Sitka to host community food system asset-mapping workshop on Feb. 19 using Zoom

Over the past year or so, the Sitka Local Foods Network has been working with a dozen other local and regional groups as part of a two-year USDA Regional Food System Partnership grant coordinated by the Alaska Food Policy Council.

As part of this work, the Sitka Local Foods Network will host a community-focussed food system asset-mapping workshop from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19, using Zoom. The goal of this project is to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the 13 local and regional food systems, then use that knowledge to create a 10-year statewide food security plan. The workshop on Feb. 19 will use an outside facilitator, Lisa Trocchia, who is facilitating all of the regional/local workshops.

“Food security, or insecurity, is a big issue in Alaska and in Sitka,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Hopefully this project will give us some strategies on how to improve Alaska’s food security. We have special challenges in Alaska, with our remoteness and climate, and we see that every time the grocery store shelves are empty or when we go to a village store and can’t find fresh fruit and veggies. If you have concerns about Alaska’s, and Sitka’s, food system, then this workshop is for you.”

Sitka has a bit of an advantage over some of the other communities involved in the project, because in 2014 we released the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report, which came out of a Sitka Health Summit project. This gave us some baseline data about food security in Sitka. But most of the data is a decade old and is becoming dated. It’s hoped this workshop might inspire discussions that will help us update the report.

We want people from all parts of the Sitka community to attend this meeting — Alaska Native, Filipino, people on public assistance, people who hunt and gather, gardeners, commercial fishermen, people who run food businesses, young people, elders, etc. The broader the diversity in our group, the better our results.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP by sending an email with the note “food security” in the subject line to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. You will receive an email a few days before the event with a Zoom link. Those who can’t attend on Feb. 19 still can participate when there is a statewide survey announced. For more details, contact Charles Bingham at 907-623-7660

Check out the January 2022 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the January 2022 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories with a notice about the opening of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application period (and Pick.Click.Give. application) on Jan. 1, an update about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, information about our 2022 sponsorship programs, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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).

Saturday’s the day to start filing your 2022 PFD applications with Pick.Click.Give. donations

As 2021 draws to a close, many Alaskans already are thinking about applying for their 2022 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.

For the past several years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has participated 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, the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, 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.

In 2021 Alaskans contributed $3.04 million to 613 Alaska nonprofit organizations, and more than $30.1 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 634 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2022 (including multi-location nonprofits), including 23 from Sitka. In 2021, Alaskans donated $94,575 to Sitka-based nonprofits (note, total includes some nonprofits that are based in multiple cities).

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 Saturday, 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 2022 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. In addition, there is an online giving page through the PayPal Giving Fund. If you are trying to make nonprofit donations before the end of the 2021 tax year, you can mail in a check or make an online donation. 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 increasing the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories with a notice about #GivingTuesday on Nov. 30, information about how you can eat some chowder and support the Sitka Local Foods Network from Dec. 1-4, an update about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, information about our 2022 sponsorship programs, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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 annual #GivingTuesday fundraiser on Nov. 30

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, Nov. 30, 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 annual 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 a portion of $8 million in matching dollars from Facebook/Meta for donations made on Nov. 30 (starting at 8 a.m. Eastern, 4 a.m. Alaskan). The #GivingTuesday fundraiser pages on MightyCause.com and Facebook will accept early donations, for those who don’t want to wait until Nov. 30 to give, and they will last until Dec. 31 for those people looking for an end-of-year tax deduction.

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.

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. You also can donate to us through the PayPal Giving Fund.

The Sitka Local Foods Network participates in the Pick.Click.Give. program, and we thank the 35 donors who contributed $1,975 to us in 2021 through Pick.Click.Give. and look forward to the 2022 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 (an organization that handles fundraisers for various nonprofits).

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.

• 2022 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

Revived Sitka Compost Project Team to host virtual meeting on Friday, Nov. 12

A revived Sitka Compost Project Team will hold a virtual meeting at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12, via Zoom.

The Sitka Conservation Society is serving as a nonprofit umbrella for the Sitka Compost Project Team. The project team is being led by Caitlin Woolsey, Elizabeth Borneman, Norm Campbell, and Doug Osborne.

Large-scale composting has long been a goal in Sitka, and it was selected as a top goal at the 2011 Sitka Health Summit Planning Day. That led to the Sick-A-Waste group, which did some preliminary work on a community composting plan.

The recent revival of interest in composting led to the Sitka Health Summit contributing $500 to the composting project. The Sitka Health Summit is keen on seeing this happen (in addition to the current goals of ending homelessness and reviving community schools.)

One reason why there is some urgency to this project revival is Sitka has a 45-foot EcoDrum industrial compost unit in town (similar to the photo), and we want to keep it here in town. The person who brought the unit to Sitka no longer lives in Alaska, and the unit must be moved from its current location. We’re trying to keep it from being barged elsewhere.

Also, the city ships a lot of waste that could be composted to the Lower 48, and having a community compost program can reduce how much waste the city ships south. Good compost makes great garden soil, which can be worth its weight in gold in a rain forest community where a lot of nutrients are washed out of the soil due to the moisture. Having access to fresh compost will make it easier for more Sitka gardeners to grow their own food, which will improve food security in town.

The compost project could use people power. It seems like a simple idea; however it’s got a lot of complexity and needs a variety of things: land, brown material, a place for finished compost, etc. Norm Campbell has been leading the charge and has lots of good ideas.

The Sitka Health Summit hosted a Pardee RAND School of Public Policy Fellow named Zhan Okuda-Lim this summer-fall. He is working up a final report for composting in Sitka which was the focus of his work. Zhan will have his final report ready to present on Friday, Nov. 12 (reports are posted below the Zoom info). After going over his slide deck, Zhan can answer questions. After that we can all discuss next steps.

All are welcome – anyone in town who is interested in seeing us composting more in Sitka.

Topic: Composting

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• Sitka Compost Project Team final presentation, Nov. 12, 2021

• Sitka Compost Project Team final report, Nov. 11, 2021

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories with information about our 2022 sponsorship programs, information about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, an announcement about a series of online food preservation workshops from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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).

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2022

The Sitka Local Foods Network in recent years created a sponsorship program to help promote our mission, and Sitka businesses and individuals are welcome to join for 2022. The goal of the sponsorship program is to make the projects we undertake (Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, gardening education, food business development, etc.) more sustainable.

“Sitka has a precarious position when it comes to food security, and the Sitka Local Foods Network is trying to improve our food security through our mission to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods in the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham said. “Sponsors of the Sitka Local Foods Network are working with an organization and a farmers market that values local food and businesses, fun, premium quality goods and experiences.”

In recent years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted seven Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer (from July to September). Due to COVID-19, we had to greatly scale back our 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets, focusing just on produce sales and using an online sales portal, but we did double our number of market weeks. In 2021, we hosted an outdoor-only market that brought back some of our vendors. We haven’t set our 2022 dates yet, but we anticipate we will have a more normal market experience this year.

In addition, we grow most of the local produce sold at the markets at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and a couple of other locations in town. In March 2020 we built a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, which helped us increase our produce production despite a wet and cold summer, and we were able to add another new high tunnel before the 2021 growing season. We usually offer a variety of garden education classes in the spring. And one way we ensured fresh, local produce is available to lower-income Sitkans is through our matching program for WIC and SNAP beneficiaries (the first $20 spent on produce at the market), courtesy of recent grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop and the Sitka Legacy Foundation.

In 2018 we launched a new food business innovation contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, and have continued the program with the expectation of hosting it in 2022 (our 2021 winners were Joanne “Chef Jo” Michalski of Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies and Nalani James of Eggstravagant). We also have hosted the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser for more than a decade, with 2018 and 2019 in partnership with Youth Advocates of Sitka but canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. In addition, we support other local food projects in Sitka, such as the Fish to Schools lunch program and the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

There are four levels of sponsorship available, and each has its own set of perks.

  • Grower ($2,500-plus) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets, include your logo and company name prominently in our merchandise and advertisements, and thank you on our social media and web pages. If appropriate for the Sitka Farmers Market, you may set up a free promotional booth.
  • Harvester ($1,000-$2,499) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets and include your logo and company name in our merchandise and advertisements.
  • Planter ($250-$999) — Your banner will hang at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets.
  • Friend ($50-$249) — You are listed on our online sponsor page.

We have limited space for banners at the Sitka Farmers Markets, so please contact us before May 1 to guarantee your spot. To learn more about the sponsorship program, click the link below for details and a registration form. For more information, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or by email at charleswbingham3@gmail.com, or email us at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2022 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories wrapping up 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 announcement about a series of online food preservation workshops from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, an invitation to join our board of directors, and information about our 2021-22 sponsorship programs. 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 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.”