Vendor registration open for 2022 Sitka Farmers Markets

Sitka Farmers Market Manager Nalani James, left, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt, center, and Sitka Local Foods Network Board Treasurer Amanda Anjum at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand during a July 2021 Sitka Farmers Market.

Vendor registration is open for the 2022 Sitka Farmers Markets. This 15th annual community event is hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit working to improve Sitka’s food security. The online vendor registration page, http://sitkafarmersmarket.wordpress.com, is live and ready for vendors to sign up and pre-pay for their spots.

This summer, the Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting seven markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays — July 2, July 16, July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 10, and Sept. 24 — at Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), where we held our first 12 years of markets. All vendors will pay $40 per market, regardless of whether you have a table or a food truck. We have a special rate of $240 for vendors who register for all seven markets before the first market happens, which means you get one market free. Vendors can register for one or two markets, or all seven. We also have youth vendor program for ages 14 and younger, which is $20 for all seven markets (please let us know ahead of time which specific markets you plan to attend).

The Sitka Farmers Market is a community event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. Our focus is on local — fresh produce, fish, baked goods, prepared foods, cottage foods, arts and crafts — and all products must be made in Alaska (preferably in Sitka or Southeast Alaska, cooked foods may use non-local foods so long as the food is cooked on site). Since our mission is geared toward food security and our space is limited this year, if we have too many vendors try to register our food booths will have a higher priority over arts and crafts.

After having to relocate for two years due to COVID-19, we are back to our roots this year for our 15th season of markets. We will have indoor and outdoor spaces. Since COVID-19 is still around, we will require masks inside the ANB Hall when Sitka is at the Moderate or High risk levels. While most people now are vaccinated against the coronavirus, there still are people who aren’t vaccinated and there are periodic hot spots when the illness flares up. We don’t want the market to be a place that spreads the coronavirus. Even with our outside booths, we encourage vendors and customers to wear masks, to use hand sanitizer, and to avoid bunching up while giving others six feet of space.

Please read the market vendor rules and responsibilities document linked below. All vendors using this site to register for the market will be held to these rules. We ask all vendors to register by the Thursday morning before the markets where they intend to sell. Unless you specify you want to be outside, we will try to find room for you indoors. We are not selling half-tables this year because we need social-distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Vendors can pay using PayPal or credit/debit card. When you get to the Payment options, click PayPal and it should give you the option of using a PayPal account or four different types of cards (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover). If you prefer to pay by cash or check, contact Charles Bingham at 907-623-7660. We will provide a $35 refund for cancellations, but to get the refund you are required to let us know before Wednesday of the week of your registered market that you can’t make it. This is $5 less than the $40 table fee since we are billed for transaction fees and other expenses. There is no refund if you don’t let us know until after Wednesday.

Nalani James is the Sitka Farmers Market manager this summer (she’s on the left in the photo above). Laura Schmidt (center in photo) is our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the market. Charles Bingham is the assistant market manager and the president of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

For questions about the market, email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call (907) 623-7660. More details about the market will be posted on the Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, and shared on its Facebook pages — https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket — and on Twitter, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods.

• 2022 Sitka Farmers Market Vendor Rules and Responsibilities

Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit to host virtual farm tours on Feb. 26

The 2022 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit may have been postponed until 2023, due to Covid-19, but there’s still a way for Southeast growers to connect this month. The Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit will host virtual farm tours from 9 a.m. to just past noon on Saturday, Feb,. 26, via Zoom. This will be a relaxed and informal event.

“Whether you are a farmer, gardener, agricultural industry professional, or local food enthusiast, this event is for you,” event organizers Bo Varsano and Marja Smets of Farragut Farm near Petersburg wrote in an email. “Everyone is welcome to ‘Zoom in’ on a snapshot of what agriculture looks like in Southeast Alaska today. Three regional farmers — Ivy Patch Produce in Wrangell, Foundroot in Haines and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm in Sitka — will be sharing photos and stories of their farming operations, with plenty of time allotted for questions from the audience.”

After a welcome and introduction from 9-9:30 a.m., Katherine Ivy of Ivy Patch Produce in Wrangell will give a talk and show photos of her operation from 9:30-10:15 a.m. Leah Wagner and Nick Schlosstein of Foundroot in Haines will present from 10:15-11 a.m. After a short break from 11-11:10 a.m., Laura Schmidt of St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (operated by the Sitka Local Foods Network) will speak from 11:10-11:55 a.m. There will be closing remarks at noon.

“The 2022 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit has been postponed until February 2023,” Bo and Marja wrote. “If you were planning on attending that event, this is a great opportunity to touch base and make connections in the meantime.”

To register and get the Zoom link, click this link. To learn more about the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit, click this link.

Sitka Local Foods Network hosts Thanksgiving artisan sourdough bread sale

Need some fresh bread to go with your Thanksgiving feast? The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting an artisan sourdough bread fundraiser, with fresh loaves just in time for Thanksgiving.

We will bake up to 60 loaves total, with 40 of the loaves being a rustic sourdough and 20 loaves being the rustic sourdough with cranberries and walnuts added. Each loaf of bread costs $25, and they are hearty loaves weighing about two pounds each. The main ingredients of the bread include white, wheat, and rye flour, water, and salt. The cranberry-walnut loaves add cranberries and walnuts to the mix.

The loaves will be baked on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 23-24, by Laura Schmidt, who also serves as our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. In addition to being a gardener, she is a trained baker and in past years has made bread available for a donation at the Sitka Farmers Market.

Our plan is for people to order and pre-pay for each loaf using our online order site, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com (click title to order). We will need to have all orders processed before 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19, so we can square away supplies. Note, to use your credit-debit card when ordering, click on the PayPal icon when you get to the screen that has Invoice and PayPal side by side.

Laura will bake half of the loaves (20 rustic, 10 cranberry-walnut) each day, and we will have them available for pick-up from 5-6:30 p.m. in front of the Hames Wellness Center. Please double-check the scheduled date of baking for your loaves. For those not able to pick up their bread, we will offer a delivery service for an extra $5 per loaf (so please supply your phone number and street address when you order).

If you have any questions, email us at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com or contact Charles Bingham at 907-623-7660.

New high tunnels help grow more produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

Since its origin as a small communal garden located in space behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church in April 2008, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown much of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market.

Coordinated by the Sitka Local Foods Network, with Laura Schmidt serving as lead gardener for the past decade, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown in efficiency and production so there are more fresh veggies available for Sitka residents.

In recent years, that means the addition of high tunnels, also called hoop houses. High tunnels look like greenhouses, but don’t have the heaters, powered ventilation systems or evaporative coolers commonly found in greenhouses. Even without those extras, high tunnels can extend the growing season and even counter the effects of a cold, wet summer such as the one we had in 2020 when it seemed like it rained just about all the time.

It started with a small, used high tunnel a former Sitka Local Foods Network board member donated to the group when she moved out of town. That small high tunnel, which still is in use at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, has been at the communal garden for about 5-6 years now. It was first used as a place to start seedlings and now has chard and kale growing in it.

In the spring of 2020, the Sitka Local Foods Network board approved the purchase of a 16×28 quonset hut-style high tunnel, manufactured by Oregon Valley Greenhouses and sold locally through Spenard Builder’s Supply. This high tunnel was constructed by a volunteer crew coordinated by Laura Schmidt, and was planted in time for the 2020 summer.

That high tunnel saved our 2020 Sitka Farmers Market season, as it helped protect some of the more fragile plants from the extreme cold and rain we had that year. That prompted the Sitka Local Foods Network to buy another 16×28 high tunnel of the same make and model, plus we added an automated venting system and fan to both of the new high tunnels.

Despite the nice weather last week, the 2021 spring has been cold and wet so the produce still needs better weather to kick into gear. But the new high tunnels will greatly help us keep Sitka in produce this summer.

Click this link, if you want to support the Sitka Local Foods Network’s efforts to grow more healthy produce for Sitka residents. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown farm designation, which shows the Sitka Local Foods Network’s commitment to growing produce in a sustainable manner with the minimal use of chemical fertilizers.

Vendor registration open for 2021 Sitka Farmers Markets

Vendor registration is finally open for the 2021 Sitka Farmers Markets. This 14th annual event is hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit working to improve Sitka’s food security. The new online vendor registration page, http://sitkafarmersmarket.wordpress.com, is live and ready for vendors to sign up and pre-pay for their spots.

This summer there are eight Sitka Farmers Markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. In addition to table space under the building overhang and on the plaza, there are parking spots for food trucks and food carts.

All vendors will pay $40 per market, regardless of whether you have a table or a food truck. We have a special rate of $280 for vendors who register for all eight markets, which means you get one market free. Vendors can register for one or two markets, or all eight. We also have youth vendor program for ages 14 and younger, which is $20 for all eight markets. Vendors will need to supply their own tables (preferably 30×72-inch banquet tables, please no tables longer than eight feet), and in some cases their own 10×10-foot tents.

The Sitka Farmers Market is a community event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. Our focus is on local — fresh produce, fish, baked goods, prepared foods, cottage foods, arts and crafts — and all products must be made in Alaska (preferably in Sitka or Southeast Alaska, cooked foods may use non-local foods so long as the food is cooked on site).

We are holding the market entirely outside this year to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. While most people now are vaccinated against the coronavirus, there still are people who aren’t vaccinated and there are periodic hot spots where the illness flares up. We don’t want the market to be one of them. We encourage vendors and customers to wear masks, to use hand sanitizer, and to avoid bunching up while giving others six feet of space.

Vendors can pay using PayPal or credit/debit card. When you get to the Payment options, click PayPal and it should give you the option of using a PayPal account or four different types of cards (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover). If you prefer to pay by cash or check, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660.

Nalani James is the Sitka Farmers Market manager this summer (she’s on the right in the photo above). Laura Schmidt (left in photo) is our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the market. Charles Bingham is the assistant market manager.

For questions about the market, email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call the market phone at (907) 738-7310. More details about the market will be posted on the Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, and shared on its Facebook pages — https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket — and on Twitter, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods.

• 2021 Sitka Farmers Market Vendor Rules and Responsibilities

Another update about the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market and our plans for a safe event

We’re not ready to take vendor registrations yet, but the Sitka Local Foods Network is closer to having its plans set for our 14th season of the Sitka Farmers Market. We do have dates and a location now, but we have to rewrite our vendor agreements to discuss our new COVID-19 reality and we’re waiting to hear if we received a grant that will help us reduce our vendor fees.

Right now we are looking at hosting eight markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, on the plaza outside the museum end of Harrigan Centennial Hall. This year’s market will be entirely outdoors to limit the spread of COVID-19, and we still will need people to mask up.

Last year we were able to host a very scaled back market, using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering system during the week and having customers pick up their produce on Saturdays. This year we plan to have a hybrid format, where some produce will be posted online during the week for early ordering and then pick-up at the market, with regular day-at-market sales also taking place where people pick and choose what veggies they want to buy while at the market. In addition, in our non-market weeks we plan to have a small-scale online sales program with either a delivery or pick-up service planned (we are still deciding how this will work).

Now that vaccines are available and more people in Sitka are becoming vaccinated, we feel like we can do more this year such as allow socializing and having more people around. At the same time we have COVID-19 and its variants in our midst, so we still plan to require masks and hand-washing to help prevent the spread.

Our main reason for holding the market outside is because we worry being inside puts too many people on top of each other and probably isn’t safe. We still need to work out our configuration for the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall, so we know how many booths we can support, but we should be able to have people use the benches around the outside of the building. Vendors will need to provide a two-foot-by-six-foot table, but there is an overhang so most booths should be protected from the rain. There are a limited number of electrical outlets outside, for those booths needing power.

We also should be able to host food trucks, which can park next to the plaza with their windows facing the building (most of them have already done this at other events). If you are planning to cook food at the market, your booth will have to be at least 10 feet away from any of the overhangs, so they will need to set up a table and 10×10 farmers market/event tent (about $115-$120 at Sitka True Value) on the plaza. They also will need to provide their own small camp stove or BBQ grill for cooking, and may need a generator for power since we can’t have long cords creating a trip hazard.

We have big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. Last year, we bought a second high tunnel so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. That worked so well, we bought a third high tunnel this winter and we’re already planting veggies inside it.

Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for more than a decade, and deserves a lot of respect for how much produce she grows on the small patch of land we have access to behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church. We thank St. Peter’s for allowing us to continue growing food for the community on its property. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has received a Certified Naturally Grown designation the past two years.

The Sitka Farmers Market is about local food, but it’s so much more. It’s about community and providing local entrepreneurs with a place to sell their products. We really enjoy seeing everybody come together to see their neighbors and friends at the market. That’s a big reason we want to host the market. One aspect of the market is it serves as a business incubator, a place for people to try out a new business, and we lost that last year when we had to scale things back to just our produce vendors.

We are excited to bring the market back to Sitka, and hope people enjoy our eight markets this summer. The full markets will allow non-produce vendors to participate, and maybe even some arts-and-crafts vendors.

Since we will have to increase the space between booths around the market, we will have some space limitations. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s main focus is on local food, so food booths who book by a certain date will have priority, with arts-and-crafts booths filling leftover open spaces. We want to be able to involve as many vendors as possible, so hopefully we’ll be able to fit everybody in the space without making it too crowded.

We are working with state WIC and SNAP programs to see if we can accept benefits every week, or only when we have our larger markets. Our goal is to provide fresh local produce to all residents, especially those low-income residents who might not be able to afford it. Anyway, we still are trying to finalize details and hope to have an update soon.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. Nalani James will be our Sitka Farmers Market manager this year. We will need volunteers to help set up and take down the market each week, and to sell produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

An update about the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market and our plans for a safe event

Usually the Sitka Local Foods Network has announced the dates of the summer’s Sitka Farmers Market by now. But, as most of you are aware, these are not ordinary times as we enter the second year of our COVID-19 reality. Our intention is to have our 14th season of Sitka Farmers Market events this summer, but they still may look a bit different than what we’ve had in the past. While our details aren’t finalized, we wanted to provide an update to the community about our plans for the summer.

Last year we were able to host a very scaled back market, using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering system during the week and having customers pick up their produce on Saturdays. This year we hope to expand back closer to our normal market format with more vendors, but also having some weeks where we just do an online order and pick-up service.

Now that vaccines are available and more people in Sitka are becoming vaccinated, we feel like we can do more this year such as allow socializing and having more people around. At the same time we have COVID-19 and its variants in our midst, so we still plan to require masks and hand-washing to help prevent the spread.

We also plan to hold our event at an outdoor location TBA, since being inside puts too many people on top of each other and probably isn’t safe. We hope to be able to announce an outside location downtown in the next week or two. We hope to announce our dates and vendor prices when we announce the location.

For vendors, since we will be out in an open field, you will need to provide your own table, chairs, and a 10×10 farmers market/event tent (which run about $115-$120 at Sitka True Value). Being outside, we won’t have access to electricity, so vendors may need a generator for power, or a small camp stove or BBQ grill if you’re cooking at the market.

We have big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. Last year, we bought a second high tunnel so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. That worked so well, we bought a third high tunnel this winter and it’s being erected at the garden this spring.

Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for more than a decade, and deserves a lot of respect for how much produce she grows on the small patch of land we have access to behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church. We thank St. Peter’s for allowing us to continue growing food for the community on its property. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has received a Certified Naturally Grown designation the past two years.

The Sitka Farmers Market is about local food, but it’s so much more. It’s about community and providing local entrepreneurs with a place to sell their products. We really enjoy seeing everybody come together to see their neighbors and friends at the market. That’s a big reason we want to host the market. One aspect of the market is it serves as a business incubator, a place for people to try out a new business, and we lost that last year when we had to scale things back to just our produce vendors.

Our tentative plans for 2021 are to hold markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at least once every other week from late June to September. This will allow non-produce vendors to participate, and maybe even some arts-and-crafts vendors. On alternate weeks, we will do something similar to last year, where people order produce from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday night using the Salt and Soil Marketplace, with a pick-up event or possible delivery from 10 a.m. to noon on the Saturdays when we don’t have a regular market.

Since we will have to separate booths around the market, we will have some space limitations. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s main focus is on local food, so food booths who book by a certain date will have priority, with arts-and-crafts booths filling leftover open spaces. We want to be able to involve as many vendors as possible, so hopefully we’ll be able to fit everybody in the space without making it too crowded.

We are working with state WIC and SNAP programs to see if we can accept benefits every week, or only when we have our larger markets. Our goal is to provide fresh local produce to all residents, especially those low-income residents who might not be able to afford it. Anyway, we still are trying to finalize details and hope to have an update soon.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Sitka wins top market in Alaska honors for fourth straight year in American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration

The Sitka Farmers Market ranked as the top market in Alaska, 25th in the Pacific region and 104th nationally during the American Farmland Trust‘s Farmers Market Celebration voting that ended earlier this week. This was the 12th year of the contest.

This is the fourth straight year the Sitka Farmers Market has been the top market in Alaska, and sixth time in seven years. The contest uses online voting, but each email address is only allowed to vote once so people can’t stuff the ballot box. Voting opened in June and ended earlier this week.

“This year, with COVID-19, we had to greatly scale back the market and make significant changes, such as stripping down to just produce vendors, using an online ordering system during the week followed by Saturday morning pick-up events at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market. “Our main goal was to safely distribute locally grown produce without spreading the coronavirus. I’m glad we were able to do that.”

Sitka Farmers Market co-managers Nalani James, left, and Ariane Goudeau carry a farmers market sign to the curb in front of St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church.

This year the People’s Choice Award (the only national award) went to the Clarksville Downtown Farmers Market in Clarksville, Tenn., earning the market a $1,000 prize. Second place and $500 went to the Charlottesville City (Va.) Market, while third place and $250 went to the Boise (Idaho) Farmers Market. Rounding out the top-five markets in the standings were the 3rd Street Farmers Market in Tompkinsville, Ky., in fourth place, and the Napa (Calif.) Farmers Market in fifth place. Last year’s People’s Choice Award went to the Troy (N.Y.) Waterfront Farmers Market, which finished seventh nationally this summer.

The top market in the Pacific region was the Boise (Idaho) Farmers Market; followed by the Napa (Calif.) Farmers Market in second place; the Moscow (Idaho) Farmers Market in third place; the Vancouver (Wash.) Farmers Market in fourth place; and the Kaka’ako Farmers Market of Honolulu, Hawai’i in fifth place (last year’s Pacific region winner).

The other regional winners included the Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market of Dover, Ohio, in the Midwest; the Ligonier (Penn.) Country Market in the Northeast; the Clarksville (Tenn.) Downtown Farmers Market in the Southeast; and the Grand Prairie (Texas) Farmers Market in the Southwest.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt, left, and Sitka Farmers Market co-managers Ariane Goudeau, center, and Nalani James with baskets of produce ready for pick-up.

There wasn’t a list of Alaska standings posted, but checking individual market pages showed the Sitka Farmers Market in first place for the state, the South Anchorage I Farmers Market in second place, and the Homer Farmers Market in third place.

“We have a small market compared to others around the country, but I’m happy the people who visit our market think enough of it to recommend it in this contest,” Bingham said. “We thank everybody who came to one of our markets this summer and supported more local food in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.”

The Sitka Farmers Market also was listed on the Guide To Exceptional Markets from the Certified Naturally Grown program for the second year this summer.

Andrea Fraga of Middle Island Gardens, left, and Brooke Schafer of Raincoast Flowers with some of their products.

This year the last Sitka Farmers Market order period was Sept. 15-17 and last pick-up day was Sept. 19. Due to COVID-19, the 26th annual Running of the Boots fun run fundraiser won’t take place in late September (we usually had a farm stand at that event, which raised money for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka last year).

The Sitka Local Foods Network hopes to be able to return to a full market, or a hybrid with some pre-orders and some market-day sales, next year.

“We really missed having all of the booths this year, and the feel of a real community gathering instead of just a quick pick-up of your order,” Bingham said. “One of the nice things about hosting the market is it serves as a business incubator for smaller cottage foods and arts/crafts businesses, and those folks lost a market this summer.”

Sitka Local Foods Network prepares for 13th year of Sitka Farmers Markets

It’s the 13th season of the Sitka Farmers Market, and already it may seemed jinxed with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sitka Local Foods Network will host another season of markets this summer, but due to the outbreak, special state regulations for the outbreak, new health and safety rules, and a need to get produce to people for food security there will be several changes to the markets this year. This article will attempt to detail some of those changes, so customers can navigate the new system.

The produce sold by the Sitka Local Foods Network at the Sitka Farmers Market is grown at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. We have a new high tunnel this year, and our produce has a Certified Naturally Grown designation.

Probably the biggest thing people will notice is this year it’s not a full market. State COVID-19 rules are limiting our vendors (no arts and crafts) this summer, plus we don’t have the same amount of space for other vendors since our usual location of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall wasn’t open when we had to plan.

That means we will host a greatly scaled back market this season. We will use an online ordering portal, we will have new health and safety rules, and we will meet at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln St.). This is where our lead gardener, Laura Schmidt, has been growing our market produce for the past decade. We also have two new market co-managers in Ariane Goudeau and Nalani James, since we lost our previous manager, Nina Vizcarrondo, to Coast Guard relocation.

“We are disappointed we won’t be able to host a full market this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “We really enjoy the feeling of community we get when we have all of the vendors, and it’s great seeing their interactions with customers. Being a business incubator was one reason for hosting the market. But our main reason for hosting the market is getting fresh, locally grown produce to Sitka residents, so we wanted to continue doing that. We had to simplify a lot this year, and we ask people to please bear with us as we adjust to the changes.”

This year, the markets will only feature our two regular produce vendors — the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand and Middle Island Gardens. Both of us will be selling our produce using the Salt and Soil Marketplace website, http://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com, so we can minimize our handling of cash and checks. Our online ordering period will be from 5 p.m. on Tuesday through 8 p.m. on Thursday, with our produce delivery from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

One good change this year is we plan 14 market pick-up days this summer, which is twice our usual seven markets a summer. We will host a soft opening on Saturday, June 20, with limited produce availability (this is our earliest opening ever). Then we plan pick-up days on every Saturday in July (4, 11, 18, 25), August (1, 8, 15, 22, 29), and September (5, 12, 19, 26). We are launching a weekly Sitka Farmers Market newsletter that will be sent out on Tuesday afternoons and will list what’s available that week and remind people about how to order. Click the link in the right column on our website to sign up for the newsletter.

In order to order produce using the Salt And Soil Marketplace, customers will need to create a free Sitka-based account on the website. The website may mention a fee, but there is no fee for Sitka this year. Make sure you are logged into your account when you order, and click the Confirm button after you have finished your order so it registers in the system. Not clicking Confirm is a common mistake for new customers. If you need help using the online ordering system, call Ariane at 738-5015 and she can provide assistance.

A sampling of the produce that might be in an early season small box of produce for $20 this summer.

This year, the Sitka Local Foods Network is selling pre-selected farmer’s choice produce baskets with a variety of seasonal produce. Our first markets will feature our small baskets for $20 (about $25 worth of produce), and later, about mid-July, we will add our large baskets for $40. The small baskets typically will contain 4-5 varieties of produce, and early in the season that might be lettuce or salad mix, a second green such as kale or chard, rhubarb, and either onions, garlic, etc. The large baskets will include 2-3 additional varieties of produce when they become available.

We occasionally will have special items available when we have an abundance. For example, for the first week (June 20 delivery) we plan to have 10 small farmer’s choice produce baskets available for $20 and 10 special rhubarb baskets available for $20. There will be a limited number of salad bags with washed lettuce and flowers ($7), baggies of basil ($4) and bunches of broccoli raab ($4).

We also have about 30 of our 2019 Sitka Farmers Market tote bags available at $10 each, and we will have our 2020 Sitka Local Foods Network tote bags featuring our new logo available for $12 each when they arrive in Sitka. Because of our need to simplify the market, we will not be selling our usual Alaska Grown value-added products this summer.

We have about 30 of our 2019 Sitka Farmers Market tote bags available for $10 each until they run out.

Another change we’re having to make this year is how we handle WIC and SNAP clients. Current Alaska WIC and SNAP rules don’t allow for online sales, so we’ve been working with state officials to try and find a way to still provide produce to WIC and SNAP clients this year. In past years, we have accepted WIC farmers market coupons and Alaska Quest SNAP electronic benefits transfers at our SLFN farm stand. We also have matched up to $20 in benefits through a grant from the White E for produce bought from the SLFN farm stand. There is a limit of one small basket of produce per family per week for WIC/SNAP benefits.

“Finding a way to get fresh, local produce into the hands of WIC and SNAP clients has been our biggest challenge this year,” Bingham said. “We have several people on our board who have been WIC and/or SNAP clients, so we know how important it is for our lower-income residents to have access to this produce. That’s one reason we pursued grants and are willing to dig into our own general fund to help pay for this service.”

Early on, the Sitka Local Foods Network thought it would have to provide the produce using our general fund, since we wouldn’t be able to get the state reimbursement. But there have been some recent changes to make it easier. The Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand now will be able to accept WIC farmers market coupons and a match. We are able to do this because of the White E grant, and two new COVID-19 grants from the Sitka Legacy Fund and The Alaska Community Foundation.

This summer we will provide one small $20 basket of produce for one $5 WIC coupon. For SNAP clients, we will need to run their Alaska Quest EBT cards for $5 for one small basket of produce. Note, we only accept the Alaska cards, not those from other states, and the client has to have their WIC coupon or SNAP card with them when they pick up their produce on Saturday. Due to limited produce availability on June 20, we will start working with WIC/SNAP clients for our July 4 pick-up day and those following.

Since we can’t run these benefits using the Salt and Soil Marketplace, WIC and SNAP clients will need to call our Sitka Farmers Market phone at 738-7310 or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com to place your order. We then will reserve your basket, which you will pick up on Saturday and pay for with your WIC/SNAP benefits.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there will be several health and safety changes this summer.

“In order to host the market, we need to make sure we protect the health and safety of our volunteers and customers,” Bingham said. “Some of these rules are mandated by the state, and others are good common sense to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. These practices include masks and gloves, having a hand-washing station, and social-distancing, which all have been proven to be effective in reducing the spread.”

All volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves, and we ask customers to also wear masks. When they arrive at the parking lot, please park your car, turn off your engine and wait in the car. A greeter will meet you and get your name, then will bring your basket to you. Then you can open your door and put the produce in your own tote bag or box you brought from home (or purchased from us). Then place your basket at the front of your parking spot and slowly drive away.

If you are riding your bike or walking to pick up your produce, you will be pointed to a taped mark on the pavement to stand while we get your order. Please wait there until we bring it to you, then put it in your own tote or box. Due to the online ordering system, we will not be able to offer the Bicycle Benefits discount this year. We ask people who feel sick or have a fever to stay home and ask a family member or friend to pick up their orders, so we reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

We thank Sitka for its support, and look forward to seeing you briefly each Saturday this summer. For more details about the markets and changes, please contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Celebrate local farmers and gardeners on Alaska Agriculture Day on Friday, May 15

Alaskans can support local agriculture by celebrating Alaska Agriculture Day on Friday, May 15, by seeking out and purchasing products produced in Alaska, and by educating young people about the vital role agriculture plays in our economy.

Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a proclamation commemorating the day in recognition of the importance of agriculture to the daily life of all residents, and in appreciation for all farmers and producers in the state of Alaska.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, the Division of Agriculture will not be able to mark the event with a public gathering as in previous years. Instead, the Division invites Alaskans to visit the http://www.buyalaskagrown.com/ webpage for information on where to find farmers markets, stores and retailers that support the “Alaska Grown” program and where they can buy directly from farmers, growers and producers around the state.

Alaskans are also invited to visit the Alaska Grown Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dnr.alaskagrown/ where they may read the division’s Alaska Agricultural Day post thanking Alaska farmers for always being there, and for working hard to feed and supply Alaskans, even during difficult times.

Members of the public are encouraged to like the post, to leave a comment supporting Alaska farmers, and to share the post with the hashtags #stillfarming and #thankafarmer for a chance to win an Alaska Grown gift basket.

In Sitka, you can celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day by starting a food garden (even a couple of containers on your deck can provide you with potatoes, carrots or greens). Teachers are encouraged to offer a lesson plan or two about the importance of agriculture in Alaska and in Sitka. Here’s a link to an article about how Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Also, the Sitka History Minute feature on KCAW-Raven Radio has had several episodes about agriculture in Sitka (click here to listen to a feature about the potato in Sitka, click here to listen to a feature about the Sitka Agricultural Station, and click here to listen to a feature about the cows of Iris Meadows).

There are a few smaller commercial farms in Sitka, including St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows produce to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market), Middle Island Gardens, Down-to Earth Gardens, and Anam Cara Family Garden. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, we will host a greatly scaled back Sitka Farmers Market this summer, with people using the Salt and Soil Marketplace website to order produce from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and Middle Island Gardens during the week (Tuesday through Thursday), then pick up the produce on Saturdays. Details are still being finalized, but more info can be found at this link.