Sitka’s On-Site Farmers Market Goes Online

By GARLAND KENNEDY
Sentinel Staff Writer

The Sitka Farmers Market is continuing to make fresh local produce available to Sitkans this summer, although the pandemic has forced changes in distribution methods and the products offered for sale.

“This year our Farmers Market is quite a bit different,” said Charles Bingham, president of the Sitka Local Foods Network. “There were a couple of things that played into it. Obviously the COVID deal, but when we were in planning mode, our usual venue, ANB Hall, wasn’t available. So that meant we had to find a new venue.” 

That dilemma was solved with the food network’s decision to take orders online, and an agreement by the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Garden to be the pickup site.

“People are ordering during the week and then they come by on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon and pick up their food” Bingham said. “People do need to order early – you’re going to have a lot more selection (by ordering) on Tuesday.”

Another problem that remains to be solved is accommodating the non-food vendors selling home-made arts and crafts, and who made up the majority at pre-pandemic farmers markets.

The online program Salt and Soil Marketplace is used for ordering, and although the site normally involves a subscription fee, Sitkans can use it free this year. The web address is saltandsoilmarketplace.com/sitka.

Items for sale this year range from teas and bouquets to greens and jams, Bingham said. The farmers market accepts food assistance programs such as WIC.

The ordering period is 5 p.m. Tuesday to 8 p.m. Thursday. Food pickup runs from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday at the St. Peters Fellowship Farm Garden, behind the St. Peter’s See House on Lincoln Street.

The new venue allows for better physical distancing, Bingham said.

“We ask that people when they come in to pick up produce, they pull up, park, and stay in their vehicle, especially if they don’t have a mask,” he said.

Andrea Fraga, who has sold produce from Middle Island Farms at the Sitka Farmers Market for four years, said this year’s shift to online ordering has complicated things for her.

“You have to predict on Tuesday what’s going to be ready to harvest on Friday for Saturday’s market, so I’m always looking at the weather,” Fraga said.

She added that weather conditions, from a spike of 82-degree heat to the present long spell of cool temperatures and rain, have hampered crops this season.

She said she plants greens, as well as potatoes and carrots, which are ideal for long-term storage.

The co-manager of the farmers market, Ariane Goudeau, said the shift to an all-food market has been a major change.

“It’s totally different,” Goudeau said. “Unlike other farmers markets, this market isn’t heavily food based.... Our market is like, hey, we have three (food vendors) and everyone else is an arts and crafts type of thing. That helps pay for the rental space. And so it has impacted the model in that we can’t financially have a farmers market without the arts and crafts vendors.”

However, she emphasized the market’s role in local food security.

“The priority for us is food,” she said.

Bingham agrees.

“Our big deal is food security, and as much as the arts and crafts vendors really help with the farmers market, this year, because our mission is geared to food, we had to step back and just focus on the food this year,” he said.

Farmers market co-manager Nalani James said that after a slow start, business has picked up.

“The first week of starting was a slow transition but now we are sold out weekly and hope to add more vendors to the site to have more diversity in local foods... People have a sense of nature and pureness in these trying times more than ever,” James said.

James described the market as a “glimmer of hope that things will come back to normal one day.”

Goudeau said she misses mingling with the crowds who always turn out at the ANB Founders Hall for the farmers market.

“With this pandemic ... your community has gone from a couple hundred people to these are the three families you hang out with,” she said.

“We all miss it,’ said Fraga. “Besides folks buying produce from us, a lot of people come up and just want to chat about gardening.”

 

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AK COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 5-18-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:55 pm Wednesday, May 18.

New cases as of Wednesday: 1,675

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 249,522

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,252

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,762

Current Hospitalizations – 44

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "medium.'' Case statistics are as of Wednesday.

Cases in last 7 days – 54

Cumulative Sitka cases – 2,633

Hospitalizations (to date) – 32

Deceased (cumulative) – 6

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

  

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20 YEARS AGO
May 2002

Police blotter: Two juveniles who were seen throwing their belonging at each other were told to stop or face arrest. ... A woman was reported arguing with her husband and friends, all of whom agreed she had been drinking too much. ... A man said he thought a neighbor had his missing cat, but the neighbor showed police his cat and her six kittens. A watch will be kept for the missing cat.

 

50 YEARS AGO
May 2002

 There will not be a commercial herring spawn and help fishery in the Sitka area, Jim Parker, Fish & Game fisheries management biologist, announced.  There’s been good herring spawn but herring haven’t spawned in the macrocystis kelp beds.

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