• Highlights from 2015 for your Sitka Local Foods Network

Some carrots grown at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden on sale at the Sitka Farmers Market

Some carrots grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden on sale at the Sitka Farmers Market

As 2015 comes to a close, here are some highlights from the past year for your Sitka Local Foods Network. We are looking forward to a lot of new adventures in 2016, and encourage people to join us. We always need new volunteers, and please donate to us through Pick.Click.Give. when you file for your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend starting on Jan. 1 and ending March 31. Your donations help fund a variety of Sitka Local Foods Network programs, such as the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and a host of garden and food education opportunities.

Our annual meeting and potluck will be from 5:30-8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking is off Spruce Street). This event is open to the public, just bring a dish (preferably with local foods) to share with everybody. We usually introduce new board members, confirm our new officers, and give an update on our finances and programs.

And now here are those 2015 highlights from your Sitka Local Foods Network:

Grew food at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and extension gardens

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden

For the eighth straight year, the Sitka Local Foods Network expanded its produce-growing operations at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and our extension gardens, such as the one on land owned by Pat Arvin. The food grown from these gardens is sold at the Sitka Farmers Market, where Sitka residents, including people with SNAP (food stamps) and WIC (supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children) benefits, have access to fresh local produce. In addition to supplying the Sitka Farmers Market, this year we grew enough to sell to some school lunch programs, at the Sitka Seafood Festival, at the Running of the Boots costumed fun run, and at a booth on days when Chelan Produce was in Sitka.

Hosted six Sitka Farmers Market events

Some of the booths at the Sitka Farmers Market

Some of the booths at the Sitka Farmers Market

We hosted the Sitka Farmers Market for the eighth straight summer, and this year there were six markets on alternate Saturdays from July 4 through Sept. 12. In addition to selling produce from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and our extension gardens, the Sitka Farmers Market serves as a business incubator where budding entrepreneurs sell jams/jellies, baked goods, fish, prepared food ready to eat, and a variety of local arts and crafts. Our emphasis is on local products always. The Sitka Farmers Market also provides a venue for local musicians (we hire a few to play at each market). One of the highlights this year was a brief performance by the students involved in the musical with the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. Another highlight was the inaugural Sitka Slug Races, where Sitka residents brought their own slugs (or rented ones we harvested) for a series of races on a glass table.

Taught a variety of garden education classes and mentored some novice gardeners

Tammy O'Neill, a student in the garden mentor program, poses with her garden beds after her second year in the program

Tammy O’Neill, a student in the garden mentor program, poses with her garden beds during her second year in the program

The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee hosted a variety of classes this year for local food gardeners. We started out with a couple of classes about basic gardening in Sitka, and followed those with classes on starting seeds, composting, chickens, rabbits, fruit trees, potatoes, carrots, rhubarb, and more. In addition, we hosted the second year of our family garden mentoring program with funding from First Bank. In this program we provided one-on-one mentoring for four families of novice gardeners and two families returning for a second year of the program. We are hoping to bring this innovative program back in 2016 and we are recruiting for new families. This fall we received a small grant from the United Way of Southeast Alaska that we will use to develop a teaching garden at Baranof Elementary School near downtown Sitka.

Partnered with several organizations to launch and operate the Sitka Kitch

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Sitka Kitch “Cooking From Scratch” instructor Lisa Sadleir-Hart, center, helps Reba Traini and Robert Baines make homemade yogurt

This year we partnered with the Sitka Conservation Society, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, First Presbyterian Church, Sitka Food Co-op, and other organizations to help launch the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, which officially opened in March 2015. The Sitka Kitch is available for cottage food entrepreneurs to rent as they make their products, plus we have been offering a variety of food preservation and cooking classes. The Sitka Kitch also is available for people to rent who need a larger kitchen to cook a community meal.

Helped launch the Sitka Food Collaborative

Toward the end of the year, the Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Kitch, Sitka Food Co-op, Sitka Seedling Farms, and other food groups created the Sitka Food Collaborative and then submitted an application for a USDA grant to conduct a Sitka Food Systems Assessment. This will build on the work done in 2013-14 with the Sitka Community Food Assessment, but will look at ways we can improve our local food system so we have better food security.

Fundraising and strategic planning

50-states-logoThe Sitka Local Foods Network is maturing as an organization, and this year we decided we needed to start raising money so we eventually can hire a part-time director to take care of some of the daily chores dealt with by our volunteer board of directors. We have started to set aside a little bit of money, still have a ways to go. This year we received a grant from the Alaska Community Foundation that will allow us to work with the Foraker Group in 2016 to create a fundraising and long-term strategic plan. We participated in the Pick.Click.Give. program for the second year, and we are preparing for our third year of receiving donations from Alaskans when they file for their Permanent Fund Dividends. We launched an online donation page on Razoo.com (a donation website for nonprofit groups), and hosted fundraisers for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, the Sitka Sound Suppers (with a totally local meal) and #GivingTuesday (#GivingTuesdayAK in Alaska). This fall we received a small grant from the United Way of Southeast Alaska that we will use to develop a teaching garden at Baranof Elementary School near downtown Sitka. In December, the Sitka Local Foods Network was named Alaska’s winner in the 50 States For Good contest, hosted by Tom’s of Maine. Each of the winning community nonprofits from each state won $20,000 to improve their programming, which we should receive in January.

• Check out the August 2015 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

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The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the August 2015 edition of its newly launched monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This edition of the newsletter has brief stories about the Sitka Sound Suppers fundraiser, celebrating National Farmers Market Week by going to the Sitka Farmers Market, an update on the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen and some canning classes, and information about a grant awarded to the Sitka Local Foods Network from the Alaska Community Foundation.. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the registration form 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.

• Sitka Local Foods Network receives Strengthening Organizations grant from the Alaska Community Foundation

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Alaska CF headerThe Sitka Local Foods Network is one of 15 nonprofits in Alaska — two from Sitka — to earn a “Strengthening Organizations Program” grant from the Alaska Community Foundation.

The 15 grants totaled $75,353, with both Sitka organizations winning $4,600. The Island Institute, which partnered with the Sitka Local Foods Network to produce the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report in 2014, is the other Sitka organization to be awarded a grant.

The grant-winners “were recognized for their initiative in building internal structures to enhance capacity. Grant proposals ranged from requests for leadership development support, funding for staff to attend conferences, financial management training, digitizing collections for website purposes, and much more,” according to an Alaska Community Foundation press release.

The Sitka Local Foods Network applied for the grant to take a step toward the next level as a growing organization. It plans to use the grant to create a formal fundraising and business plan, with the intent to start putting money aside to hire a part-time staff person to take over some of the group’s day-to-day duties from the volunteer board of directors. Other than a few select positions which are contracted out, such as the Sitka Farmers Market manager and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener, the organization is entirely operated by volunteers.

“That is not sustainable in the long run,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart told the Daily Sitka Sentinel. “We have to start thinking about staffing in the long run, and that requires capital. We’re moving in that direction.” She also said the grant will help the network become “more strategic in how we use precious volunteer energy.”

The Sitka Local Foods Network will work with consultants from the Foraker Group, an organization that provides support and training to Alaska nonprofit organizations, to develop the fundraising and business plan. The grant was written by Matthew Jackson, the board vice-president.

The Alaska Community Foundation’s Strengthening Organizations Program is unique in the funding it makes available to nonprofits, as it focuses on internal capacity building, rather than programs or outreach. This program awards capacity building grants up to $10,000, with typical awards ranging from $3,000-$5,000, to 501(c)(3) nonprofits or equivalent organizations, which may include tribes, schools, churches and local government agencies and programs.

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and the next deadline is Sept. 1. The Alaska Community Foundation program staff strongly encourages interested applicants to submit drafts for review a minimum of two weeks before the deadline. For more information or to apply, visit The Alaska Community Foundation at http://alaskacf.org/grants or call (907) 274-6705.