Voting open in 12th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration

The voting period for the 12th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration is open and people can go online and support their favorite farmers markets through Sept. 20. This year, the top farmers market wins $1,000, with second place receiving $500.

Last year, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top market in Alaska and finished ninth in the Pacific region. The Sitka Farmers Market has been the top vote-getter in Alaska for the past three years, and five of the past six year. 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 22 this year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several major changes to the Sitka Farmers Markets this year. We have a greatly scaled back market with two new co-managers (Ariane Goudeau and Nalani James), 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. Click this link to hear a KCAW Morning Interview with Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham discussing the changes.

Basically, this year 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 will have 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). All of our sales this year will be done online, and no sales will happen at the pick-up events on Saturday. In addition, all of our volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves and we ask you to wear masks and stay with your cars when you arrive at the pick-up event while one of our greeters brings you your order.

Click this link to learn more about some of the changes this year, and click this link to see some photos from our June 20 pick-up event. Click this link to sign up for our weekly Sitka Farmers Market newsletter that comes out on Tuesday afternoons and lets people know what’s available each week.

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the June 2020 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about an update on the Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans for the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, a story about our new logo, an update on the last day to make Pick.Click.Give. donation changes, an invitation to join our board of directors, and a thank you to those businesses and individuals sponsoring us for 2020. 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 2020 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the May 2020 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about an update on the Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans for the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, a #GivingTuesdayNow fundraiser on May 5, a fundraiser to help us build a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, an invitation to join our board of directors, and an opportunity to sponsor us for 2020. 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).

Another update about the 2020 Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans

It’s May and we are still living in unusual times, with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and COVID-19 disease outbreak keeping many of us sheltered in place. The pandemic has scuttled some of our plans for the 2020 Sitka Farmers Market season, and we’re trying to adapt to our changing world so we can host something this year. We gave Sitka an update on our plans in late March, and now it’s time for another update.

We are still finalizing plans, but it doesn’t look as if we’ll be able to host a full Sitka Farmers Market this summer. Our regular venue, Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, is still closed, and even if we could use the building current state mandates limit what we can do. While the state considers farmers markets to be essential businesses, the state is limiting markets to food sales only and not allowing arts and crafts (about 65-70 percent of our vendors). We’d love to hold a regular market, but under the current situation we just can’t. We love serving as an incubator for small businesses and a community gathering place, so we hope to return to having a full market next summer.

So where does that leave us for the 2020 summer? The Sitka Local Foods Network, as usual, is growing fresh produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Our produced-growing operation has a Certified Naturally Grown designation, showing our commitment to sustainable agriculture, and we built a second high tunnel this spring to extend our growing season.

We think giving Sitka residents access to healthy, local food is critical to our food security, and we still plan to sell produce this summer. It’s in our mission, and we plan to do it. Since we are losing our market manager of the past three years (Nina Vizcarrondo) to Coast Guard relocation, we hired two co-managers to replace her — Ariane Martin Goudeau and Nalani James. Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham also will assist with the markets, and Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for about a decade.

Right now our plan is to use an online sales portal, Salt and Soil Marketplace based in Juneau, where people will order a box of produce during the week, pay for it online, and then pick it up on Saturday. We plan to sell a $20 box of produce that will feature four selected veggies that are currently in season, and a $40 box which will include additional veggies. We also may sell selected individual veggies when we have an abundance beyond what we’d put in the boxes. In order to simplify things this year, we will not carry our usual Alaska Grown products this summer. We plan to work with Middle Island Gardens, which will sell its produce on Salt and Soil Marketplace and have its own delivery pick-ups at the same time and location.

We are still trying to finalize our agreement on dates and times with our proposed venue, and that will be announced once it’s confirmed. We are negotiating with a centralized outdoor venue, and our proposed hours are from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. We hope to hold our first pick-up on June 20, and then every Saturday in July, August, and September.

Due to health and safety concerns from the COVID-19 outbreak, things will look different on market Saturdays. We are trying to minimize contact as much as possible, and all of our volunteers will wear gloves and masks and we ask all of our customers to also wear masks. We have been attending several workshops on how to safely run a market, and we decided simplicity and safety was our priority this year. That’s why there will only be two vendors — the Sitka Local Foods Network and Middle Island Gardens — this year and all of our produce will be pre-sold before Saturday, so customers can get in and out as quickly as possible and we don’t have to handle cash or checks.

We will ask customers to drive up to our pick-up location, and wait in their cars (with engines turned off) until our greeters get their names and then gets their orders so they can be placed in their vehicle. There will be no at-market sales, so please stay with your vehicles and don’t come up to our tables. If you bike or walk, we will ask you to maintain proper social distancing until we can bring you your order. The first half-hour we are open will be designated for seniors and those with high-risk health issues, so they can get in and out before the big rush. Periodically, we may stop what we’re doing so everybody can wash their hands and reglove, and we can wipe down our tables. We want to make this safe for our customers and our volunteers.

One of our biggest issues is how we will be able to make sure our produce gets into the hands of lower-income Sitka residents. Normally we accept SNAP Alaska Quest EBT cards and WIC farmers market nutrition vouchers, but unless something changes soon we’re not allowed to use those methods if we use an online sales portal. We are trying to come up with a solution, and that may mean we have WIC/SNAP beneficiaries send us an email or call a special phone number to receive a free $20 box of produce every other week. Since we won’t get reimbursed by the state, we’ll cover the costs from our general fund. This will only be for the Sitka Local Foods Network produce.

We still have a few things to work out, so we will will provide another update as those details are confirmed. If you have any questions, feel free to call Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the April 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 winners of the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, this week’s deadline to apply for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend and Pick.Click.Give. donations, an update on the Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans for the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, a fundraiser to help us build a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, an invitation to join our board of directors, and an opportunity to sponsor us for 2020. 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 March 2020 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the March 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 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend and Pick.Click.Give. deadlines, the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest deadline on March 6, a fundraiser to help us build a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, an invitation to join our board of directors, an update on Sitka Kitch Winter Baking Series classes and a fundraiser event, and an invitation to sponsor us for 2020. 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? Please join our board of directors or volunteer with us

The 2019 Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, from left, Amanda Anjum, Charles Bingham, Nina Vizcarrondo, Laura Schmidt, Stanley Lopata. We are recruiting new board members for 2020.

Did you enjoy the fresh local veggies at the Sitka Farmers Market this summer? Did you take any of our garden education classes this spring? Are you concerned about increasing access to local food for all Sitka residents?

The Sitka Local Foods Network is holding an open house for potential board members and volunteers from 5:30-7:15 p.m. on a date TBA in July or August. Due to COVID-19 coronavirus health concerns and the need to social-distance, we will meet using Zoom online meetings (a meeting link will be sent by email if you contact Charles Bingham at the email address below). This is a good time to learn about what we’re doing and how you can help.

Please consider joining the board of directors for the Sitka Local Foods Network to help us pursue our mission to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. We need more board members in order to keep running our programs.

Board members help direct the Sitka Local Foods Network, a non-profit that promotes the harvest and use of local food in Sitka. In addition to setting the focus of the group during our monthly meetings, board members also serve on at least one committee supporting at our three main projects of the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and garden education. In 2018, we launched the annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to encourage food entrepreneurs in Sitka.

We also hope to help with the Sitka Community Gardens project as we look for a new location now that Blatchley Community Garden has been closed. In addition, some board members have supported other local foods projects in Sitka, such as the Sitka Kitch, Let’s Grow Sitka, the Sick-A-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food Assessment project, Sitka Fish-To-Schools, other school education projects and more.

To apply for a spot on the board, please fill out the application linked below and submit it to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.org. For more information, please email us. Please note this is a working board, and our group is evolving and maturing as we try to raise funds to hire staff. Board terms are for three years, with seats up for reapplication each winter.

We also are looking to increase our pool of volunteers who will help out during the various projects hosted by the network each year (no formal application needed, just send us your name/contact info and what types of projects you enjoy). We need volunteers to help with the upcoming Sitka Farmers Markets, helpers for our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and people to teach gardening classes.

The next regular Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting is from 5:30-7:15 p.m. on a date TBA in July or August, using Zoom online meetings (email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com to get a link to join our meeting). The board usually meets once every 4-6 weeks. Please note, we will sometimes move our meetings to avoid conflicts with board member schedules, venue schedules and to ensure a quorum. All of our board meetings are open to the public.

Click here for a copy of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors job description. Click here for a copy of the board application.

White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network 2020 grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Sitka White Elephant Shop (White E) volunteer Tom Brown, left, presents Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham with a check for $1,500 to use for matching SNAP/WIC benefits at the 2020 Sitka Farmers Market.

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E thrift shop) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,500 grant during its 2020 grant cycle. In 2018, the White E awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network $1,000. The amount was increased to $1,500 in 2019.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce, such as at the Running of the Boots. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets several years ago when there was a state grant, but in 2017 those state grant funds ran out and we used our Sitka Local Foods Network general fund to match the produce purchases.

The White E grants, starting in 2018, have helped us continue the matching program. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons in 2017, using our general fund (in 2019, we were the only farmers market in the state authorized to match WIC coupons). If the senior farmers market coupons are finally distributed in Southeast Alaska in 2020, our intention is to match those as well.

We grow most of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market locally at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town. St. Peter’s Fellowship holds a Certified Naturally Grown designation, which means we follow healthy and sustainable practices while growing our produce, including limited use of chemical fertilizers. The Sitka Farmers Market also is on the Certified Naturally Grown’s Guide To Exceptional Markets.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Local produce can be fresher and tastier than barged-in produce from the Lower 48, and it doesn’t lose its nutritional value during transit. Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2020 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support. The White E noted that it donated about $25,000 less this year than in previous years because sales are down. The White E is encouraging people to donate quality used clothes, toys, and other items to sell so it can raise the amount of contributions it makes to local nonprofits again next year.

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the February 2020 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about our annual meeting and potluck dinner, the Pick.Click.Give. program being open for 2020, the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest application period being open, a fundraiser to build a second high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, an invitation to join our board of directors or volunteer for us, information about upcoming Sitka Kitch classes and a fundraising dinner, and an update on our 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).