What do you do when you live in a remote island community in Southeast Alaska that brings about 90-95 percent of its food to town by barge or plane, and no roads connect it with other communities?
That was a question residents of Sitka, Alaska, asked themselves at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, just as the U.S. economy was tanking and fuel prices were skyrocketing. Their answers, start a local foods market and expand community gardens (with the hope of building a community greenhouse) sowed the seeds for the Sitka Local Foods Network.
Within a month of the 2008 Sitka Health Summit (in April) we built the St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden on donated land behind St. Peter's By The Sea Episcopal Church. A couple of months later saw us host the first of three Sitka Farmers Markets that summer, with produce grown at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm being one of the highlights of the markets, along with local fish, baked goods, arts and crafts, music, and a whole lot of fun.
Since then, we have expanded St. Peter's Fellowship Farm several times and we now have a couple of satellite gardens. We also host seven Sitka Farmers Markets each summer, on selected Saturdays from July through September. In addition, we started an education program that offers a series of basic gardening and food preservation classes throughout the year. In an effort to spark the entrepreneurial spirit, in 2018 we launched the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest. We also received a grant in 2018 to help us match up to $20 in WIC and SNAP benefits used at the farmers market.
Over the years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has led or assisted on other food-related projects to come out of the Sitka Health Summit. Some of these include projects to grow fruit trees in public spaces around town, the Fish to Schools program that made locally caught seafood a regular option at all of Sitka's schools (this project was led by the Sitka Conservation Society), the Sick-A-Waste composting education program, the Sitka Community Food Assessment to give us hard data about food security in town, and most recently the Sitka Kitch project to create a rental community commercial kitchen to help cottage food businesses, locals wanting to process harvested food, and for education events.
Your support can help us continue and expand our work increasing Sitka's food security. We have attained the Bronze level with the Guide Star charity lists. Please click the donate button and help us support more local foods in Sitka, Alaska. Your support is greatly appreciated. Thanks.