Sitka Local Foods Network applies for Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

The Sitka Local Foods Network is in the middle of the application process for a Certified Naturally Grown status for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and its satellite gardens.

We had an inspection on Tuesday, July 2, and as soon as the inspection paperwork is submitted showing we follow the CNG principles, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm will become the fifth, sixth or seventh farm in Alaska to earn the status (there also are farms in Juneau and Palmer awaiting the results of their inspections).

“This certification will show our commitment to making sure Sitkans are able to buy naturally grown produce at the Sitka Farmers Market, and they can know it’s being grown without chemical fertilizers or other additives,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Nearly all of the produce we sell at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market is grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and its satellite gardens, and now people will have more assurances that the food they are buying is grown in a natural and sustainable manner, and that it’s the healthiest we can provide.”

The Certified Naturally Grown program is fairly new to Alaska, but many farms are turning to the CNG program because of the difficulty receiving an USDA organic certification in Alaska. Right now there are no USDA organic certification inspectors in Alaska, so it is costly to bring an inspector from the Lower 48 to Alaska and usually only happens when a couple of farms in one area get together and split the cost. The Certified Naturally Grown program has similar principles about not using chemical fertilizers and other enhancements, but uses a peer review inspection process where other local  farmers (even those not in the CNG program) who follow these principles can perform inspections. It also costs less money.

For this inspection, Andrea Fraga of Middle Island Gardens worked with St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt to go through a multi-page checklist that asked questions about how you prepare your garden beds, how you compost, what types of fertilizer and other enhancements you use, what types of crop covers you use, how you rotate crops, and more. There are separate certifications for produce, livestock, apiaries (beekeeping), aquaponics, and mushroom farming.

There currently are four farms in Alaska that have passed their CNG inspections — Faith Farms in Kodiak, Four Winds Farm in Haines, Wilderness Earth Farm of Soldotna, and Wilderness Greenhouse of Anchor Point. The three Alaska farms waiting for CNG inspection results include Sitka Local Foods Network/St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm in Sitka, Orsi Organic Produce in Juneau, and Seeds and Soil Farm in Palmer.

Some photos from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden inspection are posted below.

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• Alaska Grown, Alaska Center For The Environment team up to host the Eat Local Challenge 2010 on Aug. 22-28

The state’s Alaska Grown program will host its “Eat Local Challenge 2010” on Sunday through Saturday, Aug. 22-28 (click here to read more). This year, the Alaska Center for the Environment, has joined Alaska Grown as a sponsor as part of the center’s local foods and sustainable communities program.

Alaskans have many ways to eat local, from veggies they grow in their own gardens or buy from Alaska farmers, berries they pick, fish they catch, game meat they hunt, seaweed and other beach greens they gather, etc. The benefit of eating local food is it’s fresher so it tastes better and has more nutrients, and you cut out the thousands of miles of transportation costs needed to ship food from the Lower 48 and other countries to Alaska. Growing local food makes a community more sustainable.

During the week of Aug. 22-28, Alaska residents are encouraged to:

  • Try eating at least one home-cooked meal this week, made of mostly local ingredients.
  • Try to incorporate at least one never-before-used local ingredient into a meal.
  • Try “brown-bagging” at least one meal this week made primarily of local ingredients.
  • Try talking to at least one local food retailer and one food producer about local food options.
  • Try to choose local food products whenever possible.

By the way, a good time to buy local food for the Eat Local Challenge is during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the summer on Saturday, Aug. 14, and during the fourth market on Saturday, Aug. 28. The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on alternate Saturdays (through Sept. 11) at historic Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, 235 Katlian St. We’ll see you there.

• Alaska Food Policy Council created to examine how our food system relates to our economy, security and health

In response to concerns by Alaskans about food security, health and job creation, the Alaska Food Policy Council is being formed and it will host a meeting on May 18-19 at a location TBA in Anchorage.

“This will be a chance for Alaskans to come together and develop a plan to produce more food for our communities,” said Danny Consenstein, the Executive Director of the USDA Alaska Farm Service Agency in Palmer.

The Alaska Food Policy Council wants your help in examining how our food system relates to our economy, our security and our health. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the wide variety of food system stakeholders to connect, so they can begin to develop comprehensive solutions toward building a stronger Alaska food system.

The first face-to-face meeting takes place from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, May 19, at a location TBA in Anchorage. Mark Winne of the Community Food Security Coalition will facilitate the meeting. The goal will be to learn about food policy councils (which exist in many states and local communities), consult with experts to establish the lay of the land in Alaska, and to begin to set the direction for the Alaska Food Policy Council to take. Sitka Local Foods Network President Kerry MacLane has been asked to represent our group on this council, and he said he plans to attend the May meeting.

Seating is limited for this meeting, so please contact Public Health Specialist Diane Peck, MPH, RD, with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services by May 1 to RSVP or request more information. Diane can be reached at 269-8447 (Anchorage) or diane.peck@alaska.gov. The Alaska Center for the Environment’s local food project page has more information about the creation of the Alaska Food Policy Council.

Alaska Food Policy Council meeting flier for May 18-19 in Anchorage

• Alaska Center for the Environment launches local food campaign

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The Alaska Center for the Environment is launching a new campaign to teach Alaskans about the importance of local food. This campaign is just getting going, and there’s a lot of work needed to flesh out all of the elements. But it’s good to see someone looking a local food security issues on a statewide level.

Click here to read the main information page about the campaign, which includes facts such as Alaskans spent $2.6 billion on food each year and in 2007 only 0.13 percent of that money went to agricultural products grown in Alaska. Click here to read the campaign’s Frequently Asked Questions page. Click here to read about a proposed “Alaska Food, Farms and Jobs Act” that is based on legislation out of Illinois that ACE hopes to find an Alaska legislator willing to introduce.

Finally, click here to read about the Alaska Local Food Film Festival that takes place Oct. 2-8 at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub and Grill in Anchorage. Each day during the festival the Bear Tooth will show a local food-related movie at 5:30 p.m. The films include “Food, Inc.,” “The Garden,” “Eating Alaska,” “Fresh” and “The End of the Line.” Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein will lead a discussion after her film, “Eating Alaska,” is shown on Sunday, Oct. 4.

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