Sitka Farmers Market to host meeting May 17 for prospective and past vendors

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a meeting for prospective and past vendors of the Sitka Farmers Market from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street).

There are a few changes to the vendor rules and table rates this year, so this is a good time to learn about them. We hope to have Bruce Gazaway, the Sitka food safety inspector from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, at the meeting to go over food safety practices.

This is the 11th year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features seven markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 7, July 21, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept. 15 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street). The Sitka Farmers Market was a community health initiative from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit.

The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers and gardeners, local fishermen, local bakers, and local artisans and craftspeople. Our emphasis is on local products from Sitka and Southeast Alaska. The farmers markets also are great Sitka gathering places.

A detailed description of the farmers markets and vendor forms can be found our website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (scroll down or look in the right-hand column). If you have any questions, please email Sitka Farmers Market Manager Nina Vizcarrondo at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call her at (907) 738-9301 or assistant manager Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660.

• 2018 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities (with Registration Form, updated April 30, 2018)

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Celebrate local farmers and gardeners on Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 1

Alaskans will celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 1. On this day, Alaskans are encouraged to support local agriculture by seeking out and purchasing products produced in Alaska and educating youth about the vital role that agriculture plays in our economy. This is Alaska’s version of National Ag Day (which took place on March 20 this year, when many parts of Alaska were still thawing out).

Here are a few ideas from the Division of Agriculture on how to celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day:

In Sitka, you can celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day by starting a food garden (even a couple of containers on your deck can provide you with potatoes, carrots or greens). Teachers are encouraged to offer a lesson plan or two about the importance of agriculture in Alaska and in Sitka. Here’s a linkto an article about how Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Also, the Sitka History Minute feature on KCAW-Raven Radio has had several episodes about agriculture in Sitka (click here to listen to a feature about the potato in Sitka, click here to listen to a feature about the Sitka Agricultural Station, and click here to listen to a feature about the cows of Iris Meadows).

During the growing season, please support the Sitka farmers and production gardeners listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book(chief contact in parentheses) — Anam Cara Family Garden (Lisa Sadleir-Hart), Blatchley Community Gardens (David Nuetzel, this garden closed in 2016 and there is a group seeking a new location for what will be called Sitka Community Gardens, but its 2018 status is unknown), Down To Earth U-Pick Garden (Lori Adams, switched to a CSA in 2017 and no longer is a public u-pick garden), Finn Island Farm (Keith Nyitray, this farm closed), Sprucecot Gardens (Judy Johnstone), and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (Laura Schmidt/Sitka Local Foods Network). There also are a few Sitka farms and production gardens not listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book, such as Beyond Leafy LLC (Jimmy and Leslie Kranz), Middle Island Gardens (Andrea Fraga/Kaleb Aldred), and Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Garden (Florence Welsh).

Many of these farms and gardens will be vendors during the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 7, July 21, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, and Sept 15 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). There will be a Sitka Farmers Market vendor meeting from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street) where rules and responsibilities will be discussed.

Volunteers needed to help us get St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden ready

A to-do list of chores at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden

The Sitka Local Foods Network is creating a pool of volunteers to help us get the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and our satellite gardens ready to grow food for the summer. Volunteers are encouraged to attend a gardening work party from 2:30-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, at the garden.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (611 Lincoln St.). This communal garden is where we grow most of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s The People’s Garden program. The People’s Garden works across USDA and with partners to start and sustain school gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and small-scale agriculture projects in rural and urban areas with the mission of growing healthy food, people and communities.

If you want to help us prepare the garden for planting, amend soil, clean up the garden, and plant seeds, contact St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt at 738-7009 to let her know about your availability. During the spring, Laura usually is working in the garden most weekdays, and she’s looking for a couple of assistants each day instead of hosting regular work parties on the weekends.

Scenes from the 23rd annual Running of the Boots held on Sept. 23

It was rainy in Sitka on Saturday, Sept. 23 (stop the presses), but the rain didn’t dampen the fun during the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska.

Runners and others met under a large tent in Totem Square park, where we also had a small farm stand with fresh, local veggies from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, music from the Sitka Blues Band, a table with info about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, people selling Sitka Community Playground raffle tickets, a tent selling garlic from Middle Island Gardens, and a mat for kids to hold sumo wrestling contests with padded costumes.

In recent years, the Running of the Boots has been an annual fundraising event for the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. The Sitka Local Foods Network operates the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, the Sitka Farmers Market, and hosts an education program that includes the family garden mentoring project.

This year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska helped co-host the event. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska is an organization that provides mentorship to youth.

The Running of the Boots is part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association, where Sitka residents were served hamburgers, hot dogs, salmon and cole slaw to celebrate the end of the summer.

A slideshow of scenes from the 23rd annual Running of the Boots is posted below.

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Scenes from the seventh and last Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer

TABLE OF THE DAY — Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) Jesuit Volunteer Clare Kelly, center, presents the Table of the Day award to Dawn McMaster, left, and Maren Tucker, right, of Latitude 57 Smoothies, Coffee and More during the seventh Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Sept. 9 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The Latitude 57 smoothie truck is a work-skills program of Youth Advocates of Sitka, selling smoothies, lattés, and other drinks this summer. Dawn and Maren received a couple of Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirts, some Inga’s Spice Rub, some carrots, and a box of Sweet Sisters Caramels. This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer. But, don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Totem Square park, which this year benefits the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. For more information, go to the Sitka Local Foods Network website at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org. We also have a Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

It was raining hard when we held our seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), but we still had a decent crowd.

While our cold weather this spring slowed down some of our produce production this year, we are starting to get some decent crops in. We also have had several other local produce vendors at the market. We also had about three dozen vendors at the market (between those inside ANB Founders Hall and those outside in the Baranof Island Housing Authority parking lot) so there was a nice variety of items being sold. Vendors sold harvested foods (such as chaga tea and traditional medicinal tinctures), homemade baked goods, banana-Nutella crepes, hot seafood dishes, fresh smoothies, reindeer hot dogs, blackcod tips, arts and crafts, and home-baked bread. We also had an expanded selection of Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season, and we hope you enjoyed the markets this year. Don’t forget to like our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

Also, mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Bootscostumed fun run fundraiser, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, and this year will benefit the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. More details on the Running of the Boots will be posted in the near future.

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

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Scenes from the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer

TABLE OF THE DAY — Sitka Farmers Market Manager Nina Vizcarrondo, left, and Sitka Conservation Society Jesuit Volunteer Sean Mackinson, right, present the Table of the Day award to the Suminski family of Sweet Sisters Caramels (from left, Greta Terry, Mary and Lydia Suminski) during the sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Sept. 2 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The Suminskis sold a variety of home-made caramels. They received a couple of Sitka Local Foods Network t-shirts, some Inga’s Spice Rub, and some Alaska Flour Company chocolate chip-barley cookie mix. There is one Sitka Farmers Market left this summer, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the ANB Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). Also, don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Totem Square park, which this year benefits the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. For more information, go to the Sitka Local Foods Network website at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org. We also have a new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

It was sunny when we held our sixth Sitka Farmers Market of the 2017 summer season on Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street), but we still had a decent crowd even though we had some competition with the Labor Day holiday.

While our cold weather this spring slowed down some of our produce production this year, we are starting to get some decent crops in. We also have had several other local produce vendors at the market. We also had about three dozen vendors at the market (between those inside ANB Founders Hall and those outside in the Baranof Island Housing Authority parking lot) so there was a nice variety of items being sold. Vendors sold harvested foods (such as chaga tea and traditional medicinal tinctures), homemade baked goods, banana-Nutella crepes, hot seafood dishes, fresh smoothies, reindeer hot dogs, blackcod tips, arts and crafts, and home-baked bread. We also had an expanded selection of Alaska Grown products at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand.

The last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the ANB Founders Hall. To learn how to be a vendor at the market, contact market manager Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or assistant manager Charles Bingham (907) 623-7660, or email us at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. We also have a new kids vendor program at the market for young entrepreneurs age 12 or younger. Don’t forget to like our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook.

Also, mark your calendars for the 23rd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, and this year will benefit the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. More details on the Running of the Boots will be posted in the near future.

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

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23rd annual Running of the Boots raises funds for Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska

It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and paint them up. The 23rd annual Running of the Boots begins at 11:30 a.m. (registration opens at 10:30 a.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the big tent near Totem Square park on Lincoln Street. This year the costumed fun run fundraiser benefits two local nonprofit organizations — the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska.

This year, there will be more food, music and other tents staged near the start of the Running of the Boots, so it will have a more festive atmosphere. This change allows the race to be a bigger part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association. In addition to the Running of the Boots, the Season’s-End Celebration includes a lunch from noon to 2 p.m. for Sitka residents featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, and fish. People are asked to make a $2 donation when they get their lunch, and the money raised will go toward a local community group or nonprofit to be announced.

“We’re happy to share this event with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska this year,” said Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham, who also has been a Big Brother to a couple of Littles in Sitka. “The Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted this event for most of the past decade, but this year we weren’t sure if we had enough board members in town to keep the event going. It’s a great event, and I’m happy Big Brothers Big Sisters decided to partner with us to keep it going. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska is a great mentorship organization for youth in Sitka, so this will be a good activity for Bigs and their Littles.”

So what is the Running of the Boots? It’s Southeast Alaska’s answer to Spain’s “Running of the Bulls.” Sitkans wear zany costumes and XtraTufs — Southeast Alaska’s distinctive rubber boots (aka, Sitka Sneakers).  For the past decade, the Running of the Boots raised funds for the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit organization that hosts the Sitka Farmers Market and advocates for community gardens, a community greenhouse, sustainable uses of traditional subsistence foods and education for Sitka gardeners. This year, it also will raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, which helps mentor local youth.

The Running of the Boots is a short race for fun and not for speed, even though one of the many prize categories is for the fastest boots. Other prize categories include best-dressed boots, zaniest costume, best couple, best kids group and more. The course starts at Totem Square park, and runners will run from one end of Lincoln Street to the other and back to Totem Square park (or, we may just run from Totem Square down Lincoln Street to St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, where runners will loop around the church and head back to Totem Square). There will be lots of prizes, including some new pairs of XtraTufs. There also is live music, and fun for the entire family. Some of the better costumes in recent years have been worn by adults.

The entry fee for the Running of the Boots is $10 per person and $30 per family, and people can register for the race starting at 10:30 a.m. Costume judging starts about 11 a.m., and runners hit the streets at 11:30 a.m. (NOTE: these times are a half-hour later than in recent years). As usual, local merchants have donated bushels of prizes for the costume contest. The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a farm stand booth with fresh veggies for sale from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The booth takes debit cards, WIC vouchers and Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefit cards.

To learn more about the Running of the Boots, contact Kealoha Harmon of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska at 747-3500 or by email at kealoha.harmon@bbbsak.org, or Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network at 623-7660 or by email at charleswbingham3@gmail.com. We also need several volunteers to help set up and take down the race (two needed) and to judge the costumes (two needed). Contact Kealoha to learn how to volunteer.

Historical information about the race (through 2005) can be found online at http://www.runningoftheboots.org/. Info about the Sitka Local Foods Network and more recent Running of the Boots events (2008-16) is online at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (type Running of the Boots into the search bar at the top of the page). Click this link to see a slideshow of scenes from the 2016 Running of the Boots.

Also, don’t forget to like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and follow our Twitter page at https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods (@SitkaLocalFoods) to stay updated on Sitka Local Foods Network activities. The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska page on Facebook for Sitka is https://www.facebook.com/bbbsaksitka.