Alaska Food Festival and Conference set for Nov. 3-4 in Fairbanks

Come celebrate Alaska’s bountiful harvest and learn about issues affecting the Alaska food system during the third semi-annual Alaska Food Festival and Conference, on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 3-4, at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge in Fairbanks.

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), this event previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016 and this year moves to Fairbanks.

Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham is a member of the AFPC governing board (and former SLFN president Lisa Sadleir-Hart is a former member of the AFPC governing board). There also will be a couple of presentations by Sitkans, including Keith Nyitray of the Sitka Food Co-Op, Elizabeth Herendeen of SalmonState, and Mary Smith of Edible Alaska magazine.

The two-day event opens on Friday with a food systems conference featuring a variety of speakers discussing food security, production, business, and community issues, among other topics. On Friday night, there will be a food policy networking event. Saturday features a fun and educational food festival highlighted by Alaska food vendors presenting taste-testing, food demonstrations, and hands-on interactive demonstrations on raising, harvesting, and preparing food. Saturday’s event is family friendly and includes a petting zoo in the afternoon.

“The goals of the conference and festival are to: (1) increase awareness of Alaska food issues among the general population; (2) provide training, resources, and networking opportunities to increase involvement in local food issues by community members and decision makers; and (3) increase connections and build community between the public, Alaska food businesses, NGOs, governmental entities, tribal entities, and others to support local economic development and innovative solutions,” AFPC Co-Chair Lorinda Lhotka said.

Registration is open now, and the cost is $130 for the full conference and festival (including Friday night’s social event) or $60 for the full conference and festival for speakers, volunteers and students. For those wanting to attend specific events, the cost is $105 for the food conference only on Friday, $25 for Friday night’s social event only, or $10 for Saturday’s food festival only (or $40 for a family of four or more). You can sign up and pre-pay for the conference using our online registration page, https://alaskafoodfestivalandconference.eventbrite.com.

For those traveling to Fairbanks for the event, Pike’s Waterfront Lodge has a special conference rate of $75 per night (Nov. 2-5, use event code AKFFC/1102) that must be booked by Thursday, Oct. 19. For lodging details or to make reservations, contact Pike’s Waterfront Lodge at http://www.pikeslodge.com, or call 877-744-2400 (reservations) or
907-456-4500.

For info and a copy of the agenda, go to the AFPC Council conference website at https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2017-conference/, or contact AFPC Co-Chair Lorinda Lhotka at lorinda.lhotka@alaska.gov, or Samantha Reynolds at 907-452-2185 or sreynolds@investfairbanks.com.

For information about being a vendor at the conference, go to https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2017-vendors. For information about sponsoring the conference and our sponsor tiers, go to https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2017-sponsors/.

• 2017 Alaska Food Festival and Conference draft agenda

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Check out the October 2017 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the October 2017 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes brief items about the Sitka Farmers Markets being named the top market in Alaska in online national voting, the Sitka Health Summit taking place on Oct. 11-13, 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 new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Cross boundaries at the 11th annual Sitka Health Summit on Oct. 11-13

The 11th annual Sitka Health Summit will be October 11-13 at various locations around Sitka.

​​Justin Rivas, MPH, MIPA, from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute will be leading two workshops and then providing facilitation for the planning days. All the events are free and open to the public.

The summit opens with the boundary spanning leadership workshop from 10:30 a.m. to noon, on Wednesday, Oct. 11, in Room 229 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. This interactive workshop comes from the Center for Creative Leadership and is based on the book Boundary Spanning Leadership by Chris Ernst.

For a diverse group of stakeholders to effectively cross boundaries and work together, partners must first define and understand the lines that differentiate them. You must be able to clearly see group boundaries before you can span them. This important step is often skipped in forming new partnerships. Throughout this class five types of universal boundaries will be examined and deconstructed with the goal of improving teamwork and, ultimately, results.

The next event is a presentation by Rivas on health equity and the impact income, race and geography has on health outcomes. This event takes place from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Sitka Public Library. Information and case studies about public health efforts to understand and address disparities, while promoting access and equity for all, will be shared and discussed.

This year we’ve expanded the Sitka Health Summit planning day into a day and a half of planning community wellness projects. They will take place from 1-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12, and from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, in Room 229 at the UAS Sitka Campus. For lunch during Friday’s events, Chef Edith Johnson of Our Town Catering will prepare a lunch with locally caught coho salmon and a locally grown kale and mixed-green salad with a champagne vinaigrette.

All ideas and all people are welcome to brainstorm, evaluate, select two inspiring health goals that will promote equity and well-being in Sitka. Each of the newly selected initiatives receives $2,000 in start-up funds, initial facilitation services, technical assistance, and a letter of support. Some of the past community initiatives include the Sitka Farmers Market, Sitka Kitch, Fish to Schools, Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, Sitka Community Playground, and earning Bicycle Friendly Community and Walk Friendly Communities designations, among other projects.

Sponsors for this year’s Health Equity themed Summit include the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka Community Hospital, Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Counseling, White’s Inc./Harry Race Pharmacy, Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services-Section of Public Health Nursing, the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus, and the Sitka Health Summit Coalition.

For more information or to save your spot at any the three events, contact Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or dosborne@sitkahospital.org or Holly Marban at 966-8938 or holly.marban@searhc.org. Doug and Holly also are requesting people RSVP for the events, to help planning.

Please email them and let them know if you plan to attend the Wednesday morning workshop with Justin Rivas at UAS Sitka Campus (Event A), the health equity presentation Wednesday night at Sitka Public Library (Event B), and/or the Sitka Health Summit Planning Days on Thursday and Friday at UAS Sitka Campus (Event C).

USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program awards two major grants to Alaska food projects

Two Alaska food projects were among 52 nationally to share in $13.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program announced this past weekThe competitive grants work to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced foods, and to develop new market opportunities for food production operations serving local markets.

Homer-based Cook Inletkeeper was awarded $403,334 to relaunch the Alaska Farmers Market Association and provide a support network for farmers and market managers. Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) won $91,141 to promote the benefits of flash-frozen seafood and marketing for rural seafood producers.

ALFA will provide support for consumer education on the environmental and quality benefits of purchasing frozen seafood, as well as to expand markets for and access to locally-caught seafood. ALFA has been working to study and change American attitudes towards frozen seafood since the 2009 launch of its Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program, Alaskans Own. Alaskans Own provides high quality, frozen seafood to customers in Alaska and the Lower 48.

“Many Alaskans are used to putting up seafood for the winter in their own freezers, and understand the high quality of carefully handled flash-frozen fish,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA.“However, many Americans hold onto the stereotype that fresh is always better than frozen when it comes to seafood. We have been working to show consumers why choosing frozen can be a better choice for quality — and for the environment.”

According to Ecotrust, a conservation organization based in Portland, “23 percent of seafood at supermarkets never makes it the dinner plate and goes to waste.” Frozen seafood often has increased quality and freshness, can reduce waste, and has a lower carbon footprint.

ALFA and community-based fishing partners at Port Orford Seafood and Real Good Fish worked with Ecotrust, Oregon State University, Seafood Analytics, and the Oregon Food Innovation Lab to compare consumer reactions to seafood in a blind taste test. The study allowed consumers to compare “frozen” and “fresh” seafood. The study utilized a new device, created by Seafood Analytics, that uses an electric current to measures freshness.

The results, according to Ecotrust, were telling; “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR (Certified Quality Reader).”

With these results in hand and support from USDA, ALFA will create a multi-media toolkit to help seafood producers, processors, and sellers share information on the advantages of flash frozen seafood, helping to establish or diversify their businesses. It will also provide training to producers and fishermen on using the CQR tool to develop quality assurance programs. ALFA will also work with partners at the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust launch a market-place portal where users can find and purchase local seafood and other sustainably-sourced goods.

The other Alaska grant, to Cook Inletkeeper, will help relaunch the Alaska Farmers Market Association, which was dormant for several years until this spring. The Sitka Local Foods Network submitted a letter of support for this grant proposal, which will provide some support to the Sitka Farmers Market.

“It’s an amazing step forward for local food programs in Alaska,” said Robbi Mixon, Local Foods Director at Cook Inletkeeper and Director of the Homer Farmers Market. “These new funds will be focused on market and producer sustainability, helping markets throughout the state assist participating producers, as well as the markets’ outreach to consumers.”

The project will recreate the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a statewide collaboration, with a targeting pilot effort across the Kenai Peninsula, will identify farmers’ market producer needs and provide specific trainings and support for those networks. The Alaska Farmers Market Association will also provide funding for market manager and farmer trainings, annual statewide conferences, and shared marketing, while collecting baseline data on a number of market metrics.

“Increasing food security and reducing food miles are vitally important to the sustained well-being of our communities around the state,” Mixon said. Mixon also manages the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage Food Hub, a program of Cook Inletkeeper that provides an online market for 100 percent local foods and crafts. Mixon said, “95 percent of Alaska’s food is currently imported. Purchasing local food supports farms, increases our region’s food security, protects the environment, creates jobs and boosts the local economy.”

Since its creation in 2002, FMPP funding has assisted local producers to grow their businesses by helping them connect directly with the shoppers at farmers markets, roadside stands and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. During that time, the number of farmers markets in America has more than doubled from 3,137 to over 8,684 today. FMPP grantees report an average 27 percent increase in vendor sales since receiving their grant, and 94 percent report an increase in first-time market customers.

Sitka Farmers Market ranked as top market in Alaska in annual Farmers Market Celebration

The results are in, and the Sitka Farmers Market ranks as the top market in Alaska and among the leaders nationally in the American Farmland Trust’s ninth annual Farmers Market Celebration.

This summer the Sitka Local Foods Network hosted seven markets, and one of our goals was to rebuild the market by increasing the number of vendors, launching a kid vendor program, and adding new Alaska Grown products to our farm stand. Nina Vizcarrondo was the market manager, and Charles Bingham was the assistant manager.

The Sitka Farmers Market ranked No. 1 in Alaska in all five categories — People’s Choice, Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food for All, Pillar of the Community, and Champion for the Environment. Sitka also ranked among the top 50 markets nationally in several categories, earning Best Of Class honors.

Nationally, the top three markets finished in the same 1-2-3 order in all five categories. The top market was Winter Gardens Farmers Market of Winter Gardens, Fla., followed by Charlottesville City Market of Charlottesville, Va., and Williamsburg Farmers Market of Williamsburg, Va.

Shoppers were encouraged to use Instagram and join the local food community in saving farmland with their forks, as part of AFT’s “#OnMyFork” social media campaign. Supporters are encouraged to post pictures or videos of their farmers market to Instagram using the hashtag #OnMyFork. We asked people who posted anything about the Sitka Farmers Market to please tag our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, tag our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket, and/or share it on our Twitter page, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods. Please use the hashtags #SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and #SitkaFarmersMarket if you share a photo.

In past Farmers Market Celebrations, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust, the Sitka Farmers Market has been at or near the top among the Alaska rankings. In 2015, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top Alaska market in this contest. In 2016, the Sitka Farmers Market earned Best In Class honors in the contest after finishing second among Alaska markets and cracking the top 50 nationally in a couple of categories.

Like what we do? Please join our board of directors or volunteer with us

The 2017 Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener. Back row, from left, Tiffany Justice (treasurer), Ben Timby (secretary), Sam Pointer (director) and Charles Bingham (president/communications director). Front row, from left, Nina Vizcarrondo (co-secretary/farmers market manager), Laura Schmidt (lead gardener), Jennifer Carter (vice president).

Are you enjoying 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?

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 and mentoring. 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 three 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 Market, helping our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and helping us teach gardening classes or working with our garden mentor program families.

The next regular Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting is from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) office, 504 Lake Street, Suite C. The board usually meets once a month. Please note, we will sometimes move our meetings to avoid conflicts with board member schedules, venue schedules and to insure 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.

Scenes from the 23rd annual Running of the Boots held on Sept. 23

It was rainy in Sitka on Saturday, Sept. 23 (stop the presses), but the rain didn’t dampen the fun during the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska.

Runners and others met under a large tent in Totem Square park, where we also had a small farm stand with fresh, local veggies from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, music from the Sitka Blues Band, a table with info about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, people selling Sitka Community Playground raffle tickets, a tent selling garlic from Middle Island Gardens, and a mat for kids to hold sumo wrestling contests with padded costumes.

In recent years, the Running of the Boots has been an annual fundraising event for the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. The Sitka Local Foods Network operates the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, the Sitka Farmers Market, and hosts an education program that includes the family garden mentoring project.

This year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska helped co-host the event. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska is an organization that provides mentorship to youth.

The Running of the Boots is part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association, where Sitka residents were served hamburgers, hot dogs, salmon and cole slaw to celebrate the end of the summer.

A slideshow of scenes from the 23rd annual Running of the Boots is posted below.

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