The voting period for the 13th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration is open and people can go online and support their favorite farmers markets through Sept. 19. After being sponsored under various names by the American Farmland Trust during its early years, this year the Trust is teaming up with the Farmers Market Coalition to host the contest. They also have added prize money, with the top farmers market winning $2,500, second place receiving $1,500, and third place $1,000.
Last year, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top market in Alaska again. The Sitka Farmers Market has been the top vote-getter in Alaska for the past four years, and six of the past seven years. The contest uses online voting, but each email address is only allowed to vote once so people can’t stuff the ballot box. Voting opened on June 21 this year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made several major changes to the Sitka Farmers Markets in 2020 and some of those are carrying forward into 2021. In 2020, we had a greatly scaled back market, a switch to an online ordering system, a new pick-up event location, and new health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. While we are reopening to a fuller market this year (last year we only had produce vendors), the markets will be outside and people still are encouraged to wear face masks. Even though most Sitka residents have been vaccinated, COVID-19 remains present and there are many variants.
This year we plan eight full markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, 17, 31, Aug. 7, 21, 28, Sept. 11, and 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall (museum/harbor end of the building). Nalani James, who served as co-market manager last year, will manage the markets this year, with Charles Bingham assisting. At the markets, depending on which vendors register, we plan to have fresh local produce, fish, cottage foods, homemade baked goods, hot food, food trucks, arts and crafts, live music, and more. We added a new online vendor registration website this year, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. We also still have our youth vendor program.
Last year, we had people create Sitka accounts using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online portal, http://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com, and order their produce from 5 p.m. on Tuesday through 8 p.m. on Thursday each week from July through September. We then had a weekly pick-up event (with Middle Island Gardens) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street). This year we still plan to use Salt and Soil Marketplace and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for our non-market weeks (July 10, 24, Aug. 14, Sept. 4), and for some of our market weeks with produce pick-up at the market. This will depend on produce availability.
Barring the end of the pandemic, all of our volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We ask our customers to wear masks and give people space during the market. We want to encourage community connection and small businesses at the markets, but we also don’t want to spread the coronavirus.