Please mask up for the Sitka Farmers Market this Saturday

Over the past two weeks, Sitka has seen a major spike in COVID-19 cases and now has as many cases as it did during the peak of the pandemic this fall.

With that in mind, the Sitka Local Foods Network asks customers and vendors to be COVID-aware during the Sitka Farmers Market this Saturday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, July 17, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall). We still plan to hold the market, but we don’t want to contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

One of the reasons we’re holding the market outside this summer is because we figured there might be a spike or two in COVID-19 rates. Being outdoors is a good way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We also ask all customers and vendors to wear masks, even if you are vaccinated. Other than getting one of the vaccines, a mask is the best protection against COVID-19 spread. In addition, we request people give each other at least six feet of space, and not attend the market if they are feeling sick.

When you visit a vendor’s table, please point out which items you’re interested in and let the vendor get them for you. This will reduce the amount of handling of food items.

At this point, we haven’t seen any changes to local and state safety guidelines, so our plan is to hold the market on Saturday. But we ask people to do all they can to prevent the spread. Thanks.

By the way, if you are interested in being a vendor at the market, you can register online at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com.

Sitka Farmers Market kicks off 14th season on Saturday

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets with its opening market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. This will be the first of eight full markets this summer, with the other markets taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, all at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

“After last year’s COVID-19 pandemic limited our markets to only produce booths, we’re happy to be getting back to some normalcy this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our eight markets this year will still have some COVID safety measures, such as being held entirely outdoors and encouraging everybody to use face masks. But we will have a variety of fresh local produce, fish, homemade baked goods, cottage foods, cooked food, arts and crafts, and more. We missed the community aspect of the markets last year, so it will be nice to have some of our vendors back this summer.”

The Sitka Farmers Market gots its start from the second Sitka Health Summit, held in April 2008, when Sitka residents chose two food-related community wellness projects to work on for the next year — to create a local foods market and to start a community greenhouse. Later in April, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church made its backyard available for growing produce, which became St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and by August the first of three Sitka Farmers Markets was held. Those projects led to the creation of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The Sitka Local Foods Network continues to host the Sitka Farmers Market, and also runs a farm stand selling produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The SLFN farm stand also sells Alaska Grown value-added products from around the state. Last year when the market was simplified due to COVID, the Alaska Grown products were dropped. This summer, the Alaska Grown products are back, with Barnacle Foods kelp products from Juneau, Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood, and more. New this year are Foraged and Found kelp products from Ketchikan, Moosetard mustard and BBQ sauce products from Fairbanks, and some special Sitka Farmers Market-label chocolate bars from Sitka’s own Theobroma Chocolates.

“We still are recruiting vendors for the markets, but we do expect Middle Island Gardens with fresh produce at all eight markets, and the Hog Hole hot dog stand at all eight markets,” Bingham said. “In addition, at our first market we have Harriet and Ron McClain of Fish Bone Studio with arts and crafts, Pamela Ash with arts and crafts, Ashley and Dustin Ward and family of Ward Craft with arts and crafts and cottage foods, and Charlie Bower with cultivated mushrooms.”

New this year is an online vendor registration site, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com, where potential vendors can register and pay for their vendor fees. Nalani James, who was market co-manager last year, will manage the markets this summer, with Charles Bingham and Amanda Anjum assisting. There also is a youth vendor program for vendors age 14 and younger. Potential vendors can email sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call Charles Bingham at 623-7660 with any questions. Potential musicians and volunteers also can call Bingham, if they want to help.

Voting open in 13th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration

The voting period for the 13th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration is open and people can go online and support their favorite farmers markets through Sept. 19. After being sponsored under various names by the American Farmland Trust during its early years, this year the Trust is teaming up with the Farmers Market Coalition to host the contest. They also have added prize money, with the top farmers market winning $2,500, second place receiving $1,500, and third place $1,000.

Last year, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top market in Alaska again. The Sitka Farmers Market has been the top vote-getter in Alaska for the past four years, and six of the past seven years. The contest uses online voting, but each email address is only allowed to vote once so people can’t stuff the ballot box. Voting opened on June 21 this year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made several major changes to the Sitka Farmers Markets in 2020 and some of those are carrying forward into 2021. In 2020, we had a greatly scaled back market, a switch to an online ordering system, a new pick-up event location, and new health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. While we are reopening to a fuller market this year (last year we only had produce vendors), the markets will be outside and people still are encouraged to wear face masks. Even though most Sitka residents have been vaccinated, COVID-19 remains present and there are many variants.

This year we plan eight full markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, 17, 31, Aug. 7, 21, 28, Sept. 11, and 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall (museum/harbor end of the building). Nalani James, who served as co-market manager last year, will manage the markets this year, with Charles Bingham assisting. At the markets, depending on which vendors register, we plan to have fresh local produce, fish, cottage foods, homemade baked goods, hot food, food trucks, arts and crafts, live music, and more. We added a new online vendor registration website this year, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. We also still have our youth vendor program.

Last year, we had people create Sitka accounts using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online portal, http://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com, and order their produce from 5 p.m. on Tuesday through 8 p.m. on Thursday each week from July through September. We then had a weekly pick-up event (with Middle Island Gardens) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street). This year we still plan to use Salt and Soil Marketplace and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for our non-market weeks (July 10, 24, Aug. 14, Sept. 4), and for some of our market weeks with produce pick-up at the market. This will depend on produce availability.

Barring the end of the pandemic, all of our volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We ask our customers to wear masks and give people space during the market. We want to encourage community connection and small businesses at the markets, but we also don’t want to spread the coronavirus.

Vendor registration open for 2021 Sitka Farmers Markets

Vendor registration is finally open for the 2021 Sitka Farmers Markets. This 14th annual event is hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit working to improve Sitka’s food security. The new online vendor registration page, http://sitkafarmersmarket.wordpress.com, is live and ready for vendors to sign up and pre-pay for their spots.

This summer there are eight Sitka Farmers Markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. In addition to table space under the building overhang and on the plaza, there are parking spots for food trucks and food carts.

All vendors will pay $40 per market, regardless of whether you have a table or a food truck. We have a special rate of $280 for vendors who register for all eight markets, which means you get one market free. Vendors can register for one or two markets, or all eight. We also have youth vendor program for ages 14 and younger, which is $20 for all eight markets. Vendors will need to supply their own tables (preferably 30×72-inch banquet tables, please no tables longer than eight feet), and in some cases their own 10×10-foot tents.

The Sitka Farmers Market is a community event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. Our focus is on local — fresh produce, fish, baked goods, prepared foods, cottage foods, arts and crafts — and all products must be made in Alaska (preferably in Sitka or Southeast Alaska, cooked foods may use non-local foods so long as the food is cooked on site).

We are holding the market entirely outside this year to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. While most people now are vaccinated against the coronavirus, there still are people who aren’t vaccinated and there are periodic hot spots where the illness flares up. We don’t want the market to be one of them. We encourage vendors and customers to wear masks, to use hand sanitizer, and to avoid bunching up while giving others six feet of space.

Vendors can pay using PayPal or credit/debit card. When you get to the Payment options, click PayPal and it should give you the option of using a PayPal account or four different types of cards (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover). If you prefer to pay by cash or check, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660.

Nalani James is the Sitka Farmers Market manager this summer (she’s on the right in the photo above). Laura Schmidt (left in photo) is our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the market. Charles Bingham is the assistant market manager.

For questions about the market, email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call the market phone at (907) 738-7310. More details about the market will be posted on the Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, and shared on its Facebook pages — https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket — and on Twitter, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods.

• 2021 Sitka Farmers Market Vendor Rules and Responsibilities

An update about the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market and our plans for a safe event

Usually the Sitka Local Foods Network has announced the dates of the summer’s Sitka Farmers Market by now. But, as most of you are aware, these are not ordinary times as we enter the second year of our COVID-19 reality. Our intention is to have our 14th season of Sitka Farmers Market events this summer, but they still may look a bit different than what we’ve had in the past. While our details aren’t finalized, we wanted to provide an update to the community about our plans for the summer.

Last year we were able to host a very scaled back market, using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering system during the week and having customers pick up their produce on Saturdays. This year we hope to expand back closer to our normal market format with more vendors, but also having some weeks where we just do an online order and pick-up service.

Now that vaccines are available and more people in Sitka are becoming vaccinated, we feel like we can do more this year such as allow socializing and having more people around. At the same time we have COVID-19 and its variants in our midst, so we still plan to require masks and hand-washing to help prevent the spread.

We also plan to hold our event at an outdoor location TBA, since being inside puts too many people on top of each other and probably isn’t safe. We hope to be able to announce an outside location downtown in the next week or two. We hope to announce our dates and vendor prices when we announce the location.

For vendors, since we will be out in an open field, you will need to provide your own table, chairs, and a 10×10 farmers market/event tent (which run about $115-$120 at Sitka True Value). Being outside, we won’t have access to electricity, so vendors may need a generator for power, or a small camp stove or BBQ grill if you’re cooking at the market.

We have big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. Last year, we bought a second high tunnel so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. That worked so well, we bought a third high tunnel this winter and it’s being erected at the garden this spring.

Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for more than a decade, and deserves a lot of respect for how much produce she grows on the small patch of land we have access to behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church. We thank St. Peter’s for allowing us to continue growing food for the community on its property. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has received a Certified Naturally Grown designation the past two years.

The Sitka Farmers Market is about local food, but it’s so much more. It’s about community and providing local entrepreneurs with a place to sell their products. We really enjoy seeing everybody come together to see their neighbors and friends at the market. That’s a big reason we want to host the market. One aspect of the market is it serves as a business incubator, a place for people to try out a new business, and we lost that last year when we had to scale things back to just our produce vendors.

Our tentative plans for 2021 are to hold markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at least once every other week from late June to September. This will allow non-produce vendors to participate, and maybe even some arts-and-crafts vendors. On alternate weeks, we will do something similar to last year, where people order produce from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday night using the Salt and Soil Marketplace, with a pick-up event or possible delivery from 10 a.m. to noon on the Saturdays when we don’t have a regular market.

Since we will have to separate booths around the market, we will have some space limitations. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s main focus is on local food, so food booths who book by a certain date will have priority, with arts-and-crafts booths filling leftover open spaces. We want to be able to involve as many vendors as possible, so hopefully we’ll be able to fit everybody in the space without making it too crowded.

We are working with state WIC and SNAP programs to see if we can accept benefits every week, or only when we have our larger markets. Our goal is to provide fresh local produce to all residents, especially those low-income residents who might not be able to afford it. Anyway, we still are trying to finalize details and hope to have an update soon.

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