Sitka to host community food system asset-mapping workshop on Feb. 19 using Zoom

Over the past year or so, the Sitka Local Foods Network has been working with a dozen other local and regional groups as part of a two-year USDA Regional Food System Partnership grant coordinated by the Alaska Food Policy Council.

As part of this work, the Sitka Local Foods Network will host a community-focussed food system asset-mapping workshop from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19, using Zoom. The goal of this project is to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the 13 local and regional food systems, then use that knowledge to create a 10-year statewide food security plan. The workshop on Feb. 19 will use an outside facilitator, Lisa Trocchia, who is facilitating all of the regional/local workshops.

“Food security, or insecurity, is a big issue in Alaska and in Sitka,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Hopefully this project will give us some strategies on how to improve Alaska’s food security. We have special challenges in Alaska, with our remoteness and climate, and we see that every time the grocery store shelves are empty or when we go to a village store and can’t find fresh fruit and veggies. If you have concerns about Alaska’s, and Sitka’s, food system, then this workshop is for you.”

Sitka has a bit of an advantage over some of the other communities involved in the project, because in 2014 we released the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report, which came out of a Sitka Health Summit project. This gave us some baseline data about food security in Sitka. But most of the data is a decade old and is becoming dated. It’s hoped this workshop might inspire discussions that will help us update the report.

We want people from all parts of the Sitka community to attend this meeting — Alaska Native, Filipino, people on public assistance, people who hunt and gather, gardeners, commercial fishermen, people who run food businesses, young people, elders, etc. The broader the diversity in our group, the better our results.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP by sending an email with the note “food security” in the subject line to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. You will receive an email a few days before the event with a Zoom link. Those who can’t attend on Feb. 19 still can participate when there is a statewide survey announced. For more details, contact Charles Bingham at 907-623-7660

Saturday’s the day to start filing your 2022 PFD applications with Pick.Click.Give. donations

As 2021 draws to a close, many Alaskans already are thinking about applying for their 2022 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.

For the past several years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has participated 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, the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, 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.

In 2021 Alaskans contributed $3.04 million to 613 Alaska nonprofit organizations, and more than $30.1 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 634 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2022 (including multi-location nonprofits), including 23 from Sitka. In 2021, Alaskans donated $94,575 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 Saturday, 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.

You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2022 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. In addition, there is an online giving page through the PayPal Giving Fund. If you are trying to make nonprofit donations before the end of the 2021 tax year, you can mail in a check or make an online donation. 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 increasing the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories with a notice about #GivingTuesday on Nov. 30, information about how you can eat some chowder and support the Sitka Local Foods Network from Dec. 1-4, an update about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, information about our 2022 sponsorship programs, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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).

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories with information about our 2022 sponsorship programs, information about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, an announcement about a series of online food preservation workshops from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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).

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

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

This month’s newsletter includes short stories wrapping up the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market season, information about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, an announcement about a series of online food preservation workshops from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, an invitation to join our board of directors, and information about our 2021-22 sponsorship programs. 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).

Like what we do? Please join our board of directors or volunteer with us

The 2019 Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, from left, Amanda Anjum, Charles Bingham, Nina Vizcarrondo, Laura Schmidt, Stanley Lopata. We are recruiting new board members for 2022.

Did you enjoy the fresh local veggies at the Sitka Farmers Market this summer? Did you take any of our garden education classes this spring? Are you concerned about increasing access to local food for all Sitka residents?

The Sitka Local Foods Network is holding an open house for potential board members and volunteers from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Due to COVID-19 coronavirus health concerns and the need to social-distance, we will meet using Zoom online meetings (a meeting link will be sent by email if you contact Charles Bingham at the email address below). This is a good time to learn about what we’re doing and how you can help.

Please consider joining the board of directors for the Sitka Local Foods Network to help us pursue our mission to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. We need more board members in order to keep running our programs.

Board members help direct the Sitka Local Foods Network, a non-profit that promotes the harvest and use of local food in Sitka. In addition to setting the focus of the group during our monthly meetings, board members also serve on at least one committee supporting at our three main projects of the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and garden education. In 2018, we launched the annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest to encourage food entrepreneurs in Sitka.

We also hope to help with the Sitka Community Gardens project as we look for a new location now that Blatchley Community Garden has been closed. In addition, some board members have supported other local foods projects in Sitka, such as the Sitka Kitch, Let’s Grow Sitka, the Sick-A-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food Assessment project, Sitka Fish-To-Schools, other school education projects and more.

To apply for a spot on the board, please fill out the application linked below and submit it to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.org. For more information, please email us. Please note this is a working board, and our group is evolving and maturing as we try to raise funds to hire staff. Board terms are for three years, with seats up for reapplication each winter.

We also are looking to increase our pool of volunteers who will help out during the various projects hosted by the network each year (no formal application needed, just send us your name/contact info and what types of projects you enjoy). We need volunteers to help with the upcoming Sitka Farmers Markets, helpers for our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and people to teach gardening classes.

The next regular Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting is from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16, using Zoom online meetings (email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com to get a link to join our meeting). The board usually meets once every 4-6 weeks. Please note, we will sometimes move our meetings to avoid conflicts with board member schedules, venue schedules and to ensure a quorum. All of our board meetings are open to the public.

Click here for a copy of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors job description. Click here for a copy of the board application.

Sitka wins top market in Alaska honors for fifth straight year in America’s Farmers Market Celebration

The Sitka Farmers Market ranked as the top market in Alaska, 15th in the Pacific region and 113th nationally during the America’s Farmers Market Celebration voting that ended earlier this week. This was the 13th year of the contest, which this year was co-sponsored by the American Farmland Trust and the Farmers Market Coalition.

This is the fifth straight year the Sitka Farmers Market has been the top market in Alaska, and seventh time in eight 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 and ended Sept. 19. The Sitka Farmers Market picked up 81 online votes, its highest total ever.

“This was the second year we had to make adjustments due to Covid-19, but we were more like a normal market this summer than last. Last year we stripped it down to just produce vendors and had an online ordering system with weekly pick-ups at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. This year we were able to add other vendors and hold an outdoor market at Harrigan Centennial Hall, and I think the community was glad to see produce, mushrooms, arts and crafts, and more this year,” 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.”

This year’s People’s Choice Award, for the top market nationally, went to the Columbia (Mo.) Farmers Market earning the market a $2,500 prize. Second place and $1,500 went to the Oxford (Miss.) Community Market, while third place and $1,000 went to the Monroe (Conn.) Farmers Market. Rounding out the top-five markets in the standings were the Snellville (Ga.) Farmers Market in fourth place, and the Durham (N.C.) Farmers Market in fifth place. Last year’s People’s Choice Award went to the Clarksville (Tenn.) Downtown Farmers Market, which finished 47th nationally this summer.

The top market in the Pacific region was the Napa (Calif.) Farmers Market; followed by the Moscow (Idaho) Farmers Market; the Orange (Calif.) Home Grown Farmers and Artisans Market in third place; Midtown Farmers Market of Sacramento, Calif., in fourth place; and the Boise (Idaho) Farmers Market in fifth place (last year’s Pacific region winner).

The other regional winners included the Columbia (Mo.) Farmers Market in the Midwest; the Monroe (Conn.) Farmers Market in the Northeast; the Oxford (Miss.) Community Market in the Southeast; and the Dripping Springs (Texas) Farmers Market in the Southwest.

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 with 81 votes, the Tanana Valley Farmers Market of Fairbanks in second place with 27 votes, and the Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market in third place with six votes. More than 2,000 markets across the country received votes.

“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 third year this summer.

This year, the Sitka Local Foods Network hosted eight farmers markets on various Saturdays from July 3 to Sept. 18 on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. 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 next summer, hopefully at a venue where we can have both inside and outside booths. The Sitka Farmers Market was a community wellness project from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, and now serves as a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. This was the 14th year of the markets.

“I’m glad we were able to regain some of the feel of a real community gathering this year, instead of it just a quick pick-up of your produce order,” Bingham said. “One of the nice things about hosting the farmers market is it serves as a business incubator for smaller cottage foods and arts/crafts businesses, and those businesses lost one of their marketplaces last summer.”

Scenes from the eighth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2021 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK

TABLE OF THE DAY WINNERS — Kathy Branch, left, and Meggan Turner, center, receive the Table of the Day Award from Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham during the Sept. 18 Sitka Farmers Market. Kathy and Meggan sold garden plants, flower bulbs, and decorative plants. They received a certificate, a tote bag, a bottle of Bearinade BBQ/marinade sauce, a bottle of Moosetard mustard, a bag of Alaska Flour Company barley couscous, a jar of Foraged & Found kelp pickles, and a Sitka Farmers Market special label Theobroma chocolate bar. This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer. We expect to start next year’s market season in July. More details about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

There weren’t the torrential downpours of the two previous markets, but it still was damp when we gathered for our eighth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the season Saturday, Sept. 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Despite the sprinkles, we closed out the market season in fine style with several vendors selling out of product.

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

The markets were held outside this year to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We didn’t have as many booths as in previous years, but the smaller markets seemed to have worked. We still had fresh local produce, as well as a variety of Alaska Grown value-added products, local eggs, mushrooms, and arts and crafts.

The market now will go on hiatus until next summer. We usually hold markets on selected Saturdays from July through September, and hopefully next year we’ll be back in a location that will allow us to have both inside and outside booths. When we have dates for the 2022 Sitka Farmers Market season we’ll start recruiting new vendors using our online registration page, and potential vendors can register and pay their vendor fees by going to https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

A slideshow of scenes from the eighth market of the summer is posted below.

Scenes from the seventh Sitka Farmers Market of the 2021 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK

TABLE OF THE DAY — Hillary Hoepfner, left, of the Hog Hole receives the Table of the Day Award from Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James during the Sept. 11 market. Hillary sold hot dogs, sausages, and drinks. She received a certificate, a tote bag, a t-shirt, a bottle of Bearinade BBQ/marinade sauce, a bottle of Moosetard mustard, a bag of Alaska Flour Company barley cereal, and a Sitka Farmers Market special label Theobroma chocolate bar. The last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Vendors can register online (by Thursday before each market) at https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More details about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

We had torrential downpours at times, but we still gathered for a wet seventh Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 11. We are winding down our market season, and have just one market left this summer.

Due to a growing COVID-19 count, we instituted a face mask policy this summer to try and protect our customers and vendors from the coronavirus. That face mask policy will be in force when we hold our eighth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept 18, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. We ask all customers and vendors to wear masks.

The markets are being held outside this year to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We haven’t had as many booths as in previous years, but the smaller market seems to be working. We still have fresh local produce, as well as a variety of Alaska Grown value-added products, local eggs, mushrooms, and arts and crafts. We should have some cooked food at Saturday’s market. We do have a couple of new vendors registered for this market, and we’d love to see a fish vendor or a baked goods vendor, too.

The Sitka Local Foods Network needs a volunteer or two to help set up the market, sell produce during the market, and take down the market after it’s over. If you’re interested in helping us with the market, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or Nalani James at (808) 778-9888.

By the way, Sitka Farmers Market manager Nalani James will teach a Sitka Kitch class a few hours after the market ends on Sept. 18 about how to make Zuppa Toscana. One of the ingredients in Zuppa Toscana is kale, and the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand will offer one bundle of kale at half price to students registered in the class. You can learn more and register for the class by going to http://sitkakitch.evertsmart.com.

We also are recruiting new vendors, and they can register and pay their vendor fees by going to https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com. More information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Farmers Market can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

The Sitka Local Foods Network does take WIC farmers market coupons and Alaska Quest SNAP EBT cards, and offers a matching program for produce purchased at the SLFN farm stand (if you buy $5 of produce, you will receive $10 worth).

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

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

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the September 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 last two markets of the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market season, information about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, an update on new high tunnels at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm where we grow our produce, 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).