How to use WIC coupons, Alaska Quest SNAP cards or credit/debit cards at the Sitka Farmers Market

Have you ever come up a bit short of cash while shopping at the Sitka Farmers Market? Well, there are other methods to use.

The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept the Alaska Quest EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards for people on SNAP (formerly called food stamps). We also accept WIC farmers market coupons. In both cases, we match up to the first $20 for produce (on WIC) or produce and other SNAP-eligible foods (on Quest).

While many of our vendors have attachments on their cellphones that allow them to run credit or debit card transactions, sometimes it’s hard to get an Internet signal in the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We sell tokens (wooden nickels) at our Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth, next to our farm stand outside, that people can use like cash with vendors at the market.

Here is a short primer on how to use each type of transaction:

WIC Farmers Market Coupons

WIC Farmers Market Coupons may only be used at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, found outside in the parking lot.

Present your coupons, and we will match the value up to $20 for produce (so $20 in WIC coupons gives you $40 in value). Our WIC matching program is for produce only and does not include our Alaska Grown products, due to WIC restrictions

Alaska Quest Cards (SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer)

Bring your Alaska Quest card to the Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth, found outside in the parking lot next to the SLFN farm stand booth.

We swipe your card and give you wooden nickels (tokens) for the value you think you will spend on produce, Alaska Grown products, bread, jams or jellies, or other food that is not meant to be eaten at the market. You can use your wooden nickels at the SLFN farm stand booth, and with certain vendors that have signed agreements to accept SNAP wooden nickels (ask us which vendors have signed agreements when you swipe your card). We will match up to $20 in wooden nickels for produce at the SLFN farm stand.

No cash change will be given for people using SNAP wooden nickels (available in $1 and $5 increments). If you have leftover wooden nickels at the end of the market, take them back to the SLFN swag booth and we will credit them back to your SNAP account. This credit must be done at the same market.

Credit/Debit Cards

While some of our vendors can run credit/debit cards at their booths, there are many that can’t. If you are low in cash and want to run your credit/debit card to buy something at the market, stop by the Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth and we will run your credit/debit card and give you wooden nickels in $5 or $10 increments.

You can then spend your credit/debit card wooden nickels like cash with many of the vendors at the market (most booths will have a sign saying they accept credit/debit card wooden nickels). Credit/debit card tokens may be used for food and non-food items, and customers may receive cash as change.

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• Sitka Local Foods Network to host six Sitka Farmers Market events in 2015

2015SitkaFarmersMarketFlier

Celebrate your independence from store-bought and factory-processed food this year by joining the Sitka Local Foods Network as it hosts the eighth summer of Sitka Farmers Markets in 2015. There will be six markets this year, starting on July 4 and taking place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 12. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked goods, locally made jams and jellies, live entertainment and music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons and Alaska Quest EBT for SNAP (food stamp) users. Debe Brincefield is the Sitka Farmers Market manager, with Francis Wegman-Lawless serving as assistant manager.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is a great way to connect with community members and support local entrepreneurs,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “Spending your dollars locally has a multiplying effect and helps your neighbors. We also encourage Sitkans to join the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge and support your local producers each week with $5. Dollars spent locally multiply in our community to the tune of about $3 for each dollar spent. So you get great local food and support your neighbors by spending locally.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community wellness project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. The markets are sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, the Alaska Farmers Market Association, the Alaska Division of Public Health Cancer Control Program, and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

“As with the past three seasons, we invite Sitkans who participate in food stamps to use their QUEST card at the market and we will match up to $20 per market for each food stamp participant in a household until resources are exhausted,” Sadleir-Hart said. “So for a family of four that could mean up to $80 extra dollars to shop at each market. Additionally, the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm stand will be working with the SEARHC Health Promotion program to debut a new fruit and vegetable prescription program at the market. SEARHC’s nutritionist will provide eligible beneficiaries with $5 vouchers to use at the farm stand to access local, fresh produce. The farm stand also will accept WIC farmers market and fruits and vegetable vouchers (FVV).”

To learn more about the market and how to be a vendor, contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Debe Brincefield at 738-8683 or by e-mail sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other info for potential vendors can be found on the Documents page at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

• Quest cards and debit cards will be accepted starting with the Aug. 18 Sitka Farmers Market

The Sitka Local Foods Network will begin accepting Quest and debit cards for the purchase of locally grown and made products during its fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

The Sitka Farmers Market received funding from the Alaska Farmers Market-Quest Card Program to purchase a wireless card reader, also known as an EBT (electronic benefit transfer) machine. The EBT machine allows Quest customers to use their food stamps and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits to purchase fresh, local food at the market. The EBT machine allows customers to use their regular debit and credit cards to purchase food and other items, such as locally made crafts.

Many farmers markets have accepted food stamps, TANF benefits and WIC coupons for produce for several years, but in recent years all 50 states stopped using paper coupons and started using electronic transfers for their benefits (putting them on plastic cards that work like debit/credit cards). Since most farmers markets do not have access to electricity and phone lines during the market, they now required a wireless machine to handle these benefits. This system is expensive and difficult for most farmers markets to offer, so the use of food stamps and other benefits dropped dramatically. The goal of the Alaska Farmers Market-Quest Card Program is to help the markets be able to purchase a machine so they can continue to offer fresh, local food to low-income Alaskans and offering another payment option for other residents. The Sitka Local Foods Network will match dollar-for-dollar up to $20 of Quest card benefits so people using Quest cards have access to double the produce at the market.

“Providing appropriate EBT technology at farmers markets can improve the diets and subsequently the health of Sitkans who rely on food stamps by increasing access to fresh, local and affordable vegetables and fruits,” said Sitka Local Foods Network Board Treasurer Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a registered dietitian. “Shopping at farmers markets has been shown in several studies to increase fruit and vegetable purchases and consumption among nutrition assistance participants, and fruits and vegetables sold at farmers markets often are equal in price to or less expensive than seasonal produce at grocery stores.”

To use the Quest cards or your debit card at the Sitka Farmers Market, look for the Information Booth inside ANB Hall and let the staff person know you’d like to use your card at the market and how much you plan to spend. The staff person will swipe your card through the EBT machine, have you enter your PIN, then provide you with Quest and Debit tokens in the amount you requested (there is a $2 service charge for debit card transactions). Look for vendors with signs saying “Quest and Debit Tokens Accepted Here” (some vendors only accept Debit tokens). Quest customers can purchase foods allowed on food stamps, such as fruits and vegetables, bread, meat, seafood, honey and jam. Food and beverages meant to be eaten right away, such as sandwiches and hot coffee, cannot be purchased with Quest tokens. Debit card tokens can be used to purchase anything offered at the market. If you do not spend all of your tokens, you can save the remaining tokens for the next market or take them back to the Information Booth to be credited back to your card (credit can only be given for tokens purchased that day, and for no more than the amount purchased that day). Debit card users can return their unused tokens, but another $2 service fee will apply for the transaction.

This project is a collaboration of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Divisions of Public Health and Public Assistance, the Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Health Promotion Division, and the Sitka Local Foods Network. For more info about the Alaska Farmers Market-Quest Card Program, go to http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/chronic/nutrition/farmersmarket-quest/default.htm. For information about the Alaska Quest Program, visit http://www.akquest.alaska.gov/. For info about the Sitka Farmers Market, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/. Vendors wanting to sign up to accept Quest card and debit card tokens can contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Johanna Willingham at johanna.willingham@gmail.com or 738-8336.

• Sitka Farmers Market vendor agreement to accept EBT/Quest tokens (2012)

• Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by going to the Sitka Farmers Market on Saturday

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK  Sitka Farmers Market representative and Sitka Conservation Society community sustainability organizer Tracy Gagnon, second from left, presents Sitka Spruce Catering owner Jeren Schmidt, third from left (with daughter Novah Lee Schmidt in backpack), with the table of the day award as Jeren's co-workers Tam Conatser, left, and Linda Bergdoll-Schmidt, right, watch. The table of the day award was for the second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, July 30, 2011, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Sitka, Alaska. Sitka Spruce Catering uses locally grown veggies, herbs and other local products to create the food it provides through its catering operation. Jeren, Tam and Linda received a tote bag full of bread, veggies and other prizes from the market. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at ANB Hall. To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and other Sitka Local Foods Network projects, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK Sitka Farmers Market representative and Sitka Conservation Society community sustainability organizer Tracy Gagnon, second from left, presents Sitka Spruce Catering owner Jeren Schmidt, third from left (with daughter Novah Lee Schmidt in backpack), with the table of the day award as Jeren's co-workers Tam Conatser, left, and Linda Bergdoll-Schmidt, right, watch. The table of the day award was for the second Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, July 30, 2011, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Sitka, Alaska. Sitka Spruce Catering uses locally grown veggies, herbs and other local products to create the food it provides through its catering operation. Jeren, Tam and Linda received a tote bag full of bread, veggies and other prizes from the market. The next Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at ANB Hall. To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and other Sitka Local Foods Network projects, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

Aug. 7-13 is National Farmers Market Week this year, as declared by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, so celebrate the week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

Farmers markets are a great way to connect with the community, while also purchasing local produce, wild fish, locally baked bread and arts and crafts. Besides providing access to fresh local produce, farmers markets create strong economic engines in communities, promote local health and bring a diverse group of people together. They also help consumers meet and get to know the people who produce their food.

“The Sitka Farmers Market serves as a family friendly place for people to meet and to visit with other members of the community,” said Sitka Local Foods Network Vice-President Linda Wilson, who also serves as the Sitka Farmers Market manager. “Some people spend an hour or two just going around mingling with folks and chatting, catching up on the local news, telling jokes, and sharing ideas and information. There is a lot of good energy around during the market.”

Farmers markets have been growing nationally, from 2,863 in 2000 to 7,175 in 2011, a jump of 150 percent. While Alaska doesn’t have as many farmers markets as other states, it did have the highest percentage of new markets in the country last year, up 35 markets in 2011 or 46 percent. The national rate of new market growth was 17 percent.

This Saturday will be the third of five full Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, with the schedule running on alternate Saturdays (July 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27 and Sept. 10). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally picked berries, jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at https://sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/2011/07/06/%E2%80%A2-don%E2%80%99t-forget-to-vote-for-the-sitka-farmers-market-in-this-year%E2%80%99s-america%E2%80%99s-favorite-farmers-markets-contest/.

For more information about the market or hosting a booth, contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings or weekends) or lawilson87@hotmail.com. By the way, we always need volunteers to help set up and take down the market before and after the event. Your help is greatly appreciated.

• Rhubarb, greens ready at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

Rhubarb and several types of greens will be available during the work party scheduled for 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 9, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street).

Besides rhubarb, the available veggies include spinach, kale, lettuce, basil, Swiss chard and bok choy. Many of these items were grown at Seaview Gardens.

These items are available for a $3 donation for greens or a bundle of rhubarb, or $2 for a small bundle of basil. Donations will help support St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a communal garden that produces veggies for the Sitka Farmers Market, local food charities and other programs. WIC farmers market vouchers and fruit and vegetable vouchers are welcome.

In addition, help is needed to help harvest produce that’s ready for picking on Sitka Farmers Market days (on alternate Saturdays, July 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27 and Sept. 10). Early risers can show up at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm between 6:30-9 a.m. to help harvest for the markets that run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On weeks when there is no market, there will be regular work parties from 2-4 p.m. at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

To learn more about the garden work parties, please contact Laura Schmidt at 623-7003 or 738-7009. To learn more about the available produce, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985.

• Iris Klingler wins Table of the Day Award for her bread, honey and jelly during fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer

Sitka Local Foods Network board members Maybelle Filler, left, and Suzan Brawnlyn, right, present home baker and honey/jelly maker Iris Klingler with the Table of the Day Award for the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Sept. 11, 2010.

Sitka Local Foods Network board members Maybelle Filler, left, and Suzan Brawnlyn, right, present home baker and honey/jelly maker Iris Klingler with the Table of the Day Award for the fifth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Sept. 11, 2010.

Iris Klingler won the Table of the Day award at the fifth and final Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

The local home baker and honey/jelly maker was presented with a certificate, $25 cash and a farmers market cookbook by Sitka Local Foods Network board members Maybelle Filler and Suzan Brawnlyn. Iris is one of the market’s newest vendors, but her table was a big hit. She sold out of her bread before the market was much more than an hour old, and her honey and jelly also sold well.

One vendor at each of the five Sitka Farmers Markets this season received similar prizes as the Table of the Day. This was the last big market of the summer, so Sitka residents will have to wait for next summer for the next opportunity to buy locally grown produce, locally caught fish, locally baked bread and locally made crafts at the Sitka Farmers Market.

Also, don’t forget the 16th annual Running of the Boots fundraiser for the Sitka

Runners hit the trail during the 14th Annual Running of the Boots race on Sept. 27, 2008, in Sitka.

Local Foods Network takes place at 11 a.m. (registration opens at 10 a.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 25, as part of the third annual Summer’s End Celebration hosted by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Association. This fun run for people sporting XtraTufs rubber boots features a run from the Crescent Harbor shelter through downtown Sitka and around St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

Since St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and several other local gardeners have late produce, the Sitka Local Foods Network will have a table or two of produce for sale at the Running of the Boots, with all proceeds going to the non-profit Sitka Local Foods Network to help us with our various projects. The produce tables won’t be as big as a typical Sitka Farmers Market, but WIC clients will be able to use their farmers market produce coupons. More details on the Running of the Boots are posted elsewhere on this site.

A slideshow of photos from the fifth Sitka Farmers Market is posted below, and a similar slideshow can be found on our Shutterfly site.

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• Sitka to host five farmers markets in 2009

SitkaFarmersMarketSign

Sitka to host five farmers markets in 2009

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a series of five Sitka Farmers Markets this summer on alternate Saturdays starting July 18. These markets will give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 18, Aug. 1, 15, 29 and Sept. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall and the adjacent Baranof Island Housing Authority-owned parking lot (between the waterfront and Katlian Street). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen and cooked and ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, kids’ activities, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun.

“In 1970 there were only 340 farmers markets in America, and by 2006 there were more than 4,385. I think this dramatic growth is attributed to the many layers of social and economic benefits these markets offer,” said Doug Osborne, a health educator at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). “Last year, several participants said Sitka’s markets were among the highlights of their summer.”

Sitka Farmers Market Co-Coordinator Kerry MacLane has participated as a vendor at many public markets over the last 20 years. He said, “Farmers markets are a great place to spend a Saturday morning with your neighbors, enjoying healthy and tasty local produce, hot coffee and fresh-cut flowers. The Sitka Farmers Markets also are great for people who want to sell and eat locally caught fish.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community project from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. This event is sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood, Baranof Island Housing Authority, Sitka Conservation Society, the Alaska Farmers Market Association and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

Vendor fees are just $5 per market, with both indoor and outdoor table options available. We are the first farmers market in Southeast to accept WIC coupons. To learn more or to sign up for a table, contact Sitka Farmers Market Co-Coordinator Linda Wilson at 747-3096 evenings or e-mail lawilson87@hotmail.com.