham (N.C.) Farmers Market in fifth place. Last year’s People’s Choice Award went to the Clarksville (Tenn.) Downtown Farmers Market, which finished 47th nationally this summer.

The top market in the Pacific region was the Napa (Calif.) Farmers Market; followed by the Moscow (Idaho) Farmers Market; the Orange (Calif.) Home Grown Farmers and Artisans Market in third place; Midtown Farmers Market of Sacramento, Calif., in fourth place; and the Boise (Idaho) Farmers Market in fifth place (last year’s Pacific region winner).

The other regional winners included the Columbia (Mo.) Farmers Market in the Midwest; the Monroe (Conn.) Farmers Market in the Northeast; the Oxford (Miss.) Community Market in the Southeast; and the Dripping Springs (Texas) Farmers Market in the Southwest.

There wasn’t a list of Alaska standings posted, but checking individual market pages showed the Sitka Farmers Market in first place for the state with 81 votes, the Tanana Valley Farmers Market of Fairbanks in second place with 27 votes, and the Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market in third place with six votes. More than 2,000 markets across the country received votes.

“We have a small market compared to others around the country, but I’m happy the people who visit our market think enough of it to recommend it in this contest,” Bingham said. “We thank everybody who came to one of our markets this summer and supported more local food in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.”

The Sitka Farmers Market also was listed on the Guide To Exceptional Markets from the Certified Naturally Grown program for the third year this summer.

This year, the Sitka Local Foods Network hosted eight farmers markets on various Saturdays from July 3 to Sept. 18 on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Due to COVID-19, the 26th annual Running of the Boots fun run fundraiser won’t take place in late September (we usually had a farm stand at that event, which raised money for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka last year).

The Sitka Local Foods Network hopes to be able to return to a full market next summer, hopefully at a venue where we can have both inside and outside booths. The Sitka Farmers Market was a community wellness project from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, and now serves as a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. This was the 14th year of the markets.

“I’m glad we were able to regain some of the feel of a real community gathering this year, instead of it just a quick pick-up of your produce order,” Bingham said. “One of the nice things about hosting the farmers market is it serves as a business incubator for smaller cottage foods and arts/crafts businesses, and those businesses lost one of their marketplaces last summer.”

Eat Local Challenge encourages Southeast Alaskans to do more with local foods

The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC), in partnership with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, announces this year’s Eat Local Challenge.

The seven-day challenge starts Monday and runs from Sept. 20-26, encouraging Southeast Alaskans to increase their involvement with the local food system in their community by including as many locally grown, harvested, or foraged ingredients in their daily meals as possible.

This means purchasing local seafood, vegetables, and cottage food products directly from local food producers, farmer’s markets, and retailers that carry local items. Participants also can celebrate the bounty of the region’s wild foods by including foods that they hunted, foraged, fished, or grew themselves. Be sure to shop the local farmers markets and local retailers this weekend. (NOTE: The last Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall.)

The goal during this seven-day challenge is for participants to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local food system in their community. Participants are encouraged to share their skills and knowledge with others cultivating a practice of gratitude around local food.  For more details, check out the Local Foods Challenge page on the Salt & Soil Marketplace website, https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/eatlocalchallenge.

Anyone can participate by following the Salt and Soil Marketplace’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SaltandSoilMarketplace/) or the Southeast Alaska Local Foods Challenge Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LocalFoodSEAK/) for the Challenge Question of the Day. Participants submit their answer and photo of their local food meal either directly on Facebook or via email (localfoodschallenge.seak@gmail.com). The challenge includes daily giveaways and a grand prize for those who complete the challenge by participating all seven days.    

The Eat Local Challenge is the culminating event of the season long Southeast Local Foods Challenge in which participants have been encouraged to increase their participation in their local food systems through five main categories: Harvest & Stewardship, Eat, Reduce Food Waste, Celebrate & Gratitude, and Buy Local. Organizers aim for the challenge to foster a network of local eaters to support each other and their local food producers during a time when food security is increasingly important.

 “The Challenge is for everyone to do a little more to strengthen the local foods system,” said Jennifer Nu, SAWC Local Foods Program director. “The process of learning is never-ending. When we practice and master these skills, we can share what we know with others. Collectively all of these actions contribute to strengthening our food system and our region.”

The 2021 Local Food Challenge partners include the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, and other partners around Southeast Alaska. More details can be found on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website, https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/localfoodchallenge-welcome

Here’s how to participate:

  1. Follow @saltandsoilmarketplace on Instagram and Facebook
  2. Check the SEAK Local Food Facebook page each day and post or email a photo of your local meal AND answer the daily challenge question. Submissions can be posted directly on the Facebook page or emailed to localfoodschallenge.seak@gmail.com.
  3. One winner will be randomly selected each day to receive a gift from Salt and Soil Marketplace in the mail.
  4. Participate all seven days to be eligible for a $50 gift card from Salt and Soil Marketplace to be randomly selected at the end of the challenge.
  5. Use the hashtag #locafoodschallengeseak and spread the word.

Check out the August 2021 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the August 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about National Farmers Market Week and the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market season, information about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, an update on new high tunnels at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm where we grow our produce, 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).

Check out the July 2021 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the July 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the launch of the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market season, an update on new high tunnels at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm where we grow our produce, 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).

Sitka Farmers Market kicks off 14th season on Saturday

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets with its opening market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. This will be the first of eight full markets this summer, with the other markets taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, all at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

“After last year’s COVID-19 pandemic limited our markets to only produce booths, we’re happy to be getting back to some normalcy this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our eight markets this year will still have some COVID safety measures, such as being held entirely outdoors and encouraging everybody to use face masks. But we will have a variety of fresh local produce, fish, homemade baked goods, cottage foods, cooked food, arts and crafts, and more. We missed the community aspect of the markets last year, so it will be nice to have some of our vendors back this summer.”

The Sitka Farmers Market gots its start from the second Sitka Health Summit, held in April 2008, when Sitka residents chose two food-related community wellness projects to work on for the next year — to create a local foods market and to start a community greenhouse. Later in April, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church made its backyard available for growing produce, which became St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and by August the first of three Sitka Farmers Markets was held. Those projects led to the creation of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The Sitka Local Foods Network continues to host the Sitka Farmers Market, and also runs a farm stand selling produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The SLFN farm stand also sells Alaska Grown value-added products from around the state. Last year when the market was simplified due to COVID, the Alaska Grown products were dropped. This summer, the Alaska Grown products are back, with Barnacle Foods kelp products from Juneau, Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood, and more. New this year are Foraged and Found kelp products from Ketchikan, Moosetard mustard and BBQ sauce products from Fairbanks, and some special Sitka Farmers Market-label chocolate bars from Sitka’s own Theobroma Chocolates.

“We still are recruiting vendors for the markets, but we do expect Middle Island Gardens with fresh produce at all eight markets, and the Hog Hole hot dog stand at all eight markets,” Bingham said. “In addition, at our first market we have Harriet and Ron McClain of Fish Bone Studio with arts and crafts, Pamela Ash with arts and crafts, Ashley and Dustin Ward and family of Ward Craft with arts and crafts and cottage foods, and Charlie Bower with cultivated mushrooms.”

New this year is an online vendor registration site, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com, where potential vendors can register and pay for their vendor fees. Nalani James, who was market co-manager last year, will manage the markets this summer, with Charles Bingham and Amanda Anjum assisting. There also is a youth vendor program for vendors age 14 and younger. Potential vendors can email sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call Charles Bingham at 623-7660 with any questions. Potential musicians and volunteers also can call Bingham, if they want to help.

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).

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

ARE YOU UP FOR CHALLENGE?

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.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS

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.

READY TO PARTICIPATE?

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 localfoodschallenge.seak@gmail.com or post a comment on our Facebook page.

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).

Alaska Sea Grant program to host inaugural Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Festival on May 17-20

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is pleased to announce the inaugural Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Festival, taking place virtually on Zoom and streamed live on Facebook from coastal communities around the state. Leading up to the event and during the week of the festival, if you order seafood products from participating businesses, you’ll receive a special gift package that includes recipe cards, a shucking knife, and other mariculture related goodies.

Hosted by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, the Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Festival celebrates and raises awareness of the sustainably grown and harvested seafood products available right here in Alaska. Mariculture is an emerging industry in Alaska, and this festival provides an opportunity to learn about what it’s like to run an oyster or seaweed farm, where to find quality shellfish and seaweed products in your communities, and interesting and delicious ways to cook Alaska’s fresh, locally grown mariculture foods.

The Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Festival is free and open to the public. Registrants will receive a reminder email with online participation information and the schedule of events.

Click this link to register for free now

Alaska Sea Grant Shellfish and Seaweed Growers Project

Is your business interested in participating in this event or being added to our Alaska-grown shellfish and seaweed directory? Please contact Hannah Wilson at hannah.wilson@alaska.edu.

The event kicks off with an introduction to mariculture from Melissa Good, Alaska Sea Grant’s mariculture specialist. Lexa Meyer, Alaska Sea Grant’s seafood workforce development coordinator and Alaska Mariculture Manager at Blue Evolution, will give an overview of seaweed farming. James Greeley, operations manager and oyster farmer at Tommaso Shellfish, will share information about oyster farming. 

The second and third days of the event will feature video tours of Alaska oyster and seaweed farms, and live online cooking demonstrations. Festival attendees can watch from the comfort of their own homes to learn how Alaska grown oysters and kelp are grown, harvested, and transformed into delicious entrees and condiments. 

The final day of the event will feature discussions about the market for shellfish and seaweed, the future of mariculture in Alaska, and how communities and individuals can get involved. Marine aquaculture creates jobs, supports resilient working waterfronts and coastal communities, and provides new international trade opportunities. As global demand for seafood continues to grow, mariculture offers an economically beneficial and environmentally sustainable complement to Alaska’s wild fisheries.

Preliminary schedule

Subject to change, all times Alaska.

Monday, May 17, 6–7:30pm

  • Introduction to Mariculture with Melissa Good, Alaska Sea Grant
  • Seaweed Farming 101 with Lexa Meyer, Blue Evolution
  • Oyster Farming 101 with James Greeley, Tommaso Shellfish

Tuesday, May 18, 6–8pm

  • Oyster Farm tour, video presentation
  • Seaweed Farm tour, video presentation
  • Bivalve identification game and seaweed quiz
  • Meet an Alaska shellfish farmer, video presentation

Wednesday, May 19, 6–8pm

  • Live oyster and kelp recipe cooking demo with Chef Austin Green
  • How to shuck an oyster video
  • How to pickle kelp with Gayla Pedersen
  • Blue Evolution cooking videos

Thursday, May 20, 6–8pm

  • Traditional Alutiiq seaweed uses presentation with Gayla Pedersen
  • Environmental change and the future of mariculture presentation
  • How aquaculture benefits coastal communities presentation

Check back for updates as we finalize the schedule.

Participating Businesses

Buy mariculture products from these participating Alaskan businesses the week of the festival to get some free swag* including an oyster-shucking knife with your purchase:

*Please confirm with individual businesses upon ordering. Check back for additions to this list.

Oysters:

Shikat Bay Oysters — nation-wide shipping

Tommaso Shellfish — nation-wide shipping

Fish from Trish — nation-wide shipping

Haines Packing Company — pick-up in Haines

Alaska Shellfish Farms — pick-up in Homer, nation-wide shipping

59 North Ocean Specialties — 907.252.5698, clamgulchseafoods@gmail.com (Kenai Peninsula Deliveries)

Island Seafoods — pick-up in Kodiak

Seaweed Products:

Foraged & Found — nation-wide shipping

Beer:

49th State Brewing Company — oyster stout available at Anchorage taproom

Kodiak Island Brewing Company — kelp beer available at Kodiak taproom

Baleen Brewing — beers to pair with oyster and kelp dishes, available at Ketchikan taproom

Grace Ridge Brewing — oyster stout available in Homer taproom and for curbside pickup

Restaurants and Food Carts Serving Oyster and Seaweed-focused menu items:

Million Recipes — dishes featuring oysters and seaweed in Kodiak

Find more great Alaskan businesses selling oyster and seaweed products in our Alaska Mariculture Directory.

Check out the April 2021 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the April 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the winners of the 2021 Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, the PFD application deadline on Wednesday night and how people can donate through the Pick.Click.Give. charitable giving program when they file for their PFDs, 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).