Another update about the 2020 Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans

It’s May and we are still living in unusual times, with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and COVID-19 disease outbreak keeping many of us sheltered in place. The pandemic has scuttled some of our plans for the 2020 Sitka Farmers Market season, and we’re trying to adapt to our changing world so we can host something this year. We gave Sitka an update on our plans in late March, and now it’s time for another update.

We are still finalizing plans, but it doesn’t look as if we’ll be able to host a full Sitka Farmers Market this summer. Our regular venue, Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, is still closed, and even if we could use the building current state mandates limit what we can do. While the state considers farmers markets to be essential businesses, the state is limiting markets to food sales only and not allowing arts and crafts (about 65-70 percent of our vendors). We’d love to hold a regular market, but under the current situation we just can’t. We love serving as an incubator for small businesses and a community gathering place, so we hope to return to having a full market next summer.

So where does that leave us for the 2020 summer? The Sitka Local Foods Network, as usual, is growing fresh produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Our produced-growing operation has a Certified Naturally Grown designation, showing our commitment to sustainable agriculture, and we built a second high tunnel this spring to extend our growing season.

We think giving Sitka residents access to healthy, local food is critical to our food security, and we still plan to sell produce this summer. It’s in our mission, and we plan to do it. Since we are losing our market manager of the past three years (Nina Vizcarrondo) to Coast Guard relocation, we hired two co-managers to replace her — Ariane Martin Goudeau and Nalani James. Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham also will assist with the markets, and Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for about a decade.

Right now our plan is to use an online sales portal, Salt and Soil Marketplace based in Juneau, where people will order a box of produce during the week, pay for it online, and then pick it up on Saturday. We plan to sell a $20 box of produce that will feature four selected veggies that are currently in season, and a $40 box which will include additional veggies. We also may sell selected individual veggies when we have an abundance beyond what we’d put in the boxes. In order to simplify things this year, we will not carry our usual Alaska Grown products this summer. We plan to work with Middle Island Gardens, which will sell its produce on Salt and Soil Marketplace and have its own delivery pick-ups at the same time and location.

We are still trying to finalize our agreement on dates and times with our proposed venue, and that will be announced once it’s confirmed. We are negotiating with a centralized outdoor venue, and our proposed hours are from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. We hope to hold our first pick-up on June 20, and then every Saturday in July, August, and September.

Due to health and safety concerns from the COVID-19 outbreak, things will look different on market Saturdays. We are trying to minimize contact as much as possible, and all of our volunteers will wear gloves and masks and we ask all of our customers to also wear masks. We have been attending several workshops on how to safely run a market, and we decided simplicity and safety was our priority this year. That’s why there will only be two vendors — the Sitka Local Foods Network and Middle Island Gardens — this year and all of our produce will be pre-sold before Saturday, so customers can get in and out as quickly as possible and we don’t have to handle cash or checks.

We will ask customers to drive up to our pick-up location, and wait in their cars (with engines turned off) until our greeters get their names and then gets their orders so they can be placed in their vehicle. There will be no at-market sales, so please stay with your vehicles and don’t come up to our tables. If you bike or walk, we will ask you to maintain proper social distancing until we can bring you your order. The first half-hour we are open will be designated for seniors and those with high-risk health issues, so they can get in and out before the big rush. Periodically, we may stop what we’re doing so everybody can wash their hands and reglove, and we can wipe down our tables. We want to make this safe for our customers and our volunteers.

One of our biggest issues is how we will be able to make sure our produce gets into the hands of lower-income Sitka residents. Normally we accept SNAP Alaska Quest EBT cards and WIC farmers market nutrition vouchers, but unless something changes soon we’re not allowed to use those methods if we use an online sales portal. We are trying to come up with a solution, and that may mean we have WIC/SNAP beneficiaries send us an email or call a special phone number to receive a free $20 box of produce every other week. Since we won’t get reimbursed by the state, we’ll cover the costs from our general fund. This will only be for the Sitka Local Foods Network produce.

We still have a few things to work out, so we will will provide another update as those details are confirmed. 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.

An update about the 2020 Sitka Farmers Market and our contingency plans

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.

We had been making our usual plans, and even had dates we planned to announce about now, but with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak we had to go into wait-and-see mode. We even hired two new people to coordinate the Sitka Farmers Market this year — Ariane Martin Goudeau and Nalani James — because we’re losing our market manager of the past three years, Nina Vizcarrondo, to Coast Guard relocation.

Even though we’re in wait-and-see mode, the SLFN feels it does need to update the community.

First, we had big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. We bought a second high tunnel, which has been erected on the site, so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for about 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.

Regardless of whether we hold the Sitka Farmers Market or not, we will grow produce this summer at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Sitka’s food security needs more local food, so we plan to find ways to get the food into the community, somehow, someway.

If all things were normal, our plan was to hold seven Sitka Farmers Markets again this summer for our 13th season. Our tentative dates are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 4, July 25, Aug. 8, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, Sept. 5, and Sept. 19, all at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

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, if it’s possible.

But we don’t know when our shelter-in-place orders are going to end and we can start returning to normal. We are researching alternative ways to get our fresh produce into the hands of Sitka residents. We want to provide fresh produce, but also need to be conscious of everybody’s health during an outbreak.

That may mean going to an online portal, such as the Salt and Soil Marketplace out of Juneau, which has been expanding into Sitka and other towns in Southeast Alaska. Middle Island Gardens, Gimbal Botanicals, and a couple of other Sitka businesses have used Salt and Soil Marketplace, so it’s not a new concept. How it works for Sitka is vendors post their products online, and from Tuesday through Thursday Sitka residents go online and order what they want, with a delivery usually on Saturday.

This is great and relatively easy, except you lose the community aspect of the market when it’s online. Also, the Sitka Farmers Market serves as a business incubator, and we lose that when we can’t have a market.

There’s another thing we lose, and that’s the ability to accept WIC farmers market coupons and SNAP Alaska Quest EBT cards, which is how we get local produce into the hands of lower-income Sitkans. We are still trying to work that problem out. We want to get fresh local produce into this part of the community, because Sitka has some major inequality with about one in every six residents on some form of food assistance program. Our mission is “to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” so we have to make sure we include getting food to lower income people.

We will come up with a plan of some sort to make sure we do get produce into the hands of all Sitkans, but we have to be conscious of not spreading the coronavirus. It may mean we donate produce to a local food bank for distribution, or we donate some produce to WIC/SNAP beneficiaries and skip the normal reimbursement we’d get from the state. We have our White E grant to match WIC/SNAP benefits, so we can use that grant to help distribute the food, and absorb some of the loss through our general fund. It’s within our mission, and we can afford to do it for a few months.

Ideally, we will host our Sitka Farmers Markets as normal. But these are unusual times. We will look at what’s happening in mid-May, and we will make a further announcement then as to what our plans are. Hopefully we will be recruiting vendors for our market. If not, we will start setting up an account so people can order produce online.

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

Sitka Local Foods Network to host annual meeting and potluck on Saturday, Feb. 15

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its annual meeting and potluck dinner from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (please use the back door, just before you reach St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm).

Participants are encouraged to bring a dish featuring local foods to share, and please bring your own utensils (note, this is a non-alcoholic event). This is a casual and social event that serves as a good time for people to learn more about the Sitka Local Foods Network and what we do around town.

Attendees will hear about project updates, plus the current board will vote on by-law changes. We will introduce our new board members for 2020, and we will confirm the election of our officers. We also have a couple of openings on our board. People wanting to learn more about joining can click this link for info and applications.

Individuals interested in learning more about the Sitka Local Foods Network can email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com to learn about our projects and volunteer opportunities.

Scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Hannah Green, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Brittany Dumag, left, and Kathy Dumag, center, of Castaway during the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Sept. 21, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Brittany and Kathy sold Cubano pork sandwiches with salad and banana chips and pozole pork and hominy soup. They received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Redoubt Rhubarb sweatshirt, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, some carrots, beets and apples from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, a bag of Chugach Chocolates birched hot chocolate, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, but there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28 at Totem Square park. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

Even though it was raining, there was a big crowd for the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

Even though this is the latest in the summer we’ve hosted a Sitka Farmers Market we still had lots of produce, and this time we had some extra produce left at the end of the market that was donated to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. Our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale, too. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; jarred smoked seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; packaged seaweed; arts and crafts; and more. And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

Mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the 25th annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand) at Totem Square Park. This is a costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m., with costume judging about 11 a.m. and the race at 11:30 a.m. The entry fee is $10 for individuals, $30 for families. In addition, we will have the last Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand of the summer, and the Smoothie Truck should be there. There will be door prizes and live music. This event is part of the Greater Chamber of Commerce’s End-Of-Season Celebration, with hamburgers and hot dogs for a small donation and closed-off streets downtown.

A slideshow of scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Nalani James, second from right, her son, Lennox, left, and daughter, Ilima, during the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Sept. 7, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Nalani sold a variety of baked goods, including chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars, muffins with local berries and carrot cake. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network apron, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, some salad mix, beets and chard from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The last Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.), plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28 at Totem Square park. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a slow weekend when we held our sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We didn’t have as many booths, but there still was steady business at the market.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets, and this time we had some extra produce left at the end of the market that was donated to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. Even though is was a smaller market, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; arts and crafts; and more. And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The last Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the ANB Founders Hall. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the 25th annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand) at Totem Square Park. We still have room for new vendors at our last farmers market.

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, third from left, presents Nancy Furlow, left, Rachel Henderson, second from left, and Grace Larsen, right, of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4 with the Table of the Day award during the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 31, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. ANS Camp No. 4 sold Grace’s frybread and Indian tacos. They received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, two Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirts, some salad mix from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The last market this summer is Sept. 21, plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a busy weekend when we held our fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. In addition to our farmers market, the Sitka Mermaid Festival and Sitka Seafood Festival had a marketplace at the same time, and the Mudball softball tournament was in full swing.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; arts and crafts; and more. We also had a food truck outside (Ashmo’s). And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the ANB Founders Hall. The last market of the season is scheduled for Sept. 21. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand). We still have room for new vendors at our last two farmers markets.

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

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Scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, presents Patty Dick of the Noow Tlein Dancers Fundraiser with the Table of the Day award during the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Aug. 17, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Patty sold baked goods, Tlingít drums, medicinal herbs and tinctures, and painted rocks. She received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirt, some onions from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, some taster straws of Bridge Creek Birch Syrup, a Chugach Chocolate candy bar, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Other markets this summer are Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, plus there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was a bit cloudy and misty when we held our fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Luckily, the rain ended and the clouds lifted before the market did.

Now that we’re deeper into the season, we had more produce available than in our earlier markets. But we still ran out of most of our produce fairly early. Still, our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; fresh, frozen or jarred seafood; garlic scapes, lettuce, carrots and other produce; jams and jellies; arts and crafts; and more. We also had two food trucks outside (Castaway and the Smoothie Truck). We also introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

The next Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the ANB Founders Hall. There also are markets scheduled for Sept. 7, and Sept. 21. Also, mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand).

To learn how to be a vendor at the market or how to be a volunteer, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

A slideshow of scenes from the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.