Sitka Local Foods Network applies for Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

The Sitka Local Foods Network is in the middle of the application process for a Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and its satellite gardens.

We had an inspection on Tuesday, July 2, and as soon as the inspection paperwork is submitted showing we follow the CNG principles, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm will become the fifth, sixth or seventh farm in Alaska to earn the status (there also are farms in Juneau and Palmer awaiting the results of their inspections).

“This certification will show our commitment to making sure Sitkans are able to buy naturally grown produce at the Sitka Farmers Market, and they can know it’s being grown without chemical fertilizers or other additives,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Nearly all of the produce we sell at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market is grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and its satellite gardens, and now people will have more assurances that the food they are buying is grown in a natural and sustainable manner, and that it’s the healthiest we can provide.”

The Certified Naturally Grown program is fairly new to Alaska, but many farms are turning to the CNG program because of the difficulty receiving an USDA organic certification in Alaska. Right now there are no USDA organic certification inspectors in Alaska, so it is costly to bring an inspector from the Lower 48 to Alaska and usually only happens when a couple of farms in one area get together and split the cost. The Certified Naturally Grown program has similar principles about not using chemical fertilizers and other enhancements, but uses a peer review inspection process where other local  farmers (even those not in the CNG program) who follow these principles can perform inspections. It also costs less money.

For this inspection, Andrea Fraga of Middle Island Gardens worked with St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt to go through a multi-page checklist that asked questions about how you prepare your garden beds, how you compost, what types of fertilizer and other enhancements you use, what types of crop covers you use, how you rotate crops, and more. There are separate certifications for produce, livestock, apiaries (beekeeping), aquaponics, and mushroom farming.

There currently are four farms in Alaska that have passed their CNG inspections — Faith Farms in Kodiak, Four Winds Farm in Haines, Wilderness Earth Farm of Soldotna, and Wilderness Greenhouse of Anchor Point. The three Alaska farms waiting for CNG inspection results include Sitka Local Foods Network/St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm in Sitka, Orsi Organic Produce in Juneau, and Seeds and Soil Farm in Palmer.

Some photos from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden inspection are posted below.

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White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network 2019 grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network, left, and Donna Donohoe and Jessica Christianson of Friends of Sitka Circus Arts, right, pose with White Elephant Shop (White E) volunteer Cheryl Call, second from left, after receiving 2019 grant checks from the White E.

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E thrift shop) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,500 grant during its 2019 grant cycle. In 2018, the White E awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network $1,000.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce, such as at the Running of the Boots. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets a few years ago when there was a state grant, but in 2017 those grant funds ran out and we used our Sitka Local Foods Network general fund to match the produce purchases. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons in 2017, using our general fund. We grow most of the produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2019 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support.

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2019

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 2019. The goal of the sponsorship program is to make the projects we undertake (Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, gardening education, 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). We haven’t set our 2019 dates yet, but we anticipate we will have seven markets again this summer. 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. We also offer a variety of garden education classes in the spring. One way we ensure 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 farmers market). In 2018 we launched a new food business innovation contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, but we haven’t decided if the contest will continue in 2019.

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.

• 2019 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E) volunteer Samantha Skultka, center, presents grant checks on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, to Sitka Historical Society executive director Hal Spackman, left, and Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham. (Photo by Susan Brown)

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,000 grant during its 2018 grant cycle.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce, such as at the Running of the Boots or at our table on Chelan Produce weeks. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets a few years ago when there was a state grant, but last year those grant funds ran out and we used our general fund to match the produce purchases. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons last year, using our general fund. We grow most of the produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is part of the USDA’s The People’s Garden program.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2018 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support.

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2018

The Sitka Local Foods Network created a sponsorship program to help promote our mission, and Sitka businesses and individuals are welcome to join for 2018. The goal of the sponsorship program is to make the projects we undertake (Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, gardening education, 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). We haven’t set our 2018 dates yet, but we anticipate we will have seven markets again this summer. 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. We also offer a variety of garden education classes in the spring. One way we ensure 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 farmers market). This year we also hope to launch a new food business innovation contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka.

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.

• 2018 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form

Do you like zucchini? We have lots of fresh local zucchini for sale

While our cold, wet summer hampered the growth of some of our veggies, zucchini has been our bumper crop of the season at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. We’re harvesting about 70 pounds a week right now. We tried a new type of zucchini seed from FoundRoot seed company in Haines, and it really does well in Sitka.

So if you need any zucchini, please give St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt a call at 738-7009. We also will have zucchini for sale at the Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (and again on Aug. 19, and possibly on Sept. 2 and Sept. 9).

Don’t know how to use zucchini? The UAF Cooperative Extension Service has this free publication that has all kinds of information about zucchini and several recipes. Zucchini is very versatile and can be used in main dishes, side dishes, pickles, breads, salads, and desserts.

• Experience the best of Sitka’s local food scene with our updated Sitka Sound Suppers fundraiser

SitkaSoundSuppersLogoEating local in Sitka can be an amazing experience. We have wide variety of high-quality seafood, including five types of salmon, halibut, blackcod, dozens of varieties of rockfish, ling cod, Alaska king crab, Dungeness crab, scallops, spot prawns, yum. There also is Sitka black-tailed deer and other wild game. And there’s nothing like the taste of fresh produce from the garden, and our berries are exquisite.

Now you can experience the best of Sitka’s local food scene with Sitka Sound Suppers: A Chef-To-Table Experience, a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. (NOTE: Please see the update below.)

Three Sitka chefs — Kathy Jones (Westmark/Dock Shack), Edith Johnson (Fly-In Fish Inn), and Jackie Barmoy (former owner of Loaves and Fishes in Seattle) — have volunteered their talents to prepare a totally local meal that will be brought to your Sitka home for you to enjoy.

  • Donate at the $500 level and you receive a local Sitka dinner for two people.
  • Donate at the $1,000 level and you receive a local Sitka dinner for four people.
  • Donate at the $2,000 level and you receive a local Sitka dinner for eight people.

We are planning on preparing just one special dinner at each donation level, so get in on the promotion early. (UPDATE: We have decided to allow multiple dinners for each donation level instead of a single dinner. We didn’t know how many people would respond, so didn’t want to overtask our chefs, who are donating their time and talents to this promotion. So, even though we already have a donor at the $500 level, we can accommodate a second and/or third donor at that level.)

The Sitka Sound Suppers fundraiser launched on July 16 and ends after our final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Sept. 12. The winners of our meals will be connected to our chefs, so they can agree on a menu and date for the meal during the Fall 2015 harvest season (late September to November). All meals will be prepared and served in Sitka, Alaska. You can learn more about the Sitka Sound Suppers fundraiser by watching this video.

The funds raised by this promotion will help the Sitka Local Foods Network continue its work promoting local foods in Sitka and Southeast Alaska through the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our education programs. As the organization has grown and matured, we’ve reached a point where we need to hire a part-time staff person to handle some of the daily duties of our organization. Your donations will go into a fund to help us eventually be able to hire that staff person.

Your support for the Sitka Local Foods Network is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

By the way, if you want to contribute to the Sitka Local Foods Network but not receive one of the Sitka Sound Suppers, you can go to our main fundraising page on Razoo.com (a fundraising/crowdfunding site for nonprofit organizations) and donate in any amount over $10 there. Your online donation is secure and tax-deductible (we have federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status). Thanks again.

• Sitka Sound Suppers information flier (opens as PDF file)