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The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a meeting for prospective and past vendors of the Sitka Farmers Market from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). There are a few changes to the vendor rules and table rates this year, so this is a good time to learn about them.

This is the ninth year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features seven markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 1, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). The Sitka Farmers Market was a community health initiative from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit.

The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers and gardeners, local fishermen, local bakers, and local artisans and craftspeople. Our emphasis is on local products from Sitka and Southeast Alaska. The farmers markets also are great Sitka gathering places.

A detailed description of the farmers markets and vendor forms can be found our websitehttp://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (scroll down or look in the right-hand column). If you have any questions, please email Sitka Farmers Market Manager Nina Vizcarrondo at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call her at (863) 286-9230.

• 2017 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated May 10, 2017)

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Starting Wednesday, June 1, the Alaska Division of Agriculture is launching a brand-new $5 Alaska Grown, Five Month Challenge to support the growth of Alaska’s agriculture industry.

From June through October, Alaskans are encouraged to spend $5 per week on Alaska Grown products at their local grocery stores and/or farmers markets. If every Alaskan participates in the challenge, tens of millions of dollars in local purchases could be circulated within local economies rather than sent outside of Alaska. According to the Alaska Farm Bureau, if every Alaskan spent $5 per week on Alaska Grown products, year-round, it would have a $188 million dollar impact.

For the $5 Alaska Grown Challenge, the Division of Agriculture is partnering with dozens of retailers across the state including Carrs-Safeway, Fred Meyer, Wal-mart and SaveUMore. These retailers will be creating specialty Alaska Grown displays in their stores that prominently place and showcase the Alaska Grown products they carry, making it easy for customers to find Alaska Grown products on which to spend $5 per week.

The challenge will run for the five-month period when Alaska Grown products are most available. Each month, new produce and flowers will be introduced into stores as they become seasonally available. Customers can also spend their $5 per week on year-round Alaska Grown products including meat (including fish), fresh eggs and packaged products at their local retailers.

In Sitka, Alaskans can participate by purchasing Alaska Grown produce at the Sitka Farmers Markets. There will be seven Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 1, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). In addition, there are several growers in town, and you can find out more about them in the Alaska Grown Source Book.

“Why buy Alaska grown?” the Alaska Farm Bureau website asks. “Not only are you supporting Alaskans and boosting our economy, you’re also getting a fresher, tastier, more nutritious product. In a blind taste test, 82 percent of Alaskans surveyed could taste the difference between products grown here and those shipped up. Adults and kids say Alaska grown is sweeter, fresher-tasting and crispier.”

• Taste of Alaska White Paper (taste tests of Alaska vs. Lower 48 produce from 2011 Alaska State Fair in Palmer)

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The Sitka Local Foods Network is seeking a manager to coordinate the 2017 Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. This is a contract position, and the manager receives a small compensation depending on experience for his or her work organizing the farmers markets this summer.

SLFNBoothGroupPhotoThis will be the ninth year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features seven markets during the summer from July through September. The markets will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 1, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers/gardeners, local fishermen, and artisans and craftspeople. These events are great Sitka gathering places, and we promote local foods and other local goods at the markets.

This year we have new leadership for the market from within the Sitka Local Foods Network, and we are trying to streamline things so it’s easier for the market manager and vendors. We are not hiring an assistant manager this year, so all applicants will need to commit to be at all seven markets this year. In addition, the market manager needs access to a vehicle (for hauling signs and supplies around) and to the Internet.We have gone back to our 2015 vendor pricing, so hopefully we’ll be able to rekindle and bring the fun back to the market this year.

A detailed description of the market manager duties can be found at the link below. For more information or to submit applications, contact Charles Bingham at 1-907-623-7660, or you can email the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (please put “Sitka Farmers Market Manager” in the subject line).

Applications should include a cover letter, resumé and three recommendations, and they are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 31 (Deadline extended to Saturday, April 15). The market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market is a seasonal contract position that reports to the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors via a board liaison (Tiffany Justice).

Once we sign a contract with our market manager, we will announce a couple of meetings for potential vendors. We also will announce in the next few days an April class on cottage food business basics for those thinking about starting a home-based food business, and students taking that class will receive a reduction on their first table fee from the Sitka Farmers Market in 2017.

• Description of duties for market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market Manager (2017)

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Heidi Rader shows her new Grow & Tell app. (Photo by Jeff Fay, for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service)

Heidi Rader describes the new Grow & Tell app and website she developed as “essentially Yelp for gardeners.”

Rader teaches gardening and farming as the tribes Extension educator for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and the Tanana Chiefs Conference. She also reaches gardeners and farmers from around the state through distance-delivered courses.The free app, which was released Tuesday, allows gardeners in the United States to see what vegetable varieties grow best in their areas based on what other gardeners say. The app also invites gardeners to act as citizen scientists and rate the varieties that they have grown for taste, yield and reliability.

Vegetable variety trials conducted in Fairbanks show what grows well here, she said but not in other areas of the state.

“That works pretty well for me but not for people, say, in Arctic Village or Nome,” she said.

Rader hopes that lots of gardeners will rate crops, which will make the app more useful for others. “It’s citizen scientists conducting variety trials where they live,” she said.

The app is available on the App Store for iPhones, Google Play for android phones or as a website at www.growandtell.us. Development of the app was funded by a grant from the eXtension Foundation to promote innovation in the Cooperative Extension Service. To keep the app free, Rader said, Extension will seek sponsorships to pay for updates, fixes and regular maintenance. Additionally, event advertising can also be purchased and targeted to app users locally, by state or nationally.

Rader hopes to expand the app to capture ratings on other plants used in the landscape and garden, including trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits and berries.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks recognized Rader with a 2016 Invent Alaska Award for her work on the app. Cornell University contributed ratings that it had already collected as well as lessons learned from operating a similar citizen science project. A Boston-based company, Geisel Software, built the app. For more information, contact Heidi Rader at grow.andtell@alaska.edu.

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zucchini

Do you have a need for locally grown zucchini? How about some other veggies grown here in Sitka? Even though the Sitka Farmers Market is over for the year, we still have some veggies for sale.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt said we still have enough produce growing that she can sell 5-10 weekly boxes of produce through the next month. She said the boxes will run $30, and will likely contain about four pounds of carrots, two pounds of potatoes, two pounds of beets, one bundle of chard, one head of lettuce, with other possibilities such as cucumbers, basil, a half-dozen eggs, etc. She also has an excess of zucchini.

To learn more, contact Laura at ljschmidt835@hotmail.com.

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img_1993The final batch of classes (Class Six) for the 2016 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program are being set for our two participating first-year families and our three returning second-year families. The classes will be similar at each location, and they are open to the public.

There were six classes in the series, with Class Six being about preparing the garden for the winter. Class One focused on site selection, garden preparation, building planter beds, simple vegetables and soil preparation, while Class Two was about simple vegetables and planting. Class Three was about garden maintenance, with Class Four about early harvest and Class Five about the final harvest.

Our first-year gardener families (Erin Mathes and Fran Baratki), learn how to grow four hardy crops for Sitka — kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. Our three returning families (A.J. Bastian, Rebecca Kubacki and Breezy) will be planting carrots, chard, green onions and peas this year. These four crops are slightly more difficult crops to grow that our first-year plantings of kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. Even though the crops for our second-year students are more difficult to grow, many gardeners in Sitka still have good results with these vegetables. These classes are essentially the same, so feel free to attend the class that best fits your schedule.

The class schedule and location for the one first-year and three second-year families is (some classes still need to be scheduled and will be announced later):

  • ERIN MATTHES (first-year family), 716 Etolin Street — CLASS 6: 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.
  • FRAN BARATKI (first-year family), 180 Price Street, No. 6 (purple trailer) — CLASS 6: TBA.
  • A.J. BASTIAN (second-year family), 207 Brady St. — CLASS 6: 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
  • REBECCA KUBACKI (second-year family), 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — CLASS 6: 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3.
  • BREEZY (second-year family), 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — CLASS 6: TBA.

img_1911This is the third year of the garden mentor program, which provides one-to-one mentoring to families who are trying to garden for the first time. In order to reach more people, our participating families allow the classes to be made public. By teaching families the basics of gardening, we are helping them improve their family nutrition, extend their family food budget, and increase food security in Sitka.

Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. For more information, please contact Michelle at 747-2708.

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slfnboothjasmineshawmarytheresethompson

It rained heavily the day before and even the early morning of the market, but after we’d already set up inside we looked out and saw it was nice and sunny. So we decided outside was the best place to hold the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Markets of the 2016 summer, on Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

slfnboothyounggirlwithcarrotsOther than one booth using the Alaska Native Sisterhood Kitchen in ANB Hall to make Indian tacos, all of our booths were outdoors in the Baranof Island Housing Authority (BIHA) parking lot next to ANB Founders Hall. This week we also had three ladies who had antiques and other vintage items for sale.

Since it was the last market, it was nice to see some of the booths selling out. The Sitka Local Foods Network produce stand sold out of all its produce, and even its pork products from Mat-Valley Meats. The Salvation Army bread booth sold out, and Reindeer Redhots ran out of hot dog buns.

Now that the market season is over, we will be looking for new ways to try and revitalize the market. If you have ideas, please contact Matthew Jackson at (907) 821-1412 or jackson.mw08@gmail.com.

The Sitka Farmers Markets receive sponsorship funding from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the American Farmland Trust’s eighth annual Farmers Market Celebration. The voting deadline is Sept. 21, and we were leading for Alaska in several of the categories.

Also, mark your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 17, which is the tentative date of the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun-run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. Click this link for more details.

A slideshow of scenes from the seventh Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer is below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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