As you build your 2020 garden this spring, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article first appeared on this site in April 2010. It is repeated with some updates because much of the information remains current and newsworthy.)

As you start to plan your garden for this spring and summer, don’t forget to Plant A Row For The Hungry. The Plant A Row For The Hungry program (also known as Plant A Row or PAR) is a national campaign by the Garden Writers Association of America (which recently changed its name to the Garden Communicators International) that has its roots in Alaska.

In the cold winter of 1994, Anchorage Daily News garden columnist and former Garden Writers Association of America President Jeff Lowenfels was returning to his hotel after a Washington, D.C., event when he was approached by a homeless person who asked for some money to buy food. Lowenfels said Washington, D.C., had signs saying, “Don’t give money to panhandlers,” so he shook his head and kept on walking. But the man’s reply, “I really am homeless and I really am hungry. You can come with me and watch me eat,” stayed with Lowenfels for the rest of his trip.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels

The encounter continued to bother Lowenfels, even as he was flying back to Anchorage. During the flight, Lowenfels came up with an idea when he started writing his weekly garden column (the longest continuously running garden column in the country, with no missed weeks since it started on Nov. 13, 1976). He asked his readers to plant one extra row in their gardens to grow food to donate to Bean’s Café, an Anchorage soup kitchen. The idea took off.

When Anchorage hosted the Garden Writers Association of America convention in 1995, Lowenfels took the GWAA members to Bean’s Café to learn about the Plant A Row For Bean’s Café program. The Garden Writers Association of America liked the idea, and it became the national Plant A Row For The Hungry campaign (also known as Plant A Row or PAR). In 2002, the Garden Writers Association Foundation (now Garden Communicators International) was created as a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit to manage the Plant A Row For The Hungry program.

“I am not surprised by the growth of PAR,” Lowenfels wrote in a 2010 e-mail to the Sitka Local Foods Network. “It is now in all 50 states and across Canada and there are thousands of variations of the original program — from prison gardens for the hungry to botanical gardens donating their produce from public display gardens. This is because gardeners always share information and extra food, so the idea was a natural.”

It took five years for the program to reach its first million pounds of donated food, but the second million only took two years and the next eight years saw a million pounds of donated food (or more) each year. Since 1995, more than 20 million pounds of food (about 80 million meals, as of 2020) have been donated by American gardeners. Not only that, the program is getting ready to expand overseas to Australia, England and other countries with avid gardeners.

“We have supplied something in the vicinity of enough food for 50 million meals,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail. “Gardeners can solve this hunger problem without the government. And we don’t need a tea party to do it! Or chemicals, I might add, as author of a book on organic gardening!” Lowenfels is the author of Teaming With Microbes, written with Wayne Lewis. He released a second book, Teaming With Nutrients, as a follow-up to his first book, and in 2017 released a third book, Teaming With Fungi, as a second follow-up book.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one out of every eight U.S. households experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. Many people skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going an entire day or more without food. About 33 million Americans, including 13 million children, have substandard diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they can’t always afford to buy the food they need. In recent years, the demand for hunger assistance has increased 70 percent, and research shows that hundreds of children and adults are turned away from food banks each year because of lack of resources.

According to the 2014 Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report, about one in six people in Sitka is food insecure. In 2013, there were 1,410 Sitkans (out of a population of about 9,000) and 766 families receiving food assistance (SNAP, aka food stamps). There also were 229 individuals who received food pantry assistance from the Salvation Army and 7,243 meals served through its lunch soup kitchen in 2013, and that number has grown substantially since then.

While many people credit Lowenfels for creating the Plant A Row For The Hungry program, Lowenfels says the real heroes are the gardeners growing the extra food and donating it to local soup kitchens, senior programs, schools, homeless shelters and neighbors. You can hear him pass along the credit to all gardeners at the end of this 2009 interview with an Oklahoma television station (video also embedded below).

“One row. That’s all it takes. No rules other than the food goes to the hungry. You pick the drop-off spot or just give it to a needy friend or neighbor. Nothing slips between the lip and the cup, I say,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail.

With all of the jobs lost because of the COVID-19 coronavirus quarantines in 2020, this year there will be even more people who need food assistance. It will be more important than ever to help get extra produce into our local food banks and soup kitchens.

For people wanting to Plant A Row For The Hungry in Sitka, there are several places that would love to help distribute some fresh locally grown veggies or berries to those who are less fortunate, such as the Salvation ArmySitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), local churches, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other organizations. The food the Sitka Local Foods Network grows at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden goes to the Sitka Farmers Market, school lunches and other programs.

People who participate in the Alaska Food Stamp program can use their Alaska Quest Cards to purchase produce and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market and other farmers markets around the state. People who participate in the  WIC (Women, Infants, Children) supplemental food program (operated in Southeast Alaska by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium or SEARHC) also can use special farmers market vouchers to buy fresh vegetables at the Sitka Farmers Market and other farmers markets in Alaska (this is part of the national WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program). The Sitka Local Foods Network matches up to $20 for produce purchased using WIC or SNAP benefits at the Sitka Farmers Market.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also takes donations of local produce to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets, and all proceeds are used to help pay for SLFN projects geared toward helping more people in Sitka grow and harvest local food. For more information, contact the Sitka Local Foods Network board members at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• Plant A Row informational brochure (2017)

Sitka Local Foods Network seeks manager for 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets (application date extended to Jan. 15)

The Sitka Local Foods Network is seeking a manager to coordinate the 2020 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. The manager receives a monthly check for the five months from May through September.

We’ve been lucky to have the same market manager, Nina Vizcarrondo, for the past three summers. But U.S. Coast Guard relocation is taking her away from us. We hope to have the new manager hired in time to do some training with Nina (and assistant manager Charles Bingham, who is staying) before Nina and her family leave Sitka this spring. We thank Nina and her family for their help rebuilding our market.

This will be the 13th year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features 6-8 markets during the summer from July through September, plus the annual farm stand at the Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser in late September. Market dates for 2020 haven’t been confirmed yet, but they usually run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on selected Saturdays 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.

In recent years we made some changes to the market, and those have helped it grow into one of the top markets in the state. We have an experienced assistant manager, who will help ease the load for the manager. The manager needs to be able to commit to being available for all of the markets this summer. In addition, the market manager needs access to a vehicle with a trailer hitch (we keep our market supplies in a construction trailer) and to the Internet.

The manager’s main duties include recruiting and organizing the vendors for each market, hiring musicians and other entertainment, setting up and taking down the market tents and tables, managing the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, recruiting volunteers to help sell produce at the SLFN farm stand, helping the assistant manager make deposits and keep track of WIC/SNAP benefit matches, etc. The assistant manager handles market publicity, helps with set up and take down, helps sell produce, takes photos of people and vendors at the market, makes bank deposits, purchases Alaska Grown products to sell at the market (under consultation with the SLFN board of directors), etc. A detailed description of the market manager duties can be found at the link below. The farmers market manager has been a member of the SLFN board in recent years.

Applications should include a cover letter, resumé and three recommendations, and they are due by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15 (this is an extension from the Jan. 8 original deadline). 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 (Amanda Anjum). For more information or to submit applications, contact SLFN board president Charles Bingham at 1-907-623-7660, or you can email the SLFN Board at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (please put “Sitka Farmers Market Manager” in the subject line).

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 a spring class on cottage food business basics (in partnership with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service) 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 2020.

• Description of duties for market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market Manager (2020)

Scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Hannah Green, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Brittany Dumag, left, and Kathy Dumag, center, of Castaway during the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Sept. 21, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Brittany and Kathy sold Cubano pork sandwiches with salad and banana chips and pozole pork and hominy soup. They received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Redoubt Rhubarb sweatshirt, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, some carrots, beets and apples from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, a bag of Chugach Chocolates birched hot chocolate, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, but there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28 at Totem Square park. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

Even though it was raining, there was a big crowd for the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

Even though this is the latest in the summer we’ve hosted a Sitka Farmers Market we still had lots of produce, and this time we had some extra produce left at the end of the market that was donated to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. Our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale, too. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; jarred smoked seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; packaged seaweed; arts and crafts; and more. And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

Mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the 25th annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand) at Totem Square Park. This is a costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m., with costume judging about 11 a.m. and the race at 11:30 a.m. The entry fee is $10 for individuals, $30 for families. In addition, we will have the last Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand of the summer, and the Smoothie Truck should be there. There will be door prizes and live music. This event is part of the Greater Chamber of Commerce’s End-Of-Season Celebration, with hamburgers and hot dogs for a small donation and closed-off streets downtown.

A slideshow of scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Nalani James, second from right, her son, Lennox, left, and daughter, Ilima, during the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Sept. 7, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Nalani sold a variety of baked goods, including chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars, muffins with local berries and carrot cake. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network apron, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, some salad mix, beets and chard from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The last Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.), plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28 at Totem Square park. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a slow weekend when we held our sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We didn’t have as many booths, but there still was steady business at the market.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets, and this time we had some extra produce left at the end of the market that was donated to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. Even though is was a smaller market, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; arts and crafts; and more. And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The last Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the ANB Founders Hall. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the 25th annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand) at Totem Square Park. We still have room for new vendors at our last farmers market.

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, third from left, presents Nancy Furlow, left, Rachel Henderson, second from left, and Grace Larsen, right, of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4 with the Table of the Day award during the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 31, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. ANS Camp No. 4 sold Grace’s frybread and Indian tacos. They received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, two Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirts, some salad mix from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The last market this summer is Sept. 21, plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a busy weekend when we held our fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. In addition to our farmers market, the Sitka Mermaid Festival and Sitka Seafood Festival had a marketplace at the same time, and the Mudball softball tournament was in full swing.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; arts and crafts; and more. We also had a food truck outside (Ashmo’s). And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the ANB Founders Hall. The last market of the season is scheduled for Sept. 21. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand). We still have room for new vendors at our last two farmers markets.

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, presents Patty Dick of the Noow Tlein Dancers Fundraiser with the Table of the Day award during the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 17, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Patty sold baked goods, Tlingít drums, medicinal herbs and tinctures, and painted rocks. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirt, some onions from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Other markets this summer are Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a bit cloudy and misty when we held our fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Luckily, the rain ended and the clouds lifted before the market did.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; garlic scapes, lettuce, carrots and other produce; jams and jellies; arts and crafts; and more. We also had two food trucks outside (Castaway and the Smoothie Truck). We also introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand).

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the third Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Hannah Green, left, presents youth vendor Helen Sachsenmaier of Sunshine Jams with the Table of the Day award during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Helen sold huckleberry and salmonberry jams she made with her father. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirt, some onion and leeks from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, and some Alaska Flour Company barley chocolate chip cookie mix Aug. 4-10 was National Farmers Market Week. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Other markets this summer are Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was National Farmers Market Week on Aug. 4-10, and we celebrated with our third Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We had a full market and a bit of sunny weather after the morning clouds burned off.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling homemade pancakes, eggs and bacon; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; garlic scapes, lettuce, carrots and other produce; jams and jellies; arts and crafts; and more. We also had three food trucks outside (Castaway, Ashmo’s, and the Smoothie Truck). We also introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the third Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market on Aug. 10

The 20th annual National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 4-10 this year, so stop by the Sitka Farmers Market to join the celebration, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. This is the 12th season of Sitka Farmers Markets.

The annual National Farmers Market Week celebration is the first full week of August, when growing season is peaking around the country.

The number of farmers markets in the country has more than tripled since 1996, growing from 2,410 markets in 1996 to 8,675 in 2016. There has been similar growth in Alaska, and now markets can be found in many Bush communities from Bethel to Thorne Bay. This growth has improved Alaska’s food security while also serving as an incubator for new businesses.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition, farmers markets …

  • Preserve America’s rural livelihoods and farmland. Farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for beginning farmers, allowing them to start small, test the market, and grow their businesses.
  • Stimulate local economies. Growers selling locally create 13 full-time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those growers that do not sell locally create three jobs.
  • Increase access to fresh, nutritious food. Several  studies have found lower prices for conventional and organic produce at farmers markets than at supermarkets. Due to this and other factors, 52 percent more SNAP households shop at farmers markets and from direct marketing farmers today than in 2011. The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP and WIC benefits, and we have a matching program for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries.
  • Support healthy communities. Farmers market vendors educate their shoppers. Four out of five farmers selling at markets discuss farming practices with their customers, and three in five discuss nutrition and how to prepare food.
  • Promote sustainability. Three out of every four farmers selling at farmers markets say they use practices consistent with organic standards.

Scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Local Foods Network board member Amanda Anjum, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Kate desRosiers of Rainforest Rose Creations during the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Kate sold healthy treats, made without refined grains or refined sugar. Her products change each market, and this market she had carob peanut butter cups, caramel date carob cups, sunflower carrot bites, tigernut bites, cashew cheesecake with salmonberries, nightshade-free taco seasoning, and fresh rhubarb and yarrow from her garden. She received a tote bag filled with a bag of salad greens, a jar of Barnacle kelp salsa, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, a few Alaska Grown stickers, a Chugach Chocolate bar, and some Bridge Creek birch syrup sample straws. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Other markets this summer are Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

We kicked off the 12th season of Sitka Farmers Markets on Saturday, July 6, with a full market and a bit of sunny weather after the morning clouds burned off.

Our produce supply was wiped out early, which sometimes happens during the first market or two of the season as we wait for more produce to mature for harvest. But our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling homemade pancakes, eggs and bacon; reindeer hot dogs; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; garlic scapes, lettuce, carrots and other produce; arts and crafts; face-painting; musicians; and more. We also had a couple of food trucks outside. And we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. To learn how to be a vendor at the marketor how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Sitka Local Foods Network to host seven Sitka Farmers Markets during the 2019 summer

The Sitka Local Foods Network is kicking off its 12th season of markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). We rebuilt some of the vitality of the market over the last couple of years, and now we’re hoping to build on that momentum.

“We learned a lot over the past couple of years, and we hope we’ve been able to move on from our mistakes and make the markets better,” said Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham, who is assisting Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo for the third year.

“We regained a lot of the vendors we lost in 2016, and that brought back a lot of the community-gathering-place feel to the market. We still want to see more local food producers at the market, but we know now we need to develop those outside the market, which is one reason we launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in 2018. We want the market to be a great way to connect with neighbors and support local entrepreneurs.”

New this year is the Bicycle Benefits program, where people who ride their bikes to the market and show their Bicycle Benefits helmet stickers can get 20 percent off produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market. The Sitka Local Foods Network also has applied for a Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, where most of the produce sold at the SLFN farm stand is grown.

Other new innovations started in 2017 included a kids vendor program for youth ages 12 and younger, and new Alaska Grown food products for sale at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand. Both are continuing in 2019. In addition to freshly grown produce from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, there will be Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Evie’s Brinery fermented foods from Anchorage, Barnacle Foods kelp salsa and kelp pickles from Juneau, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, and Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood.

We also have fish vendors back this season. There still is a focus on local and Alaska food products, with the Alaska Grown products being a way to inspire Sitka food entrepreneurs to try making new food items locally. The more local products we have, the more the money circulates in Sitka’s economy.

“Come support your community at our farmers markets,” Vizcarrondo said. “By working toward Sitka’s food sovereignty, shopping local reduces our food miles. Food doesn’t get any fresher than this.”

The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The other markets this summer take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 27, Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, at ANB Founders Hall. The markets feature a variety of locally grown produce, seafood, cottage foods, a hot lunch, locally made arts and crafts, live music and fun.

The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefits transfers (EBT) and WIC farmers market coupons. We have a matching program where SNAP and WIC clients can double up to $20 of their benefits in local produce. We are the only farmers market in the state authorized to match WIC farmers market coupons. The past two years we received grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop (the White E) to help with the matching program.

“In recent years we’ve been proud to welcome Alaska Quest EBT and WIC shoppers at the market, and the last two years the White E has helped us match those produce benefits,” Bingham said. “It is so important to make sure local food is accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy.”

The April 2008 Sitka Health Summit planted the seeds for the Sitka Farmers Market, as Sitka residents chose starting a local foods market as one of their community wellness initiatives for the year. About the same time, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church was looking for a way to put some recently cleared land behind the church’s See House into use for a community project. St. Peter’s offered to lease the land to the group that became the Sitka Local Foods Network for $1 a year, and in May 2008 a group of Sitka residents built raised garden beds and planted a variety of crops. Later that summer, there was enough produce grown at St. Peter’s to supply our first three Sitka Farmers Markets starting in August 2008.

There were five markets in 2009, followed by six markets each year from 2010-15 and now seven markets since 2016. Led by lead gardener Laura Schmidt, the production of local produce at St. Peter’s has grown each year, and there now are satellite gardens, such as one on land owned by Pat Arvin. Most of the food grown at St. Peter’s and the satellite gardens is sold at the Sitka Farmers Market, but there has been enough for the Sitka Local Foods Network to also have a table when Chelan Produce is in town and to sell to local school lunch programs and restaurants. The money raised helps support the Sitka Local Foods Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in its mission “to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.”

To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how you can become a vendor or volunteer, contact Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or Charles Bingham at 623-7660, or email us sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. The Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/, has more info on the markets and links to vendor rules and registration forms. In addition to vendors, we always need volunteers to help us set up and take down the market and to sell food at the SLFN farm stand.

The Sitka Local Foods Network receives sponsorship funding from the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), the Sitka White Elephant Shop (the White E), the Sitka True ValueHarry Race PharmacyALPS Federal Credit Union, Sea Mart, Market Center, and a host of individuals.

Also, don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the 11th annual American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration. The Sitka Farmers Market was the top market from Alaska in 2017 and 2018.