Scenes from the second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer

Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James, left, presents the Table of the Day Award for July 17 to Charlie Bower, who sold a variety of mushrooms he cultivated and gathered, as well as other mushroom products. Charlie received a certificate, a tote bag, a bag of salad mix, and a jar of Foraged and Farm kelp pickles. The next Sitka Farmers Market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Vendors can register online (by Thursday) at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More details about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

It was cool and overcast when the Sitka Local Foods Network held its second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, July 17, perfect weather for a market.

Due to a growing COVID-19 count, we instituted a face mask policy to try and protect our customers and vendors from the coronavirus. That face mask policy will be in force when we hold our third Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. We ask all customers and vendors to wear masks.

The markets are being held outside this year to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We haven’t had as many booths as in previous years, but the smaller market seems to be working. We still have fresh local produce, as well as a variety of Alaska Grown value-added products, local eggs, mushrooms, and arts and crafts. We should have some cooked food at Saturday’s market.

We are recruiting new vendors, and they can register and pay their vendor fees by going to https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org. The Sitka Local Foods Network does take WIC farmers market coupons and Alaska Quest SNAP EBT cards, and offers a matching program for produce purchased at the SLFN farm stand (if you buy $5 of produce, you will receive $10 worth).

A slideshow of scenes from the second market of the summer is posted below.

Order fresh, locally grown produce this week using Salt and Soil Marketplace

There isn’t a regular Sitka Farmers Market this week, but Sitka residents can still buy fresh, locally grown produce through the Salt and Soil Marketplace.

This is similar to what we did last year, where people order online from 5 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon through 8 p.m. Thursday night. The produce is picked and ready for pick up from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 24, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street).

Right now, the Sitka Local Foods Network has 10 small farmer’s choice baskets available for $20 each (most likely featuring lettuce, greens, broccolini, onions, and zucchini, with possible substitutions being carrots or garlic scapes if needed). There also are two small rhubarb baskets at $10 each, and two small zucchini batches at $5 each.

Also, Middle Island Gardens has a variety of produce for sale on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website that will be available for pick up on Saturday at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Anam Cara Family Garden has a variety of jams and jellies for sale, but those are for pick up on Saturday at 815 Charles Street. They aren’t posted yet, but Rainforest Flowers may have bouquets for sale.

You will need to create a Sitka-based account on Salt and Soil Marketplace in order to purchase produce, and you will pay online. Unfortunately, we are not taking WIC coupons or Alaska Quest SNAP cards this week (we only take them at full markets this year).

The Sitka Local Foods Network is scheduled to host its third Sitka Farmers Market of the season from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. We are watching the current spike in Covid cases, and if our case numbers continue to grow we may switch back to the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering format.

In the meantime, we ask everybody to please wear masks, even if you are vaccinated, and stay home if you’re sick.

Please mask up for the Sitka Farmers Market this Saturday

Over the past two weeks, Sitka has seen a major spike in COVID-19 cases and now has as many cases as it did during the peak of the pandemic this fall.

With that in mind, the Sitka Local Foods Network asks customers and vendors to be COVID-aware during the Sitka Farmers Market this Saturday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, July 17, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall). We still plan to hold the market, but we don’t want to contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

One of the reasons we’re holding the market outside this summer is because we figured there might be a spike or two in COVID-19 rates. Being outdoors is a good way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We also ask all customers and vendors to wear masks, even if you are vaccinated. Other than getting one of the vaccines, a mask is the best protection against COVID-19 spread. In addition, we request people give each other at least six feet of space, and not attend the market if they are feeling sick.

When you visit a vendor’s table, please point out which items you’re interested in and let the vendor get them for you. This will reduce the amount of handling of food items.

At this point, we haven’t seen any changes to local and state safety guidelines, so our plan is to hold the market on Saturday. But we ask people to do all they can to prevent the spread. Thanks.

By the way, if you are interested in being a vendor at the market, you can register online at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com.

Sitka Local Foods Network hosts first Sitka Farmers Market of 2021

After hosting a greatly limited market with only produce booths in 2020, the Sitka Local Foods Network kicked off its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets on Saturday, July 3, at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall with more booths and more community connection.

This was the first of eight markets this summer, our 14th season of markets. The other markets are 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 the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall, 330 Harbor Drive.

We are recruiting more vendors for our upcoming markets, and potential vendors can register and pay vendor fees at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. If you have any questions, you can contact Charles Bingham at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or 623-7660. We also are recruiting volunteers (to help set up, take down, and sell) and musicians for the markets.

In addition, the Sitka Local Foods Network and Middle Island Gardens will have limited produce sales on non-market weeks through the Salt and Soil Marketplace online sales website. Sales open online at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. on Thursday, with pick-up scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, July 10, 24, Aug. 14, and Sept. 4, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street.

Anam Cara Family Garden also will sell jams and jellies on Salt and Soil Marketplace, but people will need to pick those up from the garden at 815 Charles Street on Saturday.

If you are new to the Salt and Soil Marketplace, you will need to set up a Sitka account on the site and the click Shop Now and dial in the Sitka products. This site also sells products in other communities, but there are no deliveries to Sitka.

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

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.

New high tunnels help grow more produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

Since its origin as a small communal garden located in space behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church in April 2008, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown much of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market.

Coordinated by the Sitka Local Foods Network, with Laura Schmidt serving as lead gardener for the past decade, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown in efficiency and production so there are more fresh veggies available for Sitka residents.

In recent years, that means the addition of high tunnels, also called hoop houses. High tunnels look like greenhouses, but don’t have the heaters, powered ventilation systems or evaporative coolers commonly found in greenhouses. Even without those extras, high tunnels can extend the growing season and even counter the effects of a cold, wet summer such as the one we had in 2020 when it seemed like it rained just about all the time.

It started with a small, used high tunnel a former Sitka Local Foods Network board member donated to the group when she moved out of town. That small high tunnel, which still is in use at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, has been at the communal garden for about 5-6 years now. It was first used as a place to start seedlings and now has chard and kale growing in it.

In the spring of 2020, the Sitka Local Foods Network board approved the purchase of a 16×28 quonset hut-style high tunnel, manufactured by Oregon Valley Greenhouses and sold locally through Spenard Builder’s Supply. This high tunnel was constructed by a volunteer crew coordinated by Laura Schmidt, and was planted in time for the 2020 summer.

That high tunnel saved our 2020 Sitka Farmers Market season, as it helped protect some of the more fragile plants from the extreme cold and rain we had that year. That prompted the Sitka Local Foods Network to buy another 16×28 high tunnel of the same make and model, plus we added an automated venting system and fan to both of the new high tunnels.

Despite the nice weather last week, the 2021 spring has been cold and wet so the produce still needs better weather to kick into gear. But the new high tunnels will greatly help us keep Sitka in produce this summer.

Click this link, if you want to support the Sitka Local Foods Network’s efforts to grow more healthy produce for Sitka residents. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown farm designation, which shows the Sitka Local Foods Network’s commitment to growing produce in a sustainable manner with the minimal use of chemical fertilizers.

Voting open in 13th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration

The voting period for the 13th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration is open and people can go online and support their favorite farmers markets through Sept. 19. After being sponsored under various names by the American Farmland Trust during its early years, this year the Trust is teaming up with the Farmers Market Coalition to host the contest. They also have added prize money, with the top farmers market winning $2,500, second place receiving $1,500, and third place $1,000.

Last year, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top market in Alaska again. The Sitka Farmers Market has been the top vote-getter in Alaska for the past four years, and six of the past seven 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 this year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made several major changes to the Sitka Farmers Markets in 2020 and some of those are carrying forward into 2021. In 2020, we had a greatly scaled back market, a switch to an online ordering system, a new pick-up event location, and new health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. While we are reopening to a fuller market this year (last year we only had produce vendors), the markets will be outside and people still are encouraged to wear face masks. Even though most Sitka residents have been vaccinated, COVID-19 remains present and there are many variants.

This year we plan eight full markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, 17, 31, Aug. 7, 21, 28, Sept. 11, and 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall (museum/harbor end of the building). Nalani James, who served as co-market manager last year, will manage the markets this year, with Charles Bingham assisting. At the markets, depending on which vendors register, we plan to have fresh local produce, fish, cottage foods, homemade baked goods, hot food, food trucks, arts and crafts, live music, and more. We added a new online vendor registration website this year, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. We also still have our youth vendor program.

Last year, we had people create Sitka accounts using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online portal, http://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com, and order their produce from 5 p.m. on Tuesday through 8 p.m. on Thursday each week from July through September. We then had a weekly pick-up event (with Middle Island Gardens) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street). This year we still plan to use Salt and Soil Marketplace and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for our non-market weeks (July 10, 24, Aug. 14, Sept. 4), and for some of our market weeks with produce pick-up at the market. This will depend on produce availability.

Barring the end of the pandemic, all of our volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We ask our customers to wear masks and give people space during the market. We want to encourage community connection and small businesses at the markets, but we also don’t want to spread the coronavirus.

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 jdshaw2@alaska.edu. 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).