Sitka Local Foods Network hosts third annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

A sampling of food products grown, manufactured or processed in Sitka in recent years.

Do you think you have a great idea for a food business or product from Sitka? Do you grow food, fish for food, or cook food in Sitka? The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting the third annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in an effort to spark local food entrepreneurs so we can make more local food available to residents and visitors. The contest entry deadline is March 6.

This contest will provide two $1,500 kicker prizes — one for established food businesses and one for start-up businesses (no older than two years) — to help entrepreneurs launch or expand their food businesses. The contest is open to food businesses and individuals making and selling food products in Sitka, Alaska. All food business ideas must be geared toward getting more locally grown, harvested and/or produced food into the Sitka marketplace through sales in grocery stores, the Sitka Food Co-Op, the Sitka Farmers Market, restaurants, or individual marketing (such as a community supported agriculture/CSA or community supported fisheries/CSF program).

“The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to get more locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” said Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network board president. “For the past decade we’ve offered a entrepreneurs a chance to sell their produce, bread and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market, grown produce to sell at the market through St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and provided a garden education program to residents. We think this contest is the next step toward getting more local food into the Sitka marketplace.”

Last year, we gave $1,500 prizes to Brittany Dumag of the Castaway food cart in the start-up business category and to Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers in the established business category. We also gave a special $250 award to 12-year-old Abigail Ward who entered her Sitka Seasonings business. Brittany made Cuban pork sandwiches (using pork from North Pole) and other food to sell at various places in Sitka, including the Sitka Farmers Market. Tamara planned to ramp up her fermented foods business, but she ended up having some health issues that prevented her from completing her project and she ended up refunding most of her prize money. Abby made spice blends for seafood and other meats, which she sold at the first two Sitka Farmers Markets and at other venues.

In our inaugural contest in 2018, we gave a $1,500 prize to Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals in the established business category. We had no entrants in the start-up business category, so no prize was awarded in 2018. Hope used her prize money to hire two interns to help her harvest seaweed and kelp and to help produce her products.

Participants in this contest are eligible and encouraged to enter other food business innovation contests, such as the Path To Prosperity or Symphony of Seafood contests. All participants retain the proprietary rights to their products and ideas. This contest is open to new and existing food businesses in Sitka. Student businesses (such as those fostered by Junior Achievement or similar programs) are welcome.

There is a small $25 entry fee for this contest. All participants (business and individual) must complete and submit our contest entry form by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 6, 2020 (by snail mail so it arrives before the deadline to Sitka Local Foods Network, Food Business Innovation Contest Entries, 408-D Marine Street, Sitka, Alaska, 99835, or by email with the Subject Line of “Food Business Innovation Contest Entries” to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com). Submitting a business plan (up to 20 pages) is recommended, but not required.

Our entry form will have room for you to describe your food business idea in a few paragraphs, but submitting a business plan will give you more room to outline your plans for funding and marketing the idea and will help your overall score. Judging will be based on how your food business idea provides new local food options in Sitka, how novel is your food business idea, how feasible is your food business (can it make a profit and be sustainable), and how professional is your presentation. At some time in late March or early April, the Sitka Local Foods Network may host a pitch presentation, where judges will interview the contest entrants and try samples of the food products. Our judging panel will score your presentation and entry form based on how your idea has a measurable impact on providing local food in Sitka (25%), has the potential for commercialization (25%), provides new employment in Sitka (25%) and fills a need in the Sitka marketplace (25%).

In 2020 we are making some changes to the rules. First, each entry now MUST include a sample, itemized budget showing how the business owner plans to use the prize money. Second, each prize winner will sign a winner’s agreement contract before receiving the prize money that lists a series of benchmarks toward getting the product/service to market that need to be met by a certain date or else all or part of the prize money will need to be refunded to the Sitka Local Foods Network.

If we find additional sponsors, we may add additional prizes and categories (such as fish or farm). Depending on the number of entries and interest of the participants, we may host a reception where contestants can demonstrate their products to Sitka residents. If the reception happens, there will be a chance for people to vote on their favorite products with the winner receiving the People’s Choice Award (this will be separate than the two main prizes selected by our judging panel). We are hoping to find a sponsor for the People’s Choice Award. Note, if our panel of judges determine there isn’t a worthy entrant in one or both categories, then the Sitka Local Foods Network reserves the right not to award a prize. Marijuana edibles are not eligible for the contest.

• Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest Entry Form 2020

Check out the January 2020 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

Happy New Year. The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the January 2020 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about the Pick.Click.Give. program opening on Wednesday, hiring a new Sitka Farmers Market manager for the 2020 summer, a new fundraiser to help build a high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, an invitation to join our board of directors, and an update about our 2020 sponsorship program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Help the Sitka Local Foods Network build a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

Since 2008, the Sitka Local Foods Network has been growing fresh, local produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets each summer.

In 2019, we decided to add a high tunnel, aka a hoop house, to St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to see if that helped us increase production. It worked wonderfully, so in 2020 we want to add a second high tunnel to the property to make more produce available for the Sitka Farmers Markets. Now we need your help. This new high tunnel will cost us about $3,500, so we have a GoFundMe Charity fundraiser to try and help pay for it.

For those not familiar with high tunnels, they can extend the gardening season by warming up the soil and keeping some of the inclement weather off the plants, but they don’t have all the heating and electricity needs of a greenhouse. They also are easy to vent, so you can lower the temperature on the really hot days.

By adding a second high tunnel to St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, we expect to increase our produce production, and the produce will be available for sale at the Sitka Farmers Markets and when Chelan Produce is in town. We also have a few restaurants and catering companies that buy produce from us. At the Sitka Farmers Markets, we match the first $20 of SNAP and WIC benefits, which means we’re able to get more local produce into the diets of lower-income Sitka residents.

The produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and sold at the Sitka Farmers Market has a Certified Naturally Grown designation, which is a national program encouraging sustainable agriculture.

The mission of the Sitka Local Foods Network is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so this project fits in our mission. For more details, please go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com, or call SLFN board president Charles Bingham at 623-7660.

Check out the December 2019 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

Happy holidays. The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the December 2019 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about hiring a new Sitka Farmers Market manager for the 2020 summer, how to join our board of directors, about our 2020 sponsorship program, about #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3, and about some December cooking classes at the Sitka Kitch. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Sitka Local Foods Network seeks manager for 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets (application date extended to Jan. 15)

The Sitka Local Foods Network is seeking a manager to coordinate the 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. This is a contract position, and the manager receives a small compensation, depending on experience, for his or her work organizing the farmers markets this summer. The manager receives a monthly check for the five months from May through September.

We’ve been lucky to have the same market manager, Nina Vizcarrondo, for the past three summers. But U.S. Coast Guard relocation is taking her away from us. We hope to have the new manager hired in time to do some training with Nina (and assistant manager Charles Bingham, who is staying) before Nina and her family leave Sitka this spring. We thank Nina and her family for their help rebuilding our market.

This will be the 13th year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features 6-8 markets during the summer from July through September, plus the annual farm stand at the Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser in late September. Market dates for 2020 haven’t been confirmed yet, but they usually run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on selected Saturdays at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers/gardeners, local fishermen, and artisans and craftspeople. These events are great Sitka gathering places, and we promote local foods and other local goods at the markets.

In recent years we made some changes to the market, and those have helped it grow into one of the top markets in the state. We have an experienced assistant manager, who will help ease the load for the manager. The manager needs to be able to commit to being available for all of the markets this summer. In addition, the market manager needs access to a vehicle with a trailer hitch (we keep our market supplies in a construction trailer) and to the Internet.

The manager’s main duties include recruiting and organizing the vendors for each market, hiring musicians and other entertainment, setting up and taking down the market tents and tables, managing the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, recruiting volunteers to help sell produce at the SLFN farm stand, helping the assistant manager make deposits and keep track of WIC/SNAP benefit matches, etc. The assistant manager handles market publicity, helps with set up and take down, helps sell produce, takes photos of people and vendors at the market, makes bank deposits, purchases Alaska Grown products to sell at the market (under consultation with the SLFN board of directors), etc. A detailed description of the market manager duties can be found at the link below. The farmers market manager has been a member of the SLFN board in recent years.

Applications should include a cover letter, resumé and three recommendations, and they are due by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15 (this is an extension from the Jan. 8 original deadline). The market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market is a seasonal contract position that reports to the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors via a board liaison (Amanda Anjum). For more information or to submit applications, contact SLFN board president Charles Bingham at 1-907-623-7660, or you can email the SLFN Board at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (please put “Sitka Farmers Market Manager” in the subject line).

Once we sign a contract with our market manager, we will announce a couple of meetings for potential vendors. We also will announce in the next few days a spring class on cottage food business basics (in partnership with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service) for those thinking about starting a home-based food business, and students taking that class will receive a reduction on their first table fee from the Sitka Farmers Market in 2020.

• Description of duties for market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market Manager (2020)

Check out the November 2019 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the November 2019 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about how to join our board of directors, about our 2020 sponsorship program, and about #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2020

The Sitka Local Foods Network in recent years created a sponsorship program to help promote our mission, and Sitka businesses and individuals are welcome to join for 2020. The goal of the sponsorship program is to make the projects we undertake (Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, gardening education, etc.) more sustainable.

“Sitka has a precarious position when it comes to food security, and the Sitka Local Foods Network is trying to improve our food security through our mission to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods in the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham said. “Sponsors of the Sitka Local Foods Network are working with an organization and a farmers market that values local food and businesses, fun, premium quality goods and experiences.”

In recent years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted seven Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer (from July to September). We haven’t set our 2020 dates yet, but we anticipate we will have seven markets again this summer. In addition, we grow most of the local produce sold at the markets at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and a couple of other locations in town. We also offer a variety of garden education classes in the spring. One way we ensure fresh, local produce is available to lower-income Sitkans is through our matching program for WIC and SNAP beneficiaries (the first $20 spent on produce at the market), courtesy of a grant from the Sitka White Elephant Shop.

In 2018 we launched a new food business innovation contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, and continued the program in 2019. We also host the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser, the past two years in partnership with Youth Advocates of Sitka. In addition, we support other local food projects in Sitka, such as the Fish to Schools lunch program and the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

There are four levels of sponsorship available, and each has its own set of perks.

  • Grower ($2,500-plus) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets, include your logo and company name prominently in our merchandise and advertisements, and thank you on our social media and web pages. If appropriate for the Sitka Farmers Market, you may set up a free promotional booth.
  • Harvester ($1,000-$2,499) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets and include your logo and company name in our merchandise and advertisements.
  • Planter ($250-$999) — Your banner will hang at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets.
  • Friend ($50-$249) — You are listed on our online sponsor page.

We have limited space for banners at the Sitka Farmers Markets, so please contact us before May 1 to guarantee your spot. To learn more about the sponsorship program, click the link below for details and a registration form. For more information, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or by email at charleswbingham3@gmail.com, or email us at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2020 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form