As David Whitmire and Mary Smith ran their 50-foot commercial troller, the F/V Virga, outside of Sitka last summer, Mary spent her downtime reading some of the Edible Communities magazines (Edible Seattle, Edible Santa Barbara, Edible Cape Cod, etc.).
“She’s been reading them for quite a while,” David said. “I’d hear her say, ‘This will be a good article for Edible Alaska,’ or ‘I can’t believe there’s no Edible Alaska yet.’ Last year, while we were trolling for silvers, she said, ‘We’ve gotta do it.'”
The first 40-page issue of Edible Alaska was printed last week and will soon be in newsstands around the state. The magazine is free at local newsstands, or you can order a subscription to guarantee you get your copy. In addition to the quarterly printed version of the magazine, there will be regular website updates in between issues.
David is listed as the magazine’s publisher, while his wife, Mary, is listed as managing editor. They think they are the 79th, 80th or 81st magazine in the Edible Communities group of magazines for the United States and Canada, but aren’t sure which because Edible Asheville and Edible Bronx also launched about the same time.
When they finally called the Edible Communities group about starting Edible Alaska, David and Mary found out they hadn’t been the only ones with the idea. They were the third people to ask about starting Edible Alaska. One of them moved out of state shortly after asking about the magazine, and the other, Evie Witten, is now the creative director for Edible Alaska while she launches her Anchorage-based fermented foods business, Evie’s Brinery.
“We want to support the food system all across the state,” Mary said. “We don’t want to be just a foodie magazine. We want stories so good you’ll be hungry for more.”
Each issue will feature recipes, do-it-yourself guides, chef profiles, info about growing your own food, hunting and fishing, some food policy issues, and more. The first issue includes stories about Double Shovel Cider (Alaska’s first commercial hard cidery), food hubs in Alaska, Spring Creek Farm, Farragut Farm from outside Petersburg, the Sawmill Farm in Sitka, how to make salmon burgers, a back-of-the-house restaurant feature, a taste of Juneau, the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network, and more.
“We’re celebrating innovation, like with Farragut Farm where they farm on an island and bring all their produce to town on a skiff,” Mary said. “We want to focus on opportunities, such as how people are getting past barriers to local food.”
While Edible Communities can be likened to a franchise operation, where the magazines follow a similar formula. Mary and David want Edible Alaska to stand out. They want to feature stories about the diverse cultural and community aspects of food in Alaska, and they want them to be authentic with Alaska writers and photographers telling the stories.
“I’m interested in food security,” David said. “For example, at the Alaska Food Policy Council conference in February, we met some guys who are growing greens through hydroponics. All of our schools have power throughout the year, so the kids could be growing their own salad greens.”
“We also learned about how elders can now get their traditional foods in their care facilities,” Mary said.
David and Mary spend about half of their year in Sitka, with the rest spent all over the state and in the Lower 48 where they market their fish through their company Springline Seafood. Their troller now is home-ported out of Sitka (though it says Hoonah on the boat). They used to home-port the boat in Homer, where they have a mailing service moving their mail around to their various ports of call.
David is a long-time commercial fisherman who has fished all over the state, and he also spends time working a gold mine in Nome. Before moving to Alaska to marry David and commercial fish, Mary was trained as a chef through Culinary Institutes of America and spent many years as marketing manager for seafood companies in Santa Monica, Calif., and Chicago.
“As word got out about Edible Alaska, the support has been overwhelming,” Mary said. “We see this as something that belongs to the whole state of Alaska.”
“This is going to be a fun project,” David added.