Alaska Cottage Food Producers Webinar to be held on Feb. 23

Have you always wanted to start a food business, but don’t have access to a commercial kitchen? Have you wondered what the regulations are regarding basic food safety for small food businesses? The Alaska Food Code allows the sale of non-potentially hazardous foods sold directly to the consumer without a permit as long as certain conditions are met.

You can learn about the Alaska Food Code and food safety regulations at the Alaska Cottage Foods Producers Webinar from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, using Zoom. Presenters from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Municipality of Anchorage Food Safety and Sanitation programs will provide an overview of cottage food regulations and requirements and answer questions. (Cottage food businesses also are known as home-based food businesses in the regulations.)

This webinar is co-sponsored by the Alaska Food Policy Council, Alaska Farm Bureau,
and Alaska Farmers Market Association. This is good info to know for people who are thinking about entering the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, or thinking about selling local food products at the Sitka Farmers Market and Sitka Food Co-op delivery days.

You can join the webinar via Zoom using meeting ID 893 3138 2743 and passcode 278411. You also can join by phone at 1-253-215-8782.

Check out the February 2021 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the February 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the 2021 Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, the Pick.Click.Give. charitable giving program being active for when people file for their PFDs, an invitation to join our board of directors, and information about our 2021 sponsorship program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

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 Kitch offers Cooking Around The World: Chinese Lo Mein class with Nalani James

Chinese New Year is Friday, Feb. 12, and the Sitka Kitch will host a virtual Cooking Around The World class, Lo Mein with Nalani James, that day. The class takes place from 5:30-7 p.m. using Zoom.

Lo mein is a traditional Chinese dish in China that is savory and full of vegetables to get all the vitamins you need. We will add Chicken and add an American twist. You can also substitute tofu to make it vegetarian. This will be a Zoom class taken from the comfort and safety of your own home kitchen.

Nalani is somewhat new to Sitka, having moved here about two years ago. She occasionally had a baked goods booth at the 2019 Sitka Farmers Markets, and she became market co-manager in 2020. She loves to have ethnic foods from the regional area and works to simulate the flavors and textures of the dish. She has been cooking elaborate dishes at the age of 10 with the free will of her parents, and loves being a cooking chemist.

The class cost is $20 for each household, and families are encouraged to participate together. Ingredients are not provided; however a list of ingredients and equipment needed will be sent to all who are registered on Tuesday, Feb. 9. A link to the Zoom event also will be sent at that time.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-op are now able to attend the online classes for $10 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee). Please use the Sitka Food Co-op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We occasionally offer scholarship spot(s) per class for people with limited incomes, provided we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Chandler at SCS for more details about the scholarship.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $15). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Check out the January 2021 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the January 2021 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter has short articles about the 2021 Pick.Click.Give. donation period opening, a Preserving Alaska’s Bounty online class series, an invitation to join the Sitka Local Foods Network’s board of directors, and an item about the 2021 SLFN sponsorship program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Friday’s the day to start filing your 2021 PFD applications with Pick.Click.Give. donations

As 2020 draws to a close, many Alaskans already are thinking about applying for their 2021 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check in January. As usual, Alaskans can share their wealth with a variety of Alaska nonprofits, including the Sitka Local Foods Network, through the PFD’s Pick.Click.Give. program.

This is the seventh year the Sitka Local Foods Network will participate in the Pick.Click.Give. program, which allows people to donate in $25 increments to their favorite statewide and local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations when they file their PFD applications from Jan. 1 through March 31.

When you choose to donate part of your PFD to the Sitka Local Foods Network, you support the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs about growing and preserving food, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, Sitka Community Gardens, matching dollars at the Sitka Farmers Market for SNAP/WIC beneficiaries, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka. We recently launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to try and inspire entrepreneurs in Sitka to work more with local foods.

In 2020 Alaskans contributed $2.96 million to 622 Alaska nonprofit organizations, and more than $27.0 million has been donated since the program started in 2009. Some Alaskans choose to donate to just one group, while others may spread several donations around to many groups. There now are  611 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2021 (including multi-location nonprofits), including 21 from Sitka. In 2020, Alaskans donated $86,025 to Sitka-based nonprofits (note, total includes some nonprofits that are based in multiple cities).

So how do you make a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network through the Pick.Click.Give. program? First, starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1, go fill out your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application at http://pfd.alaska.gov/. When you get to the section of the application asking if you want to participate in Pick.Click.Give. Charitable Contributions program, click on the PCG link and search for the Sitka Local Foods Network. You also can look for us by using the town search for Sitka.

The Pick.Click.Give. program is available only to people who file their PFD applications online, and not to those who file by mail. Even though you can’t file a new PFD application after March 31, you can go back into your application and update your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 each year. In 2020, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends were released in July instead of their usual October, and the last day for editing was moved up to June 17 from Aug. 31. We don’t know yet if there will be similar adjustments.

You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2021 PFD. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408-D Marine St., Sitka, Alaska, 99835. You also can donate online by going to our online fundraising page on MightyCause.com, and clicking the Donate button to make an online contribution. You also can send in a check or make an online donation if you are trying to make nonprofit donations before the end of the 2020 tax year. In December 2020, we just ordered a new high tunnel so we can grow more fresh, local produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Thank you for supporting our mission of promoting and encouraging the growing, harvesting and eating of local foods in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2021

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 2021. 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 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 values local food and businesses, fun, premium quality goods and experiences.”

In recent years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted seven 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. We haven’t set our 2021 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, which helped us increase our produce production despite a wet and cold summer, and we’re looking to add another new high tunnel before the 2021 growing season. 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.

In 2018 we launched a new food business innovation contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, and have continued the program with the expectation of hosting it in 2021 (our 2020 winners were baker Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company and mushroom grower/harvester Levi Adams of Forage and Farm). We also have hosted the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser, with 2018 and 2019 in partnership with Youth Advocates of Sitka and canceled in 2020 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 May 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 charleswbingham3@gmail.com, or email us at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2021 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

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.”

Check out the September 2020 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the September 2020 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes information about this week being our last Sitka Farmers Market online order period and pick-up event of the summer, info about our new Sitka Local Foods Network tote bags, details of the Alaska Food Festival and Conference, an invitation to join the SLFN board of directors, and a thank you to all of our 2020 sponsors. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).