New guide helps Alaska commercial fishermen find markets for their fish

A new publication is targeting Alaska commercial fishermen and processors who want to find markets for their fish.

The guide is a new fisheries business support tool that we are hoping you will help to share called: Resource Guide for Fishermen Interested in Direct Marketing, Alternative Marketing, and Community Supported Fisheries. The guide can be accessed online on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website at https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/vendor-resources, and is also attached as a PDF.

The guide was developed by Kelly Harrell (who now works as chief officer of fisheries and sustainability for Sitka Salmon Shares) on behalf of the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC) and Ecotrust, with support from the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program. The guide is intended to draw together a diverse array of information and tools that exist to help direct marketers/CSFs get started and succeed.

“The Local Foods Program at SAWC aims to localize our food system by supporting local food producers whose food lands on the tables of Southeast Alaskans,” said Jennifer Nu, local foods project director for SAWC and food sustainability catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. “Kelly Harrell led the effort to understand the unique challenges and needs of direct market fishermen and determine ways to contribute to the success of their businesses. The guide is a comprehensive resource directory of a wide variety of tools for direct marketers and similar seafood businesses. Fishermen can use it to quickly find resources, organizations, and networks. We have already heard from a fisherman in Petersburg who said he wishes he had this resource available to him when he started his business years ago.”

• Resource Guide for Fishermen Interested in Direct Marketing, Alternative Marketing, and Community Supported Fisheries

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Scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer

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It rained heavily the day before and even the early morning of the market, but after we’d already set up inside we looked out and saw it was nice and sunny. So we decided outside was the best place to hold the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Markets of the 2016 summer, on Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

slfnboothyounggirlwithcarrotsOther than one booth using the Alaska Native Sisterhood Kitchen in ANB Hall to make Indian tacos, all of our booths were outdoors in the Baranof Island Housing Authority (BIHA) parking lot next to ANB Founders Hall. This week we also had three ladies who had antiques and other vintage items for sale.

Since it was the last market, it was nice to see some of the booths selling out. The Sitka Local Foods Network produce stand sold out of all its produce, and even its pork products from Mat-Valley Meats. The Salvation Army bread booth sold out, and Reindeer Redhots ran out of hot dog buns.

Now that the market season is over, we will be looking for new ways to try and revitalize the market. If you have ideas, please contact Matthew Jackson at (907) 821-1412 or jackson.mw08@gmail.com.

The Sitka Farmers Markets receive sponsorship funding from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the American Farmland Trust’s eighth annual Farmers Market Celebration. The voting deadline is Sept. 21, and we were leading for Alaska in several of the categories.

Also, mark your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 17, which is the tentative date of the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun-run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. Click this link for more details.

A slideshow of scenes from the seventh Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer is below.

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Scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer

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Charlie Bower brought a variety of mushrooms for sale this week.

It was nice and sunny, so we decided outside was the best place to hold the sixth of seven Sitka Farmers Markets of the 2016 summer, on Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

Other than one booth using the Alaska Native Sisterhood Kitchen in ANB Hall to make Indian tacos, all of our booths were outdoors in the Baranof Island Housing Authority (BIHA) parking lot next to ANB Founders Hall.

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Sometimes you just need to dance.

We always welcome new vendors who want to sell produce they’ve grown, fish they’ve caught, and local cottage food products they’ve made. To learn more about how to be a vendor, contact Matthew Jackson at (907) 821-1412 orjackson.mw08@gmail.com.

We only have one market left, which will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10, at the ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The Sitka Farmers Markets receive sponsorship funding from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the American Farmland Trust’s eighth annual Farmers Market Celebration.

Also, mark your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 17, which is the tentative date of the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun-run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. Click this link for more details.

A slideshow of scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer is below.

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Patagonia headquarters chef Tracy On in Sitka to develop new Fish to Schools program recipes

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Tracy On shows off a serving of chum salmon fried rice (front) and pink salmon macaroni and cheese that she tested Friday (Aug. 26) at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. Tracy is in town for a two-week internship with the Sitka Conservation Society to develop new recipes for the Fish to Schools program.

TracyOnPreparesToSliceChumSalmonIn her regular job, Tracy On is the chef at Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, Calif., serving about 500 breakfasts and lunches a day to Patagonia employees. For her summer vacation, Tracy is in Sitka developing new recipes for the Fish to Schools program as part of a two-week internship with the Sitka Conservation Society.

“I’m working on recipes for Fish to Schools, so we can incorporate a little more local salmon in the school lunches,” Tracy said. “I also had personal reasons for coming here. I wanted to learn more about the fishing industry and how to connect the kids to their local food sources. I’m also a little selfish. I’ve always wanted to come to Alaska and this is my first trip.”

During her first week in Sitka, Tracy spent several days at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen testing new recipes. She also did a morning interview with KCAW-Raven Radio on Wednesday to help spread the word about her visit. On Friday, Tracy prepared a chum salmon fried rice dish and a pink salmon macaroni and cheese dish, then took a tour of the newly renovated Sitka Salmon Shares plant. She also has been working on a salmon corn dog and other recipes.

Tracy is trying to create recipes the kids will enjoy, what she called “comfort classics kids love,” while also keeping costs down because most school districts don’t receive more than $2 or $3 per student meal for their school lunch programs. That’s one reason she has been working with pink and chum salmon while in Sitka, because the costs are lower. She also is testing recipes that can be cooked from scratch, as well as ones that just require reheating, since school districts use different methods to prepare their meals. The Sitka Conservation Society will host an invitation-only tasting this week where SCS members and guests can try out a few of the new meals.

TrayOfChumSalmon“The main reason to host Tracy is to bring the Fish to Schools program to the next step,” said Sophie Nethercut, who coordinates the program for the Sitka Conservation Society. “We’ve been running this program on donations, and with the funding climate the way it is, we wanted to create a line of minimally processed recipes using pink and chum salmon that can be marketed to schools, nursing homes and hospitals.”

Tracy isn’t the first intern the Sitka Conservation Society has hosted from Patagonia, which has been sending employees to Sitka for the past three years to work on a variety of projects. Other Patagonia interns held workshops on repairing outdoor gear or helped with computer systems while in Sitka.

Tracy will be in town one more week, which will include a couple of sessions working on new recipes at the Sitka Kitch and the tasting event. She also hopes to get out on a commercial fishing boat and possibly visit other seafood processors in town.

Also, local commercial fishermen can still donate coho salmon to the Fish to Schools program, as the annual donation drive has been extended until Aug. 30.

 

Scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer

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For the first time in eight years, the Sitka Local Foods Network hosted Sitka Farmers Markets in back-to-back weeks, with our fifth of seven Sitka Farmers Markets of the 2016 summer taking place on Saturday, Aug. 20, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We also had a rainy market on Aug. 13, so it was nice to see a bit of sun for this week’s market.

SitkaSalmonSharesBoothGenevieveCrowOne of our new vendors this week was Sitka Salmon Shares, a community-supported fishery program that sells a variety of fish caught in Sitka and other parts of Southeast Alaska to 2,500 subscribers in six Midwest states. Sitka Salmon Shares, which sells fish in 23 farmers markets in the Lower 48, brought out some of its new smoked salmon products to the Sitka Farmers Market.

We always welcome new vendors who want to sell produce they’ve grown, fish they’ve caught, and local cottage food products they’ve made. To learn more about how to be a vendor, contact Matthew Jackson at (907) 821-1412 or jackson.mw08@gmail.com.

AudreySaizAnnaSaizHomemadeFudgeThe two remaining markets this summer are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, Sept. 3, and Sept. 10 at the ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The Sitka Farmers Markets receive sponsorship funding from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the American Farmland Trust’s eighth annual Farmers Market Celebration.

Also, mark your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 17, which is the tentative date of the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun-run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. We’ll post more details later, once we get the event organized.

A slideshow of scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer is below.

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Sitka Salmon Shares brings Southeast Alaska fish to Midwest markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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• Former Sitka resident Nic Mink publishes book, ‘Salmon: A Glocal History,’ highlighting salmon in Sitka and the world

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Former Sitka resident Nicolaas “Nic” Mink — now the Urban Sustainable Foods Fellow at Butler University, Indianapolis — recently published the book Salmon: A Global History that highlights salmon in Sitka, Alaska, and the world.

The book is published by Reaktion Books, LTD, as part of The Edible Series, which features books about different types of food from around the world. The small hardback book is 127 pages with 49 illustrations (30 in color), recipes, bibliography, and index. It costs $18 in the United States ($9.99 on Kindle).

Nic used to lead the now-defunct Sitka Salmon Tours, which took visitors on a walking tour around Sitka to show them the different stages of salmon growth and processing, during the two-plus years he lived in Sitka and worked with the Sitka Conservation Society. He said many of the scripts he developed for the tours were incorporated into the book, which isn’t much longer than a traditional academic paper. Now that he lives in Indiana, Nic still has connections to Sitka’s salmon through a company he started called Sitka Salmon Shares, which markets sustainably caught salmon, halibut, sablefish (black cod), and other fish from Sitka and Juneau to residents of the Midwest United States.

While exploring the state of salmon throughout the world, Nic said he centered a lot of the book on Sitka’s salmon because of its place in the history of the fish. In addition to looking at the natural history of salmon eating, the book also examines cured, canned, and fresh salmon, plus the future of edible salmon. He writes about the role of salmon with Alaska Native cultures, how Alaska’s salmon industry was impacted when a British boy died from botulism after eating canned salmon from Ketchikan in the 1980s, the differences between wild Alaska salmon and farmed salmon, and more.

The book’s description, from the book jacket:

The story of salmon takes readers on a culinary journey from the coast of Alaska to the rivers of Scotland, tracing salmon’s history from the earliest known records to the present. He tells the story of how the salmon was transformed from an abundant fish found seasonally along coastal regions to a mass-produced canned food  and a highly prized culinary delight.

Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, cheap, and widely available, salmon is often listed as an essential part of any diet. A delicious and versatile fish, it can be used to make sashimi, cold smoked for lox, or shaped into a fishcake as an alternative to hamburgers. But while salmon is enjoyed all over the globe, it also swims at the center of controversy, with commercial fishing, global warming, and loss of freshwater habitats all threatening salmon populations and the ecological and health impacts of intense salmon farming under fire.