Sitka Conservation Society to host annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sunday, Nov. 13

The Sitka Conservation Society is thrilled to once again be able to invite the community to its Wild Foods Potluck.

Join us beginning at 5pm on Sunday, Nov. 13, at Harrigan Centennial Hall for an evening celebrating the connections that bind us together: food, community, and this place we call home.

Please bring a dish featuring ingredients that were fished, foraged, hunted, or cultivated in Southeast Alaska. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and dinner will begin at 5:45 p.m.

This event is open to the entire community. Come celebrate Alaska’s wild food bounty. Prizes will be awarded for generosity, presentation, and tastiness. This event is open to the entire community.

The Sitka Conservation Society could never pull off an event this big without help from volunteers, members, and our community. Interested in volunteering at the potluck or want more information? Contact info@sitkawild.org or call 747-7509. Current members should be able to pick up their 2023 SCS calendar at the dinner.

Registration open for 2023 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit

Registration for the 2023 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit opened this week. The event takes place from Thursday to Saturday, Feb. 23-25, 2023, at Holy Cross House in Petersburg. This is the first in-person Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit since the 2019 event in Sitka. The plan was to hold one in Petersburg in 2022, but it was postponed (and converted to an online event) due to COVID-19.

To learn more and register for the summit, please visit the website at http://www.seakfarmerssummit.com. Space is limited so please reserve your spot ASAP. Travel scholarships are available for those in need of financial assistance, there is a low-cost bunkhouse lodging option, and meals are included in the registration package.

Also, we are working with partners to offer two informative pre-summit workshops, which will take place on Feb 21-22.  Learn important farm and food safety practices through the Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course, offered by Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and be inspired to improve your sales strategies through the Farmers Marketing Workshop organized by Ecotrust. Both workshops are absolutely FREE and open to all Farmers Summit participants — you can register for one or both on the SEAK Farmers Summit website.

We hope to see you all in Petersburg this winter. Mark your calendars and reserve your spot today. For more information, email seakfarmerssummit@gmail.com.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm attains People’s Garden designation from USDA

The Sitka Local Foods Network’s St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has been admitted to the USDA People’s Garden Initiative, which recently was rekindled after going dormant during the Trump Administration. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm held People’s Garden status in the original program, which launched in 2009.

When the USDA relaunched the program this spring, it initially included the garden at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and 17 other gardens in major cities around the country. In September, the USDA opened the program to other gardens around the country, and organizations could apply for the program by going to the People’s Garden website and applying.

According to the USDA, school gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and small-scale agriculture projects in rural and urban areas can be recognized as a “People’s Garden” if they:  

  • Benefit the community by providing food, green space, wildlife habitat, education space.
  • Are a collaborative effort. This can include groups working together with USDA agencies, food banks, Girl Scouts, Master Gardeners, conservation districts, etc.
  • Incorporate conservation management practices, such as using native plant species, rain barrels, integrated pest management, xeriscaping.
  • Educate the public about sustainable gardening practices and the importance of local, diverse and resilient food systems providing healthy food for the community.

“St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has been a tremendous resource for getting local produce into the hands of Sitka residents,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “We started the communal garden after the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, and we’ve been building on it ever since. It’s where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the Sitka Farmers Market each summer. In 2020 and 2021 we added two high tunnels, which allowed us to extend our growing season and reduced the impact of recent cold, wet summer weather.”

Laura Schmidt has been the lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for a dozen years. In 2019, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm earned a Certified Naturally Grown designation, meaning it follows sustainable gardening principles, such as not using chemical fertilizers or GMOs. The People’s Garden website currently shows five gardens in Alaska with the designation.

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2023

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 2023. The goal of the sponsorship program is to make the projects we undertake (Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, gardening education, food business development, 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 community 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 places a high value on local food and businesses, fun, premium quality goods and experiences.”

In recent years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted 7-8 Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer (from July to September). Due to COVID-19, we had to greatly scale back our 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets, focusing just on produce sales and using an online sales portal, but we did double our number of market weeks. In 2021, we hosted an outdoor-only market that brought back some of our vendors. In 2022, we returned to our usual venue of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall after a two-year absence, and we almost had a normal market (with masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and no half-tables to spread out vendors). We haven’t set our 2023 market dates yet, but we anticipate we will have a more normal market experience this year.

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. In March 2020 we built a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and we were able to add another new high tunnel before the 2021 growing season. These high tunnels allowed us to extend our growing season and helped reduce the impact of our last couple of cold, wet summers. We usually offer a variety of garden education classes in the spring. And one way we ensured 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 market), courtesy of recent grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop and the Sitka Legacy Foundation.

In 2018 we launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, and have continued the program with the expectation of hosting it again in 2023 (our 2022 winners were Gretchen Stelzenmuller of Enoki Eatery and the duo of Edith Johnson and Lexi Fish-Hackett of an unnamed fish broth project). We also have hosted the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser for more than a decade, with 2018 and 2019 in partnership with Youth Advocates of Sitka but canceled in 2020-22 due to COVID-19. In addition, we support other local food projects in Sitka, such as the Fish to Schools lunch program and the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

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 June 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 sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2023 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

Public comment period open until Oct. 31 for Alaska Food Security and Independence Task Force 2022 Report

The public comment period is open until Oct. 31 for the draft Alaska Food Security and Independence Task Force 2022 Report. Please submit any comments via email to ced.fstfcomments@alaska.gov

“The goals of this task force are to increase food security, strengthen local economies, and lessen Alaska’s dependence on external foods and supply chains.

“The Task Force will review and provide recommendations to the Governor of the State of Alaska regarding food security goals and policies, and guidelines for state initiatives that, to the maximum extent possible, increase local production, harvest, processing, storage, and use of food products. Once the report is received, there may be further clarification and deliverables identified that would require additional work by the Task Force.”

You can learn more about the task force and download the draft report at this link, https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/FoodSecurityTaskForce.aspx

Thanks for a successful 15th season of the Sitka Farmers Market

The Sitka Local Foods Network just completed its 15th season of hosting the Sitka Farmers Market. We hope Sitka residents enjoyed the market, and we plan to be back next summer for a 16th season.

Over the last couple of years, we had to make some adjustments as we dealt with this Covid-19 pandemic thing, which meant relocating our market for two years and reformatting it in one of those years. This year we were able to return to our usual venue, the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, even though we still had to require masks when we had markets during high-Covid risk weeks. 

But we got through it and hope to have a better season next year.

The Sitka Local Foods Network couldn’t host the market without the support of a wide range of sponsors. We have a tiered sponsorship program with four levels — Grower ($2,500-plus), Harvester ($1,000-$2,499), Planter ($250-$999) and Friend ($50-$249). These are local businesses and individuals, and even a few not from Sitka, who are supporting our programs.

Our Grower Level sponsors in 2022 included the Alaska Cancer Partnership (a program of the Alaska Division of Public Health), The Alaska Community Foundation, and Alaska Food Policy Council.

Our Harvester Level sponsors were the Sitka Salmon Shares 1% For The Wild Fund, Sitka Legacy Foundation, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka White Elephant Shop (White E), the GCI Gives Fund, ALPS Federal Credit Union, and the Alaska Farmers Markets Association.

Our Planter Level sponsors were Harry Race Pharmacy/White’s Inc., Sea Mart, Market Center, Fish and Family Seafoods, the Sitka Employees of First National Bank Alaska, Sitka True Value, Linda Schmidt, Amanda Anjum, David and Margaret Steward, and Charles Bingham.

Our Friend Level sponsors included Beth Short-Rhoads, Patricia Atkinson, Guillermo Espinoza, Ehsan Espinoza, Robb Garni, Jud Kirkness, Catherine Allgood-Mellema, Joe Leghorn, Pat Hanson, Beth Kindig, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Jaime Zelhuber, Christina Kowalczewski, Traci Gale, Math Trafton, Zoe Trafton, Leah Mason, Moira McBride, Steve Paustian and Mary Beth Nelson, Aubrey Nelson, and Robin Sherman. 

We thank you for your support. We also appreciate everybody who came to one of our markets this summer to support the local businesses selling local food or arts and crafts. 

This brings us to our offseason, where we plan and raise funds for 2023. The Sitka Local Foods Network is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. In addition to the Sitka Farmers Market, we grow food at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, sponsor the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, and connect residents to education opportunities for growing, cooking, and preserving local food. 

We always need new board members and volunteers. For more information, go to our website at www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org or contact SLFN Board President Charles Bingham at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service to offer online Welcoming Winter food preservation class series

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will offer the Welcoming Winter: Virtual Home Care and Food Preservation Workshops class series this fall.

Workshops will be taught by UAF Cooperative Extension Agent Sarah Lewis, from her home kitchen in Juneau, and Program Assistant Gina Dionne from her home kitchen in Anchorage. You can join them from your home kitchen anywhere in Alaska (or the world).

Sarah and Gina will offer resources, publications, and information for each class, but the real fun will happen on Zoom. You can watch or cook along in real time, or watch and cook along with the class recording at your own pace. Classes will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesdays via Zoom.

Prepare for Winter in September
Sept. 20: Create a Food Secure Pantry
Sept. 27: Winterizing Your Home and Garden
Make Sausage and Pickles in October
Oct. 11: Making Sauerkraut and Relish
Oct. 18: Making Wild Game Sausage
Focus on Holiday Food in November
Nov. 15: Canning Fruits and Berries: A Taste of Summer for the Holidays
Nov 29: Canning Holiday Leftovers

Each class requires separate registration and participants may register for one or all of the classes. Classes cost $12 each. The deadline for registering is at 5 p.m. on the day before each class. Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made five business days in advance to Sarah Lewis at 907-523-3280 x1 or sarah.lewis@alaska.edu.

Language access services, such as interpretation or translation of vital information, will be provided free of charge to limited English proficient individuals upon request. UAF is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, educational institution and provider and prohibits illegal discrimination against
any individual: www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination.

Alaska Food Policy Council releases food system action plan

HOMER, Alaska (Sept. 12, 2022) — The Alaska Food Policy Council has released the results and food security action plan from a USDA Regional Food System Partnership program grant for Alaska received in 2020.

This two-year process involved local food system leaders in 13 regional nodes around the state, including one in Sitka hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network. The node leaders looked at their local and regional food systems, and how they connect with food systems in other parts of the state. The project also taught the node leaders how to develop and connect the people and companies within their local food systems to strengthen them.

Alaska has major food security issues, with an estimated 90-95 percent of all food coming to the state from somewhere else. One of the long-term goals of this project is to use the information gathered to create a 10-year statewide food security plan.

“This two-year project has engaged communities from around the state, bringing together Alaskans who care deeply about building a better food system,” Alaska Food Policy Council Executive Director Robbi Mixon said. “The resulting food security plan contains actionable ideas that can be implemented by communities in a way that makes sense for their own place-based needs and capacities.”

The three main objectives of this project are to improve the connection and collaboration of local and regional food systems around the state to improve Alaska’s food system; to identify food system assets, barriers, and capacities to help with the connection and collaboration; and to create a statewide food security plan that is informed by the regional nodes representing a variety of locations and stakeholder groups.

The next step is to apply for a USDA Rural Food System Partnership Implementation grant. This will allow state food system leaders to build on this groundwork and improve Alaska’s food security.

More information on the project and a link to the report can be found at https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/blog/2022/9/8/2022-regional-food-system-partnership-project-report-amp-food-security-action-plan-released

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The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.

Sitka Local Foods Network seeks volunteers to help with Sitka Farmers Markets

Are you passionate about local foods? Healthy eating? The environment? Local nonprofits? Come volunteer with us.

The Sitka Local Foods Network seeks a few good volunteers to assist us with the Sitka Farmers Market this summer. The markets are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 2, July 16, July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 10, and Sept. 24 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street).

We need people to help the market manager set up tables and tents, starting about 8:30 a.m., and to help clean up and pack up the market for about an hour after the market ends. We also need people to help sell locally grown produce and Alaska Grown value-added products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand during the market. Other duties include helping us get a count of how many people actually attend the markets and helping customers find their favorite booths.

No experience necessary, but our ideal volunteers will be punctual, passionate, and dependable. Partial shifts are available.

For more details on how to volunteer, contact Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James at (808) 778-9888 or assistant manager Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. Be sure to include your name, phone, and email contact information and which markets you can assist with, and for how long. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Earn SLFN farm stand vouchers through the Walk, Bike, Win! downtown commuting challenge

Most Sitkans know by now that we’re expecting a record number of cruise ship visitors this summer and to help with the crowds the city is closing part of Lincoln Street on heavy cruise ship passenger days.

To help ease traffic and reduce cars downtown on these heavy cruise ship passenger days, the Walk, Bike, Win! downtown commuter challenge started on May 7 and runs through Sept. 29. As part of the challenge, people log their active transportation trips (walking, biking, etc.) downtown and earn points.

As part of the challenge, people earning 25 points can receive a $15 voucher to use at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market. You can use the voucher to buy fresh local produce grown in Sitka at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. You also can use the vouchers to buy any of our Alaska Grown value-added products, such as chocolate from Sitka’s Theobroma Chocolate or Girdwood’s Chugach Chocolates, barley products from Delta Junction’s Alaska Flour Company, kelp salsa products from Juneau’s Barnacle Foods, or kelp pesto or pasta sauce from Ketchikan’s Foraged & Found. There is a limited number of vouchers available.

The Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand usually is located in the BIHA parking lot next to the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, although we sometimes move it inside if we have a low number of vendors scheduled for that market. The Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 2, 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27, Sept. 10, and 24 — at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). This is the only booth where you can use the vouchers at the market, and the vouchers are only accepted at the market and there is no change. See you at the market.