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.

Advertisements

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host six Sitka Farmers Markets in 2012

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its fifth summer of Sitka Farmers Markets with six markets that start on July 7 and take place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 15. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, 21, Aug. 4, 18, Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally made jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is like a carnival every other Saturday,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Kerry MacLane said. “It’s a fun community space to enjoy with your family or to meet your friends for fresh coffee and baked goods. There is live music, cooking demonstrations, art, and, of course, fresh veggies, fruit and seafood.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. This event is sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, Sitka Conservation Society, the Alaska Farmers Market Association and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

“Thanks to our creative and enthusiastic vendors, the Sitka Farmers Market will be celebrating its fifth successful year.” said Johanna Willingham, Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member and Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator. “We have delighted in watching our market grow over the years and due to popular demand we are beginning our market two weeks earlier this year. Outdoor vendors and musicians will still be able to enjoy the newly paved parking lot with landscaping, thanks to BIHA. A tent will be set up for outdoor dining where you can listen to live music and enjoy some great food. Some new items will be added to some familiar vendors’ tables — dried sea veggies, sea asparagus and sea salt. Look forward to fresh snap and snow peas for snacking, ready-to-eat salads, handmade tamales and, as always, fresh black cod tips.”

Vendor fees are $20 for a 6-foot table, $30 for an 8-foot table and $15 for a 4-foot table. Vendors with their own tents pay $2 per foot. As always, we offer cost incentives for vendors growing locally produced food. The fees will help us cover the costs of renting ANB Hall and its kitchen, hiring musicians and other expenses. To learn more about being a vendor or to sign up for a table, contact Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator Johanna Willingham at 738-8336 or by e-mail johanna.willingham@gmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other information for potential vendors can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

• Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by going to the Sitka Farmers Market on Saturday

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK  Sitka Farmers Market representative and Sitka Conservation Society community sustainability organizer Tracy Gagnon, second from left, presents Sitka Spruce Catering owner Jeren Schmidt, third from left (with daughter Novah Lee Schmidt in backpack), with the table of the day award as Jeren's co-workers Tam Conatser, left, and Linda Bergdoll-Schmidt, right, watch. The table of the day award was for the second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, July 30, 2011, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Sitka, Alaska. Sitka Spruce Catering uses locally grown veggies, herbs and other local products to create the food it provides through its catering operation. Jeren, Tam and Linda received a tote bag full of bread, veggies and other prizes from the market. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at ANB Hall. To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and other Sitka Local Foods Network projects, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK Sitka Farmers Market representative and Sitka Conservation Society community sustainability organizer Tracy Gagnon, second from left, presents Sitka Spruce Catering owner Jeren Schmidt, third from left (with daughter Novah Lee Schmidt in backpack), with the table of the day award as Jeren's co-workers Tam Conatser, left, and Linda Bergdoll-Schmidt, right, watch. The table of the day award was for the second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, July 30, 2011, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Sitka, Alaska. Sitka Spruce Catering uses locally grown veggies, herbs and other local products to create the food it provides through its catering operation. Jeren, Tam and Linda received a tote bag full of bread, veggies and other prizes from the market. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at ANB Hall. To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and other Sitka Local Foods Network projects, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

Aug. 7-13 is National Farmers Market Week this year, as declared by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, so celebrate the week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

Farmers markets are a great way to connect with the community, while also purchasing local produce, wild fish, locally baked bread and arts and crafts. Besides providing access to fresh local produce, farmers markets create strong economic engines in communities, promote local health and bring a diverse group of people together. They also help consumers meet and get to know the people who produce their food.

“The Sitka Farmers Market serves as a family friendly place for people to meet and to visit with other members of the community,” said Sitka Local Foods Network Vice-President Linda Wilson, who also serves as the Sitka Farmers Market manager. “Some people spend an hour or two just going around mingling with folks and chatting, catching up on the local news, telling jokes, and sharing ideas and information. There is a lot of good energy around during the market.”

Farmers markets have been growing nationally, from 2,863 in 2000 to 7,175 in 2011, a jump of 150 percent. While Alaska doesn’t have as many farmers markets as other states, it did have the highest percentage of new markets in the country last year, up 35 markets in 2011 or 46 percent. The national rate of new market growth was 17 percent.

This Saturday will be the third of five full Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, with the schedule running on alternate Saturdays (July 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27 and Sept. 10). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally picked berries, jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at https://sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/2011/07/06/%E2%80%A2-don%E2%80%99t-forget-to-vote-for-the-sitka-farmers-market-in-this-year%E2%80%99s-america%E2%80%99s-favorite-farmers-markets-contest/.

For more information about the market or hosting a booth, contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings or weekends) or lawilson87@hotmail.com. By the way, we always need volunteers to help set up and take down the market before and after the event. Your help is greatly appreciated.

• Sitka to host five farmers markets in 2011; first market is Saturday, July 16

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its fourth summer of Sitka Farmers Markets with five markets that start on July 16 and take place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 10. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27 and Sept. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally picked berries, jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at https://sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/2011/07/06/%E2%80%A2-don%E2%80%99t-forget-to-vote-for-the-sitka-farmers-market-in-this-year%E2%80%99s-america%E2%80%99s-favorite-farmers-markets-contest/.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is like a carnival every other Saturday,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Kerry MacLane said. “It’s a fun community space to enjoy with your family or to meet your friends for fresh coffee and baked goods. There is live music, cooking demonstrations, art, and, of course, fresh veggies, fruit and seafood.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. This event is sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, Sitka Conservation Society, the Alaska Farmers Market Association and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

“This is our fourth year for the Sitka Farmers Market and thanks to our great vendors we look forward to another successful season,” said Linda Wilson, Sitka Local Foods Network VP and Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator. “Outdoor vendors will enjoy a new paved parking lot with landscaping, thanks to BIHA. A tent will be set up for outdoor dining where you can listen to live music and enjoy some great food. New this year is a vendor selling Sitka Sea Salt. Look forward to fresh snap and snow peas for snacking, rhubarb goodies and many other edibles.”

Vendor fees are $2.50 per foot for table space, or $2.00 per foot for vendors with their own outside tents. The fees help us cover the costs of renting ANB Hall and its kitchen, hiring musicians and other expenses. To learn more about being a vendor or to sign up for a table, contact Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings and weekends) or by e-mail lawilson87@hotmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other information for potential vendors can be found at https://sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/2011/06/01/%E2%80%A2-vendors-need-to-start-registering-for-booth-space-at-this-years-sitka-farmers-markets/.

• Sitka Farmers Market’s third season opens on Saturday, July 17, at ANB Hall

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its third summer of Sitka Farmers Markets with five markets that start on July 17 and take place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 11. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 17, 31, Aug. 14, 28 and Sept. 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally picked berries, jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

Sitka Local Foods Network board members Natalie Sattler, left, with parsnips, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, center, with turnips, and Doug Osborne, right, with turnips, show off some of the produce for sale at the final Sitka Farmers Market of 2009.

Sitka Local Foods Network board members Natalie Sattler, left, with parsnips, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, center, with turnips, and Doug Osborne, right, with turnips, show off some of the produce for sale at the final Sitka Farmers Market of 2009.

As a bonus, Medicine For The People, one of the bands in Sitka for this weekend’s Homeskillet Fest 2010, will play during this Saturday’s Sitka Farmers Market.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is like a carnival every other Saturday,” said Kerry MacLane, Sitka Local Foods Network Board President and Co-Coordinator of the Sitka Farmers Market. “It’s a fun community space to enjoy with your family or to meet your friends for fresh coffee and baked goods. There is live music, cooking demonstrations, art, and, of course, fresh veggies, fruit and seafood.”

“In 1970 there were only 340 farmers markets in America, and by 2006 there were more than 4,385. I think this dramatic growth is attributed to the many layers of social and economic benefits these markets offer,” said Doug Osborne, a health educator at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). “Last year, several participants said Sitka’s markets were among the highlights of their summer.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. This event is sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, Sitka Conservation Society, the Alaska Farmers Market Association and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

Vendor fees are just $15 per market. Due to construction in the parking lot, only indoor booth space is available this year. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. To learn more or to sign up for a table, contact Sitka Farmers Market Co-Coordinator Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings and weekends) or e-mail lawilson87@hotmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other information for potential vendors can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.