Sitka Farmers Market to host meeting May 17 for prospective and past vendors

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, May 17, 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. We hope to have Bruce Gazaway, the Sitka food safety inspector from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, at the meeting to go over food safety practices.

This is the 11th year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features seven markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 7, July 21, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept. 15 — 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 website, http://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 (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660.

• 2018 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated April 30, 2018)

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As you build your 2018 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 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 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 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 an 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 14 million pounds of food have been donated. 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.

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)

Scenes from the seventh and last Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer

TABLE OF THE DAY — Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) Jesuit Volunteer Clare Kelly, center, presents the Table of the Day award to Dawn McMaster, left, and Maren Tucker, right, of Latitude 57 Smoothies, Coffee and More during the seventh Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Sept. 9 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The Latitude 57 smoothie truck is a work-skills program of Youth Advocates of Sitka, selling smoothies, lattés, and other drinks this summer. Dawn and Maren received a couple of Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirts, some Inga’s Spice Rub, some carrots, and a box of Sweet Sisters Caramels. This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer. But, don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Totem Square park, which this year benefits the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. For more information, go to the Sitka Local Foods Network website at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org. We also have a Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was raining hard when we held our seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), but we still had a decent crowd.

While our cold weather this spring slowed down some of our produce production this year, we are starting to get some decent crops in. We also have had several other local produce vendors at the market. We also had about three dozen vendors at the market (between those inside ANB Founders Hall and those outside in the Baranof Island Housing Authority parking lot) so there was a nice variety of items being sold. Vendors sold harvested foods (such as chaga tea and traditional medicinal tinctures), homemade baked goods, banana-Nutella crepes, hot seafood dishes, fresh smoothies, reindeer hot dogs, blackcod tips, arts and crafts, and home-baked bread. We also had an expanded selection of Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season, and we hope you enjoyed the markets this year. Don’t forget to like our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

Also, mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Bootscostumed fun run fundraiser, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, and this year will benefit the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. More details on the Running of the Boots will be posted in the near future.

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

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Scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer

TABLE OF THE DAY — Sitka Farmers Market Manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, and Sitka Conservation Society Jesuit Volunteer Sean Mackinson, right, present the Table of the Day award to the Suminski family of Sweet Sisters Caramels (from left, Greta Terry, Mary and Lydia Suminski) during the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Sept. 2 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The Suminskis sold a variety of home-made caramels. They received a couple of Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirts, some Inga’s Spice Rub, and some Alaska Flour Company chocolate chip-barley cookie mix. There is one Sitka Farmers Market left this summer, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Also, don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Totem Square park, which this year benefits the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. For more information, go to the Sitka Local Foods Network website at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org. We also have a new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

It was sunny when we held our sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season on Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), but we still had a decent crowd even though we had some competition with the Labor Day holiday.

While our cold weather this spring slowed down some of our produce production this year, we are starting to get some decent crops in. We also have had several other local produce vendors at the market. We also had about three dozen vendors at the market (between those inside ANB Founders Hall and those outside in the Baranof Island Housing Authority parking lot) so there was a nice variety of items being sold. Vendors sold harvested foods (such as chaga tea and traditional medicinal tinctures), homemade baked goods, banana-Nutella crepes, hot seafood dishes, fresh smoothies, reindeer hot dogs, blackcod tips, arts and crafts, and home-baked bread. We also had an expanded selection of Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

The last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the ANB Founders Hall. To learn how to be a vendor at the market, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a new kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

Also, mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, and this year will benefit the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. More details on the Running of the Boots will be posted in the near future.

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

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Scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer

Table of the Day: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, second from left, back, and Sitka Local Foods Network Bulldog On Baranof intern Al Simon, right, present the Table of the Day award to David Kitka, left, and Major Flo Murray of the Salvation Army/Sal’s Kitchen during the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer, held Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. David and Flo sold David’s whole wheat and sourdough potato bread. They received a Sitka Local Foods Network apron loaded with some chard, carrots, a bag of Alaska Flour Company whole-grain barley, a Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirt, and an Alaska Grown sticker.

It rained again when we held our fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season on Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), but we still had a decent crowd even though it was a bit slower than other markets.

While our cold weather this spring slowed down some of our produce production this year, we are starting to get some decent crops in. We also have had several other local produce vendors at the market. We also had about three dozen vendors at the market (between those inside ANB Founders Hall and those outside in the Baranof Island Housing Authority parking lot) so there was a nice variety of items being sold. Vendors sold harvested foods (such as chaga tea and traditional medicinal tinctures), homemade baked goods, banana-Nutella crepes, hot seafood dishes, fresh smoothies, reindeer hot dogs, blackcod tips, arts and crafts, and home-baked bread. We also had an expanded selection of Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand. In addition, we had a photographer at the market shooting photos for the Faces of Sitka Community Photo Project.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, at the ANB Founders Hall. Our last market of the summer is on Sept. 9. To learn how to be a vendor at the market, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a new kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

Also, mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, and this year will benefit the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. More details on the Running of the Boots will be posted in the near future.

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

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Scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer

Table of the Day: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, and Sitka Local Foods Network Bulldog On Baranof intern Al Simon, second from left, present the Table of the Day award to Ariane Martin Goudeau (holding baby Elodie Goudeau) and Geoffrey Goudeau of Goudeau’s Good-Doughs during the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer, held Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Ariane and Geoffrey sold cookies, bread, and a variety of other baked goods. They received a Sitka Local Foods Network apron loaded with some rhubarb, beets, a Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirt, and an Alaska Grown sticker.

It rained when we held our fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season on Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), so we moved most of our booths indoors. It also was National Farmers Markets Week, so we had a decent crowd despite some competition from the Sitka Seafood Festival.

While our cold weather this spring means we don’t have as much produce as we like, we still had several local produce vendors at the market (did you see the size of those zucchinis at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand?). We also had about three dozen vendors at the market (between those inside ANB Founders Hall and those outside in the Baranof Island Housing Authority parking lot) so there was a nice variety of items being sold. Vendors sold harvested foods (such as chaga tea and traditional medicinal tinctures), homemade baked goods, banana-Nutella crepes, hot seafood dishes, fresh smoothies, reindeer hot dogs, blackcod tips, arts and crafts, and home-baked bread. We also had an expanded selection of Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Sept. 2, and Sept. 9. To learn how to be a vendor at the market, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a new kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

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

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Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market on Aug. 12

The 18th annual National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 6-12 this year, so stop by the Sitka Farmers Market to join the celebration, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. This is the 10th 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. Click here to read this year’s National Farmers Market Week proclamation from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

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.