Free webinar offered on crop insurance options for shellfish and aquatic plants in Alaska

AgriLogic Consulting LLC, the USDA Risk Management Agency, and the Alaska Farm Bureau will host a free online webinar on crop insurance options for shellfish and aquatic plants in Alaska at 8 a.m. Alaska time on Thursday, July 25.

Ben Thiel from the USDA Spokane Risk Management Agency Regional Office and Nicole Gueck, a Risk Management Specialist with AgriLogic Consulting will discuss the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Crop Insurance Program as it applies to the shellfish/aquaculture/mariculture industry in Alaska.

Please register in advance for this meeting at For more information, go to

• Take the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge and help improve Alaska’s food security


AlaskaGrown3_GraphicThe Alaska Farm Bureau announces the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge – a statewide campaign to increase consumer spending on Alaska Grown products with the goal of strengthening local economies and increasing Alaska’s food security.

The Kenai Peninsula Chapter of the Alaska Farm Bureau, in partnership with the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District and several other local organizations (including the Sitka Local Foods Network), launched the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge on May 5, in honor of Alaska Agriculture Day. Now the Challenge is going statewide with the help of social media, Alaska Farm Bureau chapters, and local food advocates across the state.

“We’d like to see the state investing in agriculture the way it invests in the resource extraction industries,” said Heidi Chay, district manager of the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District. “After all, everyone needs to eat, and Alaska is at the end of a very long and vulnerable food chain. The signs of agriculture’s growth potential are all around us. … However, if the state can’t or won’t invest in agriculture the way it should, it’s on Alaskan consumers to take the lead. That’s why the District joined with local partners last month to launch the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge. We’re calling on Alaskans to invest a small part of their food dollars in the future of Alaskan agriculture, by spending $5 per week per person year-round. Farmers market season is a great time to start.”

Sitka residents will be able to participate in the Challenge by purchasing local veggies at the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. The markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on alternate Saturdays, July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St.

“I’m excited by the prospect of growing local producers pocketbooks with the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge in Sitka,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Sitka Local Foods Network Board President. “It’s about supporting local foods and your neighbors as well as giving your body the benefit of fresh food. I plan on spending at least $5 a week on local food and doing it at the Sitka Farmers Market makes absolute sense.”

The Challenge calls on Alaskans to spend $5 per week per person on Alaska Grown products year-round. With farmers market season just around the corner, this is the perfect time for Alaskans to commit to investing a portion of their consumer dollars in the future of Alaskan agriculture.

graphic1Agriculture has played an important role in Alaska’s history. Today it is a growing industry with increasing numbers of farms producing food, forage and fiber for local consumers, as well as peonies and rhodiola for sale around the world.

Although farm production is rising, the economic potential of Alaskan farms is far from realized.  More than 95 percent of Alaska’s food is imported, which means that most of our food dollars are leaving the state.

Are Alaska farmers prepared to scale up to meet increasing demand? Yes. According to the Alaska Division of Agriculture, 67 percent of Alaska farmers surveyed indicate that they would increase production if they had more market options. Meanwhile, a warming climate and the rapid adoption of season-extension technologies such as high tunnels are creating more favorable conditions for agriculture.

The Alaska Farm Bureau is calling on every resident in Alaska to join the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge. If every Alaskan spent $5 per week on Alaska Grown products, year-round, it would have a $188 million dollar impact.

Why buy Alaska grown? Not only are you supporting Alaskans and boosting our economy, you’re also getting a fresher, tastier, more nutritious product. In a blind taste test, 82 percent of Alaskans surveyed could taste the difference between products grown here and those shipped up. Adults and kids say Alaska grown is sweeter, fresher-tasting and crispier.

The $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge isn’t hard. The key, simply enough, is to eat what grows here. You can find a wide variety of produce and value-added products like bread, jam and pickles at farmers markets throughout the summer. Alaska Grown carrots, potatoes, cabbage, milk and barley products (flour, couscous and even pancake mix!) are available year-round in local grocery stores, joined by lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and broccoli during the growing season. Local farms produce meat, poultry, eggs and honey, which are available direct from the farm and at locally-owned retailers. Farmers grow more than just food; Alaska also has cut flower and natural fiber industries with products available. Local restaurants, breweries, distilleries and wineries purchase local products to use in their recipes. And don’t forget our local seafood products.

Not sure where to find Alaska Grown? Check out the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge website ( where you will find links to local and statewide resources including the Alaska Grown Source Book, a list of local producers and farmers markets. Be sure to ask for Alaska Grown when you are eating out as well.

Take the challenge: $5 per person per week. You’ll help local farmers, boost the local economy, increase Alaska’s food security, and eat better too. Sign up for the challenge here,

• Taste of Alaska white paper

• Alaska Farm Bureau wonders if it’s time to create a Southeast Farm Bureau chapter

(from the Alaska Farm Bureau)

There will be a teleconference at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, to discuss whether there is interest from Southeast gardeners, greenhouse operators, farmers, ranchers and mariculture growers in forming a new Southeast Chapter of the Alaska Farm Bureau.

The Alaska Farm Bureau is the largest agricultural organization in the state and currently has six chapters:  Fairbanks, Delta, Mat-Su, Kodiak, Kenai Peninsula and the Copper River Valley.  Those who live in the Southeast are currently members of the Mat-Su Chapter.

Farm Bureau membership benefits include a subscription to the Alaska Farm and Ranch News, (Alaska’s only monthly agricultural newspaper), discounts at Grainger and Office Products, (both offering free shipping to Alaska for on-line orders); full service banking at Farm Bureau bank, farm policy insurance as well as all their other services from COUNTRY Financial, a prescription drug discount program for you and your employees and a $500 discount on GMC, Chevrolet and Buick new vehicle purchases.

To participate, call 1-800-528-2793.  Enter the conference ID of 7807353 and press # at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27.  There is no charge to participate.

If you are not able to participate that evening, please send an e-mail to Alaska Farm Bureau Executive Director Jane Hamilton at or mail a note expressing your interest to the Alaska Farm Bureau at PO Box 760, Delta Junction, AK 99737.  Please include your name and contact information — mailing address, e-mail addresses and telephone number.

People who are not actively growing agricultural or mariculture products may join the Farm Bureau as Associate Members.  Associate Members pay the same $40 annual membership fee and receive all of the same membership benefits.  While they may join in discussions during chapter meetings, they do not have voting privileges.  Their membership supports their local chapter as well as the state association.  Any individual person or business is welcome to become an Associate Member.

If there is an interest, potential SE members will select a one person to represent them at the Alaska Farm Bureau Board of Director’s meeting that will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Anchorage on Nov. 8.  The Friday Forum (conference day of agricultural speakers), Awards Banquet and Scholarship Auction will be held on Nov. 9 and the Annual Meeting will be held on Nov. 10.

The Board of Directors will pay travel expenses for your representative to attend the three-day event.  The Board of Directors will decide whether there is enough interest to form a Southeast Chapter at their Nov. 8 business meeting.

• Sitka film featured in Palmer’s “Local Harvest, Local Food” film festival, a Sitka café featured for using local food and other local foods news

Food Film Fest Poster-2

Join the Palmer Arts Council for its inaugural “Local Harvest, Local Food” film fest from Thursday, Nov. 19, through Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Strangebird Consulting Office in downtown Palmer. “Good Food” screens at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19; “Fresh” shows at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20; “Eating Alaska” by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein screens at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21; and “Ingredients” shows at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22. After the Sunday showing there will be a discussion about women in agriculture with Cynthia Vignetti. Suggested donations are $10-15 for all films except for Sunday, which is free.

A Sitka restaurant, the Larkspur Café, was featured in Capital City Weekly last week. The article talks about the origins of the restaurant, which is located in the same building as KCAW-Raven Radio. It also discusses the restaurant’s use of local foods, including owners Amelia Budd and Amy Kane purchasing produce from the Sitka Farmers Market during the summer.

In other local foods news from around the state, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced an expansion to the state’s subsistence halibut fishery to include more rural residents (this includes the Sitka area). The new rules, which take effect on Dec. 4, redefine who qualifies as a rural resident. The previous rules defined rural residents as people living in a rural community or people belonging to a Native tribe with customary and traditional uses of halibut, and the news rules try to catch subsistence halibut users who fell outside the previous definition. Click this link for more information about subsistence halibut regulations and applications.

The Daily Sitka Sentinel has been running a brief announcement from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Kayaaní Commission, which is selling 2010 calendars, CDRoms and field guides about traditional uses of native plants. Here is the information:

Kayaaní Native Plant Publications Available: 2010 Kayaaní Harvest Calendars featuring native plants and their traditional and cultural uses ($16, $2 postage per address); Interactive Ethnobotanical CDRoms with native species, their Tlingít, scientific and common names, and interviews with Elders on the traditional and medicinal uses of plants ($15, $1 postage per address); Ethnobotanical Field Guides ($16, $1 postage per address). We will mail to the addresses of your choice. Order by Dec. 18 for guaranteed delivery before Christmas. Call or e-mail with your order: 907-747-7178,, STA Kayaaní Commission, 456 Katlian. All proceeds will assist the nonprofit Kayaaní Commission in protecting, perpetuating and preserving knowledge of native plants.

The Chilkat Valley News weekly newspaper from Haines featured an article about sixth-graders at Haines School learning how to compost their leftover food (including leftover meat) so it can be used for gardening. The school is working with the Takshanuk Watershed Council to teach the students about composting. The students call their compost project “Marvin” because it’s a living organism.

The Alaska Dispatch recently ran a feature called “Growing Season” that discusses some of the farms in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys that grow local food. The feature includes video clips of harvest time at a couple of the farms featured.

The Mat-Su Frontiersman had a feature called “Chicken U,” which is about raising chickens in Alaska and getting them to produce eggs during the winter months.

The Anchorage Daily News also mentioned Chicken University, which will be one of several presentations at the Alaska Farm Bureau annual meeting on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage. Other presentations are on growing apples in Alaska and preserving your harvest.

The Anchorage Daily News also had an article about how to get local produce in Anchorage during the winter, either through the Glacier Valley CSA produce boxes from Palmer or the indoor farmers market at the Northway Mall.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels wrote a column about how hydroponic gardening is easier and cheaper than ever. The column includes lots of links for people who want to try this method of growing food without soil (by the way, there is a hydroponic garden at McMurdo Station in Antarctica that keeps the scientists there stocked in fresh produce in a land of ice).

Fran Durner’s “Talk Dirt To Me” blog on the Anchorage Daily News site includes a post about how snow can act as mulch for the garden.

The Ester Republic, a monthly publication for the community near Fairbanks, runs periodic articles about sustainability and local food security issues. Some of the articles are linked in the archives, and the editors are working to get more of the past articles on these topics online so more people can enjoy them.