Sitka Local Foods Network hosts third annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

A sampling of food products grown, manufactured or processed in Sitka in recent years.

Do you think you have a great idea for a food business or product from Sitka? Do you grow food, fish for food, or cook food in Sitka? The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting the third annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in an effort to spark local food entrepreneurs so we can make more local food available to residents and visitors. The contest entry deadline is March 6.

This contest will provide two $1,500 kicker prizes — one for established food businesses and one for start-up businesses (no older than two years) — to help entrepreneurs launch or expand their food businesses. The contest is open to food businesses and individuals making and selling food products in Sitka, Alaska. All food business ideas must be geared toward getting more locally grown, harvested and/or produced food into the Sitka marketplace through sales in grocery stores, the Sitka Food Co-Op, the Sitka Farmers Market, restaurants, or individual marketing (such as a community supported agriculture/CSA or community supported fisheries/CSF program).

“The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to get more locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” said Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network board president. “For the past decade we’ve offered a entrepreneurs a chance to sell their produce, bread and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market, grown produce to sell at the market through St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and provided a garden education program to residents. We think this contest is the next step toward getting more local food into the Sitka marketplace.”

Last year, we gave $1,500 prizes to Brittany Dumag of the Castaway food cart in the start-up business category and to Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers in the established business category. We also gave a special $250 award to 12-year-old Abigail Ward who entered her Sitka Seasonings business. Brittany made Cuban pork sandwiches (using pork from North Pole) and other food to sell at various places in Sitka, including the Sitka Farmers Market. Tamara planned to ramp up her fermented foods business, but she ended up having some health issues that prevented her from completing her project and she ended up refunding most of her prize money. Abby made spice blends for seafood and other meats, which she sold at the first two Sitka Farmers Markets and at other venues.

In our inaugural contest in 2018, we gave a $1,500 prize to Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals in the established business category. We had no entrants in the start-up business category, so no prize was awarded in 2018. Hope used her prize money to hire two interns to help her harvest seaweed and kelp and to help produce her products.

Participants in this contest are eligible and encouraged to enter other food business innovation contests, such as the Path To Prosperity or Symphony of Seafood contests. All participants retain the proprietary rights to their products and ideas. This contest is open to new and existing food businesses in Sitka. Student businesses (such as those fostered by Junior Achievement or similar programs) are welcome.

There is a small $25 entry fee for this contest. All participants (business and individual) must complete and submit our contest entry form by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 6, 2020 (by snail mail so it arrives before the deadline to Sitka Local Foods Network, Food Business Innovation Contest Entries, 408-D Marine Street, Sitka, Alaska, 99835, or by email with the Subject Line of “Food Business Innovation Contest Entries” to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com). Submitting a business plan (up to 20 pages) is recommended, but not required.

Our entry form will have room for you to describe your food business idea in a few paragraphs, but submitting a business plan will give you more room to outline your plans for funding and marketing the idea and will help your overall score. Judging will be based on how your food business idea provides new local food options in Sitka, how novel is your food business idea, how feasible is your food business (can it make a profit and be sustainable), and how professional is your presentation. At some time in late March or early April, the Sitka Local Foods Network may host a pitch presentation, where judges will interview the contest entrants and try samples of the food products. Our judging panel will score your presentation and entry form based on how your idea has a measurable impact on providing local food in Sitka (25%), has the potential for commercialization (25%), provides new employment in Sitka (25%) and fills a need in the Sitka marketplace (25%).

In 2020 we are making some changes to the rules. First, each entry now MUST include a sample, itemized budget showing how the business owner plans to use the prize money. Second, each prize winner will sign a winner’s agreement contract before receiving the prize money that lists a series of benchmarks toward getting the product/service to market that need to be met by a certain date or else all or part of the prize money will need to be refunded to the Sitka Local Foods Network.

If we find additional sponsors, we may add additional prizes and categories (such as fish or farm). Depending on the number of entries and interest of the participants, we may host a reception where contestants can demonstrate their products to Sitka residents. If the reception happens, there will be a chance for people to vote on their favorite products with the winner receiving the People’s Choice Award (this will be separate than the two main prizes selected by our judging panel). We are hoping to find a sponsor for the People’s Choice Award. Note, if our panel of judges determine there isn’t a worthy entrant in one or both categories, then the Sitka Local Foods Network reserves the right not to award a prize. Marijuana edibles are not eligible for the contest.

• Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest Entry Form 2020

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

Happy New Year. The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the January 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 Pick.Click.Give. program opening on Wednesday, hiring a new Sitka Farmers Market manager for the 2020 summer, a new fundraiser to help build a high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, an invitation to join our board of directors, and an update about our 2020 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).

Wednesday’s the day to start filing your 2020 PFD applications with Pick.Click.Give. donations

As 2019 draws to a close, many Alaskans already are thinking about applying for their 2020 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check in January. As usual, Alaskans can share their wealth with a variety of Alaska nonprofits, including the Sitka Local Foods Network, through the PFD’s Pick.Click.Give. program.

This is the sixth year the Sitka Local Foods Network will participate in the Pick.Click.Give. program, which allows people to donate in $25 increments to their favorite statewide and local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations when they file their PFD applications from Jan. 1 through March 31.

When you choose to donate part of your PFD to the Sitka Local Foods Network, you support the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs about growing and preserving food, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, Sitka Community Gardens, matching dollars at the Sitka Farmers Market for SNAP/WIC beneficiaries, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka. We recently launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to try and inspire entrepreneurs in Sitka to work more with local foods.

In 2019 Alaskans contributed $2.9 million to 627 Alaska nonprofit organizations, and more than $24.0 million has been donated since the program started in 2009. Some Alaskans choose to donate to just one group, while others may spread several donations around to many groups. There now are  622 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2020 (including multi-location nonprofits), including 20 from Sitka. In 2019, Alaskans donated $39,800 to Sitka-based nonprofits, up from $33,925 in 2018.

So how do you make a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network through the Pick.Click.Give. program? First, starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1, go fill out your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application at http://pfd.alaska.gov/. When you get to the section of the application asking if you want to participate in Pick.Click.Give. Charitable Contributions program, click on the PCG link and search for the Sitka Local Foods Network. You also can look for us by using the town search for Sitka.

The Pick.Click.Give. program is available only to people who file their PFD applications online, and not to those who file by mail. Even though you can’t file a new PFD application after March 31, you can go back into your application and update your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 each year.

You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2020 PFD. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408-D Marine St., Sitka, Alaska, 99835. You also can donate online by going to our online fundraising page on MightyCause.com, and clicking the Donate button to make an online contribution. You also can send in a check or make an online donation if you are trying to make nonprofit donations before the end of the 2019 tax year. We also have an end-of-2019 fundraiser on Facebook, and we just launched a GoFundMe Charity fundraiser to pay for a new high tunnel so we can grow more fresh, local produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Thank you for supporting our mission of promoting and encouraging the growing, harvesting and eating of local foods in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.

Check out the December 2019 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

Happy holidays. The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the December 2019 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about hiring a new Sitka Farmers Market manager for the 2020 summer, how to join our board of directors, about our 2020 sponsorship program, about #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3, and about some December cooking classes at the Sitka Kitch. 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 Local Foods Network seeks manager for 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets (application date extended to Jan. 15)

The Sitka Local Foods Network is seeking a manager to coordinate the 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. This is a contract position, and the manager receives a small compensation, depending on experience, for his or her work organizing the farmers markets this summer. The manager receives a monthly check for the five months from May through September.

We’ve been lucky to have the same market manager, Nina Vizcarrondo, for the past three summers. But U.S. Coast Guard relocation is taking her away from us. We hope to have the new manager hired in time to do some training with Nina (and assistant manager Charles Bingham, who is staying) before Nina and her family leave Sitka this spring. We thank Nina and her family for their help rebuilding our market.

This will be the 13th year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features 6-8 markets during the summer from July through September, plus the annual farm stand at the Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser in late September. Market dates for 2020 haven’t been confirmed yet, but they usually run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on selected Saturdays at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers/gardeners, local fishermen, and artisans and craftspeople. These events are great Sitka gathering places, and we promote local foods and other local goods at the markets.

In recent years we made some changes to the market, and those have helped it grow into one of the top markets in the state. We have an experienced assistant manager, who will help ease the load for the manager. The manager needs to be able to commit to being available for all of the markets this summer. In addition, the market manager needs access to a vehicle with a trailer hitch (we keep our market supplies in a construction trailer) and to the Internet.

The manager’s main duties include recruiting and organizing the vendors for each market, hiring musicians and other entertainment, setting up and taking down the market tents and tables, managing the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, recruiting volunteers to help sell produce at the SLFN farm stand, helping the assistant manager make deposits and keep track of WIC/SNAP benefit matches, etc. The assistant manager handles market publicity, helps with set up and take down, helps sell produce, takes photos of people and vendors at the market, makes bank deposits, purchases Alaska Grown products to sell at the market (under consultation with the SLFN board of directors), etc. A detailed description of the market manager duties can be found at the link below. The farmers market manager has been a member of the SLFN board in recent years.

Applications should include a cover letter, resumé and three recommendations, and they are due by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15 (this is an extension from the Jan. 8 original deadline). The market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market is a seasonal contract position that reports to the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors via a board liaison (Amanda Anjum). For more information or to submit applications, contact SLFN board president Charles Bingham at 1-907-623-7660, or you can email the SLFN Board at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (please put “Sitka Farmers Market Manager” in the subject line).

Once we sign a contract with our market manager, we will announce a couple of meetings for potential vendors. We also will announce in the next few days a spring class on cottage food business basics (in partnership with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service) for those thinking about starting a home-based food business, and students taking that class will receive a reduction on their first table fee from the Sitka Farmers Market in 2020.

• Description of duties for market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market Manager (2020)

Check out the November 2019 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the November 2019 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about how to join our board of directors, about our 2020 sponsorship program, and about #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3. 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 Local Foods Network hosts its fifth annual #GivingTuesday fundraiser on Dec. 3

Most people have heard about Black FridaySmall-Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, three consumer-oriented days geared toward shopping for the holidays. But have you heard about Giving Tuesday, which takes place on Tuesday, Dec. 3, this year?

Giving Tuesday, also listed at #GivingTuesday (known as #GivingTuesdayAK in Alaska), is a day for people to celebrate generosity and give to worthy nonprofits who support the local community. This year, the Sitka Local Foods Network is launching its fifth Giving Tuesday online fundraiser to help us meet our mission of increasing the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. In addition to our usual #GivingTuesday fundraiser page on MightyCause.com (formerly Razoo.com), this year we also have one on Facebook that will be eligible for matching dollars from Facebook for donations from Dec. 3. The #GivingTuesday fundraiser pages on MightyCause.com and Facebook will accept early donations, for those who don’t want to wait until Dec. 3 to give, and they will last until Dec. 31 for those people looking for an end-of-year tax deduction.

(This just in, food systems expert and author Mark Winne is donating two copies of his new book, Food Town USA, which features a deep dive into the local food systems of seven communities around the country (Sitka is Chapter 4). These two books will go to the people who donate the most in our Facebook fundraiser. Mark said he’ll even sign them for the winners.)

When you donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network you support us as we host the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer, grow food at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and teach people about gardening and food preservation through our education program. We also can use funds to help us match the first $20 in produce purchases WIC and SNAP beneficiaries make at the Sitka Farmers Market, which helps get more healthy local produce into the hands of lower-income Sitkans thanks to a grant from the Sitka White Elephant Shop. In 2018, we launched a Sitka food business innovation contest, so your donation might support that effort to encourage food entrepreneurship in Sitka. In recent years we have hosted the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser, the last two years in partnership with Youth Advocates of Sitka.

For businesses and organizations, we have a yearly sponsorship program with four tier levels of support — Grower ($2,500-plus), Harvester ($1,000-$2,499), Planter ($250-$999) and Friend ($50-$249).

In addition to our own projects, we support other local-food-related projects in town, such as Fish To Schools (which puts more locally caught seafood in school meals), our fruit tree project (where we got more community apple and cherry trees in town), the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, or the Sitka Community Food Assessment (which gave us baseline data on food security issues in Sitka).

It’s easy to donate to our Giving Tuesday fundraiser through our secure donation page hosted by MightyCause.com (formerly Razoo.com, an online site that collects donations for nonprofit organizations), or through our Facebook fundraiser page (the one with the match from Facebook and PayPal). The minimum donation through this site is $5, but we appreciate whatever you can give. A donation of $10 can help us purchase some seeds or work gloves, while a gift of $100 can buy wood, soil and seeds to build a raised garden bed.

The Sitka Local Foods Network participates in the Pick.Click.Give. program, and we thank the 25 donors who contributed $1,300 to us this year through Pick.Click.Give. and look forward to the 2020 donation period. In Pick.Click.Give., Alaskans can donate part of their Permanent Fund Dividend when they file their applications between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year. It’s a great way to share the wealth Alaskans receive through the Permanent Fund with a variety of nonprofit organizations in the state.

For those who prefer to donate the old-fashioned way (or want to avoid online processing fees), you can send a check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408 Marine Street, Suite D, Sitka, Alaska, 99835. For those looking for end-of-the-year tax deductions, we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and our EIN is 26-4629930. Please let us know if you need a receipt. We hold a Bronze level rating with GuideStar.org, and we also are listed with Benevity.org (a site where employee donations to nonprofits sometimes are matched by larger corporations) and NetworkForGood.org (the organization that handles most of the fundraisers started on Facebook).

We thank you for supporting local foods in Sitka, Alaska. Your donation is greatly appreciated. If you need more information about our organization or a receipt for tax purposes, you can email the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2020 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form