Earn SLFN farm stand vouchers through the Walk, Bike, Win! downtown commuting challenge

Most Sitkans know by now that we’re expecting a record number of cruise ship visitors this summer and to help with the crowds the city is closing part of Lincoln Street on heavy cruise ship passenger days.

To help ease traffic and reduce cars downtown on these heavy cruise ship passenger days, the Walk, Bike, Win! downtown commuter challenge started on May 7 and runs through Sept. 29. As part of the challenge, people log their active transportation trips (walking, biking, etc.) downtown and earn points.

As part of the challenge, people earning 25 points can receive a $15 voucher to use at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market. You can use the voucher to buy fresh local produce grown in Sitka at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. You also can use the vouchers to buy any of our Alaska Grown value-added products, such as chocolate from Sitka’s Theobroma Chocolate or Girdwood’s Chugach Chocolates, barley products from Delta Junction’s Alaska Flour Company, kelp salsa products from Juneau’s Barnacle Foods, or kelp pesto or pasta sauce from Ketchikan’s Foraged & Found. There is a limited number of vouchers available.

The Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand usually is located in the BIHA parking lot next to the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, although we sometimes move it inside if we have a low number of vendors scheduled for that market. The Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 2, 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27, Sept. 10, and 24 — at ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). This is the only booth where you can use the vouchers at the market, and the vouchers are only accepted at the market and there is no change. See you at the market.

Vendor registration open for 2022 Sitka Farmers Markets

Sitka Farmers Market Manager Nalani James, left, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt, center, and Sitka Local Foods Network Board Treasurer Amanda Anjum at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand during a July 2021 Sitka Farmers Market.

Vendor registration is open for the 2022 Sitka Farmers Markets. This 15th annual community event is hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit working to improve Sitka’s food security. The online vendor registration page, http://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com, is live and ready for vendors to sign up and pre-pay for their spots.

This summer, the Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting seven markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays — July 2, July 16, July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 10, and Sept. 24 — at Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), where we held our first 12 years of markets. All vendors will pay $40 per market, regardless of whether you have a table or a food truck. We have a special rate of $240 for vendors who register for all seven markets before the first market happens, which means you get one market free. Vendors can register for one or two markets, or all seven. We also have youth vendor program for ages 14 and younger, which is $20 for all seven markets (please let us know ahead of time which specific markets you plan to attend).

The Sitka Farmers Market is a community event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. Our focus is on local — fresh produce, fish, baked goods, prepared foods, cottage foods, arts and crafts — and all products must be made in Alaska (preferably in Sitka or Southeast Alaska, cooked foods may use non-local foods so long as the food is cooked on site). Since our mission is geared toward food security and our space is limited this year, if we have too many vendors try to register our food booths will have a higher priority over arts and crafts.

After having to relocate for two years due to COVID-19, we are back to our roots this year for our 15th season of markets. We will have indoor and outdoor spaces. Since COVID-19 is still around, we will require masks inside the ANB Hall when Sitka is at the Moderate or High risk levels. While most people now are vaccinated against the coronavirus, there still are people who aren’t vaccinated and there are periodic hot spots when the illness flares up. We don’t want the market to be a place that spreads the coronavirus. Even with our outside booths, we encourage vendors and customers to wear masks, to use hand sanitizer, and to avoid bunching up while giving others six feet of space.

Please read the market vendor rules and responsibilities document linked below. All vendors using this site to register for the market will be held to these rules. We ask all vendors to register by the Thursday morning before the markets where they intend to sell. Unless you specify you want to be outside, we will try to find room for you indoors. We are not selling half-tables this year because we need social-distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Vendors can pay using PayPal or credit/debit card. When you get to the Payment options, click PayPal (not Invoice) and it should give you the option of using a PayPal account or four different types of cards (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover). If you prefer to pay by cash or check, contact Charles Bingham at 907-623-7660. We will provide a $35 refund for cancellations, but to get the refund you are required to let us know before Wednesday of the week of your registered market that you can’t make it. This is $5 less than the $40 table fee since we are billed for transaction fees and other expenses. There is no refund if you don’t let us know until after Wednesday.

Nalani James is the Sitka Farmers Market manager this summer (she’s on the left in the photo above). Laura Schmidt (center in photo) is our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the market. Charles Bingham is the assistant market manager and the president of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

For questions about the market, email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call (907) 623-7660. More details about the market will be posted on the Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, and shared on its Facebook pages — https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket — and on Twitter, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods.

• 2022 Sitka Farmers Market Vendor Rules and Responsibilities

Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit to host virtual farm tours on Feb. 26

The 2022 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit may have been postponed until 2023, due to Covid-19, but there’s still a way for Southeast growers to connect this month. The Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit will host virtual farm tours from 9 a.m. to just past noon on Saturday, Feb,. 26, via Zoom. This will be a relaxed and informal event.

“Whether you are a farmer, gardener, agricultural industry professional, or local food enthusiast, this event is for you,” event organizers Bo Varsano and Marja Smets of Farragut Farm near Petersburg wrote in an email. “Everyone is welcome to ‘Zoom in’ on a snapshot of what agriculture looks like in Southeast Alaska today. Three regional farmers — Ivy Patch Produce in Wrangell, Foundroot in Haines and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm in Sitka — will be sharing photos and stories of their farming operations, with plenty of time allotted for questions from the audience.”

After a welcome and introduction from 9-9:30 a.m., Katherine Ivy of Ivy Patch Produce in Wrangell will give a talk and show photos of her operation from 9:30-10:15 a.m. Leah Wagner and Nick Schlosstein of Foundroot in Haines will present from 10:15-11 a.m. After a short break from 11-11:10 a.m., Laura Schmidt of St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (operated by the Sitka Local Foods Network) will speak from 11:10-11:55 a.m. There will be closing remarks at noon.

“The 2022 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit has been postponed until February 2023,” Bo and Marja wrote. “If you were planning on attending that event, this is a great opportunity to touch base and make connections in the meantime.”

To register and get the Zoom link, click this link. To learn more about the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit, click this link.

White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network 2022 grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Sitka White Elephant Shop volunteers Carole Knuth, left, and Sue Fleming, right, present Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham with a grant check to match SNAP/WIC produce sales at the Sitka Farmers Market this summer.

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E thrift shop) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,000 grant during its 2022 grant cycle. In 2018, the White E awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network $1,000. The amount was increased to $1,500 in 2019 and 2020, and we didn’t apply for a grant in 2021 because of the pandemic.

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. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets several years ago when there was a state grant, but in 2017 those state grant funds ran out and we used our Sitka Local Foods Network general fund to match the produce purchases.

The White E grants, starting in 2018, have helped us continue the matching program. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons in 2017, using our general fund (in 2019, we were the only farmers market in the state authorized to match WIC coupons). If the senior farmers market coupons are finally distributed in Southeast Alaska in 2022, our intention is to match those as well.

We grow most of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market locally at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town. St. Peter’s Fellowship holds a Certified Naturally Grown designation, which means we follow healthy and sustainable practices while growing our produce, including limited use of chemical fertilizers. The Sitka Farmers Market also is on the Certified Naturally Grown’s Guide To Exceptional Markets.

“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. “Local produce can be fresher and tastier than barged-in produce from the Lower 48, and it doesn’t lose its nutritional value during transit. 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 2022 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support. The White E noted that the amount of money it’s been able to donate to local nonprofits has decreased in recent years, starting even before the pandemic hit and closed the store for several months. The White E is encouraging people to donate quality used clothes, toys, and other items to sell so it can raise the amount of contributions it makes to local nonprofits again next year.

Enjoy some tasty chowder or baguette sandwiches and support the Sitka Local Foods Network this week

Now you can eat tasty food and support local nonprofits. The Sitka Local Foods Network is one of five local nonprofit organizations participating in this winter’s Season of Giving at the Ludvig’s Bistro Chowder Cart, located in the historic Mill Building next to the Sitka Sound Science Center.

Stop by the Ludvig’s Chowder Cart from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 1-4, and a portion of your meal purchase will benefit the Sitka Local Foods Network. The Sitka Local Foods Network is the fourth local nonprofit to have a week of support from the Ludvig’s Chowder Cart, joining the Sitka Homeless Coalition (Nov. 10-13), Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum (Nov. 17-20), and the Herring Protectors (Nov. 26-27). There will be one more nonprofit participating next week.

“The Sitka Local Foods Network is honored to be selected for the Ludvig’s Season of Giving,” SLFN board president Charles Bingham said. “We love to see local businesses helping support the community like this. Thanks to Ludvig’s chef/owner Colette Nelson for including us in this program and supporting local food security.”

The Sitka Local Foods Network is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.

We accomplish our mission by growing fresh produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden (located behind St, Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church), coordinating the Sitka Farmers Market (where we sell the produce and also offer a matching program for WIC/SNAP benefits), sponsoring the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest (where a new business and an established business can win $1,500 each for using more local food in their products) and helping link Sitka residents to garden and food preservation/cooking education opportunities. 

If people are interested in volunteering or joining our board of directors, they can contact SLFN Board President Charles Bingham at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com or 907-623-7660.

Order fresh, locally grown produce this week using Salt and Soil Marketplace

There isn’t a regular Sitka Farmers Market this week, but Sitka residents can still buy fresh, locally grown produce through the Salt and Soil Marketplace.

This is similar to what we did last year, where people order online from 5 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon through 8 p.m. Thursday night. The produce is picked and ready for pick up from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 24, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street).

Right now, the Sitka Local Foods Network has 10 small farmer’s choice baskets available for $20 each (most likely featuring lettuce, greens, broccolini, onions, and zucchini, with possible substitutions being carrots or garlic scapes if needed). There also are two small rhubarb baskets at $10 each, and two small zucchini batches at $5 each.

Also, Middle Island Gardens has a variety of produce for sale on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website that will be available for pick up on Saturday at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Anam Cara Family Garden has a variety of jams and jellies for sale, but those are for pick up on Saturday at 815 Charles Street. They aren’t posted yet, but Rainforest Flowers may have bouquets for sale.

You will need to create a Sitka-based account on Salt and Soil Marketplace in order to purchase produce, and you will pay online. Unfortunately, we are not taking WIC coupons or Alaska Quest SNAP cards this week (we only take them at full markets this year).

The Sitka Local Foods Network is scheduled to host its third Sitka Farmers Market of the season from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. We are watching the current spike in Covid cases, and if our case numbers continue to grow we may switch back to the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering format.

In the meantime, we ask everybody to please wear masks, even if you are vaccinated, and stay home if you’re sick.

Sitka Farmers Market kicks off 14th season on Saturday

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets with its opening market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. This will be the first of eight full markets this summer, with the other markets taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, all at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

“After last year’s COVID-19 pandemic limited our markets to only produce booths, we’re happy to be getting back to some normalcy this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our eight markets this year will still have some COVID safety measures, such as being held entirely outdoors and encouraging everybody to use face masks. But we will have a variety of fresh local produce, fish, homemade baked goods, cottage foods, cooked food, arts and crafts, and more. We missed the community aspect of the markets last year, so it will be nice to have some of our vendors back this summer.”

The Sitka Farmers Market gots its start from the second Sitka Health Summit, held in April 2008, when Sitka residents chose two food-related community wellness projects to work on for the next year — to create a local foods market and to start a community greenhouse. Later in April, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church made its backyard available for growing produce, which became St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and by August the first of three Sitka Farmers Markets was held. Those projects led to the creation of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The Sitka Local Foods Network continues to host the Sitka Farmers Market, and also runs a farm stand selling produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The SLFN farm stand also sells Alaska Grown value-added products from around the state. Last year when the market was simplified due to COVID, the Alaska Grown products were dropped. This summer, the Alaska Grown products are back, with Barnacle Foods kelp products from Juneau, Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Bridge Creek Birch Syrup from Homer, Chugach Chocolates from Girdwood, and more. New this year are Foraged and Found kelp products from Ketchikan, Moosetard mustard and BBQ sauce products from Fairbanks, and some special Sitka Farmers Market-label chocolate bars from Sitka’s own Theobroma Chocolates.

“We still are recruiting vendors for the markets, but we do expect Middle Island Gardens with fresh produce at all eight markets, and the Hog Hole hot dog stand at all eight markets,” Bingham said. “In addition, at our first market we have Harriet and Ron McClain of Fish Bone Studio with arts and crafts, Pamela Ash with arts and crafts, Ashley and Dustin Ward and family of Ward Craft with arts and crafts and cottage foods, and Charlie Bower with cultivated mushrooms.”

New this year is an online vendor registration site, https://sitkafarmersmarket.eventsmart.com, where potential vendors can register and pay for their vendor fees. Nalani James, who was market co-manager last year, will manage the markets this summer, with Charles Bingham and Amanda Anjum assisting. There also is a youth vendor program for vendors age 14 and younger. Potential vendors can email sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call Charles Bingham at 623-7660 with any questions. Potential musicians and volunteers also can call Bingham, if they want to help.

New high tunnels help grow more produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

Since its origin as a small communal garden located in space behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church in April 2008, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown much of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market.

Coordinated by the Sitka Local Foods Network, with Laura Schmidt serving as lead gardener for the past decade, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown in efficiency and production so there are more fresh veggies available for Sitka residents.

In recent years, that means the addition of high tunnels, also called hoop houses. High tunnels look like greenhouses, but don’t have the heaters, powered ventilation systems or evaporative coolers commonly found in greenhouses. Even without those extras, high tunnels can extend the growing season and even counter the effects of a cold, wet summer such as the one we had in 2020 when it seemed like it rained just about all the time.

It started with a small, used high tunnel a former Sitka Local Foods Network board member donated to the group when she moved out of town. That small high tunnel, which still is in use at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, has been at the communal garden for about 5-6 years now. It was first used as a place to start seedlings and now has chard and kale growing in it.

In the spring of 2020, the Sitka Local Foods Network board approved the purchase of a 16×28 quonset hut-style high tunnel, manufactured by Oregon Valley Greenhouses and sold locally through Spenard Builder’s Supply. This high tunnel was constructed by a volunteer crew coordinated by Laura Schmidt, and was planted in time for the 2020 summer.

That high tunnel saved our 2020 Sitka Farmers Market season, as it helped protect some of the more fragile plants from the extreme cold and rain we had that year. That prompted the Sitka Local Foods Network to buy another 16×28 high tunnel of the same make and model, plus we added an automated venting system and fan to both of the new high tunnels.

Despite the nice weather last week, the 2021 spring has been cold and wet so the produce still needs better weather to kick into gear. But the new high tunnels will greatly help us keep Sitka in produce this summer.

Click this link, if you want to support the Sitka Local Foods Network’s efforts to grow more healthy produce for Sitka residents. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown farm designation, which shows the Sitka Local Foods Network’s commitment to growing produce in a sustainable manner with the minimal use of chemical fertilizers.

Vendor registration open for 2021 Sitka Farmers Markets

Vendor registration is finally open for the 2021 Sitka Farmers Markets. This 14th annual event is hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit working to improve Sitka’s food security. The new online vendor registration page, http://sitkafarmersmarket.wordpress.com, is live and ready for vendors to sign up and pre-pay for their spots.

This summer there are eight Sitka Farmers Markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. In addition to table space under the building overhang and on the plaza, there are parking spots for food trucks and food carts.

All vendors will pay $40 per market, regardless of whether you have a table or a food truck. We have a special rate of $280 for vendors who register for all eight markets, which means you get one market free. Vendors can register for one or two markets, or all eight. We also have youth vendor program for ages 14 and younger, which is $20 for all eight markets. Vendors will need to supply their own tables (preferably 30×72-inch banquet tables, please no tables longer than eight feet), and in some cases their own 10×10-foot tents.

The Sitka Farmers Market is a community event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. Our focus is on local — fresh produce, fish, baked goods, prepared foods, cottage foods, arts and crafts — and all products must be made in Alaska (preferably in Sitka or Southeast Alaska, cooked foods may use non-local foods so long as the food is cooked on site).

We are holding the market entirely outside this year to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. While most people now are vaccinated against the coronavirus, there still are people who aren’t vaccinated and there are periodic hot spots where the illness flares up. We don’t want the market to be one of them. We encourage vendors and customers to wear masks, to use hand sanitizer, and to avoid bunching up while giving others six feet of space.

Vendors can pay using PayPal or credit/debit card. When you get to the Payment options, click PayPal and it should give you the option of using a PayPal account or four different types of cards (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover). If you prefer to pay by cash or check, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660.

Nalani James is the Sitka Farmers Market manager this summer (she’s on the right in the photo above). Laura Schmidt (left in photo) is our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the market. Charles Bingham is the assistant market manager.

For questions about the market, email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call the market phone at (907) 738-7310. More details about the market will be posted on the Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, and shared on its Facebook pages — https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket — and on Twitter, https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods.

• 2021 Sitka Farmers Market Vendor Rules and Responsibilities

Another update about the 2021 Sitka Farmers Market and our plans for a safe event

We’re not ready to take vendor registrations yet, but the Sitka Local Foods Network is closer to having its plans set for our 14th season of the Sitka Farmers Market. We do have dates and a location now, but we have to rewrite our vendor agreements to discuss our new COVID-19 reality and we’re waiting to hear if we received a grant that will help us reduce our vendor fees.

Right now we are looking at hosting eight markets, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 3, July 17, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 18, on the plaza outside the museum end of Harrigan Centennial Hall. This year’s market will be entirely outdoors to limit the spread of COVID-19, and we still will need people to mask up.

Last year we were able to host a very scaled back market, using the Salt and Soil Marketplace online ordering system during the week and having customers pick up their produce on Saturdays. This year we plan to have a hybrid format, where some produce will be posted online during the week for early ordering and then pick-up at the market, with regular day-at-market sales also taking place where people pick and choose what veggies they want to buy while at the market. In addition, in our non-market weeks we plan to have a small-scale online sales program with either a delivery or pick-up service planned (we are still deciding how this will work).

Now that vaccines are available and more people in Sitka are becoming vaccinated, we feel like we can do more this year such as allow socializing and having more people around. At the same time we have COVID-19 and its variants in our midst, so we still plan to require masks and hand-washing to help prevent the spread.

Our main reason for holding the market outside is because we worry being inside puts too many people on top of each other and probably isn’t safe. We still need to work out our configuration for the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall, so we know how many booths we can support, but we should be able to have people use the benches around the outside of the building. Vendors will need to provide a two-foot-by-six-foot table, but there is an overhang so most booths should be protected from the rain. There are a limited number of electrical outlets outside, for those booths needing power.

We also should be able to host food trucks, which can park next to the plaza with their windows facing the building (most of them have already done this at other events). If you are planning to cook food at the market, your booth will have to be at least 10 feet away from any of the overhangs, so they will need to set up a table and 10×10 farmers market/event tent (about $115-$120 at Sitka True Value) on the plaza. They also will need to provide their own small camp stove or BBQ grill for cooking, and may need a generator for power since we can’t have long cords creating a trip hazard.

We have big plans to grow even more produce than before at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. Last year, we bought a second high tunnel so we can extend our growing season and have a little help with climate control. That worked so well, we bought a third high tunnel this winter and we’re already planting veggies inside it.

Laura Schmidt has been our lead gardener for more than 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. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has received a Certified Naturally Grown designation the past two years.

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. One aspect of the market is it serves as a business incubator, a place for people to try out a new business, and we lost that last year when we had to scale things back to just our produce vendors.

We are excited to bring the market back to Sitka, and hope people enjoy our eight markets this summer. The full markets will allow non-produce vendors to participate, and maybe even some arts-and-crafts vendors.

Since we will have to increase the space between booths around the market, we will have some space limitations. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s main focus is on local food, so food booths who book by a certain date will have priority, with arts-and-crafts booths filling leftover open spaces. We want to be able to involve as many vendors as possible, so hopefully we’ll be able to fit everybody in the space without making it too crowded.

We are working with state WIC and SNAP programs to see if we can accept benefits every week, or only when we have our larger markets. Our goal is to provide fresh local produce to all residents, especially those low-income residents who might not be able to afford it. Anyway, we still are trying to finalize details and hope to have an update soon.

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. Nalani James will be our Sitka Farmers Market manager this year. We will need volunteers to help set up and take down the market each week, and to sell produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.