Creating a community supported fishery (CSF) was not on Nik Mink’s mind when he started teaching environmental studies at Knox College in 2010. But the following year, he and two students visited Sitka, Alaska to learn about its salmon habitat and returned with a bounty of fresh fish—and a business opportunity. “Their friends in Galesburg and the greater Midwest tried the salmon and raved about its superlative flavor and texture,” says Sean Treacy of Sitka Salmon Shares. “They returned to Sitka the next year, setting up the first ‘o-fish-al’ year of our community supported fishery in 2012.”
The endeavor was intended to be part-time, but demand quickly turned it into a full-time operation. Mink cofounded Sitka Salmon Shares with fisherman Marsh Skeele, setting up a warehouse at Galesburg’s Sustainable Business Center where fresh-frozen fish from Alaska are distributed to its members. Every step of the process employs sustainable practices. “Our small-boat fishermen catch our seafood with low-impact, high-quality methods, before delivering them to our dock on ice in half the time of the industry standard, greatly enhancing quality,” Treacy explains. “Then we process the fish in our Sitka-based processing plant and freeze it.” The fish is transported by barge from Sitka to Seattle, then trucked to Galesburg, where it is prepped for home delivery—producing 75-percent fewer emissions than if it was flown in.
The CSF business model has become popular in recent years as consumers embrace sustainable food solutions. Mink continues to teach at Knox College, and several of his former students are now in senior management positions at the company, which now has satellite hubs in Madison and Chicago. “We are proud to honor our connection to Knox College and Galesburg by hiring Knox graduates and members of the community alike—even bringing several landlocked Galesburgians to work with us in Sitka,” Treacy adds. To learn more or become a member, visit sitkasalmonshares.com. PM