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.

White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network 2019 grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network, left, and Donna Donohoe and Jessica Christianson of Friends of Sitka Circus Arts, right, pose with White Elephant Shop (White E) volunteer Cheryl Call, second from left, after receiving 2019 grant checks from the White E.

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E thrift shop) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,500 grant during its 2019 grant cycle. In 2018, the White E awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network $1,000.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce, such as at the Running of the Boots. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets a few years ago when there was a state grant, but in 2017 those grant funds ran out and we used our Sitka Local Foods Network general fund to match the produce purchases. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons in 2017, using our general fund. We grow most of the produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2019 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support.

White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E) volunteer Samantha Skultka, center, presents grant checks on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, to Sitka Historical Society executive director Hal Spackman, left, and Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham. (Photo by Susan Brown)

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,000 grant during its 2018 grant cycle.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce, such as at the Running of the Boots or at our table on Chelan Produce weeks. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets a few years ago when there was a state grant, but last year those grant funds ran out and we used our general fund to match the produce purchases. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons last year, using our general fund. We grow most of the produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is part of the USDA’s The People’s Garden program.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2018 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support.

• Please join us Feb. 17 to discuss changes to the Sitka Farmers Market

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The Sitka Local Foods Network has some changes in store for the way it runs the Sitka Farmers Market, and we want you to be a part of those changes and we want to hear your input.

We’re hosting an informational session, a Q&A if you will, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). The meeting should run for about an hour.

The gist of the meeting is that there are two challenges the Sitka Farmers Market needs to overcome for the 2016 season:

  1. How can we make the Sitka Farmers Market financially sustainable?
  2. Historically we have avoided holding Sitka Farmers Markets on Chelan Produce days. Chelan Produce has changed its schedule, so how can we best adapt our schedule?

We will have a short presentation, followed by Q&As and discussion. Anyone interested in the Sitka Farmers Market is welcome.

Traditionally farmers markets are run by the vendors who benefit from them, so please come and let your thoughts be heard. We value your input and want to empower you to create a successful market together. And we will have snacks.

For more information, email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host booths at Sitka Seafood Festival and Chelan Produce on Saturday

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Sitka residents wanting to buy some fresh local produce will have two opportunities this weekend, even though no Sitka Farmers Market is scheduled.

The Sitka Local Foods Network will have a booth selling produce and SLFN swag at the Sitka Seafood Festival Marketplace from noon to 6 p.m. (or until it runs out) on Saturday, Aug. 8, at Sheldon Jackson Campus. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve hosted a booth at the Sitka Seafood Festival, so we’re looking forward to being at this local-foods-oriented event.

We also will host our regular table on Saturday and Sunday at the Chelan Produce truck on Katlian Street across from AC Lakeside Grocery. For the last couple of years we’ve had a table with fresh local veggies at the Chelan Produce truck on weeks where we didn’t have a Sitka Farmers Market. We appreciate Chelan Produce giving us a chance to sell some local produce when it brings in its produce from Washington State.

• Rev. Julie Platson to host a blessing of the garden service at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

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Rev. Julie Platson, the new priest in charge at St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, will host a short “blessing of the garden” service at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 13, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is a communal garden located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (611 Lincoln Street). This communal garden is where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the fresh veggies it sells at the Sitka Farmers Market, to local school lunch programs, on Chelan Produce weekends, and for food assistance programs.

“It will be a short service of prayers and blessings of the gardens and the work you do,” Rev. Platson wrote in an email to the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors.

The church decided to host the blessing of the garden service as part of its usual Wednesday services, since this Wednesday is known as “a ‘rogation day’ in our tradition — a day to ask God’s blessings on gardens, farms, the labor and the work,” Rev. Platson wrote.

• Sitka Local Foods Network launches crowd-funding project for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

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StPetersSignWithToDoListSignOne of the key elements of the Sitka Local Foods Network’s efforts to bring more locally grown food to Sitka each year is the crops we grow at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a communal garden behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church that produces food for the Sitka Farmers Market, local school lunch programs, and other venues. This month, the Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a special projects fundraiser on the website Razoo.com to try and raise $1,200 to be used for improvements at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

“The SLFN is excited to launch our first foray into crowd sourcing,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “We can’t think of a better way to raise funds for our successful St.Peter’s Fellowship Farm and our extension garden at Pat Arvin’s. Our lead gardener, Laura Schmidt, together with our local food interns, have continued to guide us towards increased food production which we’ve then moved into the community. Please help us support this deliciously nourishing project with a donation of $10 to $100 to $1,000 and keep food production growing in Sitka.”

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm was the brainchild Bonnie Elsensohn, the wife of the church’s former rector. The church had recently removed a large tree behind the See House, and Bonnie thought the open space would be the perfect spot for a communal garden. In the spring of 2008 she contacted Lisa Sadleir-Hart and Doug Osborne, who were board members of what became the Sitka Local Foods Network, suggesting they make a presentation to the church vestry asking that the site become a place to grow vegetables for the new Sitka Farmers Market.

Wood from the felled tree was used to make the first five garden beds, and enough crops were grown to support three Sitka Farmers Markets later that summer. Now St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is 1,600 square feet, and it produces enough produce for six Sitka Farmers Markets,a garden stand at the Chelan Produce events during summer, a garden stand at the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser, sales to school lunch programs, and more.

This is the first crowd-funding event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, and we chose to use Razoo.com because it has tailored its program for nonprofit organizations. It is similar to other crowd-funding sites, such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, or GoFundMe.com, but the service charges are lower on Razoo.com for organizations that have an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is hoping to raise $1,200 in this campaign, which ends on Monday, Dec. 8. To learn more about the project and to contribute, click this link and follow the prompts on the page. You also can click on the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm photo in the right column of our main website page and it will take you directly to the fundraiser link.

All money raised by the Sitka Local Foods Network is used to fund Sitka Local Foods Network programs, such as the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs, etc. All funds raised by the Sitka Local Foods Network is used according to our mission statement, which is to promote the growing, harvesting and eating of local food in Sitka and SE Alaska.

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