Path To Prosperity contest seeks innovative food businesses for 2017 competition

Two Southeast Alaska businesses were recognized as innovative entrepreneurs in the 2016 Path To Prosperity sustainable business competition. Skya’ana Coffee Company of Klawock (Tina Steffen, left) and Wild Alaska Kelp Company of Juneau (Matt Kern, right) will each receive up to $40,000 in seed money for consulting/technical assistance to develop the business concept, along with support in finding investor funding. (Photos by Michael Penn, Juneau Empire)

Are you trying to launch or grow a food business?  The 2017 Path To Prosperity Competition (P2P) sustainable business competition aims to identify and support innovative Southeast Alaska food businesses.  Supporting local food businesses reduces Southeast Alaska’s dependence on imports, strengthens community resiliency, and promotes sustainable use of the region’s natural bounty.

Path To Prosperity is a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Spruce Root, Inc. (formerly the Haa Aaní Community Development Fund, Inc.). Spruce Root and TNC are committed to strengthening local food systems by supporting food entrepreneurs from across the region. In previous years, the Path To Prosperity competition included a variety of businesses, such as locally made skis and guitars, but this year the competition is focused on food.

“We’re excited to try something a little different for the next round and connect with the growing local foods movement in Southeast Alaska,” says P2P competition administrator Paul Hackenmueller. “This year’s competition will provide resources to help local food entrepreneurs incorporate social, economic, and environmental sustainability techniques into their business models.”

Eligible businesses must operate primarily in Southeast Alaska and be involved in the growing, harvesting, processing, aggregation, preparation or distribution of food. “P2P applicants can be existing businesses or start-ups, but do not need to submit a full business plan in the first round of the application process,” said Paul Hackenmueller, P2P competition administrator. “We want to encourage new entrepreneurs to apply, even if they haven’t started their business yet, so the Round 1 application doesn’t require a full business plan.  We only ask for a basic description of the business concept.” P2P helps entrepreneurs identify ways to make their businesses profitable, while also having positive social and environmental impacts on their communities.

Twelve applicants will be selected as finalists to advance to Round 2 of the competition and attend P2P’s innovative Business Boot Camp weekend in Juneau. All 12 finalists receive one-on-one mentorship and consulting that they can use to help write their business plans and grow their businesses after they return to their communities. The Boot Camp experience is valuable for all finalists who attend, whether or not they win the competition.

“Thanks to P2P, I have a clear vision of where I am headed and a solid business plan that I developed as the roadmap to the future of our company,” said Tina Steffen of Skya’ana Coffee Company in Klawock, one of two winners of the 2016 competition.

Timeline for 2017 Path To Prosperity Competition

  • April 1, 2017 – Application Period Opens
  • May 9, 2017 – Webinar
  • May 31, 2017 – Applications Due
  • July 7, 2017 – Announce Finalists Advancing to Round 2
  • Sept. 29 to Oct.1, 2017 – Boot Camp Weekend in Juneau
  • Dec. 3, 2017 – Business Plan Submissions Deadline
  • February 2018 –Two Winners Announced

The competition is open to all Southeast Alaska residents.  This includes individuals, for-profit businesses and tribal entities.

For more information on how to apply or learn more, click here.

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USDA awards $496,840 grant to Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition to develop a food hub network

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logo_southeast-alaska-watershed-council_15Farmers and fishermen in Southeast Alaska will soon be able to expand their markets through a recent grant to the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and its partners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grant was part of more than $56 million in local and community food system and organic research grants announced on Sept. 28. This was the only project from Alaska to receive funding.

The grant award is for $496,840, with a match of $178,327, and it will be used to sell and distribute local foods throughout the region over the next three years.  This is the grant description posted with the list of grant winners in the Local Food Promotion Program:

Localizing the Food System in Southeast Alaska: Building Markets and Supply Award

In Southeast Alaska, a more reliable food supply and improved access to local food are critical to self‐reliance and community resiliency. The vast majority of food consumed in Southeast Alaska is shipped in by barge or plane thus increasing its cost and decreasing its nutritional value. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC) and its diverse partners propose to increase the consumption of, access to, and production of Southeast Alaska (SEAK) local foods. This will be accomplished by developing new market opportunities using a food hub model. Through a two‐part approach, SAWC and partners will; 1) provide critical training, technical assistance, and business development services to local food entrepreneurs; and 2) increase the consumption of and access to locally produced products through the development of the Southeast Alaska Food Hub Network (SEAK‐FHN).

The Southeast Alaska Watershed Council is working with Haa Aaní, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and the Takshanuk Watershed Council (Haines) to develop the regional food hub, which they hope will improve food security in the region while also developing new food-related businesses.

TraysOfSalmonPortionsAccording to a post on the Southeast Alaska Watershed Council website, “In Southeast Alaska, improved access to local foods and a more reliable food supply are critical components of self-reliance and community resiliency. Residents of the region’s rural communities face high and rising costs of living, a declining state economy, and dependence upon air and water transport for delivery of basic commodities including food and petroleum products. According to a report commissioned by the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, 95 percent of the food purchased in Alaska is imported, often shipped through extensive supply chains arriving by truck, airplane, and barge.

“The high cost of imported foods and lengthy supply chain make Southeast Alaska communities vulnerable to unforeseen disruptions in larger national food and transport systems, and send local dollars outside of the state. Many communities throughout the region have begun prioritizing the development of a localized food system to promote economic development, increase food security, and bolster the resiliency of Southeast Alaska communities.”

savethedateIn an interview with KSTK-FM radio in Petersburg, SAWC Executive Director Angie Flickinger said the system would be based on an online marketplace, allowing producers such as existing farms in Haines and Petersburg to sell their products throughout the region. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition is based in Wrangell and has member community watershed coalitions in Haines, Skagway, Juneau and on Prince of Wales Island.

“And we would allow consumers to go on there and purchase foods,” Flickinger said. “We would set distribution centers where we would aggregate those foods and either ship them out, or set up a date where folks from the community could come and pick up those foods.”

Flickinger said the coalition hopes to build two distribution centers in Juneau and Haines. Both distribution centers will have cold-storage facilities, and will be certified by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for food safety. The project also will help host the second biannual Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit on Feb. 24-27, 2017, in Haines.

Flickinger told KSTK that this idea was sparked from a feasibility study the Takshanuk Watershed Council did last year examining the market for local foods in Haines.

“So that kind of helped spawn this concept where we thought if we combined a lot of these producers who are based throughout the region, we could create a bigger market and make it more accessible.”

Local food ventures from Sitka, Petersburg win 2015 Path to Prosperity competition

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2015 Path to Prosperity competition winners Mindy Anderson of the Salty Pantry in Petersburg (fourth from left) and Bobbi Daniels of the Sawmill Farm in Sitka (fifth from left) pose with the organizers of the annual Southeast Alaska-based economic development contest, which is sponsored by Haa Aaní CDFI and The Nature Conservancy. Mindy and Bobbi each won $40,000 in technical support to help develop and improve their business plans. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Goodrich from Sustainable Southeast)

P2P_logoThe Path to Prosperity (P2P) has announced the winners of this year’s sustainable business development competition. The Sawmill Farm in Sitka and The Salty Pantry in Petersburg were selected as the winning businesses for the 2015 competition. Winners were featured at the 2016 Innovation Summit Feb. 8 at Centennial Hall in Juneau, where they received a $40,000 award, as well as one year of business development support.

Bobbi Daniels with two goats (Photo courtesy of Lori Adams of Down-To-Earth U-Pick Gardens)

Bobbi Daniels with two of her goats (Photo courtesy of Lori Adams of Down-To-Earth U-Pick Gardens)

“Anyone who has ever started a business knows how overwhelming it is to manage the whole picture and move forward, and doing that has you too busy to connect with the help that you need to make your job easier. P2P closes that gap,” said Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm, who was making her third appearance as a finalist in the competition.

The Sawmill Farm uses cast-off food from grocery stores and restaurants to feed locally raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free livestock. “Winning this award radically changes how quickly we will be able to grow The Sawmill Farm,” Daniels said.

Mindy Anderson, owner of The Salty Pantry, agrees. “The Path to Prosperity competition has taught me to take an in-depth look into my business idea of opening a small market and deli in Petersburg, by guiding me through the process of completing a business plan I can use as a valuable tool for planning, operating my business, recruiting, and for driving my business in the future,” said Anderson.

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The Salty Pantry (photo from The Salty Pantry page on Facebook)

The Salty Pantry will be a family-owned deli in Petersburg, specializing in rustic comfort dishes made with seasonal produce from local producers. The commercial kitchen will be available for local artisans to create products to sell and for educating the community through cooking classes, demonstrations and on the job training.

The Sawmill Farm and The Salty Pantry were selected from several applications from Southeast Alaska businesses. In July, 12 finalists were chosen and they received technical support to develop their business plans. That included a three-day boot camp held in Juneau. In addition to The Sawmill Farm, there was a second Sitka project among the 12 finalists, Matthew Jackson’s Sitka Seedling Farms.

Continued Success

P2P is a partnership between Haa Aaní CDFI (Community Development Fund) and The Nature Conservancy. The contest targets Southeast Alaska residents with ideas for triple-bottom-line-oriented businesses; those that will have a positive economic, social, and environmental impact on their communities. Over three competition cycles, the program has received applications from more than 105 businesses and start-ups from across Southeast Alaska, and has provided intense management training to 36 entrepreneurs during the signature business boot camp weekend in Juneau.

The program’s success has garnered attention from beyond Southeast. In 2015, Path to Prosperity was presented a Silver Award for Excellence in Economic Development by the International Economic Development Council. Joe Morrison of Biz21 Consulting in Anchorage has praised the program for its results. “Path to Prosperity is a results-driven competition — you can see the impact it’s having by looking at its outcomes, and the businesses that have been through the program. It is the best-in-class business development program in Alaska,” said Morrison.

A unique feature of the program is that the resources at boot camp weekend benefit all twelve finalists, regardless of whether or not they go on to win the program. “Although I did not win the competition, the information, education and consulting that I received was invaluable,” said 2015 finalist Tina Steffen of Skya’ana Coffee Company in Klawock. “This competition has changed the way I run my businesses. I am so thankful for everything that I learned through P2P. Be it a start-up or an existing business, participating in the Path 2 Prosperity Competition is a valuable experience.”

Looking Toward the Future

Haa Aaní CDFI and The Nature Conservancy are excited with the level of entrepreneurial activity the competition has inspired, and as sponsors, they are seeking funding to continue the program.“The number of participants receiving technical assistance and training resources from our rural communities has been increasing,” said Ed Davis, director of Haa Aaní CDFI. “The strong relationships Haa Aani has built across the region has helped bring this program and its resources to our communities. Program participants and partners recognize this, and it is a key component of P2P’s success.”

Norman Cohen, Southeast Alaska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, is eager to see Path to Prosperity supporting innovative regional entrepreneurs. “The businesses making sustainable use of local natural resources are the ones that will form the backbone of sustainable economies and vibrant rural communities for years to come,” said Cohen.

This year’s winners are just happy for the support. “I am in awe of the long-term vision of Haa Aaní and The Nature Conservancy to understand that the future of sustainability lies in entrepreneurship,” said Daniels. “We are honored to be able to count them in our corner.”

The 2016 competition will launch in March and April, when the program will visit several villages in the region to recruit participants. Those in larger Southeast Alaska communities can contact the contest organizers for information about how to participate. To learn more, please visit http://www.p2pweb.org/ or email p2p@sealaska.com.

• Path to Prosperity economic development contest semifinalists include two Sitka-based agriculture projects

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Two Sitka residents with agriculture projects have been named among the 12 semifinalists in the annual Path to Prosperity economic development contest for Southeast Alaska.

This is the third year of the contest, and Bobbi Daniels’ The Sawmill Farm project has been a semifinalist each year. New to the program is the Sitka Seedling Farms project by Sitka Local Foods Network Vice-President Matthew Jackson (who goes by Jackson). A total of 28 projects promoting economic development in Southeast Alaska were entered this year, and more details about the 12 semifinalist projects can be found here.

The year-long Path to Prosperity program provides budding entrepreneurs with the technical assistance they need to develop business plans and follow them through to successful businesses. The program is sponsored by Haa Aaní Community Development Fund, Inc. and The Nature Conservancy, with the goal to develop community resiliency by supporting Southeast Alaska entrepreneurs with creating a business plan.

Applications were solicited in March, with an informational webinar in April and application due date of May 31. The entries were whittled down to 12 semifinalists in July. The semifinalists will attend a three-day business boot camp in September, then they have until Dec. 1 to submit a business plan.

A panel of five judges from the business community will select two winning business plans in February, which each receive $40,000 seed funding for consulting and technical assistance to develop their businesses. The remaining 10 semifinalists will then compete through social media for the People’s Choice Award, which will give an additional $40,000 to one semifinalist.

Here is the list of the 2015 Path to Prosperity semifinalists:

  1. Alaska Accessible Adventures, Juneau, Lindsay Halvik
  2. AlaskaSmart Biodiesel, Hoonah, Jeff Hastings
  3. Columbine Farm, Haines, Spencer Douthit
  4. Micki’s House, Hydaburg, Margaret O’Neil
  5. Northern Edge Craftworks, Juneau, Reid Harris
  6. Petersburg Indian Association, Petersburg, Marco Banda
  7. Sandbar Bed and Breakfast, Metlakatla, Karen Thompson
  8. Sitka Seedling Farms, Sitka, Matthew Jackson
  9. Skya’ana Coffee Co., Klawock, Tina Steffen
  10. The Salty Pantry Market and Deli, Petersburg, Mindy Anderson
  11. The Sawmill Farm, Sitka, Bobbi Daniels
  12. Wrangell Cooperative Association, Wrangell, Aaron Angerman

• Registration opens for Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to School Conference on April 2-3 in Juneau

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Registration has begun for the inaugural Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to Schools Conference, which takes place April 2-3 at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

This event will be the first regional opportunity focused on building connections between Alaska’s school systems and local food entrepreneurs. Anyone interested in bringing more local foods into our school system is invited to collaborate and connect with regional experts to strengthen fish and farm to school programming across the state.

Southeast Conference, the regional economic development organization, is coordinating the conference in conjunction with the newly formed Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a diverse network of organizations working together on community sustainability in Southeast Alaska.

Farm&Fish-logo-on-photos Cropped“Often we find that the barriers to achieving access to local, healthy foods can be overcome if we work together as a region to make this initiative a priority,” said Alana Peterson, program director of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Haa Aani, Community Development Fund Inc. “By bringing all the key players together for a conference we are hoping to achieve just that.”

Fish and farm to school programming offers significant economic, environmental cultural and nutritional opportunities to our rural communities and region.

“Schools in southeast received more than $500,000 last year to buy Alaskan produced foods through the Nutritional Alaska Foods to Schools grant program.” said Shelly Wright, Executive Director of Southeast Conference. “However, schools are often limited by what they can procure. There are untapped opportunities for, farmers, fishermen and small business in our region. We are eager to break down barriers and grow the opportunities for everyone.”

Online registration and more detailed conference information is available at http://www.seconference.org/southeast-farm-and-fish-schools-conference. Register before Feb. 28 to be eligible for a travel stipend. For more information, contact Lia Heifetz at growsoutheast@gmail.com.

• Rabbit, goat highlight Sawmill Farm’s farm-to-table dinner at Ludvig’s Bistro

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Locally raised rabbit and goat meat from Ketchikan were the highlights of a fundraising farm-to-table dinner for the Sawmill Farm on Jan. 31 at Ludvig’s Bistro.

In an effort to raise seed money for her Sawmill Farm project, Bobbi Daniels worked with Ludvig’s Bistro owner/chef Colette Nelson to create a five-course meal featuring locally sourced food from Sitka and Southeast Alaska. Tickets were $75 per plate for the function.

Bobbi already is raising rabbits in town, and she said goats also do well in Sitka. Bobbi hopes to find a large enough lot so she can grow enough rabbits to supply local stores with meat. She said rabbit meat is one of the cleanest meats as far as toxins, and it only takes 10 weeks to raise a rabbit to harvest size. The Sawmill Farm was one of 12 semifinalists in the recent Path to Prosperity economic development contest sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and Haa Aaní Community Development Fund, and now is competing for the people’s choice award.

Working with local farmers and gardeners, Bobbi and Colette created five-course meal that featured:

  • rabbit terrine with farm egg, beach asparagus and mustard;
  • leek, heirloom tomato, zucchini and rabbit consommé with sprouted wheat bread;
  • Moroccan goat stew with ginger, preserved lemons, potatoes, dates and almonds, served with white satin carrot salad and balsamic beets;
  • grilled rabbit thigh served with aioli, Inca Bella potato purée and sautéed garlic kale; and
  • Russian pavlova with huckleberry, rhubarb, currants and Sitka rose sugar.

A variety of gardens and farms provided the food used for the meal. The Sawmill Farm supplied the rabbits and wheat berries, Sivertsen Farm in Ketchikan provided the goat, Lori Adams of Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden supplied winter kale, Sara Taranof provided farm eggs, Linda Walker provided garlic, huckleberries, rhubarb and currants, and Florence Welsh of Forget-Me-Not Garden supplied white satin and orange carrots, heirloom tomatoes, red rose potatoes, Inca Bella potatoes, leeks, zucchini, beets, raspberry preserves and beach asparagus.

Scenes from the meal are in a slideshow below:

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