Most Sitkans know by now that we’re expecting a record number of cruise ship visitors this summer and to help with the crowds the city is closing part of Lincoln Street on heavy cruise ship passenger days.
As part of the challenge, people earning 25 points can receive a $15 voucher to use at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market. You can use the voucher to buy fresh local produce grown in Sitka at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. You also can use the vouchers to buy any of our Alaska Grown value-added products, such as chocolate from Sitka’s Theobroma Chocolate or Girdwood’s Chugach Chocolates, barley products from Delta Junction’s Alaska Flour Company, kelp salsa products from Juneau’s Barnacle Foods, or kelp pesto or pasta sauce from Ketchikan’s Foraged & Found. There is a limited number of vouchers available.
The Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand usually is located in the BIHA parking lot next to the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, although we sometimes move it inside if we have a low number of vendors scheduled for that market. The Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 2, 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27, Sept. 10, and 24 — at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). This is the only booth where you can use the vouchers at the market, and the vouchers are only accepted at the market and there is no change. See you at the market.
This year’s winners are Cyrus Harris and the Maniilaq Association Traditional Foods Team (Kotzebue), the Wrigley family — Bryce, Jan, Milo, and Leah — of Alaska Flour Company (Delta Junction), and the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) Traditional Foods and Wellness Programs. They were among a number of people or organizations nominated for the award by community members around the state. The three winners receive a glass plaque and a homemade quilt featuring the Alaska Food Policy Council logo made by AFPC governing board member Mel Sikes of Fairbanks.
Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), this sixth semi-annual Alaska Food Festival and Conference event previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016, in Fairbanks in 2017 and Homer in 2019. In 2020 and again in 2022, the conference was scheduled for Anchorage before going virtual due to the pandemic. In addition to the Alaska Food Policy Council, the 2022 event was co-sponsored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program.
The Alaska Food Hero Award(s) are presented at the Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which takes place every 18 months Awardees demonstrate a substantial impact on Alaska’s food system, transform an aspect of their community’s food system, and make a difference for Alaska’s prosperity, health and self-reliance.
Past winners of the award are:
2020 — Native Village of Savoonga ReindeerCrew (Richmond Toolie, chief herder, and crew members Freeman Kingeekuk, Michael Kralik, Nick Toolie, Sidney Kulowiyi, Scott Toolie, Kacy Pungowiyi, Christopher Miklahook, Ronald Kingeekuk, Derek Toolie, Derek Akeya, Justina Noongwook, and Orville Toolie); Chef Amy Foote of the Alaska Native Medical Center Traditional Foods Donation Center in Anchorage; and Marsh Skeele of Sitka Salmon Shares
2019 — Tim and Lisa Meyers of Meyers Farm in Bethel, Lia Heifetz of Barnacle Foods in Juneau, and Heidi Chay of the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District
2018 — Robbi Mixon of the Homer Farmers Market, Alaska Food Hub, Alaska Farmers Market Association, and the Alaska Food Policy Council
2016 — Kyra Wagner of the Sustainable Homer; Tyonek Tribal Conservation District,Outstanding Service Award goes to Diane Peck of the Obesity Prevention Program from the Alaska Division of Public Health.
2014 — No award.
Short biographies of the winners follow below:
Cyrus Harris and the Maniilaq Association Traditional Foods Team (Kotzebue)
Cyrus Harris and the Maniilaq Association Traditional Foods Team have worked together to provide niqipiaq (Iñupiaq food) to elders at the Utuqqanaat Inaat long-term care facility in Kotzebue since 2015, through a state-permitted traditional food processing and cold storage facility known as the Siġḷuaq. In 2021, the team made years of hard work from countless helping hands a reality by achieving State of Alaska approval for serving seal oil.
They used experimentation and a pasteurization process to reduce the risk of botulism, a rare but deadly foodborne illness linked with traditionally made seal oil. Now, the elders at the Utuqqanaat Inaat are able to enjoy on-demand the seal oil they grew up eating daily. The team hopes to expand the list of safe and nutritious niqipiaq foods offered to the elders and share lessons learned with other tribal groups across the continent interested in serving traditional foods in long-term care settings.
The Wrigley family — Bryce, Jan, Milo, and Leah (Delta Junction)
Settling in Delta Junction, Alaska back in 1983, the Wrigleys imagined building a farm that would increase Alaska’s food security, create markets for fellow farmers, provide healthy, locally grown food options, and offer their children the opportunity to continue the operation into the future. The Wrigleys knew Alaska’s unique conditions — a short growing season and long, dark winters — would require innovative farming techniques and never-say-quit determination.
They use sustainable farming practices on their 1,700-acre farm, on which Bryce and Jan raised five children. In 2011, their hard work, perseverance, and passion for nutritious, locally grown products paid off when they founded the Alaska Flour Company, the only commercial flour mill in Alaska. (The next nearest mill is more than 1,500 miles away.)
Aleutian and Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) Traditional Foods and Wellness Programs
The Traditional Foods and Wellness Programs at APIA work in tandem to carry out food-related initiatives and are dedicated to supporting the health and wellness of the Unangax̂ people. Current projects are focused on working with elders and community leaders to preserve traditional food knowledge and address food access and food security throughout the region.
One exceptional team member working with these programs is Sally Swetzof, from Atka. Sally grew up living a subsistence lifestyle and has been able to pass this cultural knowledge down, not only to her children and grandchildren, but also to her greater Unangax̂ community. She is a respected elder and mentor on a variety of traditional practices, including traditional Unangax̂ food harvesting, preparation, and preservation. She is also a fluent speaker in the traditional Atkan dialect of the Unangam Tunuu language and has been a leader in revitalizing the language.
Sally has been a tremendous resource and an essential team member in many projects at APIA, including most recently being involved in the Qaqamiigux: Traditional Foods Film Series. Sally is a central figure in many of the films, including the topics of: chocolate lily, reindeer, eider duck, and bidarki. Her involvement in the project has been key to the success of the films in light of her skills as an educator, traditional knowledge bearer, and fluent Unangam Tunuu speaker.
• The Intertribal Agriculture Council (https://www.indianag.org/) was founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of our agricultural resources for the betterment of our people. Land-based agricultural resources are vital to the economic and social welfare of many Native American and Alaskan Tribes. The harmonies of man, soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife that collectively make-up the American Indian agriculture community, influence our emotional and spiritual well-being. The IAC has, over the last three decades, become recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles on agricultural policies and programs in Indian country.
The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets with its opening market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. This will be the first of eight full markets this summer, with the other markets taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, all at Harrigan Centennial Hall.
“After last year’s COVID-19 pandemic limited our markets to only produce booths, we’re happy to be getting back to some normalcy this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our eight markets this year will still have some COVID safety measures, such as being held entirely outdoors and encouraging everybody to use face masks. But we will have a variety of fresh local produce, fish, homemade baked goods, cottage foods, cooked food, arts and crafts, and more. We missed the community aspect of the markets last year, so it will be nice to have some of our vendors back this summer.”
The Sitka Farmers Market gots its start from the second Sitka Health Summit, held in April 2008, when Sitka residents chose two food-related community wellness projects to work on for the next year — to create a local foods market and to start a community greenhouse. Later in April, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church made its backyard available for growing produce, which became St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and by August the first of three Sitka Farmers Markets was held. Those projects led to the creation of the Sitka Local Foods Network.
The Sitka Local Foods Network continues to host the Sitka Farmers Market, and also runs a farm stand selling produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The SLFN farm stand also sells Alaska Grown value-added products from around the state. Last year when the market was simplified due to COVID, the Alaska Grown products were dropped. This summer, the Alaska Grown products are back, with Barnacle Foods kelp products from Juneau, Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood, and more. New this year are Foraged and Found kelp products from Ketchikan, Moosetard mustard and BBQ sauce products from Fairbanks, and some special Sitka Farmers Market-label chocolate bars from Sitka’s own Theobroma Chocolates.
“We still are recruiting vendors for the markets, but we do expect Middle Island Gardens with fresh produce at all eight markets, and the Hog Hole hot dog stand at all eight markets,” Bingham said. “In addition, at our first market we have Harriet and Ron McClain of Fish Bone Studio with arts and crafts, Pamela Ash with arts and crafts, Ashley and Dustin Ward and family of Ward Craft with arts and crafts and cottage foods, and Charlie Bower with cultivated mushrooms.”
New this year is an online vendor registration site, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com, where potential vendors can register and pay for their vendor fees. Nalani James, who was market co-manager last year, will manage the markets this summer, with Charles Bingham and Amanda Anjum assisting. There also is a youth vendor program for vendors age 14 and younger. Potential vendors can email email@example.com or call Charles Bingham at 623-7660 with any questions. Potential musicians and volunteers also can call Bingham, if they want to help.