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.

Voting open in 13th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration

The voting period for the 13th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration is open and people can go online and support their favorite farmers markets through Sept. 19. After being sponsored under various names by the American Farmland Trust during its early years, this year the Trust is teaming up with the Farmers Market Coalition to host the contest. They also have added prize money, with the top farmers market winning $2,500, second place receiving $1,500, and third place $1,000.

Last year, the Sitka Farmers Market was the top market in Alaska again. The Sitka Farmers Market has been the top vote-getter in Alaska for the past four years, and six of the past 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 on June 21 this year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made several major changes to the Sitka Farmers Markets in 2020 and some of those are carrying forward into 2021. In 2020, we had a greatly scaled back market, a switch to an online ordering system, a new pick-up event location, and new health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. While we are reopening to a fuller market this year (last year we only had produce vendors), the markets will be outside and people still are encouraged to wear face masks. Even though most Sitka residents have been vaccinated, COVID-19 remains present and there are many variants.

This year we plan eight full markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, 17, 31, Aug. 7, 21, 28, Sept. 11, and 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall (museum/harbor end of the building). Nalani James, who served as co-market manager last year, will manage the markets this year, with Charles Bingham assisting. At the markets, depending on which vendors register, we plan to have fresh local produce, fish, cottage foods, homemade baked goods, hot food, food trucks, arts and crafts, live music, and more. We added a new online vendor registration website this year, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. We also still have our youth vendor program.

Last year, we had people create Sitka accounts using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online portal, http://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com, and order their produce from 5 p.m. on Tuesday through 8 p.m. on Thursday each week from July through September. We then had a weekly pick-up event (with Middle Island Gardens) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street). This year we still plan to use Salt and Soil Marketplace and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for our non-market weeks (July 10, 24, Aug. 14, Sept. 4), and for some of our market weeks with produce pick-up at the market. This will depend on produce availability.

Barring the end of the pandemic, all of our volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We ask our customers to wear masks and give people space during the market. We want to encourage community connection and small businesses at the markets, but we also don’t want to spread the coronavirus.

Join the 2021 Local Foods Challenge to make the Southeast Alaska food system more resilient

ARE YOU UP FOR CHALLENGE?

Food is not just about what we eat. It’s also about where it comes from and the connections it creates between people and places along the way. Join us on a journey to explore and transform Southeast Alaska’s food system by being part of the Local Foods Challenge.

As a participant in this Challenge, you will join others in reshaping and fostering resilience within our local and regional food systems while increasing community wellness for both the short and long-term.

We ask you to deepen your involvement in the local food system by cultivating and elevating your personal knowledge, skills, and connection to the local food system within your community.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS

When you sign up, you’ll take a survey to assess your involvement in 10 distinct categories of the local food system. Your challenge from May to September is to deepen your connection to the local food system by increasing your level of engagement for each category. The more levels you go, the more resilient our food system will be by September. At the end of the challenge, we will tally the progress of all of the challengers to discover how much we collectively shift our food system’s resilience.

To help you on this local food journey, we will connect you to resources related to all 10 categories, and we will share stories via email and social media to inspire and celebrate our successes.

The Local Foods Challenge is about building a community of Southeast Alaskans who care about local foods. We will share knowledge, resources, place-based advice, and best practices across our unique region.

Together we will forge a resilient, prosperous, and healthy Southeast Alaska.

READY TO PARTICIPATE?

You will be at different levels with each category, and over the course of this summer, you will increase your knowledge, skills, and engagement with each of them in ways that are meaningful and relevant to your life. Set realistic, specific, meaningful goals.

  • Check your email twice a month for announcements, inspiration, tips, and invitations to monthly skillshare workshops, virtual meet-ups, mini-challenges, and more.
  • Follow us on social media updates and reminders.
  • Check out our Resources page to get started, and our Calendar of Events for upcoming opportunities.
  • Share your success stories.
  • Nominate local foods experts who can share their knowledge and skills with others, and we will connect them to learners in their community.
  • Celebrate a Southeast Alaska season of abundance and resilience.

Questions? Email localfoodschallenge.seak@gmail.com or post a comment on our Facebook page.

An update about the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market and our plans for a safe event

Usually the Sitka Local Foods Network has announced the dates of the summer’s Sitka Farmers Market by now. But, as most of you are aware, these are not ordinary times as we enter the second year of our COVID-19 reality. Our intention is to have our 14th season of Sitka Farmers Market events this summer, but they still may look a bit different than what we’ve had in the past. While our details aren’t finalized, we wanted to provide an update to the community about our plans for the summer.

Last year we were able to host a very scaled back market, using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering system during the week and having customers pick up their produce on Saturdays. This year we hope to expand back closer to our normal market format with more vendors, but also having some weeks where we just do an online order and pick-up service.

Now that vaccines are available and more people in Sitka are becoming vaccinated, we feel like we can do more this year such as allow socializing and having more people around. At the same time we have COVID-19 and its variants in our midst, so we still plan to require masks and hand-washing to help prevent the spread.

We also plan to hold our event at an outdoor location TBA, since being inside puts too many people on top of each other and probably isn’t safe. We hope to be able to announce an outside location downtown in the next week or two. We hope to announce our dates and vendor prices when we announce the location.

For vendors, since we will be out in an open field, you will need to provide your own table, chairs, and a 10×10 farmers market/event tent (which run about $115-$120 at Sitka True Value). Being outside, we won’t have access to electricity, so vendors may need a generator for power, or a small camp stove or BBQ grill if you’re cooking at the market.

We have big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. Last year, we bought a second high tunnel so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. That worked so well, we bought a third high tunnel this winter and it’s being erected at the garden this spring.

Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for more than a decade, and deserves a lot of respect for how much produce she grows on the small patch of land we have access to behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church. We thank St. Peter’s for allowing us to continue growing food for the community on its property. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has received a Certified Naturally Grown designation the past two years.

The Sitka Farmers Market is about local food, but it’s so much more. It’s about community and providing local entrepreneurs with a place to sell their products. We really enjoy seeing everybody come together to see their neighbors and friends at the market. That’s a big reason we want to host the market. One aspect of the market is it serves as a business incubator, a place for people to try out a new business, and we lost that last year when we had to scale things back to just our produce vendors.

Our tentative plans for 2021 are to hold markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at least once every other week from late June to September. This will allow non-produce vendors to participate, and maybe even some arts-and-crafts vendors. On alternate weeks, we will do something similar to last year, where people order produce from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday night using the Salt and Soil Marketplace, with a pick-up event or possible delivery from 10 a.m. to noon on the Saturdays when we don’t have a regular market.

Since we will have to separate booths around the market, we will have some space limitations. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s main focus is on local food, so food booths who book by a certain date will have priority, with arts-and-crafts booths filling leftover open spaces. We want to be able to involve as many vendors as possible, so hopefully we’ll be able to fit everybody in the space without making it too crowded.

We are working with state WIC and SNAP programs to see if we can accept benefits every week, or only when we have our larger markets. Our goal is to provide fresh local produce to all residents, especially those low-income residents who might not be able to afford it. Anyway, we still are trying to finalize details and hope to have an update soon.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Sitka Local Foods Network hosts fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Do you think you have a great idea for a food business or product from Sitka? Do you grow food, fish for food, or cook food in Sitka? The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting the fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in an effort to spark local food entrepreneurs so we can make more local food available to residents and visitors. The contest entry deadline is Friday, March 5.

This contest will provide two $1,500 kicker prizes — one for established food businesses and one for start-up businesses (no older than two years) — to help entrepreneurs launch or expand their food businesses. The contest is open to food businesses and individuals making and selling food products in Sitka, Alaska. All food business ideas must be geared toward getting more locally grown, harvested and/or produced food into the Sitka marketplace through sales in grocery stores, the Sitka Food Co-Op, the Sitka Farmers Market, restaurants, or individual marketing (such as a community supported agriculture/CSA or community supported fisheries/CSF program).

“The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to get more locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” said Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network board president. “For the past decade we’ve offered a entrepreneurs a chance to sell their produce, bread and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market, grown produce to sell at the market through St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and provided a garden education program to residents. We think this contest is the next step toward getting more local food into the Sitka marketplace.”

Last year, we awarded our $1,500 prize for established business to Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Co., who is baking sourdough bread, as well as making sauerkraut and kimchi. Our $1,500 prize for start-up business went to Levi Adams of Forage & Farm, where he is harvesting and growing mushrooms. Our prizes were determined before the Covid-19 shutdowns, but both business owners found ways to develop and build their businesses during the pandemic.

In 2019, we gave $1,500 prizes to Brittany Dumag of the Castaway food cart in the start-up business category and to Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers in the established business category. We also gave a special $250 award to 12-year-old Abigail Ward who entered her Sitka Seasonings business. Brittany made Cuban pork sandwiches (using pork from North Pole) and other food to sell at various places in Sitka, including the Sitka Farmers Market. Tamara planned to ramp up her fermented foods business, but she ended up having some health issues that prevented her from completing her project and she ended up refunding most of her prize money. Abby made spice blends for seafood and other meats, which she sold at the first two Sitka Farmers Markets of 2019 and at other venues.

In our inaugural contest in 2018, we gave a $1,500 prize to Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals in the established business category. We had no entrants in the start-up business category, so no prize was awarded in 2018. Hope used her prize money to hire two interns to help her harvest seaweed and kelp and to help produce her products.

Participants in this contest are eligible and encouraged to enter other food business innovation contests, such as the Path To Prosperity or Symphony of Seafood contests. All participants retain the proprietary rights to their products and ideas. This contest is open to new and existing food businesses in Sitka. Student businesses (such as those fostered by Junior Achievement or similar programs) are welcome.

There is a small $25 entry fee for this contest. All participants (business and individual) must complete and submit our contest entry form by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 5, 2021 (by snail mail so it arrives before the deadline to Sitka Local Foods Network, Food Business Innovation Contest Entries, 408-D Marine Street, Sitka, Alaska, 99835, or by email with the Subject Line of “Food Business Innovation Contest Entries” to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com). Submitting a business plan (up to 20 pages) is recommended, but not required.

Our entry form will have room for you to describe your food business idea in a few paragraphs, but submitting a business plan will give you more room to outline your plans for funding and marketing the idea and will help your overall score. Judging will be based on how your food business idea provides new local food options in Sitka, how novel is your food business idea, how feasible is your food business (can it make a profit and be sustainable), and how professional is your presentation. At some time in late March or early April, the Sitka Local Foods Network may host a pitch presentation, where judges will interview the contest entrants and try samples of the food products. Our judging panel will score your presentation and entry form based on how your idea has a measurable impact on providing local food in Sitka (25%), has the potential for commercialization (25%), provides new employment in Sitka (25%) and fills a need in the Sitka marketplace (25%).

In 2020 we made some changes to the rules, and those changes will continue in 2021. First, each entry now MUST include a sample, itemized budget showing how the business owner plans to use the prize money. Second, each prize winner will sign a winner’s agreement contract before receiving the prize money that lists a series of benchmarks toward getting the product/service to market that need to be met by a certain date or else all or part of the prize money will need to be refunded to the Sitka Local Foods Network. Purchasing items such as masks and hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are acceptable uses of prize money.

If we find additional sponsors, we may add additional prizes and categories (such as fish or farm). Depending on the number of entries and interest of the participants, we may host a reception where contestants can demonstrate their products to Sitka residents. If the reception happens, there will be a chance for people to vote on their favorite products with the winner receiving the People’s Choice Award (this will be separate than the two main prizes selected by our judging panel). We are hoping to find a sponsor for the People’s Choice Award. Note, if our panel of judges determine there isn’t a worthy entrant in one or both categories, then the Sitka Local Foods Network reserves the right not to award a prize. Marijuana edibles are not eligible for the contest.

• Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest Entry Form 2021

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.”