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

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

This month’s newsletter has short articles about Gimbal Botanicals winning the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, Sitka Farmers Market vendor registration information being available, an invitation for people to join the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, information about a variety of food classes at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, and information about the Sitka Local Foods Network 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).

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Gimbal Botanicals wins $1,500 prize in Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Gimbal Botanicals owner Hope Merritt, right, poses with her new interns, Nora Skeele, left, and Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield, during a recent trip to harvest seaweed. Gimbal Botanicals recently won $1,500 in the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, and Hope used the prize to hire interns to help her harvest, process and market her local wild food products. (Photo courtesy of Gimbal Botanicals)

Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals makes a sale during a 2014 Sitka Farmers Market (Photo by Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network)

With a young child eating into her time and a need to expand her business, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals wanted to hire a couple of interns to help harvest and process her beach asparagus, seaweed, kelp and other local wild foods. This month, Hope received a check for $1,500 after winning the established business category in the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The contest was for Sitka food businesses looking to start or grow their operations and was to provide two $1,500 prizes — one for established businesses and one for start-up businesses (younger than 2 years old) — but there were no entries in the start-up business category so no prize was awarded in that category.

“The Sitka Local Foods Network has had a long relationship with Hope and Gimbal Botanicals at the Sitka Farmers Market, so we’re excited to be able to help Hope grow her business,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “One of the reasons we launched this contest this year was to try and encourage new local food businesses or the expansion of existing businesses so we have more local food available for Sitka residents. With her local wild foods business, Hope and Gimbal Botanicals provide a true taste of Sitka.”

Gimbal Botanicals has been in business for about a decade, and Hope has been selling a variety of local wild foods such as tea blends, beach asparagus, etc., at the Sitka Farmers Market, Sitka Food Cooperative, to local restaurants and caterers, at Sitka businesses such as Wintersong Soaps and Evergreen Foods, on Allen Marine cruises, and in Juneau, Hoonah and other communities. She also sells her local wild food products on her website, http://www.gimbalbotanicals.com.

“I will use this award to increase my womanpower and in so there should be more products available,” Hope said. “I have already hired two women and because harvesting is still slow we are starting on marketing. We are working with Salt and Soil Marketplace (a regional food hub based in Juneau) right now to get products on their website. I would like to expand my availability with the Sitka Food Co-op. I have also considered a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, where farmers sell shares in their crops), or a CSH, Community Sustained Harvesting, as I might call it. In this model, customers would order in advanced from me for the whole season. Every time I harvest (about once every two weeks) customers would get their amount of fresh beach asparagus. It’s like pre-marketing.”

From left, Nora Skeele, Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield and Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals harvest seaweed. (Photo courtesy of Gimbal Botanicals)

With the prize money, Hope hired interns Nora Skeele and Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield, who already have been helping out with harvests and will help out with processing and sales. In addition, Hope is helped by her partner, Dan Littlefield, and her mother-in-law, Roby Littlefield.

“This money will help me continue to bring local sea veggies to local markets, beach asparagus and seaweeds as well as my teas,” Hope said, who added that she plans to continue to sell her products at the Sitka Farmers Market. “I am hoping for a bigger presence at the Sitka Food-Co-op this year, making nutritious foods more available for those who value them. All of my products are 100-percent organic. Bringing wild-harvested beach asparagus to the local markets brings a super nutritious food that would otherwise be unavailable to the consumer here in Sitka and Juneau.”

Hope said she takes pride in being able to ethically harvest her sea veggies, which keeps the products sustainable.

“It’s not good enough for me to try to be ethical and sustainable with our fragile eco-systems,” Hope said. “I take great care to ensure sustainable harvesting. The resources I harvest from are healthy and abundant enough to handle the effects of commercial harvesting. If that changes, then we will no longer have those products available.”

Hope also is working with Sitka Tribe of Alaska Social Services to develop an agreement, which hasn’t started yet, where she harvests for those tribal members who can’t get out to harvest themselves.

This was the first year of the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, and the Sitka Local Foods Network hoped there would be more entries. “In addition to providing more local food here in Sitka, we want the contest to encourage Sitka food businesses to enter some of the larger innovation contests, such as Path to Prosperity or the Symphony of Seafood,” Bingham said. “But we’re happy for Hope and Gimbal Botanicals, because this business is a good example of how a Sitka foods business can be innovative while sharing the taste of Sitka.”

“I’d like to express my gratitude for this award and the work that Sitka Local Foods Network does in this community,” Hope said. “By promoting local food we are taking valuable steps forward as a community to be more healthy and food secure. This is a passion of mine and why I continue to operate Gimbal Botanicals. I could not operate without the help of friends and family. Gimbal Botanicals is sustained through all the hours that family and friends have donated to the cause working often for tea and beach asparagus. Thanks to my family for supporting and understanding the importance of local, not just for its nutrition but as a way of life. With the expansion of my family, time has shifted and I am unable to produce what I could before motherhood. I will use the money to hire help with harvesting, processing, marketing and at the farmers market.”

• Sitka growers to contribute to local CSA venture

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

One of the latest trends in farming is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which enables people to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. Renee and Brian Pierce, who own the locally made kelp products and wild berry jelly shop Simple Pleasures of Alaska, are working with Sitka growers to start a small CSA venture with local produce during the summer growing season.

Renee Pierce said that instead of the CSA being a true farmers’ cooperative, she will buy produce from several local growers — including Florence Welsh of the Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals, Judy Johnstone of Sprucecot Gardens, Evening Star and Fabian Grutter of Eve’s Farm, and Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens. The CSA also will include produce from the Pierce Family’s Simple Pleasures garden.

The Sitka CSA will start small, with membership slots for just 25 families the first year. Renee Pierce said of those 25 slots, only about 10 memberships are left. CSA members will commit to paying $50 plus tax every other week, which will give the member families a selection of produce that includes some organic produce purchased from Organically Grown Company of Portland, Ore. During the months when Sitka growers aren’t producing many vegetables, there will be more produce purchased from Organically Grown Company. There also will be an option to buy bread at $6 a loaf beyond the price of the produce box.

The produce selection includes many crops that can be grown in Sitka — such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, green beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, tomatoes, etc. But with the Organically Grown Company providing some of the produce, CSA members also can choose items that aren’t regular Sitka crops — such as bananas, lemons, limes, pineapples, oranges, etc.

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce said she has worked with Organically Grown Company for about four years, purchasing organic produce for the Pierce family and several friends and other Sitka residents who heard about the venture (at one point she had about 60-70 families buying from her). She said she orders produce by the case, and it is available for pick-up from 3-6 p.m. every other Monday afternoon at the Simple Pleasures store next to Kettleson Memorial Library. The first pick-up day for the Sitka CSA is March 29 (which will be for the 15 or so families that already have reserved a spot in the CSA), and the next pick-up day is April 12. CSA members are encouraged to bring their own bags and/or boxes on pick-up days.

The pick-up days are slated to be during the weeks between the every-other-week Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, which will give local growers and buyers the opportunity to buy and sell local produce for both. Renee said there will be some produce extras for families that want to adjust their allotments, but everybody’s allotted produce value will be $50. If you add from the extras you will need to pay the difference, and if you give up some produce you don’t want so your value dips below $50 there are no refunds. She said the CSA is being done as a community service and it’s meant to just break even so the bills get paid.

To learn more about the Sitka CSA, contact Renee Pierce at 738-0044 (cell) or 747-3814 (home). You also can e-mail her at mpierce@ptialaska.net.

• Sitka Farmers Market on the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Corvallis (Ore.) Gazette-Times sites

Screenshot from the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site with the Sitka Farmers Market story

Screenshot from the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site with the Sitka Farmers Market story

The Daily Sitka Sentinel article from mid-July previewing this year’s series of Sitka Farmers Market events continues to make the rounds of publications in the Lower 48. Click here to see the article posted on the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site.

The article also made its way to the Gazette-Times of Corvallis, Ore. (click here to see the article).

Screenshot of the Sitka Farmers Market article in the Gazette-Times of Corvallis, Ore.

Screenshot of the Sitka Farmers Market article in the Gazette-Times of Corvallis, Ore.

• Juneau Empire features Sitka Farmers Market Table of the Day Award winners

Screenshot from Sunday's Juneau Empire with the Table of the Day Award for Hope Merritt and Judy Johnstone at the third Sitka Farmers Market of the summer (Aug. 15).

Screenshot from Sunday's Juneau Empire with the Table of the Day Award for Hope Merritt and Judy Johnstone at the third Sitka Farmers Market of the summer (Aug. 15).

Click here to see the photo in Sunday’s Juneau Empire of Sitka Farmers Market (Aug. 15) Table of the Day Award winners Hope Merritt and Judy Johnstone of Gimbal Botanicals and Sprucecot Gardens. Presenting the award is Ellen Frankenstein.

Join us for the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, 235 Katlian St.

• Hope Merritt, Judy Johnstone win Table of the Day Award from third Sitka Farmers Market

Hope Merritt, left, and Judy Johnstone, right, of Gimbal Botanicals and Sprucecot Gardens receive the Table of the Day Award from Ellen Frankenstein during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Aug. 15.

Hope Merritt, left, and Judy Johnstone, right, of Gimbal Botanicals and Sprucecot Gardens receive the Table of the Day Award from Ellen Frankenstein during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Aug. 15.

Hope Merritt and Judy Johnstone of Gimbal Botanicals and Sprucecot Gardens won the “Table of the Day Award” for the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Aug. 15.

The Sitka Local Foods Network selected the shared table — which featured a variety of fresh produce, herbal teas and ornamental plants — to receive the $25 cash prize, an Alaska Farmers Market Association tote bag, a DVD of “Eating Alaska” and a certificate of appreciation. A similar prize package will be awarded to a deserving vendor at each of the four remaining Sitka Farmers Markets.

The fourth market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. Keep your eye on this site for more information.

Also, a new photo gallery from the third Sitka Farmers Market on Aug. 15 has been posted on Shutterfly (an online photo-sharing site). Click this link to check out the photos.

Maybelle Filler, left, Ellen Frankenstein, center, and Lisa Sadleir-Hart at the Sitka Local Foods Network booth.

Maybelle Filler, left, Ellen Frankenstein, center, and Lisa Sadleir-Hart at the Sitka Local Foods Network booth.

Sammee of Sammee's Creations shows off some of her beaded jewelry

Sammee of Sammee's Creations shows off some of her beaded jewelry