Alaska Sea Grant program to host inaugural Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Festival on May 17-20

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is pleased to announce the inaugural Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Festival, taking place virtually on Zoom and streamed live on Facebook from coastal communities around the state. Leading up to the event and during the week of the festival, if you order seafood products from participating businesses, you’ll receive a special gift package that includes recipe cards, a shucking knife, and other mariculture related goodies.

Hosted by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, the Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Festival celebrates and raises awareness of the sustainably grown and harvested seafood products available right here in Alaska. Mariculture is an emerging industry in Alaska, and this festival provides an opportunity to learn about what it’s like to run an oyster or seaweed farm, where to find quality shellfish and seaweed products in your communities, and interesting and delicious ways to cook Alaska’s fresh, locally grown mariculture foods.

The Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Festival is free and open to the public. Registrants will receive a reminder email with online participation information and the schedule of events.

Click this link to register for free now

Alaska Sea Grant Shellfish and Seaweed Growers Project

Is your business interested in participating in this event or being added to our Alaska-grown shellfish and seaweed directory? Please contact Hannah Wilson at hannah.wilson@alaska.edu.

The event kicks off with an introduction to mariculture from Melissa Good, Alaska Sea Grant’s mariculture specialist. Lexa Meyer, Alaska Sea Grant’s seafood workforce development coordinator and Alaska Mariculture Manager at Blue Evolution, will give an overview of seaweed farming. James Greeley, operations manager and oyster farmer at Tommaso Shellfish, will share information about oyster farming. 

The second and third days of the event will feature video tours of Alaska oyster and seaweed farms, and live online cooking demonstrations. Festival attendees can watch from the comfort of their own homes to learn how Alaska grown oysters and kelp are grown, harvested, and transformed into delicious entrees and condiments. 

The final day of the event will feature discussions about the market for shellfish and seaweed, the future of mariculture in Alaska, and how communities and individuals can get involved. Marine aquaculture creates jobs, supports resilient working waterfronts and coastal communities, and provides new international trade opportunities. As global demand for seafood continues to grow, mariculture offers an economically beneficial and environmentally sustainable complement to Alaska’s wild fisheries.

Preliminary schedule

Subject to change, all times Alaska.

Monday, May 17, 6–7:30pm

  • Introduction to Mariculture with Melissa Good, Alaska Sea Grant
  • Seaweed Farming 101 with Lexa Meyer, Blue Evolution
  • Oyster Farming 101 with James Greeley, Tommaso Shellfish

Tuesday, May 18, 6–8pm

  • Oyster Farm tour, video presentation
  • Seaweed Farm tour, video presentation
  • Bivalve identification game and seaweed quiz
  • Meet an Alaska shellfish farmer, video presentation

Wednesday, May 19, 6–8pm

  • Live oyster and kelp recipe cooking demo with Chef Austin Green
  • How to shuck an oyster video
  • How to pickle kelp with Gayla Pedersen
  • Blue Evolution cooking videos

Thursday, May 20, 6–8pm

  • Traditional Alutiiq seaweed uses presentation with Gayla Pedersen
  • Environmental change and the future of mariculture presentation
  • How aquaculture benefits coastal communities presentation

Check back for updates as we finalize the schedule.

Participating Businesses

Buy mariculture products from these participating Alaskan businesses the week of the festival to get some free swag* including an oyster-shucking knife with your purchase:

*Please confirm with individual businesses upon ordering. Check back for additions to this list.

Oysters:

Shikat Bay Oysters — nation-wide shipping

Tommaso Shellfish — nation-wide shipping

Fish from Trish — nation-wide shipping

Haines Packing Company — pick-up in Haines

Alaska Shellfish Farms — pick-up in Homer, nation-wide shipping

59 North Ocean Specialties — 907.252.5698, clamgulchseafoods@gmail.com (Kenai Peninsula Deliveries)

Island Seafoods — pick-up in Kodiak

Seaweed Products:

Foraged & Found — nation-wide shipping

Beer:

49th State Brewing Company — oyster stout available at Anchorage taproom

Kodiak Island Brewing Company — kelp beer available at Kodiak taproom

Baleen Brewing — beers to pair with oyster and kelp dishes, available at Ketchikan taproom

Grace Ridge Brewing — oyster stout available in Homer taproom and for curbside pickup

Restaurants and Food Carts Serving Oyster and Seaweed-focused menu items:

Million Recipes — dishes featuring oysters and seaweed in Kodiak

Find more great Alaskan businesses selling oyster and seaweed products in our Alaska Mariculture Directory.

New Alaska-based local food leader certification training offered

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host an online training for a local food leader certification. The training begins May 4 and will take place by Zoom every other Tuesday through Aug. 31.

The Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Service developed the program, which is described as an individual skill development program for beginning local food practitioners and supporters. The program teaches skills for successful involvement in community food systems development. Program Coordinator Melissa Clampitt of the Matanuska Experiment Farm and Extension Center, will teach the class with the center’s director, Jodie Anderson. 

Anderson said local food practitioners include everyone who is involved in the food system, including farmers, distributors, organizers of community gardens, participants in farmers markets, even consumers.

“Every human eats,” she said. The course will cover food production, distribution, processing, resource management and food policy.

The training is open to all Alaskans. The Zoom sessions are on every other Tuesday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Participants will also study modules for further information on their own time. The cost is $375.

To register, request accommodations or for more information, contact Melissa Clampitt at 745-3551 or mrclampitt@alaska.edu.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference May 17-18 in Sitka

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will teach a certified food protection manager workshop on Monday and Tuesday, May 17-18. This is a two-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Fairbanks, Palmer, Juneau, Glennallen, Valdez, and Sitka, plus other locations that may arrange for the class.

A certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and participants will take a computer-based exam at the end of the class. The reason the deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time for the class. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here, and the registration deadline is Friday, April 30.

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in a room TBA at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Julie Cascio at (907) 745-3677 (Palmer number) or jmcascio@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Julie at least three weeks before the class.

Also, the ServSafe book ($70) and certification exam ($85) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: Sitka Kitch to host fundraiser featuring a take-out vegetarian Indian food dinner from Beak Restaurant

Join us for a special fundraising take-out dinner for the Sitka Kitch, where people pick up their food any time from 4-6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, at Beak Restaurant to take home.

This event will feature a variety of take-out vegetarian Indian dishes cooked by Beak chef/owner Renée Jakaitis Trafton and her crew.

Renée’s planned menu includes:

  • Coconut Tumeric Chickpea Curry / Tender chickpeas simmered in a rich coconut broth with carrot, potato, kale
  • Chai Spiced Red Lentil Daal / Red lentils with chai spices- ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, black pepper, bay leaf
  • Spiced Basmati Rice / Cinnamon, cardamom, clove
  • Samosa / Crispy spiced potato and green pea mix in dough
  • Tamarind Dipping Sauce
  • Naan
  • House-Made Chai / Ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, bay leaf

The cost is $50 per person, and the registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 2. All proceeds benefit the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, which provides cooking and food preservation classes to Sitka residents. It also provides kitchen rentals on a limited basis for food businesses.

Please let us know if there are other people from your household participating so we can group your food when we package it for pick-up.

You can reserve your spot at this event with PayPal or a credit/debit card by going to our online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com, and clicking on the event title and following the instructions from there. If you prefer to use cash or check to reserve your spot, please call Chandler or Clarice at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) or email chandler@sitkawild.org.

Also, since this is a fundraiser, if you want to donate to help us continue to provide cooking and food preservation classes and occasionally serve as a maker-space for local food businesses, click this link to donate through PayPal, https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=5XLWYLLKETNT6. You also can use this link if you want to support the Sitka Kitch, but aren’t able to participate in the dinner.

The Garden Show returns to KCAW-Raven Radio spring programming lineup for 30th year

For 30 years, Mollie Kabler and Kitty LaBounty have taken to the KCAW-Raven Radio airwaves during the spring months to broadcast The Garden Show.

This year, with the coronavirus affecting shows, the Garden Show will have a regular 9:30-10 a.m. slot on Fridays, starting on Friday, April 9. Kitty has a regular music show (Hometown Brew) from 2-4 p.m. on Thursdays, and sometimes in the past the half-hour Garden Shows took place during her program.

Garden Show topics include timely tasks for gardening in Southeast Alaska, taking on-air questions, and themes around basic and more advanced gardening of vegetables, flowers, fruit, trees, etc. The station’s website has links to previous shows.

Mollie and Kitty each have been gardening in Sitka for more than 30 years, and they also have significant gardening experience from their childhoods in Wisconsin (Mollie) and Oregon (Kitty). They both are certified as Master Gardeners, after completing the class series offered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

To call the show with gardening questions, call 747-5877 and ask to be connected to the show.

Sitka Kitch to host Cooking With Culture: Using Farmers To Families Food Boxes With Nalani James class April 16 (RESCHEDULED TO MAY 21)

(NOTE, Due to a family emergency, this event was postponed and now is rescheduled. Details below.)

Are you one in one of the roughly 1,400 families who have been getting a Farmers To Families food box each week in Sitka? Are you looking for inspiration on how to use some of the food items in each box?

Nalani James will teach a free, virtual Sitka Kitch class, Cooking With Culture: Using Farmers To Families Food Boxes class from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, April 16, using Zoom. Thanks to a partnership with Sitka Moose Lodge No. 1350, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen will offer this class for free. Even though the class is free, we need people to register by late Tuesday night, April 13, so we can send out the Zoom link and ingredient list. Since this is a free class and we have limited space, we encourage families to register under one registration spot and share the screen.

(NOTE: This class has been rescheduled for 5-7 p.m. on Friday, May 21, and there are a limited number of new spots available in the class. The new registration deadline is Tuesday night, May 18. People who registered for the original class are registered for the rescheduled date.)

The menu for this class hasn’t been set, since the list of items in the Farmers To Families food boxes changes from month to month. The menu will be tailored to the box contents for April, once we know what they are. In recent months the boxes have contained potatoes, apples, onions, baby carrots or cabbage, milk, yogurt (plain or flavored), sour cream, hot dogs (or canned salmon), and smoked chicken leg quarters. (UPDATE: The menu will be chicken with fun sides using carrots, onions, potatoes, plus beer-battered onion rings with a non-alcoholic version available.)

Nalani is somewhat new to Sitka, having moved here about two years ago. She occasionally had a baked goods booth at the 2019 Sitka Farmers Markets, and she became market co-manager in 2020. In March, she was one of the winners of the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest with her egg business, Eggstravagant. Nalani loves to have ethnic foods from the regional area and works to simulate the flavors and textures of the dish. She has been cooking elaborate dishes at the age of 10 with the free will of her parents, and loves being a cooking chemist.

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title).

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440.

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the April 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 winners of the 2021 Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, the PFD application deadline on Wednesday night and how people can donate through the Pick.Click.Give. charitable giving program when they file for their PFDs, 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).

An update about the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market and our plans for a safe event

Usually the Sitka Local Foods Network has announced the dates of the summer’s Sitka Farmers Market by now. But, as most of you are aware, these are not ordinary times as we enter the second year of our COVID-19 reality. Our intention is to have our 14th season of Sitka Farmers Market events this summer, but they still may look a bit different than what we’ve had in the past. While our details aren’t finalized, we wanted to provide an update to the community about our plans for the summer.

Last year we were able to host a very scaled back market, using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering system during the week and having customers pick up their produce on Saturdays. This year we hope to expand back closer to our normal market format with more vendors, but also having some weeks where we just do an online order and pick-up service.

Now that vaccines are available and more people in Sitka are becoming vaccinated, we feel like we can do more this year such as allow socializing and having more people around. At the same time we have COVID-19 and its variants in our midst, so we still plan to require masks and hand-washing to help prevent the spread.

We also plan to hold our event at an outdoor location TBA, since being inside puts too many people on top of each other and probably isn’t safe. We hope to be able to announce an outside location downtown in the next week or two. We hope to announce our dates and vendor prices when we announce the location.

For vendors, since we will be out in an open field, you will need to provide your own table, chairs, and a 10×10 farmers market/event tent (which run about $115-$120 at Sitka True Value). Being outside, we won’t have access to electricity, so vendors may need a generator for power, or a small camp stove or BBQ grill if you’re cooking at the market.

We have big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. Last year, we bought a second high tunnel so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. That worked so well, we bought a third high tunnel this winter and it’s being erected at the garden this spring.

Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for more than a decade, and deserves a lot of respect for how much produce she grows on the small patch of land we have access to behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church. We thank St. Peter’s for allowing us to continue growing food for the community on its property. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has received a Certified Naturally Grown designation the past two years.

The Sitka Farmers Market is about local food, but it’s so much more. It’s about community and providing local entrepreneurs with a place to sell their products. We really enjoy seeing everybody come together to see their neighbors and friends at the market. That’s a big reason we want to host the market. One aspect of the market is it serves as a business incubator, a place for people to try out a new business, and we lost that last year when we had to scale things back to just our produce vendors.

Our tentative plans for 2021 are to hold markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at least once every other week from late June to September. This will allow non-produce vendors to participate, and maybe even some arts-and-crafts vendors. On alternate weeks, we will do something similar to last year, where people order produce from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday night using the Salt and Soil Marketplace, with a pick-up event or possible delivery from 10 a.m. to noon on the Saturdays when we don’t have a regular market.

Since we will have to separate booths around the market, we will have some space limitations. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s main focus is on local food, so food booths who book by a certain date will have priority, with arts-and-crafts booths filling leftover open spaces. We want to be able to involve as many vendors as possible, so hopefully we’ll be able to fit everybody in the space without making it too crowded.

We are working with state WIC and SNAP programs to see if we can accept benefits every week, or only when we have our larger markets. Our goal is to provide fresh local produce to all residents, especially those low-income residents who might not be able to afford it. Anyway, we still are trying to finalize details and hope to have an update soon.

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.

Joanne Michalski, Nalani James win $1,500 prizes in fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

One winner is making frozen mud pies while the other winner is raising chickens for fresh, local eggs to sell to Sitka residents. Congratulations to Joanne “Chef Jo” Michalski of Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies and Nalani James of Eggstravagant, who won the two $1,500 prizes in the fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

“We are happy to encourage more businesses to get into the local food system with our contest,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the contest. “Both businesses already are selling products, even with the pandemic, even though these are relatively new businesses. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods into the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so we hope our prizes continue to encourage local food entrepreneurs here in Sitka.”

The Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest has $1,500 prizes for each of two categories, start-ups (less than two years old) and existing businesses. This year all of the entries were in the start-up category, but since Chef Jo already owns Jo’s Downtown Dawgs and has been selling her mud pies to restaurants, her entry was moved to the existing business category so there could be two awards. “We felt both entries were deserving of awards,” Bingham said.

Chef Jo has a long association with food in Sitka, being a former chef with the Westmark and current general manager for the NMS contract with the Sitka School District. She started Jo’s Downtown Dawgs four years ago next to Russell’s, and last summer started making her Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies. A Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pie is double layers of hand-crafted sea-salted caramel frozen yogurt, with a house-made caramel ribbon in the middle topped with home-made fudge sauce and crushed peanuts. She also has made special-occasion mud pies with crushed Oreos crumb crust, and for Valentine’s Day it was Dutch chocolate-raspberry with a ladyfinger crust. She currently is selling her Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies through the Mean Queen and she sells retail whole pies to the public. She also sells slices of her pie at her food cart.

One of her barriers to being able to produce more mud pies is the lack of a commercial-grade ice cream maker, so she’s only been able to produce two pies at a time. She plans to use her prize money to purchase a commercial-grade ice cream maker so she can increase her production. She also will use it to buy product supplies, and to give a tip to two teenage girls who helped her last summer, twin sisters Michelle and Andrea Winger.

“My challenge at first was how to keep it frozen, and I found a ‘cooler’ that seriously keeps it frozen for 24 hours. YES!” Chef Jo said on her entry form. “The local response has been amazing, and in this time of ‘what’s next’ indulging in a slice of pie is something we all can use.”

Nalani is fairly new to Sitka, but already has been active in the local food scene as a co-manager of the Sitka Farmers Market in 2020 and vendor in 2019, and as an occasional instructor of Sitka Kitch cooking classes. (NOTE: Even though Nalani has an association with the Sitka Local Foods Network, which hosts the Sitka Farmers Market, she did not participate in the contest judging).

Nalani said she plans to use the prize money to help improve her chicken coop’s protection and deterrence from predators, such as rodents and bears. She and her family are moving to a new location in town, so she is in the process of rebuilding her coop, and wants to provide an electric fence perimeter to protect her birds. She started selling eggs through her Facebook page earlier this year, and plans to sell them through the page and at Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. She plans to hire two intermittent employees to help her in the summer with cleaning the chicken coop and taking care of the chickens.

“Eggs will be a great addition to the fresh vegetables and fish in town,” Nalani said in her application. “There are many essential vitamins in eggs, and protein needed for children and elderly in the area. They taste better, too.”

Last year’s winners were Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company (fresh sourdough bread and fermented foods) and Levi Adams of Forage and Farm (mushroom growing and foraging). In 2019, our winners were Brittany Dumag of Castaway (food cart with Cuban pork sandwiches using Alaska pork) and Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers (fermented foods), with a special youth winner award for Abigail Ward of Sitka Spices (meat and fish rubs). In 2018, the winner was Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals (beach greens and local teas).

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the March 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 2021 Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, the Pick.Click.Give. charitable giving program being active for when people file for their PFDs, 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).