Alaska Cottage Food Producers Webinar to be held on Feb. 23

Have you always wanted to start a food business, but don’t have access to a commercial kitchen? Have you wondered what the regulations are regarding basic food safety for small food businesses? The Alaska Food Code allows the sale of non-potentially hazardous foods sold directly to the consumer without a permit as long as certain conditions are met.

You can learn about the Alaska Food Code and food safety regulations at the Alaska Cottage Foods Producers Webinar from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, using Zoom. Presenters from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Municipality of Anchorage Food Safety and Sanitation programs will provide an overview of cottage food regulations and requirements and answer questions. (Cottage food businesses also are known as home-based food businesses in the regulations.)

This webinar is co-sponsored by the Alaska Food Policy Council, Alaska Farm Bureau,
and Alaska Farmers Market Association. This is good info to know for people who are thinking about entering the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, or thinking about selling local food products at the Sitka Farmers Market and Sitka Food Co-op delivery days.

You can join the webinar via Zoom using meeting ID 893 3138 2743 and passcode 278411. You also can join by phone at 1-253-215-8782.

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the February 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).

Sitka Local Foods Network hosts fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Do you think you have a great idea for a food business or product from Sitka? Do you grow food, fish for food, or cook food in Sitka? The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting the fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in an effort to spark local food entrepreneurs so we can make more local food available to residents and visitors. The contest entry deadline is Friday, March 5.

This contest will provide two $1,500 kicker prizes — one for established food businesses and one for start-up businesses (no older than two years) — to help entrepreneurs launch or expand their food businesses. The contest is open to food businesses and individuals making and selling food products in Sitka, Alaska. All food business ideas must be geared toward getting more locally grown, harvested and/or produced food into the Sitka marketplace through sales in grocery stores, the Sitka Food Co-Op, the Sitka Farmers Market, restaurants, or individual marketing (such as a community supported agriculture/CSA or community supported fisheries/CSF program).

“The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to get more locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” said Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network board president. “For the past decade we’ve offered a entrepreneurs a chance to sell their produce, bread and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market, grown produce to sell at the market through St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and provided a garden education program to residents. We think this contest is the next step toward getting more local food into the Sitka marketplace.”

Last year, we awarded our $1,500 prize for established business to Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Co., who is baking sourdough bread, as well as making sauerkraut and kimchi. Our $1,500 prize for start-up business went to Levi Adams of Forage & Farm, where he is harvesting and growing mushrooms. Our prizes were determined before the Covid-19 shutdowns, but both business owners found ways to develop and build their businesses during the pandemic.

In 2019, we gave $1,500 prizes to Brittany Dumag of the Castaway food cart in the start-up business category and to Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers in the established business category. We also gave a special $250 award to 12-year-old Abigail Ward who entered her Sitka Seasonings business. Brittany made Cuban pork sandwiches (using pork from North Pole) and other food to sell at various places in Sitka, including the Sitka Farmers Market. Tamara planned to ramp up her fermented foods business, but she ended up having some health issues that prevented her from completing her project and she ended up refunding most of her prize money. Abby made spice blends for seafood and other meats, which she sold at the first two Sitka Farmers Markets of 2019 and at other venues.

In our inaugural contest in 2018, we gave a $1,500 prize to Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals in the established business category. We had no entrants in the start-up business category, so no prize was awarded in 2018. Hope used her prize money to hire two interns to help her harvest seaweed and kelp and to help produce her products.

Participants in this contest are eligible and encouraged to enter other food business innovation contests, such as the Path To Prosperity or Symphony of Seafood contests. All participants retain the proprietary rights to their products and ideas. This contest is open to new and existing food businesses in Sitka. Student businesses (such as those fostered by Junior Achievement or similar programs) are welcome.

There is a small $25 entry fee for this contest. All participants (business and individual) must complete and submit our contest entry form by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 5, 2021 (by snail mail so it arrives before the deadline to Sitka Local Foods Network, Food Business Innovation Contest Entries, 408-D Marine Street, Sitka, Alaska, 99835, or by email with the Subject Line of “Food Business Innovation Contest Entries” to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com). Submitting a business plan (up to 20 pages) is recommended, but not required.

Our entry form will have room for you to describe your food business idea in a few paragraphs, but submitting a business plan will give you more room to outline your plans for funding and marketing the idea and will help your overall score. Judging will be based on how your food business idea provides new local food options in Sitka, how novel is your food business idea, how feasible is your food business (can it make a profit and be sustainable), and how professional is your presentation. At some time in late March or early April, the Sitka Local Foods Network may host a pitch presentation, where judges will interview the contest entrants and try samples of the food products. Our judging panel will score your presentation and entry form based on how your idea has a measurable impact on providing local food in Sitka (25%), has the potential for commercialization (25%), provides new employment in Sitka (25%) and fills a need in the Sitka marketplace (25%).

In 2020 we made some changes to the rules, and those changes will continue in 2021. First, each entry now MUST include a sample, itemized budget showing how the business owner plans to use the prize money. Second, each prize winner will sign a winner’s agreement contract before receiving the prize money that lists a series of benchmarks toward getting the product/service to market that need to be met by a certain date or else all or part of the prize money will need to be refunded to the Sitka Local Foods Network. Purchasing items such as masks and hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are acceptable uses of prize money.

If we find additional sponsors, we may add additional prizes and categories (such as fish or farm). Depending on the number of entries and interest of the participants, we may host a reception where contestants can demonstrate their products to Sitka residents. If the reception happens, there will be a chance for people to vote on their favorite products with the winner receiving the People’s Choice Award (this will be separate than the two main prizes selected by our judging panel). We are hoping to find a sponsor for the People’s Choice Award. Note, if our panel of judges determine there isn’t a worthy entrant in one or both categories, then the Sitka Local Foods Network reserves the right not to award a prize. Marijuana edibles are not eligible for the contest.

• Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest Entry Form 2021

Sitka Kitch offers Cooking Around The World: Chinese Lo Mein class with Nalani James

Chinese New Year is Friday, Feb. 12, and the Sitka Kitch will host a virtual Cooking Around The World class, Lo Mein with Nalani James, that day. The class takes place from 5:30-7 p.m. using Zoom.

Lo mein is a traditional Chinese dish in China that is savory and full of vegetables to get all the vitamins you need. We will add Chicken and add an American twist. You can also substitute tofu to make it vegetarian. This will be a Zoom class taken from the comfort and safety of your own home kitchen.

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. She 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 class cost is $20 for each household, and families are encouraged to participate together. Ingredients are not provided; however a list of ingredients and equipment needed will be sent to all who are registered on Tuesday, Feb. 9. A link to the Zoom event also will be sent at that time.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-op are now able to attend the online classes for $10 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee). Please use the Sitka Food Co-op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We occasionally offer scholarship spot(s) per class for people with limited incomes, provided we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Chandler at SCS for more details about the scholarship.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $15). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Spruce Root, Sustainable Southeast Partnership, other groups to host 2021 Kelp and Oyster Farming Workshop

Spruce Root, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, and other organizations are offering a free, online workshop that will provide tools and training for Alaska Natives in Southeast Alaska interested in starting kelp, oyster, or multi-species ocean farms. The workshop will begin on the evening of Thursday, March 18, and continue with day-long sessions on Friday and Saturday, March 19-20. The workshop will be delivered using Zoom.

This workshop is co-hosted by Spruce Root, Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP), Ecotrust, GreenWave, the Organized Village of Kake (OVK), the Native American Agriculture Fund, and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF).

The program is free, but space is limited to 24 participants –– selected through an application process. Project partners at Spruce Root will review applications and select participants based on the thoughtfulness of responses to application questions. The application period closes on Feb. 19. Selected applicants will be notified by Feb. 26.

Topics covered include:

  • an overview of kelp and oyster harvest and cultivation, and field identification of seaweed species
  • logistics of collecting, growing, and purchasing seed
  • farm site evaluation and planning, leasing, and permitting
  • farm design and build out
  • harvesting and processing techniques, and quality handling
  • business planning and farm financing
  • and more.

Information and instruction will be provided by GreenWave, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Spruce Root, The Native Conservancy, and others. 

All interested Southeast Alaska residents are invited to apply, however, priority will be given to Southeast Alaska Native residents.

Participants will need access to the internet and a computer, tablet, or smartphone in order to participate in the sessions and view presentations and panel discussions. 

Following the workshop, participants may be eligible for one-on-one mentoring and, pending safety and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in farm tours and other hands-on activities at a later date. Participants will be expected to attend and complete the workshop to be eligible for mentoring and hands-on activities.

Materials, final workshop times, and other workshop information will be distributed to selected participants prior to the technical workshops.

If you have questions about this program, you can contact Aaron Ferguson (aaron@spruceroot.org) or Lindsay Olsen (lindsay@greenwave.org). Click this link for the online application.

Micro-grants available to improve security of Alaska’s food supply

The Alaska Division of Agriculture is excited to announce that it is accepting initial “scoping” applications for the new micro-grants for food security.

The micro-grants program has a two-step application process, with initial scoping applications being submitted first. Then, the top projects from the initial applications submitting a more detailed application before money is awarded this spring. The due date for two-page initial applications is Feb. 15.

The global COVID-19 pandemic reminded Alaskans they live at the end of a long and sometimes tenuous food supply chain. These micro-grants are aimed at strengthening local food security.

“While Alaska enjoys the benefits of a global supply system, it is simply responsible to support home-grown systems we can rely on, just in case,” said David W. Schade, director of the Alaska Division of Agriculture. “We are fortunate to now be able to offer micro-grants aimed at enhancing our ability to be more self-reliant when it comes to necessities like food.”

At the urging of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the 2018 federal Farm Bill authorized the state to issue micro-grants to support innovative ways to improve Alaska’s food security. The division has begun accepting scoping applications for three-year grants of up to $15,000 for individuals ($5,000 per year), or $30,000 for qualified organizations ($10,000 per year). Individuals and qualified organizations can partner with each other to be eligible for combined funding (for example, if two individuals and an organization partner they would be eligible for $20,000 per year). The U.S. Division of Agriculture will provide $1.8 million to the division in each of the program’s first two years.

“We will prioritize funding of grants for projects that will increase local food production and storage, as well as education efforts to support these local efforts,” Schade said. Qualifying activities may include small-scale gardening, small-scale herding and livestock operations, and/or expanding access to food, safe food storage, and knowledge of food security.

Grant applicants must provide an initial scoping application to the division by Feb. 15. The division will then invite qualifying applicants to submit a full project proposal. Multiple individuals or organizations may submit joint applications for grants to support coordinated activities. The initial scoping application form and deadline information are available online at http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_grants.htm.

All individual Alaskans and many organizations qualify to apply for these grants, and the division hopes to have a strong batch of applications in the program’s first year. The security of two years of federal funding means projects the division cannot fund in 2021 will have another chance next year, Schade said.

“Alaska will have $1.8 million to help Alaskans grow more nutritious food locally and become more food secure. Individuals are eligible for up to $5,000 grants,” said According to Karen McCarthy, senior legislative assistant for Sen. Murkowski.

“Organizations such as Indian tribes and tribal organizations; non-profits such as religious organizations, food banks and food pantries; federally-funded educational facilities including Head Start and Early Head Start programs, public schools, public institutions of higher education, tribal colleges and Universities, and job training programs; and local and tribal governments that may not levy local taxes under state or federal law will be eligible for up to $10,000 in grant funds. Eligible projects are those that will increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food for food insecure individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities — a pretty wide-open range of projects that Alaskans’ innovative thinking can really make exciting.”

The website, http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_grants.htm, includes a variety of information about the program. Click this link for access to a Facebook Live video presentation on Thursday, Jan. 21. Click this link for the PowerPoint slides used during the Facebook Live presentation. Click this link for the two-page scoping application form (which can be filled out online or printed and completed), and click this link for an application guide and instructions. Click this link for a one-page information sheet from Sen. Murkowski’s office about the program. Applications can be submitted by email and by regular mail, but they should be timed to arrive by Monday, Feb. 15.

If you have further questions, please reach out to Catherine Cheadle, the grants specialist who is heading up this program. You can call her at 907-761-3851 or email her at catherine.cheadle@alaska.gov.

Alaska Sea Grant to offer a seaweed farm start-up training program on Feb. 2

Alaska Sea Grant and partners are excited to announce the 2021 Seaweed Farm Start-up Training Program to be held for Alaska residents interested in starting their own seaweed farm in Alaska.

In 2020, this program was held in Kodiak, Ketchikan, and Sitka as part of Phase 2 of the Alaska Mariculture Initiative. In February of 2021, this program will be held again for a new cohort of participants, and will be conducted online via Zoom due to COVID-19 health and safety mandates. This virtual format will allow more participants to access the training program, from 48 participants in 2020 to potentially more than 100 in 2021. Registration for the training program will be completed in two parts:

  1. All interested Alaska residents are invited to register for a free two-hour webinar to be held from 4-6 p.m. on Feb. 2. Registration closes Feb. 1.
  2. Webinar attendees will then be eligible to register for a series of in-depth, virtual, technical, multi-day workshops over one week, beginning on Feb. 22. Each session will be 2–3 hours.

The goal of this program is to provide the tools and training necessary for Alaskans to start their own seaweed farm. The program is targeted towards commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, and fishing communities. The program will be completed in four sections:

  1. online webinar on Feb. 2
  2. series of virtual technical multi-day workshops over one-week beginning on Feb. 22
  3. one-on-one mentoring for high-performing participants
  4. potential in-person hands-on field training in Spring/Summer 2021 (COVID-19 permitting).

Participants will be required to attend the Feb. 2 webinar in order to register for the series of technical workshops. Although there is no expected cap on the number of participants for the webinar, participation for the series of technical multi-day workshops is expected to be capped at 150 participants. Registration will be first-come first-serve for eligible participants. Registration for the series of technical multi-day workshops will be open from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10. Materials, final workshop dates/times, and workshop information will be distributed to registered participants prior to both the webinar and technical workshops.

Topics covered will include identification of seaweed species, lifecycles of seaweed, the hatchery process, site evaluation, use of the Mariculture Map, farm gear and equipment, business plan development, farm loans available, state lease application process, gear deployment, seeding and harvesting techniques, quality handling, and safety considerations. Information and instruction will be provided by GreenWave, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Blue Evolution, OceansAlaska, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation Inc., Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, seaweed farmers, and others.

Register now to learn more about what it takes to become a seaweed farmer in Alaska. Please visit the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation website for more information about the training program. To register online, click this link. For more details, contact Melissa Good of Alaska Sea Grant at melissa.good@alaska.edu.

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the January 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter has short articles about the 2021 Pick.Click.Give. donation period opening, a Preserving Alaska’s Bounty online class series, an invitation to join the Sitka Local Foods Network’s board of directors, and an item about the 2021 SLFN 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).

Friday’s the day to start filing your 2021 PFD applications with Pick.Click.Give. donations

As 2020 draws to a close, many Alaskans already are thinking about applying for their 2021 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check in January. As usual, Alaskans can share their wealth with a variety of Alaska nonprofits, including the Sitka Local Foods Network, through the PFD’s Pick.Click.Give. program.

This is the seventh year the Sitka Local Foods Network will participate in the Pick.Click.Give. program, which allows people to donate in $25 increments to their favorite statewide and local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations when they file their PFD applications from Jan. 1 through March 31.

When you choose to donate part of your PFD to the Sitka Local Foods Network, you support the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs about growing and preserving food, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, Sitka Community Gardens, matching dollars at the Sitka Farmers Market for SNAP/WIC beneficiaries, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka. We recently launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to try and inspire entrepreneurs in Sitka to work more with local foods.

In 2020 Alaskans contributed $2.96 million to 622 Alaska nonprofit organizations, and more than $27.0 million has been donated since the program started in 2009. Some Alaskans choose to donate to just one group, while others may spread several donations around to many groups. There now are  611 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2021 (including multi-location nonprofits), including 21 from Sitka. In 2020, Alaskans donated $86,025 to Sitka-based nonprofits (note, total includes some nonprofits that are based in multiple cities).

So how do you make a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network through the Pick.Click.Give. program? First, starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1, go fill out your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application at http://pfd.alaska.gov/. When you get to the section of the application asking if you want to participate in Pick.Click.Give. Charitable Contributions program, click on the PCG link and search for the Sitka Local Foods Network. You also can look for us by using the town search for Sitka.

The Pick.Click.Give. program is available only to people who file their PFD applications online, and not to those who file by mail. Even though you can’t file a new PFD application after March 31, you can go back into your application and update your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 each year. In 2020, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends were released in July instead of their usual October, and the last day for editing was moved up to June 17 from Aug. 31. We don’t know yet if there will be similar adjustments.

You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2021 PFD. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408-D Marine St., Sitka, Alaska, 99835. You also can donate online by going to our online fundraising page on MightyCause.com, and clicking the Donate button to make an online contribution. You also can send in a check or make an online donation if you are trying to make nonprofit donations before the end of the 2020 tax year. In December 2020, we just ordered a new high tunnel so we can grow more fresh, local produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Thank you for supporting our mission of promoting and encouraging the growing, harvesting and eating of local foods in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers online Preserving Alaska’s Bounty series

Did you have a productive garden or catch a lot of fish this year? Did you struggle with how to save the food so it doesn’t go bad? The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service is offering its Preserving Alaska’s Bounty online course this winter via Zoom.

Online classes will be held from 1-4 p.m. on Saturdays, from Jan. 4 to Feb. 20. The fee is $128 per household, and fee waivers are available. 

For more information, please contact Sarah Lewis at 907-523-3280 x1. To register go to: http://bit.ly/PAB21.