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

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

This is the fifth straight year the Sitka Farmers Market has been the top market in Alaska, and seventh time in eight years. The contest uses online voting, but each email address is only allowed to vote once so people can’t stuff the ballot box. Voting opened on June 21 and ended Sept. 19. The Sitka Farmers Market picked up 81 online votes, its highest total ever.

“This was the second year we had to make adjustments due to Covid-19, but we were more like a normal market this summer than last. Last year we stripped it down to just produce vendors and had an online ordering system with weekly pick-ups at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. This year we were able to add other vendors and hold an outdoor market at Harrigan Centennial Hall, and I think the community was glad to see produce, mushrooms, arts and crafts, and more this year,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market. “Our main goal was to safely distribute locally grown produce without spreading the coronavirus. I’m glad we were able to do that.”

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

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

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

There wasn’t a list of Alaska standings posted, but checking individual market pages showed the Sitka Farmers Market in first place for the state with 81 votes, the Tanana Valley Farmers Market of Fairbanks in second place with 27 votes, and the Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market in third place with six votes. More than 2,000 markets across the country received votes.

“We have a small market compared to others around the country, but I’m happy the people who visit our market think enough of it to recommend it in this contest,” Bingham said. “We thank everybody who came to one of our markets this summer and supported more local food in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.”

The Sitka Farmers Market also was listed on the Guide To Exceptional Markets from the Certified Naturally Grown program for the third year this summer.

This year, the Sitka Local Foods Network hosted eight farmers markets on various Saturdays from July 3 to Sept. 18 on the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. Due to COVID-19, the 26th annual Running of the Boots fun run fundraiser won’t take place in late September (we usually had a farm stand at that event, which raised money for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka last year).

The Sitka Local Foods Network hopes to be able to return to a full market next summer, hopefully at a venue where we can have both inside and outside booths. The Sitka Farmers Market was a community wellness project from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, and now serves as a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network. This was the 14th year of the markets.

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