Sitka wins top market in Alaska honors for fifth straight year in America’s Farmers Market Celebration

The Sitka Farmers Market ranked as the top market in Alaska, 15th in the Pacific region and 113th nationally during the America’s Farmers Market Celebration voting that ended earlier this week. This was the 13th year of the contest, which this year was co-sponsored by the American Farmland Trust and the Farmers Market Coalition.

This is the fifth straight year the Sitka Farmers Market has been the top market in Alaska, and seventh time in eight 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 on June 21 and ended Sept. 19. The Sitka Farmers Market picked up 81 online votes, its highest total ever.

“This was the second year we had to make adjustments due to Covid-19, but we were more like a normal market this summer than last. Last year we stripped it down to just produce vendors and had an online ordering system with weekly pick-ups at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. This year we were able to add other vendors and hold an outdoor market at Harrigan Centennial Hall, and I think the community was glad to see produce, mushrooms, arts and crafts, and more this year,” 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.”

This year’s People’s Choice Award, for the top market nationally, went to the Columbia (Mo.) Farmers Market earning the market a $2,500 prize. Second place and $1,500 went to the Oxford (Miss.) Community Market, while third place and $1,000 went to the Monroe (Conn.) Farmers Market. Rounding out the top-five markets in the standings were the Snellville (Ga.) Farmers Market in fourth place, and the Durham (N.C.) Farmers Market in fifth place. Last year’s People’s Choice Award went to the Clarksville (Tenn.) Downtown Farmers Market, which finished 47th nationally this summer.

The top market in the Pacific region was the Napa (Calif.) Farmers Market; followed by the Moscow (Idaho) Farmers Market; the Orange (Calif.) Home Grown Farmers and Artisans Market in third place; Midtown Farmers Market of Sacramento, Calif., in fourth place; and the Boise (Idaho) Farmers Market in fifth place (last year’s Pacific region winner).

The other regional winners included the Columbia (Mo.) Farmers Market in the Midwest; the Monroe (Conn.) Farmers Market in the Northeast; the Oxford (Miss.) Community Market in the Southeast; and the Dripping Springs (Texas) Farmers Market in the Southwest.

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 with 81 votes, the Tanana Valley Farmers Market of Fairbanks in second place with 27 votes, and the Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market in third place with six votes. More than 2,000 markets across the country received votes.

“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 third year this summer.

This year, the Sitka Local Foods Network hosted eight farmers markets on various Saturdays from July 3 to Sept. 18 on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. 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 next summer, hopefully at a venue where we can have both inside and outside booths. The Sitka Farmers Market was a community wellness project from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, and now serves as a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. This was the 14th year of the markets.

“I’m glad we were able to regain some of the feel of a real community gathering this year, instead of it just a quick pick-up of your produce order,” Bingham said. “One of the nice things about hosting the farmers market is it serves as a business incubator for smaller cottage foods and arts/crafts businesses, and those businesses lost one of their marketplaces last summer.”

Order fresh, locally grown produce this week using Salt and Soil Marketplace

There isn’t a regular Sitka Farmers Market this week, but Sitka residents can still buy fresh, locally grown produce through the Salt and Soil Marketplace.

This is similar to what we did last year, where people order online from 5 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon through 8 p.m. Thursday night. The produce is picked and ready for pick up from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 24, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street).

Right now, the Sitka Local Foods Network has 10 small farmer’s choice baskets available for $20 each (most likely featuring lettuce, greens, broccolini, onions, and zucchini, with possible substitutions being carrots or garlic scapes if needed). There also are two small rhubarb baskets at $10 each, and two small zucchini batches at $5 each.

Also, Middle Island Gardens has a variety of produce for sale on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website that will be available for pick up on Saturday at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Anam Cara Family Garden has a variety of jams and jellies for sale, but those are for pick up on Saturday at 815 Charles Street. They aren’t posted yet, but Rainforest Flowers may have bouquets for sale.

You will need to create a Sitka-based account on Salt and Soil Marketplace in order to purchase produce, and you will pay online. Unfortunately, we are not taking WIC coupons or Alaska Quest SNAP cards this week (we only take them at full markets this year).

The Sitka Local Foods Network is scheduled to host its third Sitka Farmers Market of the season from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. We are watching the current spike in Covid cases, and if our case numbers continue to grow we may switch back to the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering format.

In the meantime, we ask everybody to please wear masks, even if you are vaccinated, and stay home if you’re sick.

Sitka Local Foods Network hosts first Sitka Farmers Market of 2021

After hosting a greatly limited market with only produce booths in 2020, the Sitka Local Foods Network kicked off its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets on Saturday, July 3, at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall with more booths and more community connection.

This was the first of eight markets this summer, our 14th season of markets. The other markets are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, all at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall, 330 Harbor Drive.

We are recruiting more vendors for our upcoming markets, and potential vendors can register and pay vendor fees at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. If you have any questions, you can contact Charles Bingham at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or 623-7660. We also are recruiting volunteers (to help set up, take down, and sell) and musicians for the markets.

In addition, the Sitka Local Foods Network and Middle Island Gardens will have limited produce sales on non-market weeks through the Salt and Soil Marketplace online sales website. Sales open online at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. on Thursday, with pick-up scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, July 10, 24, Aug. 14, and Sept. 4, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street.

Anam Cara Family Garden also will sell jams and jellies on Salt and Soil Marketplace, but people will need to pick those up from the garden at 815 Charles Street on Saturday.

If you are new to the Salt and Soil Marketplace, you will need to set up a Sitka account on the site and the click Shop Now and dial in the Sitka products. This site also sells products in other communities, but there are no deliveries to Sitka.

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

Sitka Farmers Market kicks off 14th season on Saturday

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets with its opening market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. This will be the first of eight full markets this summer, with the other markets taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, all at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

“After last year’s COVID-19 pandemic limited our markets to only produce booths, we’re happy to be getting back to some normalcy this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our eight markets this year will still have some COVID safety measures, such as being held entirely outdoors and encouraging everybody to use face masks. But we will have a variety of fresh local produce, fish, homemade baked goods, cottage foods, cooked food, arts and crafts, and more. We missed the community aspect of the markets last year, so it will be nice to have some of our vendors back this summer.”

The Sitka Farmers Market gots its start from the second Sitka Health Summit, held in April 2008, when Sitka residents chose two food-related community wellness projects to work on for the next year — to create a local foods market and to start a community greenhouse. Later in April, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church made its backyard available for growing produce, which became St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and by August the first of three Sitka Farmers Markets was held. Those projects led to the creation of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The Sitka Local Foods Network continues to host the Sitka Farmers Market, and also runs a farm stand selling produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The SLFN farm stand also sells Alaska Grown value-added products from around the state. Last year when the market was simplified due to COVID, the Alaska Grown products were dropped. This summer, the Alaska Grown products are back, with Barnacle Foods kelp products from Juneau, Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood, and more. New this year are Foraged and Found kelp products from Ketchikan, Moosetard mustard and BBQ sauce products from Fairbanks, and some special Sitka Farmers Market-label chocolate bars from Sitka’s own Theobroma Chocolates.

“We still are recruiting vendors for the markets, but we do expect Middle Island Gardens with fresh produce at all eight markets, and the Hog Hole hot dog stand at all eight markets,” Bingham said. “In addition, at our first market we have Harriet and Ron McClain of Fish Bone Studio with arts and crafts, Pamela Ash with arts and crafts, Ashley and Dustin Ward and family of Ward Craft with arts and crafts and cottage foods, and Charlie Bower with cultivated mushrooms.”

New this year is an online vendor registration site, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com, where potential vendors can register and pay for their vendor fees. Nalani James, who was market co-manager last year, will manage the markets this summer, with Charles Bingham and Amanda Anjum assisting. There also is a youth vendor program for vendors age 14 and younger. Potential vendors can email sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call Charles Bingham at 623-7660 with any questions. Potential musicians and volunteers also can call Bingham, if they want to help.

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.”