An update about the 2020 Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans

Usually the Sitka Local Foods Network has announced the dates of the summer’s Sitka Farmers Market by now. But, as most of you are aware, these are not ordinary times.

We had been making our usual plans, and even had dates we planned to announce about now, but with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak we had to go into wait-and-see mode. We even hired two new people to coordinate the Sitka Farmers Market this year — Ariane Martin Goudeau and Nalani James — because we’re losing our market manager of the past three years, Nina Vizcarrondo, to Coast Guard relocation.

Even though we’re in wait-and-see mode, the SLFN feels it does need to update the community.

First, we had big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. We bought a second high tunnel, which has been erected on the site, so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for about a decade, and deserves a lot of respect for how much produce she grows on the small patch of land we have access to behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church. We thank St. Peter’s for allowing us to continue growing food for the community on its property.

Regardless of whether we hold the Sitka Farmers Market or not, we will grow produce this summer at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Sitka’s food security needs more local food, so we plan to find ways to get the food into the community, somehow, someway.

If all things were normal, our plan was to hold seven Sitka Farmers Markets again this summer for our 13th season. Our tentative dates are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 4, July 25, Aug. 8, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, Sept. 5, and Sept. 19, all at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

The Sitka Farmers Market is about local food, but it’s so much more. It’s about community and providing local entrepreneurs with a place to sell their products. We really enjoy seeing everybody come together to see their neighbors and friends at the market. That’s a big reason we want to host the market, if it’s possible.

But we don’t know when our shelter-in-place orders are going to end and we can start returning to normal. We are researching alternative ways to get our fresh produce into the hands of Sitka residents. We want to provide fresh produce, but also need to be conscious of everybody’s health during an outbreak.

That may mean going to an online portal, such as the Salt and Soil Marketplace out of Juneau, which has been expanding into Sitka and other towns in Southeast Alaska. Middle Island Gardens, Gimbal Botanicals, and a couple of other Sitka businesses have used Salt and Soil Marketplace, so it’s not a new concept. How it works for Sitka is vendors post their products online, and from Tuesday through Thursday Sitka residents go online and order what they want, with a delivery usually on Saturday.

This is great and relatively easy, except you lose the community aspect of the market when it’s online. Also, the Sitka Farmers Market serves as a business incubator, and we lose that when we can’t have a market.

There’s another thing we lose, and that’s the ability to accept WIC farmers market coupons and SNAP Alaska Quest EBT cards, which is how we get local produce into the hands of lower-income Sitkans. We are still trying to work that problem out. We want to get fresh local produce into this part of the community, because Sitka has some major inequality with about one in every six residents on some form of food assistance program. Our mission is “to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” so we have to make sure we include getting food to lower income people.

We will come up with a plan of some sort to make sure we do get produce into the hands of all Sitkans, but we have to be conscious of not spreading the coronavirus. It may mean we donate produce to a local food bank for distribution, or we donate some produce to WIC/SNAP beneficiaries and skip the normal reimbursement we’d get from the state. We have our White E grant to match WIC/SNAP benefits, so we can use that grant to help distribute the food, and absorb some of the loss through our general fund. It’s within our mission, and we can afford to do it for a few months.

Ideally, we will host our Sitka Farmers Markets as normal. But these are unusual times. We will look at what’s happening in mid-May, and we will make a further announcement then as to what our plans are. Hopefully we will be recruiting vendors for our market. If not, we will start setting up an account so people can order produce online.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Sitka Local Foods Network board chairman Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s Cooking Around The World series class Cajun Cooking With Geof Goudeau

Students learned how to make a chicken and smoked sausage gumbo and Goudeau’s Good Grits during the Cajun Cooking with Geof Goudeau class, held Monday, Nov. 26, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. This was the first class in the new Sitka Kitch space (inside Sitka Lutheran Church, 224 Lincoln Street, use back entrance through alley by Bev’s Flowers & Gifts, off Harbor Drive), and the class was part of the Cooking Around The World series of classes.

In the class, Geof gave students of Cajun and creole cooking. He also taught students the importance of the roux, which is the base for the gumbo. He also led students in making grits, which is a staple of Southern cooking.

Chef François Sanchez of St. Charles, Ill., will teach the next Sitka Kitch class in the Cooking Around The World series. Chef Sanchez will teach students how to make zarzuela (or zarzuela de pescado), which is a stew that combines finfish and shellfish, from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11. This class will be taught demonstration-style, which means we can have a larger number of students than usual. The cost is $40 all-inclusive (we no longer have a separate class registration fee and food/supply fee).

Future Sitka Kitch classes include Preserving Leftovers and Holiday Gifts, from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15, with Sarah Lewis of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service Juneau District Office (taught by distance delivery) and Indian Cooking With Mohan Arul from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Watch our online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title to register), for upcoming class details.

A slideshow featuring some scenes from Monday’s class on Cajun cooking is posted below.

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Sitka Kitch offers Cajun Cooking With Geof Goudeau class in Cooking Around The World series

One of the dishes Geof Goudeau will teach is Cheesy Grits.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

After a brief hiatus, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen is offering classes again, but at the temporary location of Sitka Lutheran Church (224 Lincoln Street). Our first Sitka Kitch class at the temporary location is in our Cooking Around The World series — Cajun Cooking With Geof Goudeau (direct link to registration page).

Geof Goudeau was born somewhere between the sugarcane fields and the muddy swamp waters of rural southern Louisiana. Word has it that he was rocked to sleep on the back of a pet alligator as a baby. But fortune has made it so that he found his way all the way to Sitka, Alaska. And now he wants to share with you a little bit of the knowledge he collected during his first 25 years of sweating over a cast-iron black pot of jambalaya.

Geof has seen his fair share of cooking education.  Through high school, college, and graduate school, Geof worked at restaurants with increasing culinary caliber, including regional favorites La Fonda Mexican Restaurant and Mad LuAnn’s southern food truck. Having not satiated his desire for cooking, Geof attended a three-month cooking school in San Francisco to truly sharpen and hone his cooking chops.

Geof Goudeau, with wife Ariane and daughter Elodie, operated the Goudeau’s Good-Doughs booth at the 2017 Sitka Farmers Markets.

Since then, Geof has called Sitka home where for the past four years, he has worked tirelessly to master those foods that demand your full attention, such as French macaroons, sourdough bread, and Latin flan. Desiring to share his newfound sourdough baking skills, Geof began a small-batch bakery: Goudeau’s Good-Doughs. He is now ready to pass on his love for Cajun food to you in the form a cooking class.

During Geof’s Cajun Kitch Course, he will masterfully guide you in the hidden, almost-lost art of making a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, in all of its nutty velvet glory. But Geof isn’t solely interesting in passing on the secrets and wiles of his whisk regarding only gumbo. Oh no, my friends, Geof will capitalize on your intrigue by demonstrating his famous version of Cheesy Grits. Though many have apprehensions when it comes to grits, Geof’s good grits have seen no one regret daring to dine on his spoon. This course will provide you not only with the definitive way to make a body-warming gumbo and a can’t-wait-for cheesy grits, but you will also be treated to the history and lore surrounding these two iconic plates of Cajun cuisine, delivered in a way that only a true born Cajun can.

The registration deadline for this class is 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, so register now since space is limited. We need at least eight students to register and pre-pay to make this class happen. The class costs $40, which is part of our new all-inclusive fee system (you no longer have to pay a class fee to register, then a separate food/supply fee). You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on our EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Claire or Clarise at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. We do offer one potential scholarship spot per class for people with limited incomes, so long as we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Claire at SCS for more details.

Students should enter the Sitka Lutheran Church through the back entrance (through the alley off Harbor Drive by Bev’s Flowers and Gifts). The door on the right should be open for students to enter. Please do not park in the church’s back parking lot. Please use the public parking lots off Harbor Drive.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $35). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.