• Highlights from 2015 for your Sitka Local Foods Network

Some carrots grown at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden on sale at the Sitka Farmers Market

Some carrots grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden on sale at the Sitka Farmers Market

As 2015 comes to a close, here are some highlights from the past year for your Sitka Local Foods Network. We are looking forward to a lot of new adventures in 2016, and encourage people to join us. We always need new volunteers, and please donate to us through Pick.Click.Give. when you file for your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend starting on Jan. 1 and ending March 31. Your donations help fund a variety of Sitka Local Foods Network programs, such as the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and a host of garden and food education opportunities.

Our annual meeting and potluck will be from 5:30-8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking is off Spruce Street). This event is open to the public, just bring a dish (preferably with local foods) to share with everybody. We usually introduce new board members, confirm our new officers, and give an update on our finances and programs.

And now here are those 2015 highlights from your Sitka Local Foods Network:

Grew food at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and extension gardens

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden

For the eighth straight year, the Sitka Local Foods Network expanded its produce-growing operations at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and our extension gardens, such as the one on land owned by Pat Arvin. The food grown from these gardens is sold at the Sitka Farmers Market, where Sitka residents, including people with SNAP (food stamps) and WIC (supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children) benefits, have access to fresh local produce. In addition to supplying the Sitka Farmers Market, this year we grew enough to sell to some school lunch programs, at the Sitka Seafood Festival, at the Running of the Boots costumed fun run, and at a booth on days when Chelan Produce was in Sitka.

Hosted six Sitka Farmers Market events

Some of the booths at the Sitka Farmers Market

Some of the booths at the Sitka Farmers Market

We hosted the Sitka Farmers Market for the eighth straight summer, and this year there were six markets on alternate Saturdays from July 4 through Sept. 12. In addition to selling produce from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and our extension gardens, the Sitka Farmers Market serves as a business incubator where budding entrepreneurs sell jams/jellies, baked goods, fish, prepared food ready to eat, and a variety of local arts and crafts. Our emphasis is on local products always. The Sitka Farmers Market also provides a venue for local musicians (we hire a few to play at each market). One of the highlights this year was a brief performance by the students involved in the musical with the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. Another highlight was the inaugural Sitka Slug Races, where Sitka residents brought their own slugs (or rented ones we harvested) for a series of races on a glass table.

Taught a variety of garden education classes and mentored some novice gardeners

Tammy O'Neill, a student in the garden mentor program, poses with her garden beds after her second year in the program

Tammy O’Neill, a student in the garden mentor program, poses with her garden beds during her second year in the program

The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee hosted a variety of classes this year for local food gardeners. We started out with a couple of classes about basic gardening in Sitka, and followed those with classes on starting seeds, composting, chickens, rabbits, fruit trees, potatoes, carrots, rhubarb, and more. In addition, we hosted the second year of our family garden mentoring program with funding from First Bank. In this program we provided one-on-one mentoring for four families of novice gardeners and two families returning for a second year of the program. We are hoping to bring this innovative program back in 2016 and we are recruiting for new families. This fall we received a small grant from the United Way of Southeast Alaska that we will use to develop a teaching garden at Baranof Elementary School near downtown Sitka.

Partnered with several organizations to launch and operate the Sitka Kitch

LisaSadleirHartHelpsRebaAndRobertScoopCultureStarterIntoMilk

Sitka Kitch “Cooking From Scratch” instructor Lisa Sadleir-Hart, center, helps Reba Traini and Robert Baines make homemade yogurt

This year we partnered with the Sitka Conservation Society, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, First Presbyterian Church, Sitka Food Co-op, and other organizations to help launch the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, which officially opened in March 2015. The Sitka Kitch is available for cottage food entrepreneurs to rent as they make their products, plus we have been offering a variety of food preservation and cooking classes. The Sitka Kitch also is available for people to rent who need a larger kitchen to cook a community meal.

Helped launch the Sitka Food Collaborative

Toward the end of the year, the Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Kitch, Sitka Food Co-op, Sitka Seedling Farms, and other food groups created the Sitka Food Collaborative and then submitted an application for a USDA grant to conduct a Sitka Food Systems Assessment. This will build on the work done in 2013-14 with the Sitka Community Food Assessment, but will look at ways we can improve our local food system so we have better food security.

Fundraising and strategic planning

50-states-logoThe Sitka Local Foods Network is maturing as an organization, and this year we decided we needed to start raising money so we eventually can hire a part-time director to take care of some of the daily chores dealt with by our volunteer board of directors. We have started to set aside a little bit of money, still have a ways to go. This year we received a grant from the Alaska Community Foundation that will allow us to work with the Foraker Group in 2016 to create a fundraising and long-term strategic plan. We participated in the Pick.Click.Give. program for the second year, and we are preparing for our third year of receiving donations from Alaskans when they file for their Permanent Fund Dividends. We launched an online donation page on Razoo.com (a donation website for nonprofit groups), and hosted fundraisers for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, the Sitka Sound Suppers (with a totally local meal) and #GivingTuesday (#GivingTuesdayAK in Alaska). This fall we received a small grant from the United Way of Southeast Alaska that we will use to develop a teaching garden at Baranof Elementary School near downtown Sitka. In December, the Sitka Local Foods Network was named Alaska’s winner in the 50 States For Good contest, hosted by Tom’s of Maine. Each of the winning community nonprofits from each state won $20,000 to improve their programming, which we should receive in January.

• Check out the December 2015 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

SLFNDecember2015NewsletterScreenshot

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the December 2015 edition of its newly launched monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This edition of the newsletter has brief stories about how one 140-character tweet won the Sitka Local Foods Network $20,000 from Tom’s of Maine, how the opening of the new Sitka Biotoxin Lab on Katlian Street will mean safer shellfish in Southeast Alaska, and an appeal for new first-year gardening families for the garden mentor program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the registration form image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others.

• Tom’s of Maine awards $20,000 to Sitka Local Foods Network in 50 States For Good program

Toms-GoodnessBadge-Blue-062215

A short tweet last summer has resulted in a major contribution for a Sitka nonprofit.

In July, Sitka Local Foods Network Communications Director/Board Member Charles Bingham noticed a Tom’s of Maine promotion asking people to tweet about how they would use $20,000 to support a community nonprofit organization, so he created a Twitter account and tweeted about how he’d like the money to help the Sitka Local Foods Network’s work to improve food security in Sitka.

50-states-logoToday, Tom’s of Maine announced that the Sitka Local Foods Network has been selected as one of 52 winners from across the country in its seventh annual “50 States for Good” community-giving program. The Sitka Local Foods Network will receive $20,000 to fund important community projects and services in its mission to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.

“Due to my current work situation (or lack thereof), I don’t have much money to contribute to my favorite nonprofits. So I saw the promotion as a way to potentially get some funding for a local cause I believe in,” Bingham said. “It’s neat to see the power of 140 characters.”

“The Sitka Local Foods Network is elated to be receiving one of Tom’s of Maine’s 50 States of Good awards,” Sitka Local Foods Network President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “These funds will bolster our efforts to engage Sitka around issues of community food security and sustainability. Additionally, they’ll help us expand our programming efforts focused on food production at household, organizational and community levels. Finally, the award will assist Sitka in planning for a more robust, resilient food system that can feed us into the future as we participate in the upcoming community comprehensive planning process.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK Sitka Local Foods Network board members and supporters pose at the St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden on Monday. St. Peter's Fellowship Farm supplies most of the local produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. The other five Sitka Farmers Market dates are July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12. Pictured are, front row from left, Michelle Putz, Muriel Sadleir-Hart, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Kathy Jones. Back row, Matthew Jackson, Jonathan Adler, Peter Gorman, Jud Kirkness, Brandie Cheatham, Mary Therese Thomson, and Laura Schmidt.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
Sitka Local Foods Network board members and supporters pose at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden in June 2015. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm supplies most of the local produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. Pictured are, front row from left, Michelle Putz, Muriel Sadleir-Hart, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Kathy Jones. Back row, Matthew Jackson, Jonathan Adler, Peter Gorman, Jud Kirkness, Brandie Cheatham, Mary Therese Thomson, and Laura Schmidt.

To accomplish its mission, the Sitka Local Foods Network hosts the annual Sitka Farmers Market in the summer, operates the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden (which grows produce to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market), and offers a variety of garden and food preservation classes throughout the year (including an innovative garden mentoring project for beginning gardeners).

According to Sadleir-Hart, the Tom’s of Maine award will work to “grow” our garden education and garden mentoring programs, which are key elements of the Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission to “increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.” Additionally, the monies will support production improvements at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and at Pat Arvin’s extension garden.

TomsOfMaineTweetPassionate community members took to their social media pages to share #OneWaytoHelp their communities, amassing nearly 10,000 submissions. One entrant representing each state and Washington, D.C., was selected to designate a local nonprofit in their area to receive project funding from Tom’s of Maine (there also was a random UPC code winner).

“This year’s nonprofit recipients bring to life an inspiring picture of the care that Americans have for each other and their communities,” said Susan Dewhirst, goodness programs manager at Tom’s of Maine. “People often think giving back to their community is time intensive, and we wanted to show there are easy ways to make a difference, like raising awareness for a cause you love and supporting brands that strive to make the world a better place for future generations.”

Tom’s of Maine is a natural products company focused on oral and personal care with a variety of products including toothpaste, antiperspirant, deodorant, bar soap, lip balm, and baby shampoo. It has given 10 percent of its profits back to the community since 1970 and encourages employees to use 5 percent (12 days) of paid time off to volunteer every year. For more information about Tom’s of Maine, visit http://www.tomsofmaine.com or https://www.facebook.com/TomsofMaine. A complete list of winners can be found here, http://blog.tomsofmaine.com/index.php/50sfg/.

To learn more about the Sitka Local Foods Network, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/. You also can like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and you can follow us on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods (@SitkaLocalFoods).

• Sitka Local Foods Network named Alaska’s lone finalist in 50 States for Good contest

50SfG_2013__logoTHIS

The Sitka Local Foods Network has been selected as the Alaska representative in the fifth annual 50 States for Good contest, where one representative nonprofit organization from each state and the District of Columbia compete for a chance to win $10,000 from Tom’s of Maine.

Supporters of the Sitka Local Foods Network can take part in a public vote to help the organization share in $150,000 total grants from Tom’s of Maine (15 awards of $10,000 each). Voting is simple, just go to http://www.50statesforgood.com/, and follow the instructions. People can vote once per day for one nonprofit finalist during the period from 8 a.m. Alaska time (noon Eastern) on Monday, Sept. 16, through 4 p.m. Alaska time (8 p.m. Eastern) on Tuesday, Oct. 15. A free Facebook account is required for voting, and people who do not already have an account can go to https://www.facebook.com/ to create one.

The 50 States for Good program was created to help uncover local nonprofit groups that address a variety of community needs and engage volunteers to get the work done. This year’s finalists offer a diverse range of community services, such as improving access to local foods, working with people who have autism, helping street teens, supporting the needs of low-income residents, providing food and hygiene products to the homeless, building playgrounds, and more.

The Sitka Local Foods Network works on a variety of food-oriented projects in Sitka, a community of 9,000 people on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska. Even though there is no commercial agriculture on the island, the Sitka Local Foods Network created the Sitka Farmers Market, which sells produce grown at the organization’s St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and from family backyard gardens. The Sitka Local Foods Network also is trying to build the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center, which will be a commercial greenhouse providing local produce and bedding plants for residents, and an education center teaching local students about gardening. Education is another focus of the network, which hosts the annual Let’s Grow Sitka garden exhibition in March and brings nationally known speakers to town to teach about gardening, seeds and greenhouses.

“We are honored to be chosen to represent Alaska in the 50 States for Good competition,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, president of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors. “If we are successful, we hope to further food production in Sitka using a host of strategies, such as creating an additional community garden, offering seed money to the community greenhouse and education center working group, or helping the school district jump start a school-based garden program. An award of $10,000 from Tom’s of Maine can really help Sitka make strides in improving its local food system.”

The 51 finalists (one from each state plus the District of Columbia) were selected from a pool of about 1,100 nominated nonprofit organizations by an independent panel of judges that included Huffington Post columnist Lisa M. Dietlin, Cool People Care president Sam Davidson, assistant features editor covering social good for Mashable.com Matt Petronzio, and The Vampire Diaries star and nonprofit founder Ian Somerhalder.

“A desire to do more for a favorite can often be hindered by a lack of time to volunteer or the financial means to make a donation,” said Susan Dewhirst, goodness programs manager at Tom’s of Maine. “The 50 States for Good program makes it easy for anyone to have an impact and directly help organizations that are bringing goodness to communities in a variety of creative and inspiring ways.”

For several decades, Tom’s of Maine, a natural products company focused on oral and personal care products, has donated 10 percent of its profits back to the community and encourages its employees to use 5 percent (12 days) of their paid time off to volunteer every year. For more information, visit http://www.tomsofmaine.com/ or like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TomsofMaine. Voting information will be at both links.

To learn more about the Sitka Local Foods Network and some of its community projects, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ or like the organization’s new Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork.