• Sitka Farmers Market prepares for eighth summer of fresh, local veggies

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK Sitka Local Foods Network board members and supporters pose at the St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden on Monday. St. Peter's Fellowship Farm supplies most of the local produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. The other five Sitka Farmers Market dates are July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12. Pictured are, front row from left, Michelle Putz, Muriel Sadleir-Hart, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Kathy Jones. Back row, Matthew Jackson, Jonathan Adler, Peter Gorman, Jud Kirkness, Brandie Cheatham, Mary Therese Thomson, and Laura Schmidt.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
Sitka Local Foods Network board members and supporters pose at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden on Monday. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm supplies most of the local produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. The other five Sitka Farmers Market dates are July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12. Pictured are, front row from left, Michelle Putz, Muriel Sadleir-Hart, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Kathy Jones. Back row, Matthew Jackson, Jonathan Adler, Peter Gorman, Jud Kirkness, Brandie Cheatham, Mary Therese Thomson, and Laura Schmidt.

Sitka Local Foods Network uses St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and Sitka Farmers Market to improve food security in Sitka

During the stormy months of winter, most people in Sitka aren’t thinking about their gardens. But that’s when St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt is trying to figure out which vegetables to plant in which garden bed, starting seeds, and (if the soil isn’t frozen) amending the soil with seaweed and other nutrients to get an early start on the garden.

As the lead gardener since 2011, a contract position with the Sitka Local Foods Network, Schmidt is responsible for growing most of the fresh, local vegetables sold during the Sitka Farmers Markets each summer. She oversees food production at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, and at an extension garden located at Pat Arvin’s house.

Schmidt and her volunteer gardeners have about 3,000 square feet in production. Last year they grew about 300 pounds of rhubarb and 100 pounds of kale. “That’s a lot of kale,” Schmidt said. Besides kale and rhubarb, they also grow garlic, onions, potatoes, kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, fava beans, spinach, carrots, beets, nasturtiums, zucchini, cucumbers, and more.

“It’s fun to have it all come together. It’s nice to see it turn into food,” Schmidt said. “It’s a fun puzzle because every year is different, and how do we make it more productive.”

2015SitkaFarmersMarketFlierSitka residents will have a chance to celebrate their independence from store-bought and overly processed food at the first Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The other five markets will be on July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12.

“It’s very important. People come for the produce. It’s the prime attraction,” Sitka Farmers Market Manager Debe Brincefield said. “We have jams and jellies, bread, fish, and arts and crafts, but people bring their produce bags and are happy to fill them.”

The Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are two of the main projects of the Sitka Local Foods Network, and both projects came out of the second Sitka Health Summit, which took place in April 2008. The first garden beds were built and planted at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm by May 2008, and food grown at St. Peter’s was available for sale at the first Sitka Farmers Market in August 2008. Since then, both projects have been a growing concern.

These two projects came about because many in Sitka were concerned about food security, especially as the country entered a major recession in 2008. It’s estimated about 90-95 percent of the food eaten in Alaska is shipped here from the Lower 48 or foreign countries, and artificially cheap transportation made it easier for people to buy their food from the store than to grow or harvest it themselves, which was the norm in Sitka until the 1950s and 1960s. With so little food being grown locally, Sitka residents worried what might happen if fuel prices went up or if we had a natural disaster that destroyed our ports and/or airport.

There also were worries about how much longer residents could afford store-bought food, especially as Sitka food prices went up 43.6 percent from September 2003 to 2011, according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report (a 2012 Sitka Health Summit project). The report also noted that 1,410 Sitka residents participated in the food stamp program in 2013, about one-sixth of Sitka’s population of about 9,000. Sitka residents redeemed $1,645,702 in food stamp dollars in 2012, an increase of $201,000 from 2011.

The Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are two key elements for improving food security in Sitka, with education about gardening and food preservation being another key element.

“It helps people to connect the food to the market, and hopefully realize the Sitka Local Foods Network is the umbrella organization,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “We knew if we had a market, we had to have food to sell. We have a lead gardener in Laura who has grown and expanded the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and our extension garden at Pat Arvin’s every year. And we have generous people who donate produce from their gardens for us to sell, such as Jud Kirkness, Linda Wilson and my family.”

AK 2015 FMNP Poster SLFNTo help families struggling with food security, the Sitka Farmers Market became the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP (food stamps) and WIC nutrition benefits, including the Alaska Quest electronic benefits transfer cards used for SNAP. The Sitka Farmers Market also matches dollars spent on SNAP-approved foods (produce, fish, baked goods, barley products, etc.), which allows Alaska Quest card users to double their purchase by as much as $20 per person per market. That means a family of four with SNAP benefits can be matched up to $80. This year, the Sitka Farmers Market will partner with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) on a new program where SEARHC beneficiaries with chronic disease are prescribed vouchers for fruits and vegetables.

And the growing is spreading.

“As I was taking a walk around town the other day, I identified three new gardens,” Sadleir-Hart said. “They also have a new garden at the Pioneer Home where they’re growing food.”

For more information about the Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. To learn about being a vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, contact Debe Brincefield at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call 738-8683.

(Editor’s note: The story above appeared in the Weekender section of the July 2, 2015, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It was written by Sitka Local Foods Network board member/communications director Charles Bingham.)

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• Sitka Local Foods Network launches crowd-funding project for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

GreensInHoopHouseStPeters

StPetersSignWithToDoListSignOne of the key elements of the Sitka Local Foods Network’s efforts to bring more locally grown food to Sitka each year is the crops we grow at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a communal garden behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church that produces food for the Sitka Farmers Market, local school lunch programs, and other venues. This month, the Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a special projects fundraiser on the website Razoo.com to try and raise $1,200 to be used for improvements at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

“The SLFN is excited to launch our first foray into crowd sourcing,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “We can’t think of a better way to raise funds for our successful St.Peter’s Fellowship Farm and our extension garden at Pat Arvin’s. Our lead gardener, Laura Schmidt, together with our local food interns, have continued to guide us towards increased food production which we’ve then moved into the community. Please help us support this deliciously nourishing project with a donation of $10 to $100 to $1,000 and keep food production growing in Sitka.”

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm was the brainchild Bonnie Elsensohn, the wife of the church’s former rector. The church had recently removed a large tree behind the See House, and Bonnie thought the open space would be the perfect spot for a communal garden. In the spring of 2008 she contacted Lisa Sadleir-Hart and Doug Osborne, who were board members of what became the Sitka Local Foods Network, suggesting they make a presentation to the church vestry asking that the site become a place to grow vegetables for the new Sitka Farmers Market.

Wood from the felled tree was used to make the first five garden beds, and enough crops were grown to support three Sitka Farmers Markets later that summer. Now St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is 1,600 square feet, and it produces enough produce for six Sitka Farmers Markets,a garden stand at the Chelan Produce events during summer, a garden stand at the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser, sales to school lunch programs, and more.

This is the first crowd-funding event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, and we chose to use Razoo.com because it has tailored its program for nonprofit organizations. It is similar to other crowd-funding sites, such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, or GoFundMe.com, but the service charges are lower on Razoo.com for organizations that have an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is hoping to raise $1,200 in this campaign, which ends on Monday, Dec. 8. To learn more about the project and to contribute, click this link and follow the prompts on the page. You also can click on the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm photo in the right column of our main website page and it will take you directly to the fundraiser link.

All money raised by the Sitka Local Foods Network is used to fund Sitka Local Foods Network programs, such as the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs, etc. All funds raised by the Sitka Local Foods Network is used according to our mission statement, which is to promote the growing, harvesting and eating of local food in Sitka and SE Alaska.

WhereOurFoodIsGrown

• Learn about where your Sitka Farmers Market produce is grown

WhereOurFoodIsGrown

SitkaFarmersMarketSignWhen people stop at the Sitka Local Foods Network booth at the Sitka Farmers Market to buy produce a common question people ask is where is the food grown.

Most of the produce sold at the Sitka Local Foods Network booth is grown here in Sitka and comes from three main sources — the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden (Laura Schmidt is lead gardener), some land in Pat Arvin’s Garden she donates to the Sitka Local Foods Network to grow potatoes and carrots, and Anam Cara Garden owned by Tom Hart and SLFN president Lisa Sadleir-Hart. We also receive donations from other family gardens in town with extra produce.

All of the funds raised selling produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network booth are used to support SLFN projects during the year. These include hosting the six Sitka Farmers Markets each summer, operating St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, providing a variety of education opportunities about local foods and gardening in Sitka, and supporting other projects in town that promote local foods (such as the Sitka Community Food Assessment, Fish to Schools, Sitka Kitch, etc.).

Don’t forget the last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). If you live near Sawmill Creek Apartments (9:45 a.m. pick-up), Indian River housing (9:50 a.m.), or the Swan Lake Senior Center (10 a.m.), we have free transportation to the market through a contract with Sitka Tours. The shuttle bus picks up at the times listed, and makes its return trip at noon from ANB Hall. We do plan a small produce table at the Running of the Boots on Saturday, Sept. 27, near St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral.