Alaska Legislature removes barriers for community seed sharing

The seed library at the John Trigg Ester Library, just outside Fairbanks.

Gardeners and community members can now participate in local seed exchanges and opportunities for seed sharing without onerous regulations on the books.  House Bill 197, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Johnston (R-Anchorage, Girdwood, Indian) passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday (April 18), after receiving bipartisan support last week in the House.

Over the last several years, community seeds libraries, such as the one at the John Trigg Ester Library just outside Fairbanks, have been springing up organically around the state, offering opportunities for gardeners to share seeds and stories of growing great Alaskan plants. To encourage these libraries to flourish and allow more Alaskans to participate in this time-honored tradition, House Bill 197 removes regulatory barriers for community seed saving and sharing.

“I was intrigued when this idea was brought to me by community members” Rep. Johnston said. “It didn’t make sense that such homegrown, community-centric activity would be regulated in the same way as commercial operations.”

The labeling requirements for noncommercial seed sharing will now be the seeds’ common name, information on the seed library, and a label denoting any toxic treatment of the seeds. Additionally, the seed library must display the statement, “Not authorized for commercial use and not classified, graded, or inspected by the State of Alaska.” Currently there are more than two pages of requirements for seeds that are shared within the state.

“Improving community unity, access to healthy produce and decreasing food insecurity have brought the Legislature together, and I’m pleased to see the bill get so much support,” Rep. Johnston said.

House Bill 197 now heads to Gov. Bill Walker for his signature.

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Alaska Division of Agriculture launches Restaurant Recognition program for restaurants using Alaska Grown produce

Are you using Alaska Grown produce in your restaurant? The new Restaurant Recognition program is for you. Please follow this link if you wish to sign up.

This program is developed by the Alaska Division of Agriculture to recognize and support restaurants around the state who are working to purchase local produce from Alaska farms or interested in doing so.

We are offering free advertising and promotional materials to the first 50 qualified applicants. This will include radio advertising, print advertising, social media campaigns, marketing materials, Alaska restaurant directory mobile application, and a specially designed Restaurant Recognition logo for use in each restaurant. The terms of the program include that as a local restaurant you must purchase Alaska Grown produce such as: salad greens, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, berries … the list goes on.

Any Alaska Grown produce item in any amount will qualify you for the program. What we ask for in return is some reporting on what produce you buy, in what quantity, from whom, and how many menu items you serve local produce in, among a few other questions. Details on communication will be included when you are accepted into the program. Click this link for a directory of Alaska Grown producers to shop.

The timeline of the program will begin on May 15, with the final reporting to be completed by Sept. 30.

For more information or for help finding Alaska Grown produce sources, contact Lyssa Frohling at (907) 761-3853 (Palmer number) or lyssa.frohling@alaska.gov.

• Alaska Grown Restaraunt Rewards brochure