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

A sampling of current food products grown, manufactured or processed in Sitka

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 second 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.

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.”

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. 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, April 5, 2019 (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 about the third week of April, the Sitka Local Foods Network will 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%).

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 2019

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Check out the November 2018 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the November 2018 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the upcoming Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit in February in Sitka, the Sitka Local Foods Network’s #GivingTuesday fundraisers, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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 2019

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 2019. 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 2019 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 farmers market). In 2018 we launched a new food business innovation contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, but we haven’t decided if the contest will continue in 2019.

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.

• 2019 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit coming to Sitka in February 2019

 

The Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, Feb. 15-17, 2019, in Sitka, with an extra all-day on Feb. 18 for an optional produce grower safety training.

Most of the events at this year’s summit will take place at Sweetland Hall on the Sitka Fine Arts Camp (old Sheldon Jackson College) campus or at Harrigan Centennial Hall. The summit opens at 1 p.m. on Friday, and closes at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Full details can be found on the summit website, https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/farmers-summit/

This event takes place every other year at various locations throughout the region, with the previous events taking place in Petersburg (2015) and Haines (2017).

“This gathering began in 2015 when commercial farmers and producers in Southeast Alaska decided to come together to learn from one another about producing local food in a challenging growing environment and how to bring these products to market,” event organizers posted on their website. “Since then, this summit has met every other year in a different community to reconnect, expand their knowledge, and share their experiences with a growing network of local food producers. The 2019 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit will be the third annual gathering for current commercial produce growers and for those who would like to explore this potential in our region.”

Friday’s schedule highlights include reports from various growers around Southeast Alaska about what is working and what isn’t working where they are. On Saturday, there will be in-depth presentations on pest disease management, composting in Juneau and Petersburg, farming in Fairbanks, employees and interns, cover crops, and growing gourmet mushrooms. Sunday’s schedule includes more in-depth presentations, as well as side sessions on hydroponics, composting, entrepreneurship/business consulting, and more.

Early bird registration currently is available through Dec. 31 on the summit website at $40 per person, with the price rising to $60 after Jan. 1. This fee does not include meals, which are $100 for all three days if purchased before Dec. 31 and $120 after that. Accommodations are $85 a night in the Sweetland Hall dorms, and details can be found on the summit website.

This year’s summit is being coordinated by the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition out of Juneau (with SAWC local foods coordinator Jennifer Nu being the main contact), and the Sitka Local Foods Network and other Sitka groups are supporting the event. For more information about the summit, contact Jennifer at jennifer@sawcak.org.

The Sitka Local Foods Network has been asked to help coordinate a community potluck or catered local foods dinner on Friday night, and to help provide transportation between the airport or ferry terminal and summit site. We will need volunteers to help with these requests. To help with the Friday night meal or ground transportation, contact Sitka Local Foods Network board chairman Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com.

 

Check out the October 2018 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

 

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the October 2018 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the Sitka Health Summit, the Sitka Farmers Market earning top honors for Alaska in the annual Farmers Market Celebration, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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 Farmers Market ranked as top market in Alaska in 10th annual Farmers Market Celebration

The results are in, and the Sitka Farmers Market ranks as the top market in Alaska and among the leaders nationally in the American Farmland Trust’s 10th annual Farmers Market Celebration.

This summer the Sitka Local Foods Network hosted seven markets, and we continued progress in our goal of rebuilding the market by increasing the number of vendors, launching a kid vendor program, and adding new Alaska Grown products to our farm stand. For the second straight year, Nina Vizcarrondo was the market manager and Charles Bingham was the assistant manager.

The Sitka Farmers Market ranked No. 1 in Alaska in all five categories — People’s Choice, Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food for All, Pillar of the Community, and Champion for the Environment. Sitka also ranked among the top 50 markets nationally in several categories.

Nationally, the top five markets finished in the same 1-2-3 order in all five categories. The top market was Winter Gardens Farmers Market of Winter Gardens, Fla. (for the second straight year); followed by Swarthmore Farmers Market of Swarthmore, Pa.; Charlottesville City Market of Charlottesville, Va.; Clarksville Downtown Farmers Market of Clarksville, Tenn.; and Williamsburg Farmers Market of Williamsburg, Va.

Shoppers were encouraged to use Instagram and join the local food community in saving farmland with their forks, as part of AFT’s “#OnMyFork” social media campaign. Supporters are encouraged to post pictures or videos of their farmers market to Instagram using the hashtag #OnMyFork. We asked people who posted anything about the Sitka Farmers Market to please tag our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, tag our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket, and/or share it on our Twitter page, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods. Please use the hashtags #SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and #SitkaFarmersMarket if you share a photo.

In past Farmers Market Celebrations, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust, the Sitka Farmers Market has been at or near the top among the Alaska rankings. In 2015, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top Alaska market in this contest. In 2016, the Sitka Farmers Market earned Best In Class honors in the contest after finishing second among Alaska markets and cracking the top 50 nationally in a couple of categories. In 2017, the Sitka Farmers Market again was the top Alaska market in the contest.

Thank you for supporting the Sitka Farmers Market during the 2018 summer

Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, presents the Table of the Day Award to Andrea Fraga, center, and Kaleb Aldred of Middle Island Gardens during the seventh and final market of the summer held Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Andrea and Kaleb sold a variety of salad greens, lettuce, turnips, carrots, and other veggies. As Table Of The Day Award-winners, Andrea and Kaleb received a pair of Sitka Farmers Market t-shirts, a Chugach Chocolates bar, and a package of Alaska Flour Company pancake mix, and more. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the 24th Running of the Boots costumed fun run on Saturday, Sept. 22, at Totem Square Park. Race registration opens at 10:30 a.m., with costume judging at 11 a.m. and the race at 11:30 a.m. This event benefits the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka. To learn more, go to the Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or check out our Facebook pages for the Sitka Local Foods Network and the Sitka Farmers Market.

We hosted our seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, Sept. 15, with a full slate of booths and a decent crowd. We thank everybody who supported the Sitka Farmers Market this summer, and hope to see you again next year.

We had lots of produce this time, as the growing season has progressed so more is ready to pick. Our vendors had a wide range of products for sale. We had vendors selling frozen salmon, home-baked bread, jams and jellies, garlic, carrots and other produce, locally produced medicinal herbs and tinctures, arts and crafts, and more. We also had a food truck outside. And we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines this year at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

 

Even though the Sitka Farmers Market season is over for 2018, we will have one final farm stand this year. The Sitka Local Foods Network will co-host the 24th annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run (with Youth Advocates of Sitka) on Saturday, Sept. 22, at Totem Square Park. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m., costume judging starts about 11 a.m., and the race starts at 11:30 a.m. We plan to have a farm stand at the event, and YAS will have the Smoothie Truck. The entry fee is $10 for individuals and $30 for families. There will be door prizes and live music, too. This event is part of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce’s annual End-Of-Season Celebration, which includes a community lunch for a donation (which usually goes for school activities).

Unfortunately, we don’t have our usual slideshow of the last farmers market as Sitka Local Foods Network president and event photographer Charles Bingham was out of town at a conference, missing his first Sitka Farmers Market in 11 years.

Again, thanks for supporting us this summer at the Sitka Farmers Market. If you liked the market and want to help us plan the markets for next summer and help on other projects, the Sitka Local Foods Network has openings on its board of directors. To learn more, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com, or click this link.