New book by food systems expert Mark Winne features Sitka and is available in October

Food systems expert and author Mark Winne visited Sitka in July 2018 to do research for his new book. Now an October publication date has been set for the book, Food Town USA, which focuses on the local food systems of seven communities in the country, including Sitka.

During his visit to Sitka last year, Mark spent time interviewing a variety of people involved with the local food system. He also helped host a town hall meeting to discuss Sitka’s food system and how we can improve it. In addition, he stopped by the Sitka Farmers Market and attended a Sitka Food Co-Op delivery day.

According the the book’s publisher:

“Look at any list of America’s top foodie cities and you probably won’t find Boise, Idaho or Sitka, Alaska. Yet they are the new face of the food movement. Healthy, sustainable fare is changing communities across this country, revitalizing towns that have been ravaged by disappearing industries and decades of inequity.

“What sparked this revolution? To find out, Mark Winne traveled to seven cities not usually considered revolutionary. He broke bread with brew masters and city council members, farmers and philanthropists, toured start-up incubators and homeless shelters. What he discovered was remarkable, even inspiring.

“In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, once a company steel town, investment in the arts has created a robust new market for local restaurateurs. In Alexandria, Louisiana, “one-stop shopping” food banks help clients apply for health insurance along with SNAP benefits. In Jacksonville, Florida, aeroponics are bringing fresh produce to a food desert.

“Over the course of his travels, Winne experienced the power of individuals to transform food and the power of food to transform communities. The cities of Food Town, USA remind us that innovation is ripening all across the country, especially in the most unlikely places.”

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Registration open for Alaska Food Festival and Conference on March 8-9 in Homer

Registration is open for the 2019 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, March 8-9, at Land’s End Resort in Homer.

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), this semi-annual event previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016 and in Fairbanks in 2017. This year, the Alaska Farmers Market Association is co-hosting the conference.

“This event is an amazing opportunity to meet enthusiastic folks from all parts of the Alaska food system to share ideas and dreams from educators to farmers, distillers to oyster growers, and communities from Tyonek to Port Lions to Kotzebue,” said Lorinda Lhotka, a governing board member of the Alaska Food Policy Council and one of the conference organizers. “There is truly something for everyone and when you leave this conference you will be motivated to take action to improve your local food system.”

Conference topics will cover Alaska’s vast and diverse food system. This year’s keynote speakers are Ben Feldman, policy director and interim executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition, and Courtney Long, program coordinator for the Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Service and Outreach/Local Foods Program.

Sessions will include presentations on farmers market issues, food security, policy, production, harvesting, business, education, community, tradition, sovereignty, fermenting, subsistence, growing, and more. Chef demonstrations, hands-on activities, vendor booths, and a Friday night social round out the event.

In conjunction with the Alaska Food Festival and Conference, two other events will take place in Homer during this week. There will be a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training on Thursday, March 7, to teach commercial food growers how to meet the requirements of the new Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. On Sunday, March 10, the Alaska Farmers Market Association will host its annual meeting and planning session.

“The first ever Alaska Farmers Market Association conference in 2017 brought together market organizers from around the state,” said Robbi Mixon, a governing board member of the Alaska Food Policy Council and coordinator of the Alaska Farmers Market Association. “We shared information and ideas, gained knowledge on running successful markets, and most importantly built a statewide community of market managers who support each other. We’ve joined forces with the Alaska Food Policy Council for our next edition, further broadening the experience and connections for Alaska’s farmers, markets, eaters, businesses, non‐profits, academics … really anyone with an interest in building a stronger food system.”

To learn more about this event, go to the conference website at http://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2019-conference. The website has links to draft agendas and information about registration, event sponsorship, being a vendor, being a volunteer, and how to nominate someone for the Alaska Food Heroes Award. There are a limited number of travel scholarships.

We have arranged a 7 percent travel discount with RAVN Alaska, and people should use the code “AKFOODPOLICY” when booking their airfare. We also have a conference rate of 10-15 percent off regular winter rates at Land’s End Resort for people booking their rooms before March 1 and using the code “FARMERS2019.”

For more information about the conference, contact Robbi Mixon at (907) 235-4068, Ext. 23, or robbi@inletkeeper.org.

  • The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.
  • The Alaska Farmers Market Association (http://www.alaskafarmersmarkets.org/) is a nonprofit whose mission is to support and promote vibrant and sustainable farmers markets throughout Alaska. AFMA is excited about this opportunity to gather state farmers market organizers and food system leaders together. Market organizers — look for sessions with a focus on farmers markets.

Scenes from the community conversation about our food with food systems expert/author Mark Winne

This past week, noted food systems/food policy expert and author Mark Winne was in Sitka to research his new book, tentatively called “Food Town, USA,” about the local food systems of seven communities around the country.

During his time in Sitka, Mark visited the Sitka Farmers Market, the Sitka Food Co-op, the Sitka Kitch, and several food businesses around town. He also helped lead a community conversation about our food on Wednesday, July 11, at the Sitka Public Library, a free event co-sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network and the Sitka Food Co-op.

This event was moderated by Doug Osborne, health promotion director at Sitka Community Hospital and a former Sitka Local Foods Network board member. It also featured a brief history of Sitka’s food system from current Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham and an introduction to the Sitka Food Co-op by manager Keith Nyitray.

Those in attendance then had a chance to discuss Sitka’s food system, to find strengths and weaknesses. They also broke into small groups to discuss where they wanted for Sitka’s food system in the future.

A slideshow of scenes from the event is posted below. A PDF version of the brief history of Sitka’s food system also is posted below.

• A Story About Food In Sitka (opens as 13.5 MB PDF file, originally a much larger PowerPoint presentation)

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Food policy/food systems expert and author Mark Winne coming to Sitka to research new book

Nationally recognized food policy/food systems expert and author Mark Winne will be in Sitka from July 6-13 to do research on a new book, tentatively called “Food Town, USA,” where he examines the local food systems of eight to 10 small communities around the country.

“I’ll be visiting what may be America’s best little food town for research,” Mark wrote about Sitka on his website.

As part of his stay in Sitka, Mark will visit the Sitka Farmers Market, the Sitka Kitch, Sitka Food Co-Op, and a variety of local food businesses in town. He also will be part of a free community discussion about food from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11, at the Sitka Public Library. This event is co-hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Food Co-Op and moderated by Doug Osborne.

Mark’s career in food policy and food systems spans 40 years. From 1979 to 2003, Mark was the executive director of the Hartford Food System, a Connecticut nonprofit food organization. He is the co-founder of the now-closed Community Food Security Coalition where he also worked as the food policy council program director from 2005-12. During his time with the Community Food Security Coalition, he did some work to help get the Alaska Food Policy Council up and running.

He was a Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Fellow, a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Visiting Scholar, and a member of the U.S. Delegation to the 2000 Rome Conference on Food Security. As a writer on food issues, Mark’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, The Nation, Sierra, Orion, and Yes!, to name a few. He is the author of three books — Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of PlentyFood Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas; and Stand Together or Starve Alone: Unity and Chaos in the U.S. Food System, which was released at the end of 2017. All three books are published by Beacon Press.

Through his own firm, Mark Winne Associates, Mark speaks, trains, and writes on topics related to community food systems, food policy, and food security. He also serves as senior advisor to the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. He now lives in Santa Fe, N.M.

In an email he sent to various members of Sitka’s food community, Mark wrote:

“Food continues to become a larger but not fully acknowledged force in the lives of American communities. From health and nutrition, to food security, to economic development, to the simple need for a good quality of life, food can define a community’s identity as well as determine who benefits and who doesn’t. I am going to tell “stories” about eight to 10 small to mid-size cities and regions for whom a ‘food scene,’ a food consciousness, a sense of commitment to those who do not benefit from a growing prosperity, and an expanding number of local ‘food system’ stakeholders are on display if not actually working collaboratively. I want to know about the history of each community’s food evolution, what its key moments might have been, and who has played timely roles. The purpose of the story I’m telling about these places, which I am not claiming are exceptional, is to stress that food is a “bigger deal” than we think, and that if you take it seriously, food will not only lift up our quality of life, it will ensure that everyone can enjoy a better quality of life. I am selecting places that are not Berkeley, Boulder, or Brooklyn, but are understated and often overlooked.”

For more details about the community discussion about food on July 11, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com

Sitka Local Foods Network one of 11 Alaska organizations in the 2016 Good Food Org Guide

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good-food-org-guide-2016The Sitka Local Foods Network is one of 11 Alaska food organizations included in the Food Tank and James Beard Foundation‘s 2016 Good Food Org Guide, released on Oct. 17. This year’s third annual guide expands on last year’s second list and is more than triple the size of last year’s inaugural offering.

According to the Food Tank website, ‘This definitive guide highlights nonprofit organizations that are doing exemplary work in the United States in the areas of food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice. Only nonprofit, scholarly, and municipal initiatives have been selected in order to spotlight efforts that are focused on community building and engagement, advocacy, and service.”

The guide is meant to be a definitive resource that highlights the exemplary work non-profit organizations in the United States are doing on food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice.

In addition to the Sitka Local Foods Network, the other Alaska groups included in the guide for the third straight year are the Alaska Food Coalition, the Alaska Food Policy Council, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, and Kids’ Kitchen, Inc of Anchorage. Making the guide for the second year are the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust/Alaskans Own Seafoods of Sitka, the Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District of Juneau, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, and Alaska Community Agriculture of Fairbanks. New to the guide this year are the Alaska Farmland Trust of Palmer and the Calypso Farm and Ecology Center of Fairbanks.

You can view the online version of the 2016 Good Food Org Guide by clicking this link, or you can download a hard copy of the 2016 Food Org Guide by clicking the link below.

• Food Tank and James Beard Foundation’s 2016 Good Food Org Guide

Sitka trollers launch quarterly Edible Alaska magazine

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Mary Smith and David Whitmire, the co-owners of the recently launched Edible Alaska magazine, on board their 50-foot commercial troller, the F/V Virga, docked in Sitka’s Eliason Harbor.

EAK 1 Cover MED RezAs David Whitmire and Mary Smith ran their 50-foot commercial troller, the F/V Virga, outside of Sitka last summer, Mary spent her downtime reading some of the Edible Communities magazines (Edible Seattle, Edible Santa Barbara, Edible Cape Cod, etc.).

“She’s been reading them for quite a while,” David said. “I’d hear her say, ‘This will be a good article for Edible Alaska,’ or ‘I can’t believe there’s no Edible Alaska yet.’ Last year, while we were trolling for silvers, she said, ‘We’ve gotta do it.'”

The first 40-page issue of Edible Alaska was printed last week and will soon be in newsstands around the state. The magazine is free at local newsstands, or you can order a subscription to guarantee you get your copy. In addition to the quarterly printed version of the magazine, there will be regular website updates in between issues.

David is listed as the magazine’s publisher, while his wife, Mary, is listed as managing editor. They think they are the 79th, 80th or 81st magazine in the Edible Communities group of magazines for the United States and Canada, but aren’t sure which because Edible Asheville and Edible Bronx also launched about the same time.

When they finally called the Edible Communities group about starting Edible Alaska, David and Mary found out they hadn’t been the only ones with the idea. They were the third people to ask about starting Edible Alaska. One of them moved out of state shortly after asking about the magazine, and the other, Evie Witten, is now the creative director for Edible Alaska while she launches her Anchorage-based fermented foods business, Evie’s Brinery.

“We want to support the food system all across the state,” Mary said. “We don’t want to be just a foodie magazine. We want stories so good you’ll be hungry for more.”

Each issue will feature recipes, do-it-yourself guides, chef profiles, info about growing your own food, hunting and fishing, some food policy issues, and more. The first issue includes stories about Double Shovel Cider (Alaska’s first commercial hard cidery), food hubs in Alaska, Spring Creek Farm, Farragut Farm from outside Petersburg, the Sawmill Farm in Sitka, how to make salmon burgers, a back-of-the-house restaurant feature, a taste of Juneau, the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network, and more.

“We’re celebrating innovation, like with Farragut Farm where they farm on an island and bring all their produce to town on a skiff,” Mary said. “We want to focus on opportunities, such as how people are getting past barriers to local food.”

While Edible Communities can be likened to a franchise operation, where the magazines follow a similar formula. Mary and David want Edible Alaska to stand out. They want to feature stories about the diverse cultural and community aspects of food in Alaska, and they want them to be authentic with Alaska writers and photographers telling the stories.

“I’m interested in food security,” David said. “For example, at the Alaska Food Policy Council conference in February, we met some guys who are growing greens through hydroponics. All of our schools have power throughout the year, so the kids could be growing their own salad greens.”

“We also learned about how elders can now get their traditional foods in their care facilities,” Mary said.

David and Mary spend about half of their year in Sitka, with the rest spent all over the state and in the Lower 48 where they market their fish through their company Springline Seafood. Their troller now is home-ported out of Sitka (though it says Hoonah on the boat). They used to home-port the boat in Homer, where they have a mailing service moving their mail around to their various ports of call.

David is a long-time commercial fisherman who has fished all over the state, and he also spends time working a gold mine in Nome. Before moving to Alaska to marry David and commercial fish, Mary was trained as a chef through Culinary Institutes of America and spent many years as marketing manager for seafood companies in Santa Monica, Calif., and Chicago.

“As word got out about Edible Alaska, the support has been overwhelming,” Mary said. “We see this as something that belongs to the whole state of Alaska.”

“This is going to be a fun project,” David added.

• Sitka Local Foods Network one of nine Alaska organizations in the 2015 Good Food Org Guide

2015FoodOrgGuide

2015_GFOG_SEAL_HIRESThe Sitka Local Foods Network is one of nine Alaska food organizations included in the Food Tank and James Beard Foundation‘s 2015 Good Food Org Guide, released on Oct. 16. This year’s second annual guide is more than triple the size of last year’s inaugural offering.

According to the Food Tank website, ‘This definitive guide highlights nonprofit organizations that are doing exemplary work in the United States in the areas of food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice. Only nonprofit, scholarly, and municipal initiatives have been selected in order to spotlight efforts that are focused on community building and engagement, advocacy, and service.”

The guide is meant to be a definitive resource that highlights the exemplary work non-profit organizations in the United States are doing on food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice.

In addition to the Sitka Local Foods Network, the other Alaska groups included in the guide for the second straight year are the Alaska Food Coalition, the Alaska Food Policy Council, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, and Kids’ Kitchen, Inc. New to the guide this year are the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust/Alaskans Own Seafoods of Sitka, the Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District of Juneau, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, and Alaska Community Agriculture.

You can view the online version of the 2015 Food Org Guide by clicking this link, or you can download a hard copy of the 2015 Food Org Guide by clicking the link below.

• Food Tank and James Beard Foundation’s 2015 Good Food Org Guide