Southeast salmon fishermen get holiday boost from national magazine

John Pulliam

GALESBURG, Ill. -- The president of one of Galesburg's most successful start-up companies was as surprised as anyone when his company was featured on the Forbes magazine website. Sitka Salmon Shares was included in an article titled "Seven Sustainable Foodie Holiday Gifts."

Company President Nic Mink said he began wondering what was going on when he noticed "a huge spike in traffic on our website" last week. He said it took him a while to figure out what was going on.

"Then I read the thing in Forbes and was like, 'This can't be right,'" Mink said. "It's definitely still sinking in, and I'm busy trying to manage the media (in addition to our holiday sales.)"

He said the company last Wednesday and Thursday had about 15 to 20 times its normal Web traffic.

"I think it kind of speaks to we're doing something interesting," Mink said.

He said he's still not sure how Forbes heard of Sitka Salmon Shares.

"I have no idea," he said. "We're connected with the various associations I think we need to be connected to. We come up pretty high on (Internet) searches, because of (our success) and we have the Web traffic. It probably catapulted us into their view."

Mink said there also was a large article on the company about a month ago in Pacific Fishing magazine, a publication read by many commercial fishermen in the Pacific Northwest. He said that story sparked a number of emails from fishermen wanting to know if Sitka Salmon could sell for them.

"We are not at that point right now," Mink said. "Maybe in two or three years."

Sitka Salmon Shares is based in Galesburg's Sustainable Business Center and in Sitka, a southeastern Alaska community of 8,800. The company opened in the SBC in early May of this year. Mink, also the company co-founder and chief salmon steward, worked for the Sitka Conservation Society before coming to Knox College a couple of years ago to teach in the Environmental Studies Department.

The company works with local independent fishermen in Alaska, as well as with Sitka's Seafood Producers' Cooperative to bring blast-frozen, vacuum-sealed Alaskan seafood to a growing number of areas, including Galesburg.

Writer Beth Hoffman included Sitka Salmon Shares in Community Supported Agriculture Subscriptions, one of seven categories in her article. There is a link to the company's website in the online article.

"We're all very excited that a small company with big ambitions can be honored in this way," Mink said. "We believe that people are beginning to understand that eating sustainably -- and by this I mean making sure our food system is fair for the people who produce our food, transparent for consumers, and ecologically sound -- is important business in the 21st century."

SBC Manager Eric Dilts expressed pride that Sitka Salmon Shares was mentioned in the magazine, which has a circulation of about 900,000.

Mink said the company is continuing to grow.

"We're currently drawing up plans to quadruple our capacity at the (SBC), with hopes of doubling our sales in 2013, with the addition of a 5-month Sitka Seafood Share, which will include halibut and black cod .," Mink said.

Sitka Salmon Shares is also planning to expand into Indianapolis. The capital city of Indiana will be added to the company's other primary markets of west-central Illinois (the Galesburg area); Madison, Wis.; Minneapolis; Chicago; and the Quad Cities.

Another interesting aspect of the company's growth is the connection between the distant, small towns of Sitka and Galesburg. Mink said the hope is to develop a mechanism for more of Sitka Salmon Shares' members to become involved with Sitka. He said the goal is to have 600 members by the summer of 2013, 1,200 by the summer of 2014 and to continue to double each year.

"We've had significant discussions with some folks in Sitka and among ourselves that, not this summer, but definitely in the summer of 2014, summer of 2015," people from this area could take food tours to Sitka. He said the people of Sitka similarly find the connection interesting. Mink said a story about Galesburg will be airing soon on Sitka's only radio station, KCAW, which is heard throughout much of southeastern Alaska. The station's website is



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