• Meet your vendors: Allison Sayer of Hearts and Flowers

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Allison Sayer of Hearts and Flowers (with certificate) won the Table of the Day Award at this summer’s second Sitka Farmers Market on July 12.

SitkaFarmersMarketSign(This is part of a new series of “Meet your vendors” articles, where Sitka Local Foods Network Intern McLane Ritzel is writing features about our regular Sitka Farmers Market vendors.) 

Have you been smelling something funny at this summer’s farmer’s markets? Maybe something a bit sour and overdue? Local resident Allison Sayer has been producing and selling her own live-fermented creations to curious consumers at the market, as well as experienced fermenters.

Born and raised in New York City, Allison Sayer graduated high school there and went straight into AmeriCorps on the West Coast. Later, she studied biology at Smith College, and then went to graduate school at the University of Alaska Anchorage pursuing the same track. She was attracted to the major, because she is passionate about landscape ecology, as well as salmon’s relationship with nature. However, she soon realized that the career (where much of her time would have been spent in a lab) was not quite as fun as the ideas behind it.

AllisonSayerTalksToCustomerSayer then pursued other opportunities that aligned closer with what she really connected with. She worked in Homer, at the Center for Alaskan Studies, and then at many different cooperatives in Santa Cruz, Calif., including a bike co-op, homeless gardener project, and a chicken sanctuary. Then she returned to Alaska, and worked in McCarthy at the Wrangell Mountains Center as a kitchen manager for three years. There she worked in the garden, held workshops, and served meals to participants. Sayer and the facility manager Jim experimented with varying fermented products. There in the Wrangell kitchen, Sayer discovered her passion for live-fermented foods.

At the Sitka Farmers Market on Aug. 9, you may have noticed the fermentation demonstration booth run by Sitka Local Foods Network intern McLane Ritzel. Live fermentation is an ancient practice, but more recently, it has gained a huge following around the world of interested individuals who want to produce their own food following traditional methods. The practice is communal and artisanal, and when consumed, encourages a healthy gut.

AllisonSayerKittySopowIn Sitka, this will be her third year working at Mount Edgecumbe High School, running extracurricular activities after school for the students. She loves her job, and says, “High school students are just so cute!” This summer, she has been working at the Baranof Island Brewing Company brewery.

At home, Sayer spends her time fermenting with produce from her own garden, playing the guitar, reading “too many books at once,” and hiking with her 4-year-old Karellian bear dog, a husky named Tulip.

Come out to this summer’s last Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6, at ANB Hall to pick up some of Allison Sayer’s creatively edgy and uniquely delicious homemade Alaskan kimchi, sauerkraut made with varied ingredients, and kombucha, a fermented tea.

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• Sitka Local Foods Network Intern McLane Ritzel to host fermentation demo at Saturday’s Sitka Farmers Market

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At this Saturday’s Sitka Farmers Market, Sitka Local Foods Network Intern McLane Ritzel will host a live fermentation booth where she will give out samples of locally made sauerkraut and information on how to ferment at home.

Fermentation is an ancient process where microorganisms in our food extend their usefulness and enhance flavor. Fermentation is used in a wide variety of food from around the world, including the yeast that helps make bread, wine, beer, cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, coffee, soy sauce, and more. Sandor Katz, who wrote The Art of Fermentation, calls it “the flavorful space between fresh and rotten.”

Another advantage to fermentation is it can extend the shelf life of many foods. “It’s not forever, like canned foods that you can put into a pantry or storm cellar and forget about for 10 years and still eat it,” Katz said. “These foods are alive, they’re dynamic, but they’re extremely effective strategies for preserving food through a few seasons, which is really the point.”

Recently, one of the big discussions about fermentation is how it can help replenish healthy gut bacteria, especially when items are fermented by lactic acid bacteria. These helpful probiotics are essential in an age where so many of our foods include chlorine in the water, antibiotic drugs, antibacterial cleaning products, and other sanitizing methods that kill healthy bacteria with the bad.

In addition to learning how simple it is to make sauerkraut, visitors to the booth will be able to learn about and taste kombucha. Bring a small jar to the market so you can take a kombucha starter home with you.  This week’s Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the market.