National Young Farmers Coalition to start chapter in Alaska

Alaska leads the nation in agricultural growth and there’s no sign of it slowing down. The average age of a producer in Alaska is 2.5 years younger compared to the national average age. Alaska leads the nation in the percent of new and beginning producers. Almost half – 46 percent – of the state’s farmers have 10 years or fewer of farm experience.

With help and support from the Alaska Farmers Market Association, we are launching an Alaska chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition (http://www.youngfarmers.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to “…shift power and change policy to equitably resource our new generation of working farmers.” The chapter will serve beginning and young farmers/ranchers in Alaska. The goal is to have representation from each Alaska region and from every agricultural sector. 

We are collecting individual information, such as contact information, farm types, experience, demographics, and interest levels for participating in the chapter in order to identify the chapter’s direction, trends, and insights that can help bring the group together. You can take the survey at this link.

We will keep your answers confidential and all results produced will be anonymous.

Feel free to contact Kyra Harty at 907-235-4068, ext 20, or email her at Kyra@AlaskaFarmersMarkets.org if you have any questions or would like more information.

Agenda released for the Alaska Food Festival and Conference scheduled for March 17-19

HOMER, Alaska (March 10, 2022) — The agenda has been released for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which is going virtual on Thursday through Saturday, March 17-19, this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s theme is “Everybody Eats: Nourishing Our Culture, Our Health, Our Future.”

This year’s agenda includes a variety of presentation topics, including a tribal youth track, a legislative update, the American Indian foods program, seaweed mariculture and wild harvest, sustaining traditional foods with science and technology, navigating the USDA for tribes, the Micro-Grants for Food Security program, and many others. These are just a small portion of the scheduled presentations, and the full agenda can be found at this link, https://whova.com/embedded/event/afpc_202203/?utc_source=ems.

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), the Alaska Food Festival and Conference previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016, in Fairbanks in 2017, in Homer in 2019, and was virtual in 2020. This year, as in 2020, the conference was scheduled for Anchorage before going virtual due to COVID-19. The event takes place every 18 months.

In addition to the Alaska Food Policy Council, this event is co-sponsored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program.

The four focus areas of this year’s conference are: Policy and Education, Production and Harvest, Culture and Community, and Business and Industry.

The goals of the conference and festival are to:

  1. increase awareness of Alaska food issues among the general population;
  2. provide training, resources, and networking opportunities to increase involvement in local food issues by community members and decision makers; and
  3. increase connections and build community between the public, Alaska food businesses, NGOs, governmental entities, tribal entities, and others to support local economic development and innovative solutions.

Past conferences have included presentations on food systems in Alaska, food security/insecurity, traditional foods, farmers markets, agriculture in Alaska, fisheries, food policy, food waste reduction, and more. The event opens with a movie, a tribal youth track for ages 10 through college (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference, scroll down for info), and a pre-conference workshop with Alaska Village Initiatives on working with Alaska Native groups on collaborations (this workshop is free but pre-registration is required by going to this link, https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYlce2trjIqGdPZ9XNt1x53SRm6jd3gQmRe). Other plans include holding an online auction (https://www.32auctions.com/AFPC2022) and a conference online swag shop (https://www.bonfire.com/store/alaska-food-policy-council/).

Before the conference, the movie “Food for the Rest of Us” will be shown at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, using Zoom. The screening and post-screening panel discussion are free, but registration is required by going to this link, https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0qdeChrT0tG9DzyKsjJA5NKuE49P3Rpzjb.

“Food for the Rest of Us”, https://www.foodfortherestofus.org/, is a feature film that presents four stories of people living life on their own terms, serving as leaders who are lending their voice to the underdog and leading a revolution to a better world, from the ground up. An Indigenous-owned, youth-run organic farm in Hawai’i, a Black urban grower in Kansas City who runs a land-farm at East High School, a female Kosher butcher in Colorado working with the queer community, and an Inuit community on the Arctic Coast that is adapting to climate change with a community garden in a small geodesic dome. A panel discussion with the director and producer will follow the film.

This year’s confirmed keynote speakers and featured guests include:

  • Janie Simms Hipp, USDA general counsel
  • Eva Dawn Burke, University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development and The Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy
  • Helga Garcia-Garza, executive director of Agri-Cultura Network and La Cosecha CSA
  • Caroline Cox (director) and Tiffany Ayalik (producer), Film: “Food for the Rest of Us” (special guests)
  • Iris Sutton, Ice Wedge Art and Farm (conference artist)

In addition, the three Alaska Food Hero Awards will be presented during the conference. A list of past Alaska Food Hero Award winners can be found at, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/akfoodheroes.

Registration costs $40-$150, depending on the package, and you can register at this link, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2022-alaska-food-festival-conference-tickets-232976558157. You also can purchase an Alaska Food Policy Council membership at that link. Thanks to the generosity of the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a limited number of registration fee scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can apply (by March 13) at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf7U8nZPRg9zyK9TWGDOahsMgT2Cc58tEG4WrPDO64NMxTmrw/viewform.

More details about the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference are available at this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

For more information about the conference and the Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/), contact Robbi Mixon at (907) 235-4068, Ext. 23, or director@alaskafoodpolicycouncil.org.

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The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.

The Intertribal Agriculture Council (https://www.indianag.org/) was founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of our agricultural resources for the betterment of our people. Land-based agricultural resources are vital to the economic and social welfare of many Native American and Alaskan Tribes. The harmonies of man, soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife that collectively make-up the American Indian agriculture community, influence our emotional and spiritual well-being. The IAC has, over the last three decades, become recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles on agricultural policies and programs in Indian country.

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program (https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/college-of-health/departments/school-of-allied-health/academics/dietetics-nutrition/) is a statewide education program that meets the growing needs of the dietetics and nutrition industry. This nationally accredited program trains entry-level, registered dietitian nutritionists, and community nutrition and nutrition science professionals throughout Alaska. Using an array of online and campus-based courses, the UAA Dietetics and nutrition program offers a minor in Nutrition, a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and a Master of Science in Dietetics.

Register now for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference

Registration is open for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which is going virtual on Friday and Saturday, March 18-19, this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It opens with a pre-conference movie on Thursday, March 17. This year’s theme is “Everybody Eats: Nourishing Our Culture, Our Health, Our Future.”

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), the Alaska Food Festival and Conference previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016, in Fairbanks in 2017, in Homer in 2019, and was virtual in 2020. This year, as in 2020, the conference was scheduled for Anchorage before going virtual due to COVID-19. The event takes place every 18 months.

In addition to the Alaska Food Policy Council, this event is co-sponsored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program.

The four focus areas of this year’s conference are: Policy and Education, Production and Harvest, Culture and Community, and Business and Industry.

The goals of the conference and festival are to:

  1. increase awareness of Alaska food issues among the general population;
  2. provide training, resources, and networking opportunities to increase involvement in local food issues by community members and decision makers; and
  3. increase connections and build community between the public, Alaska food businesses, NGOs, governmental entities, tribal entities, and others to support local economic development and innovative solutions.

Details for the event are still in the planning stage. But past conferences have included presentations on food systems in Alaska, food security/insecurity, traditional foods, farmers markets, agriculture in Alaska, fisheries, food policy, food waste reduction, and more. Other plans include holding an online auction, a youth track, and a pre-conference workshop with Alaska Village Initiatives.

This year’s confirmed keynote speakers and featured guests include:

  • Janie Simms Hipp, USDA general counsel
  • Eva Dawn Burke, University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development and The Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy
  • Helga Garcia-Garza, executive director of Agri-Cultura Network and La Cosecha CSA
  • Caroline Cox (director) and Tiffany Ayalik (producer), Film: “Food for the Rest of Us” (special guests)
  • Iris Sutton, Ice Wedge Art and Farm (conference artist)

Before the conference, the movie “Food for the Rest of Us” will be shown at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, using Zoom. The screening and post-screening panel discussion are free, but registration is required by going to this link, https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8huQr-GeR-W8UwCBXMhx7w.

“Food for the Rest of Us”, https://www.foodfortherestofus.org/, is a feature film that presents four stories of people living life on their own terms, serving as leaders who are lending their voice to the underdog and leading a revolution to a better world, from the ground up. An Indigenous-owned, youth-run organic farm in Hawai’i, a Black urban grower in Kansas City who runs a land-farm at East High School, a female Kosher butcher in Colorado working with the queer community, and an Inuit community on the Arctic Coast that is adapting to climate change with a community garden in a small geodesic dome. A panel discussion with the director and producer will follow the film.

In addition, the Alaska Food Hero Awards will be presented during the conference, and nominations are accepted at this link until Monday, Feb. 21, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScJaHS_okDTYOdZojViXm4gC9w7C_v1J4uIpn4D9rVk0q1CyQ/viewform. A list of past Alaska Food Hero Award winners can be found at, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/akfoodheroes.

People and organizations interested in presenting about Alaska food topics can submit presentation abstracts by Monday, Feb. 14, to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeompK0G3jpNNFOeL1NOduc8QKG9tFPzNGaIAf0-VA9X6CVRQ/viewform. Information about previous conferences and their agendas can be found in the left column of this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

If you’re interested in sponsoring the event, you can go to this link for more details about our sponsorship tiers, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-conference-sponsors.  

Registration costs $40-$150, depending on the package, and you can register at this link, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2022-alaska-food-festival-conference-tickets-232976558157. Early bird registration and pricing ends on Monday, Jan. 31. You also can purchase an Alaska Food Policy Council membership at that link. Thanks to the generosity of the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a limited number of registration fee scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can apply at https://forms.gle/CPffkjzz3UuFWD7Y8.

A conference agenda will be available in late February. More details about the conference are available at this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

For more information about the conference, contact Robbi Mixon at (907) 235-4068, Ext. 23, or director@alaskafoodpolicycouncil.org.

###

The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.

The Intertribal Agriculture Council (https://www.indianag.org/) was founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of our agricultural resources for the betterment of our people. Land-based agricultural resources are vital to the economic and social welfare of many Native American and Alaskan Tribes. The harmonies of man, soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife that collectively make-up the American Indian agriculture community, influence our emotional and spiritual well-being. The IAC has, over the last three decades, become recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles on agricultural policies and programs in Indian country.

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program (https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/college-of-health/departments/school-of-allied-health/academics/dietetics-nutrition/) is a statewide education program that meets the growing needs of the dietetics and nutrition industry. This nationally accredited program trains entry-level, registered dietitian nutritionists, and community nutrition and nutrition science professionals throughout Alaska. Using an array of online and campus-based courses, the UAA Dietetics and nutrition program offers a minor in Nutrition, a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and a Master of Science in Dietetics.

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market on Aug. 7

National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 1-7 this year, so stop by the Sitka Farmers Market to join the celebration. The Sitka Farmers Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, at the plaza outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. This is the 14th season of Sitka Farmers Markets.

The annual National Farmers Market Week celebration is the first full week of August, when growing season is peaking around the country.

The number of farmers markets in the country has more than tripled since 1996, growing from 2,410 markets in 1996 to 8,675 in 2016. There has been similar growth in Alaska, and now markets can be found in many Bush communities from Bethel to Thorne Bay. This growth has improved Alaska’s food security while also serving as an incubator for new businesses.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition, farmers markets …

  • Preserve America’s rural livelihoods and farmland. Farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for beginning farmers, allowing them to start small, test the market, and grow their businesses.
  • Stimulate local economies. Growers selling locally create 13 full-time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those growers that do not sell locally create three jobs.
  • Increase access to fresh, nutritious food. Several  studies have found lower prices for conventional and organic produce at farmers markets than at supermarkets. Due to this and other factors, 52 percent more SNAP households shop at farmers markets and from direct marketing farmers today than in 2011. The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP and WIC benefits, and we have a matching program for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries.
  • Support healthy communities. Farmers market vendors educate their shoppers. Four out of five farmers selling at markets discuss farming practices with their customers, and three in five discuss nutrition and how to prepare food.
  • Promote sustainability. Three out of every four farmers selling at farmers markets say they use practices consistent with organic standards.

Eating Alaska by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein to be shown online during Alaska Food Security Week

What happens when a vegetarian from New York moves to rural Alaska and marries a commercial fisherman? Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein explored this and other food security issues in her 2008 film, Eating Alaska.

Feb. 7-13, 2021, is Alaska Food Security Week and Eating Alaska will be shown in a free online screening from 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11, using Zoom. After the movie, there will be a short panel session about how Alaska’s food security has changed over the past decade with Ellen Frankenstein, and Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), Rep. George Rauscher (R-Sutton), and Rep. Mike Cronk (R-Tok).

This event is co-sponsored by the Alaska Farmland Trust, Alaska Farm Bureau and Alaska Farmers Market Association, in collaboration with the Alaska Food Coalition, the Alaska Food Policy Council, and the Food Bank of Alaska.

Eating Alaska is a serious and humorous film about connecting to where you live and eating locally. Made by a former city dweller now living on an island in Alaska and married to fisherman, deer hunter and environmental activist, it is a journey into food politics, regional food traditions, our connection to the wilderness and to what we put into our mouths.

In her quest for the “right thing” to eat, Ellen stops by a farmers market in the Lower 48 stocked with fresh local fruits and vegetables and then heads back to Alaska, climbing mountains with women hunters, fishing for wild salmon and communing with vegans. She visits a grocery store with kids to study labels and heads to the Arctic to talk with Iñupiat teens in a home economics class, making pretzels while they describe their favorite traditional foods from moose meat to whale blubber.

The postcard like scenery in Alaska may be a contrast to what most urban residents see everyday and the filmmaker may have gone into the wild, but she also finds farmed salmon, toxics getting into wild foods and the colonization of the indigenous diet.

Eating Alaska doesn’t preach or give answers, but points out dilemmas in a style that provokes discussion on questions such as:

• What is the ethical way to eat in Alaska-or anywhere?

• Is it better to shoot a deer than buy tofu that has been shipped thousands of miles?

• Where is your comfort level in taking a life for food?

This wry personal look at what’s on your plate explores ideas about eating healthy, safe and sustainable food from one’s own backyard, either urban or wild, versus industrially produced food shipped thousands of miles. Eating Alaska is also a thought-provoking resource for discussing our assumptions about gendered behavior and women’s relationship to the natural world.

Alaska Cottage Food Producers Webinar to be held on Feb. 23

Have you always wanted to start a food business, but don’t have access to a commercial kitchen? Have you wondered what the regulations are regarding basic food safety for small food businesses? The Alaska Food Code allows the sale of non-potentially hazardous foods sold directly to the consumer without a permit as long as certain conditions are met.

You can learn about the Alaska Food Code and food safety regulations at the Alaska Cottage Foods Producers Webinar from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, using Zoom. Presenters from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Municipality of Anchorage Food Safety and Sanitation programs will provide an overview of cottage food regulations and requirements and answer questions. (Cottage food businesses also are known as home-based food businesses in the regulations.)

This webinar is co-sponsored by the Alaska Food Policy Council, Alaska Farm Bureau,
and Alaska Farmers Market Association. This is good info to know for people who are thinking about entering the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, or thinking about selling local food products at the Sitka Farmers Market and Sitka Food Co-op delivery days.

You can join the webinar via Zoom using meeting ID 893 3138 2743 and passcode 278411. You also can join by phone at 1-253-215-8782.

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week this week with the Sitka Farmers Market

It’s National Farmers Market Week on Aug. 2-8 this year. You can celebrate by ordering produce from the Sitka Farmers Market and picking it up from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 8, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you will need to order your produce from 5 p.m. Tuesday through 8 p.m. Thursday using the Salt and Soil Marketplace website, and then picking it up on Saturday at St. Peter’s.

This is the 13th summer of Sitka Farmers Markets, but the pandemic is forcing us to run a very scaled back operation. To limit the handling of cash, we went to an online ordering system (Salt and Soil Marketplace) where people order all of their produce during the week and then pick it up on Saturday. Since our usual venue was still closed when we were planning, we had to switch to an outdoors venue with limited space so our main vendors are produce vendors.

The theme for this year’s National Farmers Market Week is #FarmersMarketsAreEssential. When the pandemic hit, there were worries farmers markets would be closed even though they play a vital role in local food security. This article from March 19 in Civil Eats discusses some of the struggles to keep farmers markets open and labeled as essential businesses. In Alaska, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced in April that farmers markets were considered essential businesses, but they would be limited this year to just food vendors (no arts and crafts). This announcement came during the Alaska Farmers Market Association annual meeting and conference, which was online this year.

But at least we are able to be open and sell locally grown produce this year. You can learn more about how we’re operating this year at this link. The link includes information about how we are handling WIC and SNAP benefits this year. Basically there are two main produce vendors — the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand and Middle Island Gardens — selling produce each week. There are a couple of other Salt and Soil Marketplace vendors in Sitka — Raincoast Flowers sells cut flowers and distributes them at St. Peter’s most weeks, Anam Cara Family Garden sells jams and jellies and distributes them from their home, and Spinning Moon Apothecary sells teas and herbal tinctures and distributes them from their storefront.

“We really miss having the full market and the community connections it provides, but we’re just happy to be able to be able to get locally grown produce into the hands of Sitka residents,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “The Sitka Farmers Market is more than a market for local produce, and we usually have local seafood, cottage foods products, baked goods, arts and crafts, and more. It’s been a place to incubate small food businesses. The Sitka Local Foods Network mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvest food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, and so we have to go back to supporting the food part of our mission this year. Hopefully we’ll be back to a normal market again next summer.”

By moving our market outside this year, we’re hoping to reduce the risk of spreading the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. All of our volunteers are wearing masks and gloves, and we ask that customers please wear masks or stay in their cars if you are not wearing a mask. Our greeters will bring your order to you, so you can put it into your own box or tote bags (please return out baskets).

For more information, contact sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com or sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com, or call our Sitka Farmers Market phone at 738-7310. You also can sign up for our weekly Sitka Farmers Market newsletter that comes out on Tuesday afternoons with info about what produce is available by clicking on the Sitka Farmers Market logo in the right column of the Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

Registration open for Alaska Food Festival and Conference on March 8-9 in Homer

Registration is open for the 2019 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, March 8-9, at Land’s End Resort in Homer.

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), this semi-annual event previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016 and in Fairbanks in 2017. This year, the Alaska Farmers Market Association is co-hosting the conference.

“This event is an amazing opportunity to meet enthusiastic folks from all parts of the Alaska food system to share ideas and dreams from educators to farmers, distillers to oyster growers, and communities from Tyonek to Port Lions to Kotzebue,” said Lorinda Lhotka, a governing board member of the Alaska Food Policy Council and one of the conference organizers. “There is truly something for everyone and when you leave this conference you will be motivated to take action to improve your local food system.”

Conference topics will cover Alaska’s vast and diverse food system. This year’s keynote speakers are Ben Feldman, policy director and interim executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition, and Courtney Long, program coordinator for the Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Service and Outreach/Local Foods Program.

Sessions will include presentations on farmers market issues, food security, policy, production, harvesting, business, education, community, tradition, sovereignty, fermenting, subsistence, growing, and more. Chef demonstrations, hands-on activities, vendor booths, and a Friday night social round out the event.

In conjunction with the Alaska Food Festival and Conference, two other events will take place in Homer during this week. There will be a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training on Thursday, March 7, to teach commercial food growers how to meet the requirements of the new Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. On Sunday, March 10, the Alaska Farmers Market Association will host its annual meeting and planning session.

“The first ever Alaska Farmers Market Association conference in 2017 brought together market organizers from around the state,” said Robbi Mixon, a governing board member of the Alaska Food Policy Council and coordinator of the Alaska Farmers Market Association. “We shared information and ideas, gained knowledge on running successful markets, and most importantly built a statewide community of market managers who support each other. We’ve joined forces with the Alaska Food Policy Council for our next edition, further broadening the experience and connections for Alaska’s farmers, markets, eaters, businesses, non‐profits, academics … really anyone with an interest in building a stronger food system.”

To learn more about this event, go to the conference website at http://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2019-conference. The website has links to draft agendas and information about registration, event sponsorship, being a vendor, being a volunteer, and how to nominate someone for the Alaska Food Heroes Award. There are a limited number of travel scholarships.

We have arranged a 7 percent travel discount with RAVN Alaska, and people should use the code “AKFOODPOLICY” when booking their airfare. We also have a conference rate of 10-15 percent off regular winter rates at Land’s End Resort for people booking their rooms before March 1 and using the code “FARMERS2019.”

For more information about the conference, contact Robbi Mixon at (907) 235-4068, Ext. 23, or robbi@inletkeeper.org.

  • The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.
  • The Alaska Farmers Market Association (http://www.alaskafarmersmarkets.org/) is a nonprofit whose mission is to support and promote vibrant and sustainable farmers markets throughout Alaska. AFMA is excited about this opportunity to gather state farmers market organizers and food system leaders together. Market organizers — look for sessions with a focus on farmers markets.

USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program awards two major grants to Alaska food projects

Two Alaska food projects were among 52 nationally to share in $13.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program announced this past weekThe competitive grants work to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced foods, and to develop new market opportunities for food production operations serving local markets.

Homer-based Cook Inletkeeper was awarded $403,334 to relaunch the Alaska Farmers Market Association and provide a support network for farmers and market managers. Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) won $91,141 to promote the benefits of flash-frozen seafood and marketing for rural seafood producers.

ALFA will provide support for consumer education on the environmental and quality benefits of purchasing frozen seafood, as well as to expand markets for and access to locally-caught seafood. ALFA has been working to study and change American attitudes towards frozen seafood since the 2009 launch of its Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program, Alaskans Own. Alaskans Own provides high quality, frozen seafood to customers in Alaska and the Lower 48.

“Many Alaskans are used to putting up seafood for the winter in their own freezers, and understand the high quality of carefully handled flash-frozen fish,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA.“However, many Americans hold onto the stereotype that fresh is always better than frozen when it comes to seafood. We have been working to show consumers why choosing frozen can be a better choice for quality — and for the environment.”

According to Ecotrust, a conservation organization based in Portland, “23 percent of seafood at supermarkets never makes it the dinner plate and goes to waste.” Frozen seafood often has increased quality and freshness, can reduce waste, and has a lower carbon footprint.

ALFA and community-based fishing partners at Port Orford Seafood and Real Good Fish worked with Ecotrust, Oregon State University, Seafood Analytics, and the Oregon Food Innovation Lab to compare consumer reactions to seafood in a blind taste test. The study allowed consumers to compare “frozen” and “fresh” seafood. The study utilized a new device, created by Seafood Analytics, that uses an electric current to measures freshness.

The results, according to Ecotrust, were telling; “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR (Certified Quality Reader).”

With these results in hand and support from USDA, ALFA will create a multi-media toolkit to help seafood producers, processors, and sellers share information on the advantages of flash frozen seafood, helping to establish or diversify their businesses. It will also provide training to producers and fishermen on using the CQR tool to develop quality assurance programs. ALFA will also work with partners at the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust launch a market-place portal where users can find and purchase local seafood and other sustainably-sourced goods.

The other Alaska grant, to Cook Inletkeeper, will help relaunch the Alaska Farmers Market Association, which was dormant for several years until this spring. The Sitka Local Foods Network submitted a letter of support for this grant proposal, which will provide some support to the Sitka Farmers Market.

“It’s an amazing step forward for local food programs in Alaska,” said Robbi Mixon, Local Foods Director at Cook Inletkeeper and Director of the Homer Farmers Market. “These new funds will be focused on market and producer sustainability, helping markets throughout the state assist participating producers, as well as the markets’ outreach to consumers.”

The project will recreate the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a statewide collaboration, with a targeting pilot effort across the Kenai Peninsula, will identify farmers’ market producer needs and provide specific trainings and support for those networks. The Alaska Farmers Market Association will also provide funding for market manager and farmer trainings, annual statewide conferences, and shared marketing, while collecting baseline data on a number of market metrics.

“Increasing food security and reducing food miles are vitally important to the sustained well-being of our communities around the state,” Mixon said. Mixon also manages the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage Food Hub, a program of Cook Inletkeeper that provides an online market for 100 percent local foods and crafts. Mixon said, “95 percent of Alaska’s food is currently imported. Purchasing local food supports farms, increases our region’s food security, protects the environment, creates jobs and boosts the local economy.”

Since its creation in 2002, FMPP funding has assisted local producers to grow their businesses by helping them connect directly with the shoppers at farmers markets, roadside stands and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. During that time, the number of farmers markets in America has more than doubled from 3,137 to over 8,684 today. FMPP grantees report an average 27 percent increase in vendor sales since receiving their grant, and 94 percent report an increase in first-time market customers.

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host six Sitka Farmers Markets in 2012

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its fifth summer of Sitka Farmers Markets with six markets that start on July 7 and take place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 15. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, 21, Aug. 4, 18, Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally made jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is like a carnival every other Saturday,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Kerry MacLane said. “It’s a fun community space to enjoy with your family or to meet your friends for fresh coffee and baked goods. There is live music, cooking demonstrations, art, and, of course, fresh veggies, fruit and seafood.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. This event is sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, Sitka Conservation Society, the Alaska Farmers Market Association and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

“Thanks to our creative and enthusiastic vendors, the Sitka Farmers Market will be celebrating its fifth successful year.” said Johanna Willingham, Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member and Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator. “We have delighted in watching our market grow over the years and due to popular demand we are beginning our market two weeks earlier this year. Outdoor vendors and musicians will still be able to enjoy the newly paved parking lot with landscaping, thanks to BIHA. A tent will be set up for outdoor dining where you can listen to live music and enjoy some great food. Some new items will be added to some familiar vendors’ tables — dried sea veggies, sea asparagus and sea salt. Look forward to fresh snap and snow peas for snacking, ready-to-eat salads, handmade tamales and, as always, fresh black cod tips.”

Vendor fees are $20 for a 6-foot table, $30 for an 8-foot table and $15 for a 4-foot table. Vendors with their own tents pay $2 per foot. As always, we offer cost incentives for vendors growing locally produced food. The fees will help us cover the costs of renting ANB Hall and its kitchen, hiring musicians and other expenses. To learn more about being a vendor or to sign up for a table, contact Sitka Farmers Market Coordinator Johanna Willingham at 738-8336 or by e-mail johanna.willingham@gmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other information for potential vendors can be found at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.