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Posts Tagged ‘Sitka Food Co-Op’

KeithNyitrayWithCabbage

(Editor’s Note: The Sitka Local Foods Network’s Bulldog on Baranof intern this summer, Claire Chang, is writing the Building a Local Food System series of articles about Sitkans working to improve food security. This is the first article of the series.)

As owner of Finn Island Farm and general manager of the Sitka Food Co-Op, Keith Nyitray is committed to improving access to quality, affordable food on a local level.

DSCN0863Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, Nyitray arrived in Alaska after college in 1979 to pursue mountaineering. He has had his fair share of rugged adventures, including a 10-month, 1,500 mile solo expedition across the Arctic Brooks Range that he wrote about for National Geographic in 1993. When he arrived in Sitka for the first time 17 years ago, the town’s “wonderful community” inspired him to stay.

Nyitray says he learned to garden “at his grandfather’s knees.” He operates his farm and lives on Finn Island, located three miles from Sitka in the Kasiana Islands. On about 2,000 square feet of garden space, he produces plant starts and vegetables, and he also maintains a greenhouse and raises chickens.

Compared to other gardens in Sitka, one of the biggest advantages of the farm’s location on an island is what Nyitray calls the “270 degrees of sun” his garden receives. Annually, he sells 5,000 to 6,000 plant starts to True Value, to private individuals, and through the Sitka Food Co-Op. He sells most of his mature vegetables — such as green beans, zucchini, lettuce, beets, broccoli, English cucumbers, and peppers — through private trades and through the co-op.

KeithNyitrayRobertBainesExplainSitkaFoodCoOpNyitray helped establish the Sitka Food Co-Op in 2011 to help meet the needs of the community. “A lot of people were struggling financially at the time,” Nyitray said, “and food prices were going up and down.”

According to Nyitray, the co-op provides Sitkans access to organic, healthy food at lower prices than local markets. Co-op members make purchases through food distributors online, and the bulk orders are shipped to Sitka as freight on barges. Organic apples purchased through the co-op, for example, cost half as much as organic apples at the grocery stores in Sitka. In addition, the co-op provides individuals with unique dietary needs, especially families with children who have allergies, with access to a wider variety of foods than local markets.

What started as a cooperative of 13 families now has more than 220 members, and sales are projected to exceed $260,000 this year. Nyitray explained that the “slow growth approach” has allowed the organization to keep membership fees at affordable levels while including as many community members as possible.

SitkaFoodCoOpKeithNyitrayMany co-ops, often in big cities or areas with large universities nearby, raise significant capital to open a retail storefront before going into operation. In contrast, the Sitka Food Co-Op does not yet have a retail store, and Nyitray describes the Sitka co-op as a “hybrid between a non-profit buyers club and a for-profit co-op.” This model, which prioritizes the co-op’s connection with the community, is consistent with Nyitray’s belief in “food for people, not for profit.”

The success of the Sitka Food Co-Op has even inspired other rural Alaskan communities, such as Petersburg and Kodiak, to ask Nyitray about starting their own co-ops. Nyitray is excited about supporting these new co-ops, as one of the “seven cooperative principles,” a set of ideals for the operation of cooperatives, is “cooperation between cooperatives.”

Nyitray describes his roles on Finn Island Farm and with the Sitka Food Co-Op as “the most rewarding jobs or positions he has ever had.” He views his work as an embodiment of the saying, “think globally, act locally.” In working toward food security in Sitka, Nyitray has been able to see “definite, positive, immediate results.”

IMG_9866For instance, Nyitray says the competition from the co-op has already led some local grocery stores to reduce some of their prices. Having previously been involved in politics, he finds these results especially gratifying. “In politics, the work was very challenging, but not always very rewarding. You could work really hard, but rarely see results.”

He also enjoys the relationships with community members that he forms through his work. “When people purchase stuff from you they are actually saying thank you,” he explains. “They appreciate the service and the quality of food and the savings. It’s very social. I know everyone by name.”

In the future, Nyitray hopes the Sitka Food Co-Op will be able to include even more members and eventually open a retail store. A retail store helps reach more people in the community who are not members of the co-op and allows shoppers to use food stamps and other forms of food assistance as payment. As he works to serve community, Nyitray will continue to enjoy some of the smaller perks of his job. “I like the organic oranges that I get,” he says, “because I like the juice.”

To learn more about Finn Island Farm, contact Keith Nyitray at knyitray@yahoo.com. To learn more about the Sitka Food Co-Op, contact Nyitray at sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com, or visit the co-op website at http://sitkafoodcoop.org.

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ANNUAL MEETING FLYER

The Sitka Food Co-op will host its annual membership meeting and potluck dinner from noon until 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21, at Sprucecot Cabin (308 Peterson St.). The meeting is open to all Sitka residents, regardless of co-op membership.

This meeting will give members and prospective members a chance to learn what the co-op is doing, where its going and how it plans to get there. There also will be elections for the board of directors (several seats are open and you must be a co-op member to run or vote), amendments to the by-laws, and there will be several new and important committees created. Co-op officers encourage people to attend and take part in building the co-op to the next level.

The Sitka Food Co-op was incorporated on Sept. 26, 2011, as a way to bring good food and community together. The purposes of the Sitka Food Co-op are to:

  • Create a community-based, member-owned buying service;
  • Make available wholesome natural and organic foods and products as inexpensively as possible;
  • Support and encourage local growing of fresh organic foods;
  • Purchase and purvey, whenever feasible, the goods or services of local and regional growers and producers; and
  • Serve as a center for activities and services which otherwise enrich the life of the community.

Please note that the Sitka Food Co-op is a separate organization than the Sitka Local Foods Network, even though we share some of the same goals.

To learn more about the Sitka Food Co-op and its annual meeting, email sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com or go to http://sitkafoodcoop.org/. Potential board members should submit an online candidate application form by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19, telling a little bit about yourself and why you want to serve on the board of directors.

Here is the tentative agenda:

  • Annual report overview – actions and accomplishments
  • Budget and financial report
  • Committees
  • Bylaw Amendments (all co-op members in good standing are eligible to vote), the following are proposed:
    • Increasing from a 5-member board to a 7-member board to increase our capacity and spread out the workload.
    • Allow for board members to receive a stipend for their services and reimbursement of expenses. It is common practice for co-ops to provide some level of compensation or stipend to Board of Directors in recognition of their service and contributions. Board members have been giving over 1,000 hours of time annually to the Sitka Food Co-op to help our organization grow and succeed. This change may also help with recruitment and retention of board members, which has been an ongoing challenge.
  • Election of Directors (all co-op members in good standing are eligible to vote)
  • 2016 Program of Work: transition to a member equity fee structure, establish a formal policy governance structure, formalize a donation policy, clarify our vision of a ‘Sitka Community Marketplace,’ and more!
  • Membership Feedback/Discussion

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Sitka Kitch Advisory Team Members, from left, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Kristy Miller, Sarah Lewis, and Dorrie Farrell go through the orientation packet before a recent series of canning and cottage foods classes taught by Lewis.

Sitka Kitch Advisory Team Members, from left, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Kristy Miller, Sarah Lewis, and Dorrie Farrell go through the orientation packet before a recent series of canning and cottage foods classes taught by Lewis.

kitch_logo_mainDid you know Sitka has a community rental commercial kitchen?

The Sitka Kitch, located inside First Presbyterian Church at 505 Sawmill Creek Road, officially opened in March and is available for cottage food businesses needing a commercial kitchen, people wanting to put up their own harvest, cooking and canning classes, and even groups who want to cook a dinner for friends and family that’s too large to hold in someone’s home.

The Sitka Kitch is a rental community commercial kitchen project coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the Sitka Local Foods Network, located inside the First Presbyterian Church. The Sitka Kitch was a project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit designed to improve food security in Sitka while also providing a space for people wanting to get into the cottage food business or wanting to preserve their harvest for storage in the home pantry. Sitka Kitch (Facebook page) officially opened after a series of renovations to make the church kitchen pass Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation commercial kitchen food safety standards.

The Sitka Food Co-op and Everything Organic Sitka regularly use the facility for deliveries and distribution.

Kristy Miller, the facilities manager for First Presbyterian Church, serves as the manager of Sitka Kitch and helps with scheduling and communal supplies. If you are interested in learning more about how to rent the Sitka Kitch, please go to this website, http://www.sitkawild.org/sitka_kitch, and the best way to schedule a rental is by email at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org.

The slideshow below provides a quick tour of the facility.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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FLYER-w tear offs-EDIT-26APR2015

IMG_9869The Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Food Co-op are teaming up to make garden starts available for Sitka food gardeners.

Plant starts from Finn Island Farm and other Sitka gardeners will be available for sale or swap on the next two Sitka Food Co-op delivery days, from 4:30-7 p.m. on Monday, May 4 and May 18, at the Sitka First Presbyterian Church, 505 Sawmill Creek Road. (NOTE: Due to a late-arriving barge, the May 4 pick-up day has been postponed until May 5.)

Finn Island Farm will be bringing the following starts — red Romaine lettuce, Tuscan kale, snap peas, sweet bell pepper, basil, Waltham broccoli, dark green zucchini, English cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, dark red and bulls blood beets, tomatoes (a large variety), and more.

The sale of these plant starts helps benefit the Sitka Local Foods Network, and we thank the Sitka Food Co-op for the opportunity to sell them on their delivery pick-up days. The plant starts are from Sitka gardeners and are of plants that do well in Sitka’s climate.

For more information, contact Keith Nyitray of the Sitka Food Co-op at sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com or go to http://sitkafoodcoop.org/

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SitkaFoodCoOpLogoThe Sitka Food Co-op will host its third annual membership meeting and potluck dinner at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, at Sprucecot Cabin (308 Peterson St.). The meeting is open to all Sitka residents, regardless of co-op membership.

This meeting will give members and prospective members a chance to learn what the co-op is doing, where its going and how it plans to get there. There also will be elections for the board of directors (four seats are open, must be a co-op member to run or vote), amendments to the by-laws, and there will be several new and important committees created. Co-op officers encourage people to attend and take part in building the co-op to the next level.

The Sitka Food Co-op was incorporated on Sept. 26, 2011, as a way to bring good food and community together. The purposes of the Sitka Food Co-op are to:

  • Create a community-based, member-owned buying service;
  • Make available wholesome natural and organic foods and products as inexpensively as possible;
  • Support and encourage local growing of fresh organic foods;
  • Purchase and purvey, whenever feasible, the goods or services of local and regional growers and producers; and
  • Serve as a center for activities and services which otherwise enrich the life of the community.

Please note that the Sitka Food Co-op is a separate organization than the Sitka Local Foods Network, even though we share some of the same goals.

To learn more about the Sitka Food Co-op and its annual meeting, email sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com or go to http://sitkafoodcoop.org/. Potential board members should submit an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com by Friday, Feb. 20, telling a little bit about yourself and why you want to serve on the board of directors.

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14-09-17_building-food-security-in-ak_exec-summary-recommendations_Page_01

The release of a new report, “Building Food Security in Alaska,” was one of the highlights of the recent Alaska Food Festival and Conference (Nov. 7-9 at the University of Alaska Lucy Anchorage Cuddy Center). This is one of the first comprehensive statewide food security reports compiled for Alaska.

The report was written by Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg of the Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, which has done six in-depth statewide food assessments over the past five years and 14 statewide food assessments overall. The report was commissioned by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, with collaboration from the Alaska Food Policy Council.

The Crossroads Resource Center website provides this summary of the report:

Like most other states, Alaska imports about 95 percent of the food it purchases. Yet this state is more distant from prevailing food production regions than other states. Alaskans feel a special sense of vulnerability. Despite a rich history in dairy and cattle production, most of these foods are now imported. Much of the arable farmland has been paved over by development. Moreover, Alaskans who wish to purchase some of the $3 billion of seafood harvested from its ocean waters typically have no choice but to buy through Seattle vendors.

Still, farms produce a rich variety of crops and livestock. Direct sales from farmers to household consumers run at 13 times the national average, amounting to one of every six dollars farmers earn selling food to humans. Lettuce, peppers, and cucumbers are available year-round from indoor farms. Chickens are grown inside greenhouses that rely upon surplus heat from nearby buildings.

In no other state is harvesting wild foods as important. Subsistence and personal use hunters bring in an estimated $900 million worth of salmon, caribou, moose, foraged greens and berries, and other foods. Yet even here, hunters and gatherers face special challenges: a decline of hunting skills, weakening ice, changing migrations, and radioactive fallout.

Our study, written by Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg, offers practical steps for building a more reliable food supply by growing, storing, and marketing more Alaska-grown food to Alaskans. Commissioned by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Copies of the full 180-page report and a shorter executive summary and recommendations are linked below. In addition, most of the presentations and panel discussions from the Alaska Food Festival and Conference can be found here. This link includes a keynote presentation by Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart about the experience of compiling the Sitka Community Food Assessment, plus Sitka residents Keith Nyitray of the Sitka Food Co-op and Gordon Blue of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust participated in panel discussions about food cooperatives and community-based fisheries, respectively.

In addition, earlier this year two locally focussed food assessments were released. Copies of the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report (released in April 2014) and the Southeast Alaska Food System Assessment (released in February 2014) can be found in the Documents section of our website.

• Building Food Security in Alaska, Executive Summary and Recommendations, by Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg (released November 2014)

• Building Food Security in Alaska, by Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg (released November 2014)

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applooza_flyer

The Sitka Conservation Society is looking for donations of quart and pint (preferably the shorter, wide-mouth pints) canning jars for a 4-H project called Applooza.

During the project, participants in the Sitka 4-H club will harvest apples from the apple trees planted on public property (probably about Sept. 20) and will learn how to make apple sauce (probably about Oct. 10). The jars of applesauce then will be donated to the Swan Lake Senior Center and the Salvation Army.

To donate the canning jars and/or lids, bring them to the Sitka Conservation Society office at 201 Lincoln St., Suite 4 (upstairs above Old Harbor Books). For more information, contact Marjorie Hennessy or Mary Wood at 747-7509. Other partners in this project include the Sitka Local Foods Network, the Sitka Food Co-op, and Sitka Kitch.

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