Sitka Salmon Shares really started with the enthusiasm of our members to get their fish directly from the source. In 2011, when we set up a fundraiser for the Sitka Conservation Society, we never imagined what this company would become. The spark and inspiration that built this company and community was a direct result of the excitement of the first people that got shares of my catch. I had never imagined that our members would be as excited to get fish directly from our fishermen as I was to catch it for them. It transformed what fishing was to my operation. Instead of selling to faceless global wholesale markets, the care and pride I put into my catch was being shared directly with our membership.
Our first fishermen joined our company because they, too, were excited about the new fish connection we were building. Our infrastructure to support their boats was very limited and they took a big risk to leave their existing markets to sell to us. It wasn’t just about getting better prices; it was about every fish being valued and cared for the way they thought it should be. To have their fish loved and heralded as an amazing wild product is what continues to inspire our fleet. To build a market that values quality over quantity was not an easy feat, but our members were there with us every step of the way. Programs like Sustainers and our early sign-up periods keep our operations going and our spirits buoyed because we know that we have the very best marketplace for our fish: our members!
—Marsh Skeele, co-founder and vice president
Health & Community
This month we bring you stories from two of our members that remind us that high-quality food is the bedrock of health and community. These stories prove that healthy nutrition is as much an art as it is a science in the different ways they use wild foods to feed themselves and foster connection with friends and family. I could go on about all the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids or lean, wild protein, but members Susan Fettes and Suzanne Simmons provide powerful examples of how good food can sustain us through adversity.
JUST SUE HERE, FROM CENTRAL NY
“Facebook told me I needed you,” Sue states. “I did some due diligence looking up the company; I liked what I read.” Sue Fettes became a member of Sitka Salmon Shares in November of 2020 after trying out a few freezer boxes. “My first share box was in April of 2021, and I could not wait,” Sue says.
Since she joined, Sue has been a passionate member of our Sitka Salmonsharsians Facebook Group. If you’ve checked out the community, chances are you’ve seen her posts, which have become a mainstay of the group. Her posts often start with her familiar sign-on “Just Sue here, from Central NY…” Usually accompanied by a dozen or more photographs, Sue shares her wild seafood journey with members, dispensing helpful advice and encouragement to our community of home cooks. “I feel like I've pulled up a chair at Sue's table,” member Mary Godlewski wrote in response to a post Sue shared about a salmon dinner with her daughter during Christmastime.
Sue got an early start in life preparing meals. “My mom encouraged me to help her make dinners, back in the day,” says Sue. Her father cultivated an interest in wild foods and her family enjoyed adventurous ingredients such as steamed cattails and the fruit of wild roses. Nor is Sue a stranger to seafood. “I’ve gone fishing mostly for yellow perch in Lake Ontario and wished it would never stop when they were biting,” she says. The Sitka Salmon Shares model offered her something she had been missing. “Having a connection to not only the fishermen, but to all the people who work to bring our fish, to us, the consumers, is amazing, and new to me,” Sue says.
When Sue went off to graduate school, accompanied by the cookbooks her parents had helped her to accumulate, her culinary experience paid off. With a little help from Food & Wine magazine, Sue was able to cater dinner parties on a student budget. Life became hectic once she graduated with a PhD in mathematics, earned her first academic position, and started a family. The kitchen provided an anchor through it all. “After decades of life, food remains central,” Sue says. “Sitka Salmon Shares has been a great find for me.”
Health and nutrition are even higher priorities for Sue ever since an autoimmune disease diagnosis several years ago. Sue had to scale back an active life that included running a marathon, thousand-mile biking trips, being a hot air balloon pilot, scuba diving, and hunting, as well as her academic careers and family responsibilities. “I would not have moved from physical pursuits to more sedentary ones if I had not been forced to,” she says. Cooking remains an important part of her life and now she loves sharing her journey and connecting with other members.
SUZANNE, ROCKY MOUNTAINS M.D.
“Our family NEVER bought fish in a store,” Suzanne Simmons says. Suzanne grew up in New England and spent her youth fishing from docks and piers with her father. Although her free time evaporated when she entered college in Boston, she has fond memories of eating local seafood. “We could go down to Atlantic Ave. and adjacent streets where there were huge fish markets and warehouses,” Suzanne recalls. “We could buy fish just caught — it was great.”
When she moved to Colorado to finish her training as a board-certified Internal Medicine Physician, she lost her connection to the sea. “When I moved to Colorado, I was dismayed,” Suzanne says. “I could not find any decent fish in a market. So, I stopped buying it.”
Suzanne doesn’t remember exactly how she first heard about Sitka Salmon Shares, but she remembers what motivated her to subscribe to a box. “I loved that we would be receiving fish caught by Sitka Salmon Shares, and that the fishers would be paid a decent wage for their work and dedication,” Suzanne recalls. “I also loved that Sitka Salmon Shares truly cared about the seas, the fishing grounds, the whole ecosystem in your area in Alaska.”
The verdict? Suzanne says, “The fish are finally what I am used to eating!”
For Suzanne, Sitka Salmon Shares has done more than just rekindle memories of good seafood fresh from the dock. Suzanne’s hospital has been hit hard by the pandemic and mealtime has suffered as a result. “I try to work part-time, but with the COVID pandemic, we all need to work extra shifts to care for the large numbers of patients, especially critically ill ones,” Suzanne says.
“Since we never had time to rest, and the only food available was junk or fast food, I started bringing in food for us,” Suzanne says. She made mealtime a priority for her crew. “We initially set a rule that everybody had to meet in our office at midnight, with no exceptions allowed, unless you were in the middle of an emergency,” Suzanne says.
“When I joined Sitka Salmon Shares, I would poach a salmon and bring it for our feast. Everybody loved it!” From salmon to hot-smoked sablefish, Suzanne brings the best from her monthly box. “We eat well when I am on at night! It really lifts our spirits, as we are working under very stressful conditions,” Suzanne says.
We started Sitka Salmon Shares with the intention of connecting Alaska’s fishermen to seafood lovers. The stories that Susan Fettes and Suzanne Simmons share show us that whatever path we are on, dinnertime is worth making special. With the right food on hand, it can feed more than our growling bellies. Thank you to all of the members who share part of their journey with us. We wouldn’t be here without you!
Grace in the Kitchen
February marks National Heart Month. With the holidays behind us, and resolutions still front and center, we’ve got a renewed sense of purpose—to be more intentional. For many of us, that includes making heart-healthier food choices. We look to our diets to provide crucial nutrients and compounds that our bodies can’t produce on their own. That’s where omega-3 fatty acids come in.
Research has shown omega-3s, particularly from seafood (aka marine omega-3s), to be beneficial in preventing heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce blood triglyceride levels and improve HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation of blood vessels, which can lead to strokes, lower blood pressure, slow the build-up of artery clogging plaque, and lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythm. Need more convincing?
The good news is that it’s found in fatty fish like salmon, sablefish, and albacore tuna, and the American Heart Association recommends that we eat some type at least twice a week. That’s where your membership comes in! Whatever your subscription model, you’ll see at least one of those fish in your box this month. New recipes and posts are hitting the website every week so keep an eye out!