Scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, presents Patty Dick of the Noow Tlein Dancers Fundraiser with the Table of the Day award during the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 17, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Patty sold baked goods, Tlingít drums, medicinal herbs and tinctures, and painted rocks. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirt, some onions from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Other markets this summer are Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a bit cloudy and misty when we held our fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Luckily, the rain ended and the clouds lifted before the market did.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; garlic scapes, lettuce, carrots and other produce; jams and jellies; arts and crafts; and more. We also had two food trucks outside (Castaway and the Smoothie Truck). We also introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand).

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market on Aug. 10

The 20th annual National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 4-10 this year, so stop by the Sitka Farmers Market to join the celebration, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. This is the 12th season of Sitka Farmers Markets.

The annual National Farmers Market Week celebration is the first full week of August, when growing season is peaking around the country.

The number of farmers markets in the country has more than tripled since 1996, growing from 2,410 markets in 1996 to 8,675 in 2016. There has been similar growth in Alaska, and now markets can be found in many Bush communities from Bethel to Thorne Bay. This growth has improved Alaska’s food security while also serving as an incubator for new businesses.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition, farmers markets …

  • Preserve America’s rural livelihoods and farmland. Farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for beginning farmers, allowing them to start small, test the market, and grow their businesses.
  • Stimulate local economies. Growers selling locally create 13 full-time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those growers that do not sell locally create three jobs.
  • Increase access to fresh, nutritious food. Several  studies have found lower prices for conventional and organic produce at farmers markets than at supermarkets. Due to this and other factors, 52 percent more SNAP households shop at farmers markets and from direct marketing farmers today than in 2011. The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP and WIC benefits, and we have a matching program for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries.
  • Support healthy communities. Farmers market vendors educate their shoppers. Four out of five farmers selling at markets discuss farming practices with their customers, and three in five discuss nutrition and how to prepare food.
  • Promote sustainability. Three out of every four farmers selling at farmers markets say they use practices consistent with organic standards.

Sitka Local Foods Network to host seven Sitka Farmers Markets during the 2019 summer

The Sitka Local Foods Network is kicking off its 12th season of markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). We rebuilt some of the vitality of the market over the last couple of years, and now we’re hoping to build on that momentum.

“We learned a lot over the past couple of years, and we hope we’ve been able to move on from our mistakes and make the markets better,” said Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham, who is assisting Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo for the third year.

“We regained a lot of the vendors we lost in 2016, and that brought back a lot of the community-gathering-place feel to the market. We still want to see more local food producers at the market, but we know now we need to develop those outside the market, which is one reason we launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in 2018. We want the market to be a great way to connect with neighbors and support local entrepreneurs.”

New this year is the Bicycle Benefits program, where people who ride their bikes to the market and show their Bicycle Benefits helmet stickers can get 20 percent off produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market. The Sitka Local Foods Network also has applied for a Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, where most of the produce sold at the SLFN farm stand is grown.

Other new innovations started in 2017 included a kids vendor program for youth ages 12 and younger, and new Alaska Grown food products for sale at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand. Both are continuing in 2019. In addition to freshly grown produce from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, there will be Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Evie’s Brinery fermented foods from Anchorage, Barnacle Foods kelp salsa and kelp pickles from Juneau, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, and Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood.

We also have fish vendors back this season. There still is a focus on local and Alaska food products, with the Alaska Grown products being a way to inspire Sitka food entrepreneurs to try making new food items locally. The more local products we have, the more the money circulates in Sitka’s economy.

“Come support your community at our farmers markets,” Vizcarrondo said. “By working toward Sitka’s food sovereignty, shopping local reduces our food miles. Food doesn’t get any fresher than this.”

The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The other markets this summer take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 27, Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, at ANB Founders Hall. The markets feature a variety of locally grown produce, seafood, cottage foods, a hot lunch, locally made arts and crafts, live music and fun.

The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefits transfers (EBT) and WIC farmers market coupons. We have a matching program where SNAP and WIC clients can double up to $20 of their benefits in local produce. We are the only farmers market in the state authorized to match WIC farmers market coupons. The past two years we received grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop (the White E) to help with the matching program.

“In recent years we’ve been proud to welcome Alaska Quest EBT and WIC shoppers at the market, and the last two years the White E has helped us match those produce benefits,” Bingham said. “It is so important to make sure local food is accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy.”

The April 2008 Sitka Health Summit planted the seeds for the Sitka Farmers Market, as Sitka residents chose starting a local foods market as one of their community wellness initiatives for the year. About the same time, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church was looking for a way to put some recently cleared land behind the church’s See House into use for a community project. St. Peter’s offered to lease the land to the group that became the Sitka Local Foods Network for $1 a year, and in May 2008 a group of Sitka residents built raised garden beds and planted a variety of crops. Later that summer, there was enough produce grown at St. Peter’s to supply our first three Sitka Farmers Markets starting in August 2008.

There were five markets in 2009, followed by six markets each year from 2010-15 and now seven markets since 2016. Led by lead gardener Laura Schmidt, the production of local produce at St. Peter’s has grown each year, and there now are satellite gardens, such as one on land owned by Pat Arvin. Most of the food grown at St. Peter’s and the satellite gardens is sold at the Sitka Farmers Market, but there has been enough for the Sitka Local Foods Network to also have a table when Chelan Produce is in town and to sell to local school lunch programs and restaurants. The money raised helps support the Sitka Local Foods Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in its mission “to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.”

To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how you can become a vendor or volunteer, contact Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or Charles Bingham at 623-7660, or email us sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. The Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/, has more info on the markets and links to vendor rules and registration forms. In addition to vendors, we always need volunteers to help us set up and take down the market and to sell food at the SLFN farm stand.

The Sitka Local Foods Network receives sponsorship funding from the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), the Sitka White Elephant Shop (the White E), the Sitka True ValueHarry Race PharmacyALPS Federal Credit Union, Sea Mart, Market Center, and a host of individuals.

Also, don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the 11th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration. The Sitka Farmers Market was the top market from Alaska in 2017 and 2018.

• New feature added — Sitka Local Foods Marketplace (for in-season local food in Sitka)

There have been some requests for a Sitka Local Foods Marketplace, where local gardeners and fishermen can post notes when they have in-season local food available in Sitka. So we’ve added a Sitka Local Foods Marketplace page (please click this link), and the marketplace page can be found at the top of our main Sitka Local Foods Network gateway page.

The Sitka Local Foods Marketplace will give local gardeners and fishermen a place to let people know when local food is available, and this will be an all-year marketplace for local food. The way this will work is people with local food for sale will use the comments to post the news about their extra heads of lettuce or fresh king salmon available for sale. Sellers will be responsible for all licensing required before they can sell fish or cooked goods. Please no selling of subsistence or sport-caught fish due to Alaska Department of Fish & Game licensing regulations.

When posting your comment about local food you have available for sale, please use this format:

Your name (first and last names, please)
Your contact information (phone number and/or e-mail address)
What type of food is available (for example, fresh-caught winter king salmon with most fish in the 12-16 pound range)
Your price (both single item and any quantity discounts)
Expected time items will be available (one week, two weeks, all summer, etc.)
Any other comments about your local food

Please be aware that all comments are moderated on this site (thank the spammers), so it may take a day or two to be posted. If you posted a marketplace comment that didn’t show up on the page within a day or two, please send me an e-mail at charles(at)sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org — replace (at) with the @ symbol. Also, if you have your own Web site for your local food products, send me the link and I will add it to the Sitka Commercial Food Producers category (toward the bottom of the long list of links on the right side of the Web page).