Applications open for the 2020 Path to Prosperity competition, this year with a focus on minority-owned businesses

Nick Schlosstein, left, and Leah Wagner of Foundroot seed company operate their farm stand in Haines. Foundroot was one of the two 2019 winners of the Path to Prosperity business development competition.

In a time of economic upheaval, resilient businesses are needed more than ever. The 2020 Path to Prosperity (P2P) Competition aims to identify and support resilient, relevant, and innovative Southeast Alaskan businesses. Many of the winning businesses over the years have focused on food, including in 2019 with Foundroot seed company of Haines and Village Coffee Company of Yakutat winning, but there have been guitar manufacturers, ski makers, and other non-food businesses that have won.

This year, the competition is focused on supporting minority-led businesses and is now accepting applications for its eighth competition cycle. Twelve applicants will be selected as finalists to advance to Round 2 and receive an all-expenses paid trip to Juneau to attend Business Boot Camp. They also will receive one-on-one mentorship and consulting that they can use to help write their business plans and grow their businesses after Boot Camp. Two winners will be selected from the pool of finalists to win $25,000 each to start or grow their businesses.

Each year, Path to Prosperity aims to improve the program for entrepreneurs. Based off of feedback from past program participants, key insights by the McDowell Group, and in an effort to further align the program with Spruce Root’s core mission, the program will be making the following changes:

Awards

In the past competition cycles, two winners were selected to win awards of $25,000 for consulting and technical assistance to grow their business. This year, the program will expand the use of these awards to include long-term capital expenditures, such as equipment.

Justyne Wheeler of Village Coffee Company in Yakutat. Village Coffee Company was one of the two 2019 winners of the Path to Prosperity competition.

“At Spruce Root, we believe that through the business planning process, entrepreneurs are able to identify what they really need to take their business to the next level. We want the award to align with that fundamental belief,” program administrator Ashley Snookes said. “We still want to see the award being used for the capacity development of the entrepreneurs, but we recognize that along with that development, entrepreneurs may want and need to purchase equipment or other fixed assets.”.

Awards will not be able to be used for short-term purchases such as payroll or rent but are open to be individualized according to the business plan. Businesses that are able to make a strong case for how their award purchases will catapult their business forward will stand a greater chance of winning the competition, especially for businesses that do so by emphasizing the triple-bottom-line impacts of their business.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is disrupting daily operations for businesses throughout the nation, and Southeast Alaska is no exception.

“Applications are open as usual beginning April 1st, but other aspects of the competition will adapt with the changing health and economic environments of today,” Snookes said.

Instead of conducting in-person community visits, Spruce Root will be working virtually with community catalysts and leaders to encourage entrepreneurs to apply. As Business Boot Camp in September nears, Spruce Root will hold Boot Camp in person only if it’s safe to do so. The content of Boot Camp will be adapted to meet the changing needs of consumers.

“Demand for products and services that remain relevant and meet the needs of consumers is still as strong as it was six months ago, but what consumers want and need has changed,” Snookes said. “More than ever, Path to Prosperity will deliver content that’s relevant to today’s economic climate.”

Businesses that are looking to develop new products or services to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic are strongly encouraged to apply.

Round 2 Scoring

This year, program administrators will be simplifying the Round 2 score sheet and providing finalists with a template that aligns with the new scoring guidelines.

“Business plans are as unique as the businesses they capture on paper. We hope that a shorter set of criteria and an optional template will enable entrepreneurs to work more clearly through what can be an intimidating and lengthy process,” Snookes said.

The program will also be shortening business plan submissions to a maximum of 30 pages (not counting the financial model). The template and shortened score sheet will go hand in hand with coaching and workshops from Spruce Root and other partner organizations to assist business as they develop business plans that work dynamically with their business.

Minority Focus

One of the unique opportunities in Path to Prosperity this year is the program’s focus on minority-led businesses.

“Southeast Alaska is a diverse region, and we hope the program will be especially beneficial to Alaska Natives and other minority communities this year,” Snookes said.

The 2020 program is sponsored largely by the Minority Business Development Agency, which defines minority-led businesses as United States citizens who are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Hasidic Jews, Native American, and Pacific Islanders. Ownership by minority individuals means the business is at least 51 percent owned by such individuals.

Timeline for 2019 Path to Prosperity Competition:

  • April 1, 2020 – Applications Open
  • May 31, 2020 – Applications Due at 11:59 PM
  • July 1, 2020 – Finalists Announced
  • September 18-20, 2020 – Business Boot Camp in Juneau, AK
  • December 7, 2020 – Round 2 Business Plans Due
  • February 2021 – Winners Announced

To apply or learn more, please visit https://www.spruceroot.org/path-to-prosperity

Over the past seven years, Path to Prosperity has received applications from 271 applicants in 23 Southeast Alaskan communities. We have trained 86 finalists at our award-winning Business Boot Camp and have awarded 15 finalists $510,000 to start or grow their business.

Path to Prosperity is a Spruce Root program that was started as a collaboration between Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy. Spruce Root is committed to assisting Southeast Alaska’s people and businesses to reach their full potential through loan capital and support services to promote economic, social, cultural, and environmental resiliency.

Foundroot, Village Coffee Company win $25,000 each in 2019 Path to Prosperity business development contest

Nick Schlosstein, left, and Leah Wagner of Foundroot seed company man their farm stand in Haines. Foundroot was one of the 2019 winners of the Path to Prosperity business development competition.

Two Southeast Alaska businesses — Foundroot seed company of Haines and Village Coffee Company of Yakutat — recently were selected as winners of the 2019 Path to Prosperity economic development contest. As winners, Foundroot and Village Coffee Company were awarded $25,000 each for consulting and technical services. The winners were announced on Feb. 5, during the 2020 Mid-Session Summit hosted by Southeast Conference in Juneau.

Foundroot is an open-pollinated seed company run by Leah Wagner and Nick Schlosstein in Haines that sells vegetable, herb, and flower seeds proven for Alaskan growing conditions. On their small sustainable farm in Haines, Foundroot is growing seed varieties that are adapted to Alaska’s climatic challenges and have sent seeds to over 65 different communities throughout the state. Teaching their customers how to save their own seeds and supporting their gardening and farming endeavors is integral to the company’s philosophy. Foundroot’s mission is for all Alaskans to feel confident growing food, no matter the scale, and fostering self-reliance and a deeper sense of food security for us all.

Justyne Wheeler of Village Coffee Company in Yakutat. Village Coffee Company was one of the two 2019 winners of the Path to Prosperity competition.

Village Coffee Company is a drive-thru espresso shop in Yakutat run by Justyne Wheeler that serves custom coffee drinks and homemade pastries crafted from locally-sourced ingredients, including fresh salmonberry upside down cake and spruce tip tea. In the small community of Yakutat, Village Coffee Company has found itself serving many regulars, who oftentimes drive up in 4x4s or forklifts to get their daily cup. Village Coffee Company works closely with the community to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. They provide coffee grinds for composting; use compostable stir-sticks, cups, and packaging; and source locally when possible.

These two companies were chosen from 13 finalist businesses from Southeast Alaska (including the Sitka Food Co-Op and M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals from Sitka) that participated in the Path to Prosperity’s Business Boot Camp in September in Juneau. They were chosen from 43 businesses from 12 Southeast Alaska communities that applied for the 2019 Path to Prosperity contest.

The following businesses were selected as 2019’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Costal Seaweed, Theresa Abbas, Juneau
  • Around the Bay Lodging, Susan Ritchie, Wrangell
  • Foundroot, Leah Wagner and Nick Schlosstein, Haines
  • Gale Force Gardens, Stephanie Jurries, Craig
  • Jellyfish Donuts, Brianna Krantz, Ketchikan
  • Kaawu Shellfish Co., Anthony Lindoff, Hoonah
  • Kootéeyaa Koffee House, Lee Wallace, Saxman
  • M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals, Brendan and Rachel Jones, Sitka
  • Sagebrush Dry Gear, John Peterka, Kake
  • Sitka Food Co-Op, Keith Nyitray, Sitka
  • Tamico, Inc., Carrie J. K. Martinsen, Petersburg
  • Tommaso Shellfish, James Greeley, Whale Pass
  • Village Coffee Co., Justyne Wheeler, Yakutat

An aerial view of the gardens at Foundroot.

At Boot Camp, the finalists learn about triple-bottom-line principles, worked with mentors, and received one-on-one counseling on how to develop their business models and plans. Following this intensive business training weekend, the finalists spent two months working with Spruce Root business coaches to create thorough business plans and pitch videos to be submitted to the judges. The winners are selected based on the feasibility, social impact, and environmental sustainability of their businesses.

Path to Prosperity is run by Spruce Root, Inc., and is made possible through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. Since the first competition in 2013, Path to Prosperity has received over 300 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 22 communities. The program has trained 89 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 15 winners $510,000 to build their businesses. All of the participants have been trained in the “triple bottom line” approach to building a business by learning to measure their profitability as well as the environmental and social impacts of their business. Previous competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), The Salty Pantry (Petersburg), Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and others.

The Village Coffee Company trailer.

Spruce Root is an Alaska Native-run CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) that provides local entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources in the form of loan capital, business coaching, workshops, and competitions. Together these programs support both new and existing businesses in Southeast Alaska and empower business owners through increased self-sufficiency.

Applications for the 2020 Path to Prosperity competition will open on April 1 and will close on May 31. This year there will be a focus on minority-run businesses.

To learn more about Path to Prosperity or Spruce Root’s other services (such as small business loans), visit their website at www.spruceroot.org or email grow@spruceroot.org.

Scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Hannah Green, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Brittany Dumag, left, and Kathy Dumag, center, of Castaway during the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Sept. 21, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Brittany and Kathy sold Cubano pork sandwiches with salad and banana chips and pozole pork and hominy soup. They received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Redoubt Rhubarb sweatshirt, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, some carrots, beets and apples from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, a bag of Chugach Chocolates birched hot chocolate, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, but there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28 at Totem Square park. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

Even though it was raining, there was a big crowd for the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

Even though this is the latest in the summer we’ve hosted a Sitka Farmers Market we still had lots of produce, and this time we had some extra produce left at the end of the market that was donated to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. Our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale, too. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; jarred smoked seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; packaged seaweed; arts and crafts; and more. And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

Mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the 25th annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand) at Totem Square Park. This is a costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m., with costume judging about 11 a.m. and the race at 11:30 a.m. The entry fee is $10 for individuals, $30 for families. In addition, we will have the last Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand of the summer, and the Smoothie Truck should be there. There will be door prizes and live music. This event is part of the Greater Chamber of Commerce’s End-Of-Season Celebration, with hamburgers and hot dogs for a small donation and closed-off streets downtown.

A slideshow of scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Nalani James, second from right, her son, Lennox, left, and daughter, Ilima, during the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Sept. 7, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Nalani sold a variety of baked goods, including chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars, muffins with local berries and carrot cake. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network apron, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, some salad mix, beets and chard from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The last Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.), plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28 at Totem Square park. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a slow weekend when we held our sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We didn’t have as many booths, but there still was steady business at the market.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets, and this time we had some extra produce left at the end of the market that was donated to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. Even though is was a smaller market, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; arts and crafts; and more. And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The last Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the ANB Founders Hall. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the 25th annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand) at Totem Square Park. We still have room for new vendors at our last farmers market.

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, third from left, presents Nancy Furlow, left, Rachel Henderson, second from left, and Grace Larsen, right, of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4 with the Table of the Day award during the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 31, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. ANS Camp No. 4 sold Grace’s frybread and Indian tacos. They received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, two Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirts, some salad mix from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The last market this summer is Sept. 21, plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a busy weekend when we held our fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. In addition to our farmers market, the Sitka Mermaid Festival and Sitka Seafood Festival had a marketplace at the same time, and the Mudball softball tournament was in full swing.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; arts and crafts; and more. We also had a food truck outside (Ashmo’s). And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the ANB Founders Hall. The last market of the season is scheduled for Sept. 21. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand). We still have room for new vendors at our last two farmers markets.

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, presents Patty Dick of the Noow Tlein Dancers Fundraiser with the Table of the Day award during the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 17, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Patty sold baked goods, Tlingít drums, medicinal herbs and tinctures, and painted rocks. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirt, some onions from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Other markets this summer are Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a bit cloudy and misty when we held our fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Luckily, the rain ended and the clouds lifted before the market did.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; garlic scapes, lettuce, carrots and other produce; jams and jellies; arts and crafts; and more. We also had two food trucks outside (Castaway and the Smoothie Truck). We also introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand).

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scenes from the third Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Hannah Green, left, presents youth vendor Helen Sachsenmaier of Sunshine Jams with the Table of the Day award during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Helen sold huckleberry and salmonberry jams she made with her father. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirt, some onion and leeks from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, and some Alaska Flour Company barley chocolate chip cookie mix Aug. 4-10 was National Farmers Market Week. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Other markets this summer are Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was National Farmers Market Week on Aug. 4-10, and we celebrated with our third Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We had a full market and a bit of sunny weather after the morning clouds burned off.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling homemade pancakes, eggs and bacon; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; garlic scapes, lettuce, carrots and other produce; jams and jellies; arts and crafts; and more. We also had three food trucks outside (Castaway, Ashmo’s, and the Smoothie Truck). We also introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the third Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Two Sitka businesses make the finals in 2019 Path to Prosperity sustainable business development competition

Volunteers and staff of the Sitka Food Co-Op during one of the twice-monthly food deliveries held at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Two Sitka businesses — the Sitka Food Co-Op and M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals — have been chosen as finalists in the 2019 Path to Prosperity sustainable business development competition, joining 11 others from Southeast Alaska in the second round of the contest. Started by Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy in 2013 and now run by Spruce Root, Path to Prosperity (P2P) is an award-winning competition for small businesses and start-ups located in the region.

Customers wait to pay their bills during a recent Sitka Food Co-Op food delivery.

The Sitka Food Cooperative, or Sitka Food Co-Op, is “a buying club on steroids,” according to general manager Keith Nyitray. The group started in 2011 as a way for local residents to order healthy food for less than what they’d pay in Sitka grocery stores. It now works with local food producers, giving them a venue to sell their products during the twice-monthly delivery days.

“Being selected as a finalist in the P2P competition is indeed an honor and we look forward to meeting and possibly working with all the other finalists and, more importantly, we look forward to learning how to grow our business and increase our positive social and environmental impacts here in Sitka and SE Alaska,” Nyitray wrote in an email. “For the past eight years the Co-op has been growing (pardon the pun) organically and we’re now on the verge of a major expansion. It’s definitely a challenging time and that’s where the professional and technical support we’ll get through the P2P competition (and from Spruce Root) will come in handy and help us ‘Bring Good Food & Community Together’ to a much greater degree.”

The M/V Adak is a WWII-era tugboat owned by Brendan and Rachel Jones that serves as a bed and breakfast.

Owned by Brendan and Rachel Jones, the M/V Adak is a WWII-era tugboat that serves as a bed and breakfast in Sitka. Even though the business may not, at first glance, have much to do with local food, the Jones family has added a local food component.

“The Joneses join up with third-generation Sitka troller Karl Jordan to provide Alaska’s first sustainable pescatourism experience,” Brendan Jones wrote in an email. “This joint venture will provide guests the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a commercial fishermen, trolling Sitka Sound and Cape Edgecumbe, followed by a night on a vintage World War II tugboat, as Beak chef Renee Trafton instructs guests on how to prepare king salmon. Alaska’s Native heritage, as well as environmentally sound fishing and living practices will be highlighted as visitors gain insight into life on a remote Alaska island.”

In Round 2 of the competition, finalists will participate in Path to Prosperity’s innovative Business Boot Camp where they will get access to resources, work with mentors, and receive one-on-one consulting to develop their business models and plans. Nine of the 13 finalists deal with food first, and a couple of others also have food as a secondary focus to the business. Sitka is the only community to have more than one business make the finals this year. The following businesses were selected as this year’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Costal Seaweed, Theresa Abbas, Juneau
  • Around the Bay Lodging, Susan Ritchie, Wrangell
  • Foundroot, Leah Wagner, Haines
  • Gale Force Gardens, Stephanie Jurries, Craig
  • Jellyfish Donuts, Brianna Krantz, Ketchikan
  • Kaawu Shellfish Co., Anthony Lindoff, Hoonah
  • Kootéeyaa Koffee House, Lee Wallace, Saxman
  • M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals, Brendan Jones, Sitka
  • Sagebrush Dry Gear, John Peterka, Kake
  • Sitka Food Co-Op, Keith Nyitray, Sitka
  • Tamico, Inc., Carrie J. K. Martinsen, Petersburg
  • Tommaso Shellfish, James Greeley, Whale Pass
  • Village Coffee Co., Justyne Wheeler, Yakutat

“Each year, Path to Prosperity receives exciting new business ideas from startups throughout our region, with this year being more competitive than ever,” says program administrator Ashley Snookes. A total of 43 entrepreneurs from 12 communities applied to Path to Prosperity in 2019. “An essential component to economic growth in our region is the growth of small businesses, and we are thrilled to help these businesses thrive.”

A guest of the M/V Adak holds up a couple of king salmon

According to UAA’s Center for Economic Development’s State of Entrepreneurship report, startups contribute 4,000 to 6,000 new jobs to Alaska’s economy each year, with Southeast Alaska contributing the highest percentage of businesses per population in the state. From oyster farming and kelp harvesting in our pristine ocean waters, to truly Alaskan experiences for visitors, to manufacturing the best dry bags one could ask for, the 2019 Path to Prosperity finalists are defining the local products and services of the last frontier, creating jobs, and driving local, sustainable, economic growth.

Over the past seven years, Path to Prosperity has received more than 250 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 22 communities. The program has trained 76 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 13 winners $460,000 to build their local businesses. All of the participants have been trained in the “triple-bottom-line” approach to building a business by learning to measure their profitability as well as the environmental and social impacts of their business. Previous competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), The Salty Pantry (Petersburg), Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and others.

Path to Prosperity is a Spruce Root program. Spruce Root provides local entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources in the form of loan capital, business coaching, workshop, and competitions. Together, these programs support both new and existing businesses in Southeast Alaska and empower business owners through increased self-sufficiency.

To learn more about Path to Prosperity or Spruce Root’s other services, visit their website at www.spruceroot.org or email grow@spruceroot.org. Also, to learn about the Path to Prosperity Master Class (deadline to register is July 31, cost is $450), click this link, https://www.spruceroot.org/2019masterclass.

Scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Local Foods Network board member Amanda Anjum, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Kate desRosiers of Rainforest Rose Creations during the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Kate sold healthy treats, made without refined grains or refined sugar. Her products change each market, and this market she had carob peanut butter cups, caramel date carob cups, sunflower carrot bites, tigernut bites, cashew cheesecake with salmonberries, nightshade-free taco seasoning, and fresh rhubarb and yarrow from her garden. She received a tote bag filled with a bag of salad greens, a jar of Barnacle kelp salsa, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, a few Alaska Grown stickers, a Chugach Chocolate bar, and some Bridge Creek birch syrup sample straws. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Other markets this summer are Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

We kicked off the 12th season of Sitka Farmers Markets on Saturday, July 6, with a full market and a bit of sunny weather after the morning clouds burned off.

Our produce supply was wiped out early, which sometimes happens during the first market or two of the season as we wait for more produce to mature for harvest. But our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling homemade pancakes, eggs and bacon; reindeer hot dogs; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; garlic scapes, lettuce, carrots and other produce; arts and crafts; face-painting; musicians; and more. We also had a couple of food trucks outside. And we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. To learn how to be a vendor at the marketor how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Sitka Local Foods Network to host seven Sitka Farmers Markets during the 2019 summer

The Sitka Local Foods Network is kicking off its 12th season of markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). We rebuilt some of the vitality of the market over the last couple of years, and now we’re hoping to build on that momentum.

“We learned a lot over the past couple of years, and we hope we’ve been able to move on from our mistakes and make the markets better,” said Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham, who is assisting Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo for the third year.

“We regained a lot of the vendors we lost in 2016, and that brought back a lot of the community-gathering-place feel to the market. We still want to see more local food producers at the market, but we know now we need to develop those outside the market, which is one reason we launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in 2018. We want the market to be a great way to connect with neighbors and support local entrepreneurs.”

New this year is the Bicycle Benefits program, where people who ride their bikes to the market and show their Bicycle Benefits helmet stickers can get 20 percent off produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market. The Sitka Local Foods Network also has applied for a Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, where most of the produce sold at the SLFN farm stand is grown.

Other new innovations started in 2017 included a kids vendor program for youth ages 12 and younger, and new Alaska Grown food products for sale at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand. Both are continuing in 2019. In addition to freshly grown produce from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, there will be Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Evie’s Brinery fermented foods from Anchorage, Barnacle Foods kelp salsa and kelp pickles from Juneau, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, and Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood.

We also have fish vendors back this season. There still is a focus on local and Alaska food products, with the Alaska Grown products being a way to inspire Sitka food entrepreneurs to try making new food items locally. The more local products we have, the more the money circulates in Sitka’s economy.

“Come support your community at our farmers markets,” Vizcarrondo said. “By working toward Sitka’s food sovereignty, shopping local reduces our food miles. Food doesn’t get any fresher than this.”

The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The other markets this summer take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 27, Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, at ANB Founders Hall. The markets feature a variety of locally grown produce, seafood, cottage foods, a hot lunch, locally made arts and crafts, live music and fun.

The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefits transfers (EBT) and WIC farmers market coupons. We have a matching program where SNAP and WIC clients can double up to $20 of their benefits in local produce. We are the only farmers market in the state authorized to match WIC farmers market coupons. The past two years we received grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop (the White E) to help with the matching program.

“In recent years we’ve been proud to welcome Alaska Quest EBT and WIC shoppers at the market, and the last two years the White E has helped us match those produce benefits,” Bingham said. “It is so important to make sure local food is accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy.”

The April 2008 Sitka Health Summit planted the seeds for the Sitka Farmers Market, as Sitka residents chose starting a local foods market as one of their community wellness initiatives for the year. About the same time, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church was looking for a way to put some recently cleared land behind the church’s See House into use for a community project. St. Peter’s offered to lease the land to the group that became the Sitka Local Foods Network for $1 a year, and in May 2008 a group of Sitka residents built raised garden beds and planted a variety of crops. Later that summer, there was enough produce grown at St. Peter’s to supply our first three Sitka Farmers Markets starting in August 2008.

There were five markets in 2009, followed by six markets each year from 2010-15 and now seven markets since 2016. Led by lead gardener Laura Schmidt, the production of local produce at St. Peter’s has grown each year, and there now are satellite gardens, such as one on land owned by Pat Arvin. Most of the food grown at St. Peter’s and the satellite gardens is sold at the Sitka Farmers Market, but there has been enough for the Sitka Local Foods Network to also have a table when Chelan Produce is in town and to sell to local school lunch programs and restaurants. The money raised helps support the Sitka Local Foods Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in its mission “to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.”

To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how you can become a vendor or volunteer, contact Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or Charles Bingham at 623-7660, or email us sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. The Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/, has more info on the markets and links to vendor rules and registration forms. In addition to vendors, we always need volunteers to help us set up and take down the market and to sell food at the SLFN farm stand.

The Sitka Local Foods Network receives sponsorship funding from the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), the Sitka White Elephant Shop (the White E), the Sitka True ValueHarry Race PharmacyALPS Federal Credit Union, Sea Mart, Market Center, and a host of individuals.

Also, don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the 11th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration. The Sitka Farmers Market was the top market from Alaska in 2017 and 2018.