UAF Cooperative Extension Service to offer Extension Workshops in Sitka with Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Juneau District Office will be in Sitka later this month to offer Extension Workshops.

The Extension Workshops include a five-hour class on Canning New Year Soups, and three lunchtime Cooking For Brain Health classes — Get Pickles, Spice It Up, and Go Nuts.

The Canning New Year Soups class is from 3-8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, in the downstairs kitchen of the Sitka Lutheran Church (the location of the Sitka Kitch). Please enter from the alley behind the church, and park on the street and not in back of the church. This class for all skill levels costs $25.

The three lunchtime classes take place from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Jan. 23-25, in the Gus Adams Meeting Room at Sitka Public Library. They cost $10 each, or you can take all three classes for $20.

The registration deadline for these classes is Saturday, Jan. 21. To register, go to http://bit.ly/SitkaJan2023 (scroll down) or click on the highlighted class titles above. For more information, contact Jasmine Shaw at jdshaw2@alaska.edu or 907-747-9440.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference Feb. 21 to Sitka

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will teach a certified food protection manager workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 21. This is a one-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Fairbanks, Palmer, Juneau, and Sitka, plus other locations that may arrange for the class.

certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and participants will take a proctored computer-based exam at the end of the class. The reason the registration deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here, and the registration deadline is Monday, Feb. 6 (note, if anybody in Sitka wants to take the class and it’s past the deadline, contact Jasmine Shaw at the number below).

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in a room TBA at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Julie Cascio at (907) 745-3677 (Palmer number) or jmcascio@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Julie at least three weeks before the class.

Also, the ServSafe book ($70) and certification exam ($85) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.

In order to receive your CFPM, you are only required to pass the exam. Taking the training course is optional. If you have previously taken the course and passed the exam, you may wish to only schedule an exam. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service is working to create a network of exam proctors throughout Alaska.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service to teach online Preserving Alaska’s Bounty class series

UAF Cooperative Extension Service agent Sarah Lewis will teach the Preserving Alaska’s Bounty online class series from Jan. 7 to Feb. 4, 2023. The five-week series will give participants the skills necessary to safely preserve foods for their own household. Anyone who wishes to become a food preservation educator within their community may also complete a final exam.

Students will learn about and practice pickling and fermenting vegetables; boiling water-bath canning of fruits, berries, and pickles; pressure canning of meat, fish, and vegetables; as well as dehydration of fruits and vegetables; making jerky; and smoking fish. Other topics will include emergency preparedness, how to start a cottage foods business (aka, a home-based foods business), and information about wild harvested plants.

The course will be offered on the Canvas platform. Live instruction will be offered in a 3-hour Zoom session each Saturday at 1 p.m., with assignments to be completed in the student’s kitchen on their own schedule, as well as assigned readings and other activities. The final session will be on Feb. 4.

Participants must be 16 or older (unless joining a household adult). The registration deadline is Dec. 31. Registration and more class details are available at http://bit.ly/PreservingAlaska2022, or by contacting Sarah at sarah.lewis@alaska.edu. Even though Sarah is based in Juneau, this is an online class so you can take it from anywhere in the state.

A course fee of $150 per household or Zoom connection includes one class textbook, which will be mailed to students. A 50-percent reduction (scholarship) is available if requested. Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made 10 business days in advance of the Jan. 7 start, to sarah.lewis@alaska.edu.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, educational institution and provider and prohibits illegal discrimination against any individual: http://www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination.

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Sitka Local Foods Network seeks manager for 2023 Sitka Farmers Market season

Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James, right, rings up a sale at a 2022 market.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is seeking a manager to coordinate the 2023 Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. This is a contract position, and the manager receives a small compensation, depending on experience, for his or her contract 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, Nalani James, for the past three summers. But her life is getting too busy with two personal business ventures (Bayside Taxi Tours and Baker Cups) and a family store (Bear Country Convenience and Coffee) for her to keep running the markets. We hope to have the new manager hired in time to do some training with Nalani (and assistant manager Charles Bingham) this spring/summer, and Nalani may be able to assist for one or two of the early markets before totally bowing out of the job. We thank Nalani and her family for their help rebuilding our market during Covid times.

This will be the 16th year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features 6-8 markets during the summer from July through September. Market dates for 2023 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. We have requested July 1, 15, 29, Aug. 12, 26, Sept. 9, and 23 for the 2023 markets. The Sitka Farmers Market is a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network.

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. The Sitka Local Foods Network hosts a farm stand at the market, with produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and a variety of Alaska Grown value-added food products.

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 by doing most of the administrative work while the market manager handles the actual markets. 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 (or a reliable friend with 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 10 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16 (DEADLINE EXTENDED to Wednesday, Feb. 8). 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 pre-market meetings for potential vendors. We also will announce 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 2023.

• Description of duties for market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market Manager (2023)

Registration open for 2023 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit

Registration for the 2023 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit opened this week. The event takes place from Thursday to Saturday, Feb. 23-25, 2023, at Holy Cross House in Petersburg. This is the first in-person Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit since the 2019 event in Sitka. The plan was to hold one in Petersburg in 2022, but it was postponed (and converted to an online event) due to COVID-19.

To learn more and register for the summit, please visit the website at http://www.seakfarmerssummit.com. Space is limited so please reserve your spot ASAP. Travel scholarships are available for those in need of financial assistance, there is a low-cost bunkhouse lodging option, and meals are included in the registration package.

Also, we are working with partners to offer two informative pre-summit workshops, which will take place on Feb 21-22.  Learn important farm and food safety practices through the Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course, offered by Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and be inspired to improve your sales strategies through the Farmers Marketing Workshop organized by Ecotrust. Both workshops are absolutely FREE and open to all Farmers Summit participants — you can register for one or both on the SEAK Farmers Summit website.

We hope to see you all in Petersburg this winter. Mark your calendars and reserve your spot today. For more information, email seakfarmerssummit@gmail.com.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm attains People’s Garden designation from USDA

The Sitka Local Foods Network’s St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has been admitted to the USDA People’s Garden Initiative, which recently was rekindled after going dormant during the Trump Administration. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm held People’s Garden status in the original program, which launched in 2009.

When the USDA relaunched the program this spring, it initially included the garden at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and 17 other gardens in major cities around the country. In September, the USDA opened the program to other gardens around the country, and organizations could apply for the program by going to the People’s Garden website and applying.

According to the USDA, school gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and small-scale agriculture projects in rural and urban areas can be recognized as a “People’s Garden” if they:  

  • Benefit the community by providing food, green space, wildlife habitat, education space.
  • Are a collaborative effort. This can include groups working together with USDA agencies, food banks, Girl Scouts, Master Gardeners, conservation districts, etc.
  • Incorporate conservation management practices, such as using native plant species, rain barrels, integrated pest management, xeriscaping.
  • Educate the public about sustainable gardening practices and the importance of local, diverse and resilient food systems providing healthy food for the community.

“St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has been a tremendous resource for getting local produce into the hands of Sitka residents,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “We started the communal garden after the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, and we’ve been building on it ever since. It’s where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the Sitka Farmers Market each summer. In 2020 and 2021 we added two high tunnels, which allowed us to extend our growing season and reduced the impact of recent cold, wet summer weather.”

Laura Schmidt has been the lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for a dozen years. In 2019, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm earned a Certified Naturally Grown designation, meaning it follows sustainable gardening principles, such as not using chemical fertilizers or GMOs. The People’s Garden website currently shows five gardens in Alaska with the designation.

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2023

The Sitka Local Foods Network in recent years created a sponsorship program to help promote our mission, and Sitka businesses and individuals are welcome to join for 2023. The goal of the sponsorship program is to make the projects we undertake (Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, gardening education, food business development, etc.) more sustainable.

“Sitka has a precarious position when it comes to food security, and the Sitka Local Foods Network is trying to improve our community food security through our mission to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods in the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham said. “Sponsors of the Sitka Local Foods Network are working with an organization and a farmers market that places a high value on local food and businesses, fun, premium quality goods and experiences.”

In recent years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted 7-8 Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer (from July to September). Due to COVID-19, we had to greatly scale back our 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets, focusing just on produce sales and using an online sales portal, but we did double our number of market weeks. In 2021, we hosted an outdoor-only market that brought back some of our vendors. In 2022, we returned to our usual venue of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall after a two-year absence, and we almost had a normal market (with masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and no half-tables to spread out vendors). We haven’t set our 2023 market dates yet, but we anticipate we will have a more normal market experience this year.

In addition, we grow most of the local produce sold at the markets at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and a couple of other locations in town. In March 2020 we built a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and we were able to add another new high tunnel before the 2021 growing season. These high tunnels allowed us to extend our growing season and helped reduce the impact of our last couple of cold, wet summers. We usually offer a variety of garden education classes in the spring. And one way we ensured fresh, local produce is available to lower-income Sitkans is through our matching program for WIC and SNAP beneficiaries (the first $20 spent on produce at the market), courtesy of recent grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop and the Sitka Legacy Foundation.

In 2018 we launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, and have continued the program with the expectation of hosting it again in 2023 (our 2022 winners were Gretchen Stelzenmuller of Enoki Eatery and the duo of Edith Johnson and Lexi Fish-Hackett of an unnamed fish broth project). We also have hosted the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser for more than a decade, with 2018 and 2019 in partnership with Youth Advocates of Sitka but canceled in 2020-22 due to COVID-19. In addition, we support other local food projects in Sitka, such as the Fish to Schools lunch program and the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

There are four levels of sponsorship available, and each has its own set of perks.

  • Grower ($2,500-plus) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets, include your logo and company name prominently in our merchandise and advertisements, and thank you on our social media and web pages. If appropriate for the Sitka Farmers Market, you may set up a free promotional booth.
  • Harvester ($1,000-$2,499) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets and include your logo and company name in our merchandise and advertisements.
  • Planter ($250-$999) — Your banner will hang at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets.
  • Friend ($50-$249) — You are listed on our online sponsor page.

We have limited space for banners at the Sitka Farmers Markets, so please contact us before June 1 to guarantee your spot. To learn more about the sponsorship program, click the link below for details and a registration form. For more information, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or by email at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2023 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

Public comment period open until Oct. 31 for Alaska Food Security and Independence Task Force 2022 Report

The public comment period is open until Oct. 31 for the draft Alaska Food Security and Independence Task Force 2022 Report. Please submit any comments via email to ced.fstfcomments@alaska.gov

“The goals of this task force are to increase food security, strengthen local economies, and lessen Alaska’s dependence on external foods and supply chains.

“The Task Force will review and provide recommendations to the Governor of the State of Alaska regarding food security goals and policies, and guidelines for state initiatives that, to the maximum extent possible, increase local production, harvest, processing, storage, and use of food products. Once the report is received, there may be further clarification and deliverables identified that would require additional work by the Task Force.”

You can learn more about the task force and download the draft report at this link, https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/FoodSecurityTaskForce.aspx

Scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2022 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Derek James, and Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James, center, present the Table of the Day Award for Sept. 24 to Pauline Duncan of Grandfather’s Words. Pauline sold a variety of locally produced devil’s club salves and gift baskets, and more. She received a certificate, two Sitka Farmers Market special label chocolate bars, a bunch of carrots, some apples, a bunch of kale, Foraged & Found kelp salsa, a package of Alaska Flour Company barley pancake mix, a package of Alaska Flour Company couscous, a jar of Moosetard mustard, and other prizes. This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, and our next market will probably be in late June or early July 2023. More details about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

We closed out the season for the Sitka Farmers Markets this year when we hosted our seventh market on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. This was the last market of our 15th season of markets.

We appreciate everybody who made this market season a success, especially all of our vendors, volunteers, and customers who wore masks to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

We didn’t have as many booths as in previous years, we didn’t have half tables this year to spread out vendors to reduce Covid risk, but the smaller markets seemed to have worked. We still had fresh local produce, as well as a variety of Alaska Grown value-added products, local eggs, mushrooms, and arts and crafts. The Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand accepts and matches WIC coupons and SNAP EBT benefits.

More information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

A slideshow of scenes from the seventh and final market of the summer is posted below.

Thanks for a successful 15th season of the Sitka Farmers Market

The Sitka Local Foods Network just completed its 15th season of hosting the Sitka Farmers Market. We hope Sitka residents enjoyed the market, and we plan to be back next summer for a 16th season.

Over the last couple of years, we had to make some adjustments as we dealt with this Covid-19 pandemic thing, which meant relocating our market for two years and reformatting it in one of those years. This year we were able to return to our usual venue, the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, even though we still had to require masks when we had markets during high-Covid risk weeks. 

But we got through it and hope to have a better season next year.

The Sitka Local Foods Network couldn’t host the market without the support of a wide range of sponsors. We have a tiered sponsorship program with four levels — Grower ($2,500-plus), Harvester ($1,000-$2,499), Planter ($250-$999) and Friend ($50-$249). These are local businesses and individuals, and even a few not from Sitka, who are supporting our programs.

Our Grower Level sponsors in 2022 included the Alaska Cancer Partnership (a program of the Alaska Division of Public Health), The Alaska Community Foundation, and Alaska Food Policy Council.

Our Harvester Level sponsors were the Sitka Salmon Shares 1% For The Wild Fund, Sitka Legacy Foundation, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka White Elephant Shop (White E), the GCI Gives Fund, ALPS Federal Credit Union, and the Alaska Farmers Markets Association.

Our Planter Level sponsors were Harry Race Pharmacy/White’s Inc., Sea Mart, Market Center, Fish and Family Seafoods, the Sitka Employees of First National Bank Alaska, Sitka True Value, Linda Schmidt, Amanda Anjum, David and Margaret Steward, and Charles Bingham.

Our Friend Level sponsors included Beth Short-Rhoads, Patricia Atkinson, Guillermo Espinoza, Ehsan Espinoza, Robb Garni, Jud Kirkness, Catherine Allgood-Mellema, Joe Leghorn, Pat Hanson, Beth Kindig, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Jaime Zelhuber, Christina Kowalczewski, Traci Gale, Math Trafton, Zoe Trafton, Leah Mason, Moira McBride, Steve Paustian and Mary Beth Nelson, Aubrey Nelson, and Robin Sherman. 

We thank you for your support. We also appreciate everybody who came to one of our markets this summer to support the local businesses selling local food or arts and crafts. 

This brings us to our offseason, where we plan and raise funds for 2023. The Sitka Local Foods Network is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. In addition to the Sitka Farmers Market, we grow food at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, sponsor the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, and connect residents to education opportunities for growing, cooking, and preserving local food. 

We always need new board members and volunteers. For more information, go to our website at www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org or contact SLFN Board President Charles Bingham at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.