Scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of the 2018 summer

Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, center, presents the Table of the Day Award to Rachel Henderson, left, and Liz Maric of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 4 Clam Chowder Booth during the first market of the summer held Saturday, July 7, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. ANS served bowls and cups of homemade clam chowder with pilot bread or crackers. As Table Of The Day Award-winners, Rachel and Liz received two Sitka Farmers Market t-shirts, some Evie’s Brinery fermented food, some birch syrup products from Kahiltna Birchworks, and a jar of Inga’s Spice Rub. The next Sitka Farmers Market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how to be a vendor, go to the Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or check out our Facebook pages for the Sitka Local Foods Network and the Sitka Farmers Market.

We held our first Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, July 7, with a full slate of booths and a big crowd. The weather even cooperated, providing just a few light sprinkles even though the forecast was for rain showers.

We kept running out of fresh produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, even though our lead gardener made two extra runs back to the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden to restock our supplies. Our vendors had a wide range of products for sale, including frozen fish and canned salmon (we’ve been without a regular fish vendor for a couple of years). We had vendors selling homemade clam chowder, home-baked bread, jams and jellies, sea veggies and teas, garlic scapes, carrots and other produce, locally produced medicinal herbs and tinctures, arts and crafts, and more. We also had a couple of food trucks and a hot dog vendor 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 21, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept. 15. 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.

Also, join the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Food Co-Op at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11, at the Sitka Public Library, as we host a free community conversation about our food and food systems with nationally known food policy/food systems expert and author Mark Winne. Mark is in town researching a book where he’s looking at the local food systems of 8-10 small communities around the country, and he chose Sitka. Healthy snacks will be provided.

A slideshow of scenes from the first Sitka Farmers Market of 2018 is posted below.

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Sitka Local Foods Network to host seven Sitka Farmers Markets in 2018 summer


The Sitka Local Foods Network is bringing the excitement back to the Sitka Farmers Market, which opens its 11th season of markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). We rebuilt some of the vitality of the market last year, 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 second 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 this spring. We want the market to be a great way to connect with neighbors and support local entrepreneurs.”

Other new innovations last year 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 2018. 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, 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 7, 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 21, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept. 15, 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 coupons. We have a matching program where SNAP and WIC clients can double up to $20 of their benefits in local produce. This year we received a grant 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 this year the White E is helping us match those produce benefits,” Bingham said. “It is so important to make sure local food is accessible to everyone.”

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 in 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.

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), Charles Bingham, the Sitka True Value, Harry Race Pharmacy, ALPS Federal Credit Union, Beth Short-Rhoads and Jeff Budd.

Sitka Farmers Market vendor registration information for 2018 now available

Registration for the 2018 Sitka Farmers Markets is open, and vendors looking to sell local food, arts and crafts, and other items at the markets can find all the vendor forms, information sheets, rules and regulations for this year by going to the Documents page on this site, or look at the bottom of this post for the documents. The forms include information about how to register your table for this year’s markets.

The 2018 Sitka Farmers Market manager is Nina Vizcarrondo, who managed the market last year and before that helped manage a New York City farmers market. She can be reached at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or (907) 738-9301 during the market season. Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham is assisting with the market again this year.

The dates for our 2018 Sitka Farmers Markets will be 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 at 235 Katlian Street. We hosted a vendor meeting on May 17, which was attended by Bruce Gazaway of the Food Safety Program from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

From noon to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, we are partnering with the Sitka Kitch and UAF Cooperative Extension Program to host a Starting A Cottage Foods Business class in Room 106 of the UAS Sitka Campus. This videoconference class taught by Sarah Lewis costs $10, and you can register at http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). Pre-registration is required and the registration deadline is 11 p.m. on Monday, June 11. Students taking the cottage foods business class will receive half off the table fee for their first market of the summer.

This year we don’t have many changes from last year, when the Sitka Local Foods Network rolled back its Sitka Farmers Market table prices to 2015 levels and simplified them. We hope this helps us reclaim some of the vendors we lost in previous years. The table fees will be $40 for a full table (slightly longer than eight feet) or $20 for a half table per market. We also have a deal where vendors who reserve space for and participate in all seven markets can receive a refund of one market fee after the season (so get seven markets for the price of six). There no longer is a price differential between indoor and outdoor booths (outdoor booths are charged the full table rate). We want to bring back some of the excitement to the markets, where it returns to being a community gathering place, and that means we have to make the market attractive to vendors.

If you are an Alaska food vendor and don’t have the time to host a table at the market, we might be interested in buying your products at wholesale rates or selling them on consignment at our Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand. We want to show Sitkans the variety of local food products available in our community and state. Last year we expanded our Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, and this year we plan to try some new products.

We are hosting a second year of the children’s vendor program, where kids get to become entrepreneurs and sell their own locally made food or arts and crafts. This program is modeled after the city’s program where children younger than age 12 buy a season permit to sell items near Harrigan Centennial Hall on cruise ship days. In our children’s vendor program, the fee is $10 for the full market season.

Nina is available to answer questions and to make suggestions that will help new and returning vendors adjust to any food regulation changes from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, updates to the Alaska Quest electronic benefits program and WIC (Women, Infants, Children) supplemental food program, etc. We hope to schedule a pre-market meeting or two for potential vendors between now and the first market.

There were several changes to the 2017 rules and responsibilities, but in 2018 the only major changes are we won’t have access to the Alaska Native Sisterhood Kitchen (if you want to use it to cook something for the market, you will have to contact ANS to rent the kitchen) and vendors will not be able to store equipment at ANB Founders Hall between markets. The last page of the rules and responsibilities packet has the vendor registration form for adult and child vendors.

In addition, we are trying to increase our labor pool of volunteers to help out with the market. We need people to help us set up, take down, sell produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, and more. If you are interested in volunteering, send us a note with your contact info. We usually have musicians play at the market, so we are gathering a list of music groups that want to perform.

For more information, contact Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com, or you can email the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. Tiffany Justice is the SLFN board liaison to the market (and board treasurer) and Charles Bingham is the SLFN board president, and both will assist with the market.

Sitka Farmers Market vendor forms

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

• Sitka Farmers Market vendor agreement to accept Alaska Quest SNAP EBT tokens (2017)

• Link to 2015 Farmers Market Resource Fact Sheets from Alaska Division of Agriculture

• 2015 City and Borough of Sitka Sales Tax Form for Sitka Farmers Market Vendors

• Cottage Food Fact Sheet — “Understanding Alaska’s Cottage Food Exemptions”

• Cottage Food Exemptions

• Washington Farmers Market Vendor Marketing Guide (March 2014)

• Guide to Operating a Successful Home-Based Food Business (March 2014 document from UAF Cooperative Extension Service and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation includes Alaska food safety information and regulations for farmers markets and other food sales)

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)

Celebrate local farmers and gardeners on Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 1

Alaskans will celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 1. On this day, Alaskans are encouraged to support local agriculture by seeking out and purchasing products produced in Alaska and educating youth about the vital role that agriculture plays in our economy. This is Alaska’s version of National Ag Day (which took place on March 20 this year, when many parts of Alaska were still thawing out).

Here are a few ideas from the Division of Agriculture on how to celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day:

In Sitka, you can celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day by starting a food garden (even a couple of containers on your deck can provide you with potatoes, carrots or greens). Teachers are encouraged to offer a lesson plan or two about the importance of agriculture in Alaska and in Sitka. Here’s a linkto an article about how Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Also, the Sitka History Minute feature on KCAW-Raven Radio has had several episodes about agriculture in Sitka (click here to listen to a feature about the potato in Sitka, click here to listen to a feature about the Sitka Agricultural Station, and click here to listen to a feature about the cows of Iris Meadows).

During the growing season, please support the Sitka farmers and production gardeners listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book(chief contact in parentheses) — Anam Cara Family Garden (Lisa Sadleir-Hart), Blatchley Community Gardens (David Nuetzel, this garden closed in 2016 and there is a group seeking a new location for what will be called Sitka Community Gardens, but its 2018 status is unknown), Down To Earth U-Pick Garden (Lori Adams, switched to a CSA in 2017 and no longer is a public u-pick garden), Finn Island Farm (Keith Nyitray, this farm closed), Sprucecot Gardens (Judy Johnstone), and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (Laura Schmidt/Sitka Local Foods Network). There also are a few Sitka farms and production gardens not listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book, such as Beyond Leafy LLC (Jimmy and Leslie Kranz), Middle Island Gardens (Andrea Fraga/Kaleb Aldred), and Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Garden (Florence Welsh).

Many of these farms and gardens will be vendors during the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. The Sitka Farmers Markets take place 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 St.). There will be a Sitka Farmers Market vendor meeting from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street) where rules and responsibilities will be discussed.

Sitka Local Foods Network education committee announces its 2018 spring garden classes

Want to learn how to grow your own food? Are you new to Sitka and want to learn what veggies grow in our town? The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee has a list of free 2018 spring garden classes that can help you learn what to do and when to do it so you have a healthy garden.

This spring, most of our classes will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursdays at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). Each week will feature a different topic, and all classes are free (donations to the Sitka Local Foods Network will be accepted). The class schedule is as follows:

  • Starting A Cottage Foods BusinessSaturday, April 14, 1-3 p.m., Sitka Kitch (505 SMC), taught by Sarah Lewis, in partnership with UAF Cooperative Extension Service and Sitka Kitch, $10 class fee (half-off first market date vendor fee at Sitka Farmers Market, pre-register online at http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title).
  • Gardening in Sitka 101April 19, taught by Michelle Putz and Jennifer Carter.
  • Greenhouse GardeningApril 26, 6-7:30 p.m., taught by Andrea Fraga.
  • Growing Potatoes in SitkaMay 3, taught by Kathy Kyle.
  • Container GardeningMay 10, taught by Charles Bingham.

For more information about the classes, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com. Other classes may be added at a later date if we find volunteers to teach them. If you are a Sitka gardener who wants to teach a class, contact Charles at the info above.

Sitka Local Foods Network seeks volunteer instructors for spring garden education classes

Are you an experienced Sitka gardener who wants to share your knowledge with the community? The Sitka Local Foods Network is looking for a few volunteer instructors to teach garden education classes this spring.

Classes typically last about 1 1/2 to two hours, and they can cover a variety of Sitka garden topics. In past years we’ve had people teach classes such as Sitka Gardening 101, How to Extend Your Garden Season, How to Grow Potatoes, How to Grow Rhubarb, How to Grow Fruit Trees, How to Grow Garlic (this class was in the fall), How to Raise Chickens, How to Container Garden, How to Compost, and more. Last year we even had a class on Cottage Food Business Basics (with the help of the Juneau office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service) to help vendors prepare for the Sitka Farmers Markets.

Most of the classes tend to be low-key, and the class sizes have ranged from 2-35 depending on the topic. Some classes have been hands-on (with students planting starts in trays), while others have been lectures or group conversations. It depends on the instructor and class. A few classes have been taught at people’s home gardens, but we also have hosted others at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (Thursday nights work best for this venue). Most of our classes are offered for free, except for a couple that had a small supply fee. If you need help preparing a lesson plan, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service provides a variety of free and low-cost publications on Alaska gardening topics that can be downloaded from the Publications part of its website.

If you are available to teach a course or two, please contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com so we can build a schedule.