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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the September 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 last two markets of 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).

Scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham, right, presents the Sitka Farmers Market Table of the Day Award for Aug. 7 to Kaleb Aldred, left, and Andrea Fraga of Middle Island Gardens. Andrea and Kaleb sold a variety of fresh veggies grown in their garden. Andrea and Kaleb received a certificate, a tote bag, a bag of Alaska Flour Company barley pancake flour, a bottle of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, two Sitka Farmers Market special label chocolate bars, and a jar of Moosetard mustards. Aug. 1-7 was National Farmers Market Week. The next Sitka Farmers Market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Vendors can register online (by Thursday, Aug. 19) 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 National Farmers Market Week on Aug. 1-7, and the Sitka Local Foods Network celebrated with its fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, Aug. 7. There was a bit of rain before the market, but it dried up to only a few sprinkles during the market.

Due to a growing COVID-19 count, we instituted a face mask policy this summer to try and protect our customers and vendors from the coronavirus. That face mask policy will be in force when we hold our fourth Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, 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 do have a couple of new vendors registered for this market, and we’d love to see a fish vendor or a baked goods vendor, too.

The Sitka Local Foods Network needs a volunteer or two to help set up the market, sell produce during the market, and take down the market after it’s over. If you’re interested in helping us with the market, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or Nalani James at (808) 778-9888.

We also 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 fourth market of the summer is posted below.

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).

Please wear masks for the Sitka Farmers Market this Saturday

Over the past month, 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 31, 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, the only change we’ve seen to local and state safety guidelines is Sitka’s new mask mandate passed July 29 by the Sitka Assembly, 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, the Sitka Local Foods Network needs a volunteer or two to help set up the market, sell produce during the market, and take down the market after it’s over. If you’re interested in helping, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or Nalani James at (808) 778-9888. We plan to start setting up about 8-8:30 a.m. and should have everything packed up by 2 p.m.

We also 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 at the Sitka Farmers Market, and offers a matching program for produce purchased at the SLFN farm stand (if you buy $5 of produce, you will receive $10 worth).

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.

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).

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).

As you build your 2021 garden this spring, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article first appeared on this site in April 2010. It is repeated with some updates because much of the information remains current and newsworthy.)

As you start to plan your garden for this spring and summer, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry. The Plant A Row For The Hungry program (also known as Plant A Row or PAR) is a national campaign by the Garden Writers Association of America (which recently changed its name to the Garden Communicators International) that has its roots in Alaska.

In the cold winter of 1994, Anchorage Daily News garden columnist and former Garden Writers Association of America President Jeff Lowenfels was returning to his hotel after a Washington, D.C., event when he was approached by a homeless person who asked for some money to buy food. Lowenfels said Washington, D.C., had signs saying, “Don’t give money to panhandlers,” so he shook his head and kept on walking. But the man’s reply, “I really am homeless and I really am hungry. You can come with me and watch me eat,” stayed with Lowenfels for the rest of his trip.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels

The encounter continued to bother Lowenfels, even as he was flying back to Anchorage. During the flight, Lowenfels came up with an idea when he started writing his weekly garden column (the longest continuously running garden column in the country, with no missed weeks since it started on Nov. 13, 1976). He asked his readers to plant one extra row in their gardens to grow food to donate to Bean’s Café, an Anchorage soup kitchen. The idea took off.

When Anchorage hosted the Garden Writers Association of America convention in 1995, Lowenfels took the GWAA members to Bean’s Café to learn about the Plant A Row For Bean’s Café program. The Garden Writers Association of America liked the idea, and it became the national Plant A Row For The Hungry campaign (also known as Plant A Row or PAR). In 2002, the Garden Writers Association Foundation (now Garden Communicators International) was created as a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit to manage the Plant A Row For The Hungry program.

“I am not surprised by the growth of PAR,” Lowenfels wrote in a 2010 e-mail to the Sitka Local Foods Network. “It is now in all 50 states and across Canada and there are thousands of variations of the original program — from prison gardens for the hungry to botanical gardens donating their produce from public display gardens. This is because gardeners always share information and extra food, so the idea was a natural.”

It took five years for the program to reach its first million pounds of donated food, but the second million only took two years and the next eight years saw a million pounds of donated food (or more) each year. Since 1995, more than 20 million pounds of food (about 80 million meals, as of 2020) have been donated by American gardeners. Not only that, the program is getting ready to expand overseas to Australia, England and other countries with avid gardeners.

“We have supplied something in the vicinity of enough food for 50 million meals,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail. “Gardeners can solve this hunger problem without the government. And we don’t need a tea party to do it! Or chemicals, I might add, as author of a book on organic gardening!” Lowenfels is the author of Teaming With Microbes, written with Wayne Lewis. He released a second book, Teaming With Nutrients, as a follow-up to his first book, and in 2017 released a third book, Teaming With Fungi, as a second follow-up book.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2019 one out of every nine U.S. households experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. Many people skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going an entire day or more without food. About 35.2 million Americans, including 13 million children, have substandard diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they can’t always afford to buy the food they need. In recent years, the demand for hunger assistance has increased 70 percent, and research shows that hundreds of children and adults are turned away from food banks each year because of lack of resources. The demand has grown with the Covid-19 pandemic

According to the 2014 Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report, about one in six people in Sitka is food insecure. In 2013, there were 1,410 Sitkans (out of a population of about 9,000) and 766 families receiving food assistance (SNAP, aka food stamps). There also were 229 individuals who received food pantry assistance from the Salvation Army and 7,243 meals served through its lunch soup kitchen in 2013, and that number has grown substantially since then.

While many people credit Lowenfels for creating the Plant A Row For The Hungry program, Lowenfels says the real heroes are the gardeners growing the extra food and donating it to local soup kitchens, senior programs, schools, homeless shelters and neighbors. You can hear him pass along the credit to all gardeners at the end of this 2009 interview with an Oklahoma television station (video also embedded below).

“One row. That’s all it takes. No rules other than the food goes to the hungry. You pick the drop-off spot or just give it to a needy friend or neighbor. Nothing slips between the lip and the cup, I say,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail.

With all of the jobs lost because of the COVID-19 coronavirus quarantines in 2020-21, this year there will be even more people who need food assistance. It will be more important than ever to help get extra produce into our local food banks and soup kitchens.

For people wanting to Plant A Row For The Hungry in Sitka, there are several places that would love to help distribute some fresh locally grown veggies or berries to those who are less fortunate, such as the Salvation ArmySitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), local churches, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other organizations. The food the Sitka Local Foods Network grows at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden goes to the Sitka Farmers Market, school lunches and other programs.

People who participate in the Alaska Food Stamp program can use their Alaska Quest Cards to purchase produce and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market and other farmers markets around the state. People who participate in the  WIC (Women, Infants, Children) supplemental food program (operated in Southeast Alaska by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium or SEARHC) also can use special farmers market vouchers to buy fresh vegetables at the Sitka Farmers Market and other farmers markets in Alaska (this is part of the national WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program). The Sitka Local Foods Network matches up to $20 for produce purchased using WIC or SNAP benefits at the Sitka Farmers Market.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also takes donations of local produce to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets, and all proceeds are used to help pay for SLFN projects geared toward helping more people in Sitka grow and harvest local food. For more information, contact the Sitka Local Foods Network board members at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• Plant A Row informational brochure (2017)