Alaskans Own Seafood CSF program subscriptions open for the 2017 season

(Photo by Nancy Behnken)

Alaskan’s Own Seafood, which is a community-supported fishery (CSF) program run by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), has opened and is receiving subscription orders for the 2017 season.

Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in Alaska. Now in its eighth year, AO was created to connect consumers to small boat fishermen, ensure that more fish caught in Alaska stays in Alaska, and create a sustainable source of revenue to support ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network, which engages fishermen and scientists in conservation and research initiatives.

(Photo by Caroline Lester)

Similar to community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, CSF programs address an important environmental and socio-economic need by strengthening consumer-producer relationships. By forward-funding a season of seafood, subscribers invest in sustainable harvest and the rural fishermen who catch their fish, as well as supporting the web of seafood-related jobs that provide the economic backbone for our coastal communities.

Alaskans Own has just released its prices, and early bird customers who subscribe before Saturday, April 15, will receive these prices (which are at a 10-percent discount).

Sitka CSF Prices:

  • Four Month half share (5 lbs/month, May-August), $300
  • Four Month full share (10 lbs/month, May-August), $435
  • Six Month half share (5 lbs/month, May-October), $565
  • Six Month full share (10 lbs/month, May-October), $825

Non-Sitka CSF Prices (available in Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seattle):

  • Four Month half share (5 lbs/month, May-August), $330
  • Four Month full share (10 lbs/month, May-August), $480
  • Six Month half share (5 lbs/month, May-October), $605
  • Six Month full share (10 lbs/month, May-October), $885

(Photo by Josh Roper/ASMI)

There are four-month and six-month subscriptions available starting in May. The six-month subscriptions allow people to keep receiving freshly caught seafood through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Half-subscriptions also are available. Subscriptions include a mix of locally troll-caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and miscellaneous rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

(Photo by Josh Roper/ASMI)

“Alaskans Own’s model is unique from other CSFs because it is not only connecting customers to the fishermen that caught their fish, it is supporting a range of fishermen-sourced conservation initiatives,” says Alyssa Russell, ALFA’s Communications Coordinator. “We’re so excited to be bringing customers to another year of sustainably-caught, delicious seafood.”

If you don’t live in one of our CSF cities and are interested in ordering fish in bulk, please feel free to contact Alyssa Russell or Willow Moore at alaskansownfish@gmail.com or 747-3400.

Please purchase your fish by visiting our online store at alaskansown.com

Learn more about our Fishery Conservation Network at alfafish.org

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Sitka Salmon Shares brings Southeast Alaska fish to Midwest markets

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Sitka Salmon Shares vice president-fisherman Marsh Skeele holds up a chinook salmon during a recent tour of the company’s new plant on Smith Street in Sitka.

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Sitka Salmon Shares founder-president Nicolaas Mink holds a copy of his book “Salmon: A Global History” during a 2014 visit to Sitka.

What started out as a one-off fundraiser for a Sitka nonprofit has grown into a thriving business with sales approaching $4 million, with 2,500 members and 100 wholesale accounts spread out over six states.

Sitka Salmon Shares is a community-supported fishery (CSF) program, where members buy shares in the harvest similar to the process of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. But instead of the members being local to Sitka, where most of the fish is caught, the members of Sitka Salmon Shares live in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa.

“Each member gets a five-pound box of fish delivered to their door nine months of the year,” said Marsh Skeele, who serves as Sitka Salmon Shares vice president/co-founder and one of its 13 fishermen-owners. “A lot of them are former Alaskans or from Seattle, so they know good fish. The fish in the grocery stores there tends to have poor quality.”

SitkaSalmonSharesSignThe company distributes four types of salmon (chinook, coho, sockeye and chum), rockfish, ling cod, halibut, spot prawns, Pacific cod and blackcod, with most of the fish caught out of Sitka or Juneau. Sitka Salmon Shares also sells fish at 23 different farmers markets around the Midwest. Last year, Sitka Salmon Shares bought the former Big Blue Fisheries plant in Sitka, and is renovating it so the company can keep up with the special processing and freezing needs of its growing customer base while also developing new value-added products such as smoked salmon to add to the mix.

Sitka Salmon Shares got its start in 2011, when founder-president Nicolaas “Nic” Mink was in Sitka with a couple of his Knox College students working on a sustainable fishing and food-sourcing project with the Sitka Conservation Society. Mink, who still teaches environmental science part-time at Knox (he had a brief stint at Butler University a couple of years ago), decided to take some fish back with him to Galesburg, Ill., which he personally delivered to customers. Then those customers asked for more fish, and Sitka Salmon Shares was born.

TraysOfSalmonPortions“I think that first load of 750 pounds of fish raised about $10,000,” Mink said. “This year, our sixth, we sold more than 100,000 pounds of fish, just under $4 million.”

Some people laughed at his business plan when Mink decided to sell fish more than 2,000 miles away from its source, with a headquarters in a landlocked Midwest town away from most fish markets. But Mink and his partners found out that even people in the Midwest want high-quality fish from sustainable sources, fish that’s well-treated along the journey so it’s still in good shape when it reaches its customers.

“They want to be fish-eaters, but they don’t know how,” Mink said. “Sitka Salmon Shares gives them steps to know how, and it gave us a lot of opportunities to sell fish. Midwesterners are used to eating farmed salmon, but they heard about wild salmon. They want to eat wild, because it’s more resilient and sustainable than farmed.”

GuysFilletingFishEducation is a big part of the Sitka Salmon Shares story. In addition to providing the monthly boxes of fish, there is a newsletter with information about the fishermen-owners, where and how the fish is caught, and a variety of recipes geared toward wild fish and not farmed. The recipes come from four sources — Sitka Salmon Shares members, our chefs, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) Cook It Frozen site and from online sources.

“If you take a piece of coho (aka, silver salmon) and cook it as long as a piece of farmed salmon, the flesh becomes mealy and doesn’t taste good,” Mink said. “There’s a lot of education. With farmed salmon, the flesh is soft and thicker than wild salmon, so people need to cook it twice as long as wild salmon. We know wild salmon doesn’t need a lot of time on the grill, and that’s been one of the biggest hurdles.”

“We provide a lot of information,” Skeele said. “They definitely want to know more when you provide them with quality fish. We teach them about pressure bleeding, flash freezing, accountability and traceability. They want to know as much information as we can tell them about the fish that comes through our plant.”

AriannaShovelsIceIntoToteWithJasonCroftThe owner-fishermen are longliners and trollers, for the most part, with some who gillnet sockeye and use pots to catch the spot prawns. Skeele said all of the fishermen are owners in the company, “so they have some skin in the game.” By having skin in the game, the fishermen are more likely to treat the fish better once it comes onto the boat, so it maintains its high quality.

Right now, Sitka Salmon Shares doesn’t sell a lot of its fish in Sitka, although it does sell fish to a couple of local restaurants such as the Westmark HotelTotem Square Inn and Sitka Hotel. Sitka Salmon Shares doesn’t want to compete locally with the Alaskans Own Seafood CSF program that sells to members in Alaska. But now that Sitka Salmon Shares has its own plant, it does offer local processing of fish to charter fishing operations, personal-use and sport fishermen from Sitka, and to commercial fishermen who sell their own fish to various markets around the country.

“We’d like to sell more locally, and it would be great to have our fish in Sea Mart,” Mink said. “We’re excited about our community processing program, and we’re trying to do more processing for Sitka fishermen.”

CloseUpOfSalmonFilletingIn recent years, Sitka Salmon Shares has received national exposure with articles in Food & Wine, New Food Economy, Entrepreneur and Forbes, plus a variety of regional publications and Sitka exposure with a story on KCAW-Raven Radio. Mink said there is still more Sitka Salmon Shares can do in the Midwest and Alaska.

“With our plant, we have our own ice and our own value-added room,” Mink said. “We have a talented individual, Pat Glabb, rebuilding Big Blue. He built Silver Bay Seafoods plant. Right now we’re focused on the Midwest, and we have a ways to go to develop our markets there. But we have assets on the ground and systems in place and tons of room to grow. We think there are a lot of cool things to do with value-added. For example, we have Chris Eley, a chef-butcher from the Smoking Goose Meatery in Indianapolis, developing some salmon sausages for us.”

Fishermen wanting to learn more about the Sitka Salmon Shares community processing program can call Jason Croft at 966-9999, or stop by the plant on Smith Street (across from Baranof Island Brewing Company). You also can visit the Sitka Salmon Shares website at http://www.sitkasalmonshares.com/.

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• Sitka’s Fish to Schools program on international list of 16 innovative school lunch programs

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FoodTankLogoSitka’s Fish to Schools program is one of 16 school lunch programs from around the world making a difference, according to an international list released this month by the organization Food Tank.

The Fish to Schools program got its start at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, when community members decided they wanted to see more locally harvested fish in school lunches. The Sitka Conservation Society coordinates the program, in partnership with local schools.

The program started off with a monthly local fish lunch choice at Blatchley Middle School, but the program quickly expanded to include weekly local fish lunch choices at all Sitka schools (including the state-run Mount Edgecumbe High School boarding school and the private The SEER School).

In addition to putting local fish on the school lunch menu, the program also includes education about the fishing industry and its impact on the community (about one in five adults in Sitka work in the fishing industry). Local fishermen and women periodically share lunches with the students, which helps the students connect with their local food system. Local fishermen also donate coho salmon to the program, to help keep it sustainable.

In May 2014, the Sitka Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs. For more information about the Fish to Schools program in Sitka, contact Sophie Nethercut of the Sitka Conservation Society, sophie@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.

• Alaskans Own to host fish sale on Monday, Nov. 4, in Sitka

AO_LogoDo you need to stock up your freezer with locally caught fish for the winter? Alaskans Own Seafood of Sitka will host a fish sale from 3-6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, at the Mill Building (next to the Sitka Sound Science Center).

The sale will feature several types of frozen fish commonly sold at the Alaskans Own Seafood booth at the Sitka Farmers Market or found in the monthly community-supported fisheries subscription boxes — king (chinook) salmon, silver (coho) salmon, halibut, and rockfish. In addition, spot prawns will be available at this sale.

To learn more, contact Erin Fulton at 747-3477 or email her at efulton@thealaskatrust.org.

• Sitka Seafood Festival announces new director; will host art auction on Saturday, Oct. 5

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(The following letter to the editor originally appeared on Page 2 of the Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It is reprinted here with the writer’s permission.)
 
ssflogo2The fifth annual Sitka Seafood Festival (SSF) is scheduled for Aug. 1-2, 2014. The festival continues to grow each year. This past year we brought in more than 100 out-of-own guests, had some national recognition from a couple of well-known culinary magazines, and continued to have more and more local support. 
 
Over the past four years, we have had a small group of volunteers working extremely hard to follow through with our mission statement, to “celebrate wild Alaskan seafood.” We have done this through education, such as bringing in amazing speakers such as a 2012 McArthur Genius Award-winner David Montgomery, and accomplished author, professor and chef Becky Selengut to offer free presentations to the public. We also started the new culinary scholarship award this past year which we hope will continue to grow to give a passionate future culinary artist more experience and funds to pursue their career further. 
 
We offer entertainment, including local and headliner bands such as the well-known band Trampled by Turtles, aerial silk dancers, Ninja acrobatics, and of course, the addition of the Scottish Highland Games and this past year the full- and half-marathon. But, even with all the other fun events going on, the focus of our festival is based around celebrating the culinary aspect of our amazing, local seafood products.  
Carolyn Kinneen

Carolyn Kinneen

I am writing this letter today to introduce you to the new director and co-directors of the Sitka Seafood Festival. I am so extremely excited with the potential of where this festival can go. If anyone gets the pleasure to meet our new directors, I think they will share in my enthusiasm, because these folks encompass what this festival is all about, and I think it can only get better from here!  The 2014 SSF Director is Carolyn Kinneen, along with co-directors Jeren Schmidt and Robert Kinneen.  All past board members, including myself, are staying active with the festival. 

Carolyn Kinneen is wife to our four-time returning guest chef Robert Kinneen, and has been active in the festival since the start. She currently lives in Anchorage, but with the help of our local co-director, Jeren Schmidt, should be a wonderful fit.  Carolyn works in many different areas of food-related advocacy and policy, and sits on multiple boards pertaining to Alaskan-based foods.  She has experience in running a large array of projects including the TEDx Anchorage lecture series, as well as the Alaska Food Policy Council

We are very excited to have Carolyn on board. If anyone would like to hear more about Carolyn, or pick her’s or any other board member’s brains about the future SSF, we will be holding an open “meet and greet” at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct 4, at Baranof Island Brewing Company (215 Smith St.).  Come say hello and welcome Carolyn, Rob and Jeren to their new positions, and feel free to pass along any suggestions, concerns or input you may have. 

Thank you for your continued support Sitka!  Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 5th annual SSF Aug 1-2, 2014. And please attend our upcoming fundraiser, the Live Art Auction with the Fishermen’s Eye Gallery, at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct 5, at the Westmark Sitka Hotel.

— Alicia Haseltine, past SSF Director, current board member

• Fourth annual Sitka Seafood Festival takes place on Aug. 1-4

SSF Event Calendar

ChefLouisaChuDo you love Sitka’s wild Alaska seafood? Help celebrate our salmon, halibut, rockfish, crab and other seafood species during the fourth annual Sitka Seafood Festival on Aug. 1-4 at various locations around Sitka.

The Sitka Seafood Festival (SSF) was formed in 2010 by a small group of volunteers as a culinary-based festival established to celebrate our local seafood and one of Sitkaʼs greatest resources. The festival has grown very quickly and we have had some national attention, including from the popular culinary magazines “Relish” and “The Lucky Peach,” as well as drawing the interest of multiple well -known chefs. We feel the festival only has room to grow from here, and is a tool to start attracting the independent traveler to boost Sitka’s tourism, as well as a way to educate others about our industry. For a quick taste of the festival, check out the 2012 promotional video.

In the past three years the festival has grown from a small, two-day festival for the locals, into a multiple-day celebration not just for our community but also for travelers visiting Sitka from Juneau to Florida. The festival opens on Thursday with films showcasing Alaska’s salmon, the well-received “Poet Sea” poetry contest, a sunset pasta cruise aboard an Allen Marine vessel, as well as endless educational and entertainment activities for all ages, and of course, some amazing food.

FishHeadBobbingCatchOne of our most popular events is a five-course seafood extravaganza on Friday night at Harrigan Centennial Hal, which sells out each year. It is a formal dinner striving to use all local seafood and products. This event is prepared by many local chefs, as well as our three guest chefs,  including returning chefs Robert Kinneen and Seth Caswell, and introducing our executive chef Mickey Neely who was recently voted “Best New Up and Coming Chef of Chicago.” The evening is complete with a silent auction, live music, entertainment, and, of course, the best food around. Other Friday events include hatchery tours and a book signing.

The following day is an all-day festival, starting at 7 a.m. with the addition of our Cross Trail Classic half- and full-marathons, which will finish at the festival grounds. Starting at 11 a.m. at Totem Square, come enjoy the festival parade down Lincoln Street, leading right to the Sheldon Jackson Campus and the Sitka Seafood Festival’s Marketplace. It is full of local food booths, arts and crafts, educational and informational booths, as well as many contests such as the favorite “fish-head bobbing” and “fish-head toss,” kids games, and many Alaska  dance groups and educational-based demos.

MusicRobertJacobsJBradleyHollyKeenThere also will be a free presentation by author, chef, and professor Becky Selengut of Seattle, titled “Good Fish: One Chef’s Quest to Preserve Our Ocean Resources.” The presentation will take place at noon in Sweetland Hall, on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Starting at 12:30 p.m., the second annual Highland/Island Games will also be taking place. Come watch the best of the best from Alaska toss a log or two. There also will be a beer garden, multiple food vendors, and of course the main stage with dance performances, and live music throughout the night. This is one event you won’t want to miss. And new this year is a Sunday golf tournament at Sea Mountain Golf Course.

The Sitka Seafood Festival hopefully will continue to grow. Please mark your calendars for the fourth annual event scheduled for Aug. 1-4. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS! If you would like to get involved or have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact Alicia Olson Haseltine at (928) 607-4845 or sitkaseafoodfestival@gmail.com, or check us out at http://www.sitkaseafoodfestival.org. And thank you Sitka.. You are what makes this festival, and so many other amazing events in our wonderful community.

• 2013 Sitka Seafood Festival events calendar

• Sitka Seafood Festival banquet poster

• 2013 Sitka Seafood Festival marketplace food vendor information

• 2013 Sitka Seafood Festival Highland Island Games info

• Aug. 1 entry deadline approaches in the search for a signature Sitka seafood dish

In an effort to support and promote the position of Alaska’s wild seafoods in the global marketplace, the Sitka Seafood Festival organizers and the Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau have partnered to help inspire the creation of a signature seafood dish for Sitka.

Both professional and amateur chefs are encouraged to enter this contest, which will have judging take place from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. The entry deadline is Wednesday, Aug. 1.

It is our sincere hope that this contest inspires locals to create an exciting seafood entrée that would become synonymous with Sitka. We also hope that the majority, if not all, local restaurants will offer their own version of the winning entry and eventually adopted by restaurants nationwide.

Guidelines:

  • Main Ingredient — Any locally available wild Alaskan seafood (eg, salmon, halibut, ling cod, black cod/sablefish, crab, shrimp, scallops, snapper/rockfish, etc.)
  • Quantity — Minimum of 12 servings of approximately 2 ounces each. The more the merrier!!
  • Categories — Versatile recipe/economical version, mid-priced version and, of course, gourmet.
  • Entries must be pre-made/ready-to-serve, no kitchen access will be available on-site.
  • Recipes for entries must be provided and will become public domain.
  • Deadline to enter is Wednesday, Aug. 1. There is no cost to enter
  • Set-up available at 11 a.m. and judging will begin at noon on Saturday, Aug. 11, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.
  • Judging — An anonymous panel of judges will determine the winner based on various criteria (taste, recipe flexibility, potential retail price, marketability, availability, etc.)

The winning entry will receive a cash prize, a certificate acknowledging their accomplishment, local promotion and, of course, bragging rights as Sitka’s signature dish. The winner will be announced during the Sitka Seafood Festival’s evening events at the Alaska Arts SE Campus at Sheldon Jackson.

Entry forms can picked up at Old Harbor Books or e-mailed to you. Contact Philip Rupell at 747-5940 or send e-mail to sitkaseafoodfestival@gmail.com.

• Contest information for Sitka Signature Seafood Dish competition 2012