Fish to Schools program launches coho salmon and rockfish donation drive for commercial fishermen

The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs a few hundred pounds of coho salmon and rockfish to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming 2018-19 school year. The program also is seeking photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The coho salmon donation period is Monday. Aug. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 2. To donate, commercial fishermen can sign up and indicate how many pounds they want to donate when they offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods during the donation period. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish). The hope is to get enough coho salmon and rockfish donated that locally caught fish can be offered to students at least once a week. Sign-up sheets will be posted at the scale shacks and in the main offices. Only coho salmon and rockfish will be accepted.

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie Wednesday (April 25, 2018) during lunch at the school. The elementary school was hosting fishermen who donated part of their catch to the Fish to Schools program. The program is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society and provides fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School, the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The Sitka Fish To Schools project (click here to see short video) got its start as a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and now is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society. It started by providing a monthly fish dish as part of the school lunch as Blatchley Middle School, and since then has grown to feature regular fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary SchoolKeet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle SchoolSitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

In addition to serving locally caught fish meals as part of the school lunch program, the Fish To Schools program also brings local fishermen, fisheries biologists and chefs to the classroom to teach the kids about the importance of locally caught fish in Sitka. The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

For more information, contact Chandler O’Connell of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or email chandler@sitkawild.org. If you would like to donate FAS (frozen at sea) fish, please call or text Lexi Fish Hackett at 738-5684.

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Scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2018 summer

Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, third from left, and Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Nisreen Jehka, right, an exchange student from Thailand, present the Table of the Day Award to Vivian Mork, left, and Aakatchaq Schaeffer, second from left, of Planet Alaska during the fourth market of the summer held Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Planet Alaska sold jams and jellies, tinctures and salves made from local plants, and artwork. As Table Of The Day Award-winners, Vivian and Aakatchaq received a Sitka Farmers Market t-shirt, a Sitka Local Foods Network apron, some birch syrup products from Kahiltna Birchworks, a jar of Inga’s Spice Rub, a jar of Barnacle kelp salsa, and a package of Alaska Flour Company Great Alaska Pancake Mix, and some locally grown carrots. This was National Farmers Market Week, so they also received two farmers market pins. The next Sitka Farmers Market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), with other markets scheduled for Sept. 1, and Sept. 15. To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how to be a vendor, 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 celebrated National Farmers Market Week during our fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, Aug. 11, with a full slate of booths and a big crowd. The weather even cooperated, clearing up to blue skies after a morning of clouds and threats of rain and heavy wind.

We had lots of produce this time, as the growing season has progressed so more is ready to pick. We also had a visit by a couple of baby goats. Our vendors had a wide range of products for sale. We had vendors selling frozen and jarred fish, home-baked bread, jams and jellies, sea veggies and teas, garlic scapes, carrots and other produce, locally produced medicinal herbs and tinctures, arts and crafts, and more. We also had a couple of food trucks and a hot dog vendor outside. And we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines this year 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. 25, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Sept. 1, and Sept. 15.

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 2018 is posted below.

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 31 being the last day to make Pick.Click.Give. donations, an invitation to join our board of directors, and info about our 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 new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Don’t forget, you still can add Pick.Click.Give. donations to your 2018 PFD application through Aug. 31

If you’re like most Alaskans you probably filed your 2018 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) application before the March deadline and haven’t given it a second thought since. But did you know you still can add Pick.Click.Give.donations to your 2018 application through Monday, Aug. 31? If you haven’t already, please consider making a Pick.Click.Give. donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network.

Here’s how to add or change your Pick.Click.Give. donations. First, go to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application website, http://pfd.alaska.gov/, and find the green “Add A Pick.Click.Give. Donation” bar in the right column. Click the green bar, and follow the directions. You’ll need to enter your driver’s license number, Social Security number, and birthday to access your application, but once on the page you’ll be able to see your current Pick.Click.Give. donations (if any) and you can add or change them. Check the graphic to the right to learn more about how to make Pick.Click.Give. donations.

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This is the fourth year the Sitka Local Foods Network has participated in the Pick.Click.Give. program, which allows people to donate in $25 increments to their favorite statewide and local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations when they file their PFD applications from Jan. 1 through March 31. We missed 2017 due to a clerical snafu, but we’re back in the program for 2018.

When you choose to donate part of your PFD to the Sitka Local Foods Network, you support the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs about growing and preserving food, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, Sitka Community Gardens, matching dollars at the Sitka Farmers Market for SNAP/WIC beneficiaries, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka. This year we launched a Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to try and encourage more food entrepreneurs in Sitka.

Did you forget to make your Pick.Click.Give. donations when you filed for your PFD this year? Don’t worry, you can still add or change your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 when you go back into your online application (you will need to have your My.Alaska.gov information handy to log into the application). You can’t file your PFD application after the March 31 deadline, but if you filed for your PFD before the deadline you have until Aug. 31 to modify your Pick.Click.Give. donations.

In 2017 Alaskans contributed $2.7 million to 668 Alaska nonprofit organizations, and more than $18.5 million has been donated since the program started in 2009. Some Alaskans choose to donate to just one group, while others may spread several donations around to many groups. There now are more than 600 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2017 (including multi-location nonprofits), including 23 from Sitka. In 2017, Alaskans donated $100,500 to Sitka-based nonprofits.

To encourage more Alaskans to donate through the Pick.Click.Give. program, the Double Your Dividend contest has been revised to encourage philanthropy. Anybody who makes a non-anonymous Pick.Click.Give. donation to at least one of the registered nonprofits will be entered into a contest where five lucky Alaskans will win a second PFD check for their favorite participating Pick.Click.Give. nonprofit (or it can be split between a couple of nonprofits). The winners no longer receive a second PFD for themselves, just one to donate to an organization. The winners will be announced in October, about the time the PFDs start hitting bank accounts.

So how do you make a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network through the Pick.Click.Give. program? First, go fill out your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application at http://pfd.alaska.gov/. When you get to the section of the application asking if you want to participate in Pick.Click.Give. Charitable Contributions program, click on the PCG link and search for the Sitka Local Foods Network. You also can look for us by using the town search for Sitka.

The Pick.Click.Give. program is available only to people who file their PFD applications online, and not to those who file by mail. Even though you can’t file a new PFD application after March 31, you can go back into your application and update your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 each year.

You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2018 PFD. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408-D Marine St., Sitka, Alaska, 99835. You also can donate online by going to our online fundraising page on MightyCause.com (formerly Razoo.com), and clicking the Donate button to make an online contribution. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Thank you for supporting our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.

Scenes from the third Sitka Farmers Market of the 2018 summer

Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, center, presents the Table of the Day Award to Henry Nye, left, and Anthony Vlahovich, right, of Alaskans Own Seafood during the third market of the summer held Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Alaskans Own Seafood, which is a project of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, sold frozen fish and also provided information about its community-supported fisheries program. As Table Of The Day Award-winners, Henry and Anthony received two Sitka Farmers Market t-shirts, some birch syrup products from Kahiltna Birchworks, a jar of Inga’s Spice Rub, a jar of Barnacle kelp salsa, and a Chugach Chocolate bar. The next Sitka Farmers Market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), with other markets scheduled for Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept. 15. The Aug. 11 market falls during National Farmers Market Week (Aug. 5-11), so make sure you stop by the market. To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how to be a vendor, 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 held our third Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, Aug. 4, with a full slate of booths and a big crowd. The weather even cooperated, clearing up to blue skies after a morning of clouds and threats of rain and heavy wind.

We had lots of produce this time, as the growing season has progressed so more is ready to pick. We also had a visit by a couple of baby goats. Our vendors had a wide range of products for sale. We had vendors selling frozen and jarred fish, home-baked bread, jams and jellies, sea veggies and teas, garlic scapes, carrots and other produce, locally produced medicinal herbs and tinctures, arts and crafts, and more. We also had a couple of food trucks and a hot dog vendor outside. And we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines this year 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. 11, at the ANB Founders Hall. Aug. 5-11 is National Farmers Market Week, so stop by the market to say hello. There also are markets scheduled for Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept. 15.

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 2018 is posted below.

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Samia Savell to host meeting Aug. 9 in Sitka to discuss soil quality, high tunnels, and other USDA NRCS programs

Are you interested in learning how soil quality impacts your home garden? Do you want to learn how to get funding for a high tunnel to extend your growing season? Join Samia Savell of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Juneau for an informal discussion about those topics and others at noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 9, in the Gus Adams Meeting Room at the Sitka Public Library. Note, Samia has reserved the meeting room until 2 p.m. in case people want to stay after and ask her questions.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) assists agricultural producers with conservation efforts on their cultivated land. Technical assistance is available upon request, and is tailored to each landowner’s unique situation. Working with NRCS staff, landowners identify resource concerns such as poor soil quality or plant health, inefficient water use, or even energy conservation, and develop a plan to address those concerns while supporting their production goals.

Program funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can help defray costs of implementing conservation practices outlined in the plan. Applications are currently being accepted for fiscal year 2019 EQIP funding. Interested producers must first establish farm records with the Farm Services Agency, and verify that they and their land are eligible for funding.

Typical practices supported through EQIP funding in Southeast Alaska include nutrient management, crop rotation, cover crops, and high tunnels. High tunnels, also known as hoop houses or temporary greenhouses, extend the growing season so more food is produced before and after the traditional weather dates for growing stuff outdoors. They also can help with irrigation and drainage, and with pest control.

High tunnels differ from greenhouses in that crops are grown in the ground or in raised beds rather than in containers. Geodomes are also eligible for funding. Funding through EQIP requires the landowner to purchase a structure and install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Additional information can be found in the NRCS high tunnel fact sheet (attached), or by contacting the Juneau Field Office. Low tunnels, which usually involve some PVC pipe bent over a garden bed and covered with row cover, and homemade structures are not eligible in this program.

More information about NRCS programs can be found at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcseprd1338028.pdf or by contacting the Juneau Field Office at 907-586-7220.

• Information about the USDA NRCS high tunnel program in Alaska

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by attending the Sitka Farmers Markets on Aug. 4 and 11

The 19th annual National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 5-11 this year, so stop by the Sitka Farmers Markets to join the celebration, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, Aug. 4 and 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. This is the 11th season of Sitka Farmers Markets.

The annual National Farmers Market Week celebration is the first full week of August, when growing season is peaking around the country. Click here to read this year’s National Farmers Market Week proclamation from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

The number of farmers markets in the country has more than tripled since 1996, growing from 2,410 markets in 1996 to 8,675 in 2016. There has been similar growth in Alaska, and now markets can be found in many Bush communities from Bethel to Thorne Bay. This growth has improved Alaska’s food security while also serving as an incubator for new businesses.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition, farmers markets …

  • Preserve America’s rural livelihoods and farmland. Farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for beginning farmers, allowing them to start small, test the market, and grow their businesses.
  • Stimulate local economies. Growers selling locally create 13 full-time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those growers that do not sell locally create three jobs.
  • Increase access to fresh, nutritious food. Several  studies have found lower prices for conventional and organic produce at farmers markets than at supermarkets. Due to this and other factors, 52 percent more SNAP households shop at farmers markets and from direct marketing farmers today than in 2011. The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP and WIC benefits, and we have a matching program for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries.
  • Support healthy communities. Farmers market vendors educate their shoppers. Four out of five farmers selling at markets discuss farming practices with their customers, and three in five discuss nutrition and how to prepare food.
  • Promote sustainability. Three out of every four farmers selling at farmers markets say they use practices consistent with organic standards.