• Quest cards and debit cards will be accepted starting with the Aug. 18 Sitka Farmers Market

The Sitka Local Foods Network will begin accepting Quest and debit cards for the purchase of locally grown and made products during its fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

The Sitka Farmers Market received funding from the Alaska Farmers Market-Quest Card Program to purchase a wireless card reader, also known as an EBT (electronic benefit transfer) machine. The EBT machine allows Quest customers to use their food stamps and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits to purchase fresh, local food at the market. The EBT machine allows customers to use their regular debit and credit cards to purchase food and other items, such as locally made crafts.

Many farmers markets have accepted food stamps, TANF benefits and WIC coupons for produce for several years, but in recent years all 50 states stopped using paper coupons and started using electronic transfers for their benefits (putting them on plastic cards that work like debit/credit cards). Since most farmers markets do not have access to electricity and phone lines during the market, they now required a wireless machine to handle these benefits. This system is expensive and difficult for most farmers markets to offer, so the use of food stamps and other benefits dropped dramatically. The goal of the Alaska Farmers Market-Quest Card Program is to help the markets be able to purchase a machine so they can continue to offer fresh, local food to low-income Alaskans and offering another payment option for other residents. The Sitka Local Foods Network will match dollar-for-dollar up to $20 of Quest card benefits so people using Quest cards have access to double the produce at the market.

“Providing appropriate EBT technology at farmers markets can improve the diets and subsequently the health of Sitkans who rely on food stamps by increasing access to fresh, local and affordable vegetables and fruits,” said Sitka Local Foods Network Board Treasurer Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a registered dietitian. “Shopping at farmers markets has been shown in several studies to increase fruit and vegetable purchases and consumption among nutrition assistance participants, and fruits and vegetables sold at farmers markets often are equal in price to or less expensive than seasonal produce at grocery stores.”

To use the Quest cards or your debit card at the Sitka Farmers Market, look for the Information Booth inside ANB Hall and let the staff person know you’d like to use your card at the market and how much you plan to spend. The staff person will swipe your card through the EBT machine, have you enter your PIN, then provide you with Quest and Debit tokens in the amount you requested (there is a $2 service charge for debit card transactions). Look for vendors with signs saying “Quest and Debit Tokens Accepted Here” (some vendors only accept Debit tokens). Quest customers can purchase foods allowed on food stamps, such as fruits and vegetables, bread, meat, seafood, honey and jam. Food and beverages meant to be eaten right away, such as sandwiches and hot coffee, cannot be purchased with Quest tokens. Debit card tokens can be used to purchase anything offered at the market. If you do not spend all of your tokens, you can save the remaining tokens for the next market or take them back to the Information Booth to be credited back to your card (credit can only be given for tokens purchased that day, and for no more than the amount purchased that day). Debit card users can return their unused tokens, but another $2 service fee will apply for the transaction.

This project is a collaboration of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Divisions of Public Health and Public Assistance, the Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Health Promotion Division, and the Sitka Local Foods Network. For more info about the Alaska Farmers Market-Quest Card Program, go to http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/chronic/nutrition/farmersmarket-quest/default.htm. For information about the Alaska Quest Program, visit http://www.akquest.alaska.gov/. For info about the Sitka Farmers Market, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/. Vendors wanting to sign up to accept Quest card and debit card tokens can contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Johanna Willingham at johanna.willingham@gmail.com or 738-8336.

• Sitka Farmers Market vendor agreement to accept EBT/Quest tokens (2012)

• Pauline Duncan wins Table of the Day at third Sitka Farmers Market of 2012

TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Local Foods Network volunteer Mandy Griffith, far left, volunteer Jonathan Ocampo, second from right, and Sitka Local Foods Network board member Maybelle Filler, right, present the Table of the Day Award to Pauline Duncan for the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season, on Aug. 4, 2012, at ANB Hall. Pauline sold packaged seaweed and her Tlingít recipe cookbooks at the market. The Sitka Local Foods Network board selects a Table of the Day winner from the vendors at each Sitka Farmers Market of the season, and the winners receive prizes such as a fifth-anniversary market tote bag and check.

The next Sitka Farmers Market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18, at ANB Hall. The Sitka Local Foods Network is seeking volunteers to help set up tables and tents before the market starts, and to tear down and pack up the market after it ends. We need volunteers for all of the remaining markets (Aug. 18, Sept. 1 and 15). If you have a strong back and helping hands, please contact Johanna Willingham at 738-8336 for more details. For more information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and the Sitka Farmers Market, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/

• Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by going to the Sitka Farmers Market on Saturday, Aug. 18

Aug. 5-11 is National Farmers Market Week this year, as noted by the Farmers Market Coalition. The Sitka Farmers Market didn’t quite line up its dates with National Farmers Market Week this year, but if you didn’t attend our market on Saturday, Aug. 4 you still can celebrate the week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

Farmers markets are a great way to connect with the community, while also purchasing local produce, wild fish, locally baked bread and arts and crafts. Besides providing access to fresh local produce, farmers markets create strong economic engines in communities, promote local health and bring a diverse group of people together. They also help consumers meet and get to know the people who produce their food.

“The Sitka Farmers Market serves as a family friendly place for people to meet and to visit with other members of the community,” Sitka Local Foods Network Vice-President Linda Wilson said. “Some people spend an hour or two just going around mingling with folks and chatting, catching up on the local news, telling jokes, and sharing ideas and information. There is a lot of good energy around during the market.”

Farmers markets have been growing nationally, from 2,863 in 2000 to 7,864 in 2012, a jump of more than 270 percent. While Alaska doesn’t have as many farmers markets as other states, it did have the highest percentage of new markets in the country last year, up 35 markets in 2011 or 46 percent. The national rate of new market growth was 17 percent in 2011 and 9.6 percent in 2012.

Aug. 18 will be the fourth of six full Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, with the schedule running on alternate Saturdays (July 7, 21, Aug. 4, 18, Sept. 1 and 15). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally picked berries, jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at https://sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/2012/06/22/%E2%80%A2-dont-forget-to-vote-for-the-sitka-farmers-market-in-this-years-americas-favorite-farmers-markets-contest/.

For more information about the market or hosting a booth, contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Johanna Willingham at 738-8836 or johanna.willingham@gmail.com. By the way, we always need volunteers to help set up and take down the market before and after the event. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Also, there will be a couple of work parties from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 8, and  from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, which is located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (the dark brown brick-and-wood church on Lincoln Street above Crescent Harbor). Fresh veggies will be available for a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network or a WIC Farmers Market Coupon. For more info on garden work parties, contact St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt at 738-7009 or 623-7003.

• SitNiks to provide musical entertainment during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season, Aug. 4

The SitNiks will provide musical entertainment during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

The SitNiks, who will play from 10 a.m. to noon, perform music from Russian and other Eastern European countries. Members of the group include, from left, Ritch Phillips on bass, John Fulton on concertina, Pattie Skannes on balalaika, Bree Hack on fiddle, Jeanne Stolberg on balalaika, Kris Fulton on fiddle and Mike Litman on accordion (not pictured is J Bradley on various stringed instruments).

The Sitka Farmers Market is happy to provide a showcase for local musicians. Musical acts for future Sitka Farmers Markets this year will be announced later. For more information about providing musical entertainment, contact market coordinator Johanna Willingham at 738-8336.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also is seeking volunteers to help set up tables and tents before the market starts, and to tear down and pack up the market after it ends. We need volunteers for all of the remaining markets (Aug. 4, 18, Sept. 1 and 15). If you have a strong back and helping hands, please contact Johanna at the number above.

In addition, the Sitka Local Foods Network needs people to help harvest veggies from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market. Work/harvest parties will take place from 4-5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, and from 8-9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street). We expect to have lots of veggies to harvest for Saturday’s market, so we hope to have several people help with the picking.

• Ted and Julie to provide musical entertainment at Saturday’s Sitka Farmers Market

Mandolin player/guitarist/fiddler Ted Horner and pianist Julie Schmitt will provide musical entertainment during the second Sitka Farmers Market of the season, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

Ted and Julie also performed during the first Sitka Farmers Market of the season on July 7. The SitNiks will perform music from Russia and other countries during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Aug. 4. The rest of the season’s musical lineup will be announced later.

Musicians interested in performing at future Sitka Farmers Markets can call market manager Johanna Willingham at 738-8836 or by e-mail at johanna.willingham@gmail.com.

• Alaskans Own Seafood wins Table of the Day at first Sitka Farmers Market of 2012

Table of the Day: Natalie Sattler of Alaskans Own Seafood, center, receives the Table of the Day award from Sitka Farmers Market Manager/Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member Johanna Willingham, left, and Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member Doug Osborne during the first Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, July 7, 2012, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Sitka. At each market a vendor is honored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market. The next market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, 2012, at ANB Hall, 235 Katlian St.

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host six Sitka Farmers Markets in 2012

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its fifth summer of Sitka Farmers Markets with six markets that start on July 7 and take place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 15. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, 21, Aug. 4, 18, Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally made jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is like a carnival every other Saturday,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Kerry MacLane said. “It’s a fun community space to enjoy with your family or to meet your friends for fresh coffee and baked goods. There is live music, cooking demonstrations, art, and, of course, fresh veggies, fruit and seafood.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. This event is sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, Sitka Conservation Society, the Alaska Farmers Market Association and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

“Thanks to our creative and enthusiastic vendors, the Sitka Farmers Market will be celebrating its fifth successful year.” said Johanna Willingham, Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member and Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator. “We have delighted in watching our market grow over the years and due to popular demand we are beginning our market two weeks earlier this year. Outdoor vendors and musicians will still be able to enjoy the newly paved parking lot with landscaping, thanks to BIHA. A tent will be set up for outdoor dining where you can listen to live music and enjoy some great food. Some new items will be added to some familiar vendors’ tables — dried sea veggies, sea asparagus and sea salt. Look forward to fresh snap and snow peas for snacking, ready-to-eat salads, handmade tamales and, as always, fresh black cod tips.”

Vendor fees are $20 for a 6-foot table, $30 for an 8-foot table and $15 for a 4-foot table. Vendors with their own tents pay $2 per foot. As always, we offer cost incentives for vendors growing locally produced food. The fees will help us cover the costs of renting ANB Hall and its kitchen, hiring musicians and other expenses. To learn more about being a vendor or to sign up for a table, contact Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator Johanna Willingham at 738-8336 or by e-mail johanna.willingham@gmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other information for potential vendors can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.