• Newly published Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook helps you turn your produce into a delicious meal

Are you looking for ideas on how to turn your farmers market produce into a delicious meal? Heidi Rader of Fairbanks recently published the Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook, which should provide you with lots of inspiration to cook “simply good food full of Alaska Grown ingredients.”

According to Heidi’s website, “The Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook is an unpretentious cookbook featuring Alaska Grown ingredients. It’s the only cookbook you’ll need to turn your basket of Alaska Farmers Market produce into a delicious meal. Organized by season, you’ll find recipes that make use of local, Alaskan ingredients in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. Many of the recipes were developed using produce from the Little Alaskan Garden. This full-color cookbook features many photographs taken by Heidi Rader. Recipes like Rhubarb Pie with Saffron and Mayan Zucchini Brownies will make you forget all about peach pie or banana bread.”

The book can be purchased off Heidi’s website by going to the book’s page clicking the “Buy Now” link, which takes you to a PayPal page. Heidi is charging $19.95, plus $6.99 shipping and handling ($26.94 total). Alaska farmers market groups interested in selling the book should contact Heidi to discuss possible bulk-purchase discounts. The cookbook is supported in part by the Alaska Division of Agriculture‘s Alaska Grown ProgramFairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Heidi is a lifelong Alaskan who earned a master’s degree in natural resources (with an agriculture focus) from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Colorado. In addition to her Little Alaska Garden farm, Heidi also serves as the tribes extension educator for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and Tanana Chiefs Conference, and she provides agriculture education to remote communities around the state. To learn more about Heidi and her work, check out this recent feature from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

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• Fast Food Nation author encourages Alaskans to grow their own local food

Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, second from left, visits with University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences associate professor Joshua Greenberg, left, student Charles Caster, third from left, and professor Milan Shipka, right, during a May 27 visit to speak at UAF. (Photo courtesy of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences blog)

Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, second from left, visits with University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences associate professor Joshua Greenberg, left, student Charles Caster, third from left, and professor Milan Shipka, right, during a May 27 visit to speak at UAF. (Photo courtesy of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences blog)

Eric Schlosser, the author of “Fast Food Nation” and “Chew On This,” encouraged Alaskans to grow their own local foods during a May 27 lunch of Alaska-grown food with University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences (SNRAS) students, faculty and staff involved with food security and food production.

Schlosser, who also co-produced the films “Food, Inc.” and “There Will Be Blood,” was in Fairbanks to give a lecture that night as part of UAF’s Summer Sessions. Stories about his lecture can be found on the SNRAS blog and in the UAF Sun Star student newspaper, and a preview story was in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

During his free lecture, Schlosser discussed the recent changes to how our food is grown and prepared, and about how we are losing contact with how our food gets to our plates. He focused on many of the industrial agriculture themes highlighted in his more popular book, “Fast Food Nation,” and some of the resulting problems, such as the low wages and vulnerable workforce in fast food production and the use of hormones in feedlot cattle and issues with antibiotics given feedlot animals.

He also delved into some of the resulting health issues from eating too much fast food, a topic he discussed in his book “Chew On This,” which was written for older children. (Editor’s note: “Chew On This” has a section about the Stop The Pop movement by schools in rural Alaska to eliminate soda pop from their school vending machines.) According to the SNRAS blog, Schlosser discussed the connections between our highly processed, industrial food and diseases such as diabetes.

The people most at risk are children and the elderly. Fast food, which is high in fat, sugar, starch, and salt, compromises the health of these vulnerable citizens. “These are ideal foods to make you unhealthy,” Schlosser said. “And they sell tons of soda because it is the most profitable thing they sell.”

While people in the US used to be some of the most fit people now they are terribly unfit. The obesity rate has nearly doubled for toddlers and tripled for children ages 6 to 11. “Alaska has one of the highest obesity rates in the US,” Schlosser said. “Alaska has more in common with Alabama and Mississippi than western states when it comes to obesity.”

Diabetes is another concern, with one in three children born in 2000 destined to develop diabetes. Among poor people the number is one in two.

“What is to be done?” Schlosser asked. “That all sounds really grim but an entirely different system is possible and necessary.” He stressed organic foods, buying local food, and reconnecting people with where food comes from. He said he is encouraged by the interest in sustainability found on college campuses.

“The fast food system exploits the weak and the poor and threatens our entire democratic system,” he said. “We need an agricultural system based on social policies and access to healthy, nutritional food for every member of society.”

Schlosser also noted how dependent Alaska has become on imported food, and how that impacts food security.

“Hey, you guys in Alaska gotta grow your own. You need to remember where food comes from. Alaska is the most food insecure state; that is not good.” He said Alaska has 15 million acres suitable for agriculture, yet only 30,000 acres are cultivated. (See addendum below.) “Rhode Island has twice as many farms as you and their value of agricultural products is twice as big. Now come on, you guys need to grow food in your back yards, have school gardens, and buy food grown in this state.”

(Addendum — From SNRAS Dean and AFES Director Carol Lewis, June 1, 2010: The 15 million acres is a wonderful quote, but if you look at Roeger (1958), you’ll see the rest of the story. Only 500,000 are accessible by road or rail. There are opportunities to use non-agricultural lands if we use controlled environments and composting, however. There are more than 30,000 acres actually cleared and in Delta alone there are about 100,000 acres.)

• Sitka gardeners extend growing seasons with government pilot study on high tunnels

Several Sitka gardeners will be extending their growing seasons this year thanks to a government soil conservation program designed to study the effectiveness of “high tunnels” or “hoop houses” when it comes to growing more local food in a conservation-minded way. To qualify you need to have grown $1,000 worth of produce for two of the past five years, even if just for your family and friends.

The Sitka participants will be constructing the greenhouse-like structures this year, which will enable them to grow more local food. For participating in the study, the government will reimburse them for the cost of the materials. This project is part of a nationwide effort to improve our community food security called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.” As part of the project, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct a three-year, 38-state study on high tunnels to see if they help reduce pesticide use, extend the growing season, keep vital nutrients in the soil, etc. This YouTube video has more information about the pilot study and shows several smaller family garden-sized high tunnels being placed in the White House garden.

“There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of healthy, locally-grown crops — a win for producers and consumers,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. “This pilot project is going to give us real-world information that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add high tunnels to their operations. We know that these fixtures can help producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom line.”

If you meet the requirement, feel free to participate by contacting our local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agent for Southeast Alaska, Samia Savell in Juneau at 586-7220, or go to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/. NRCS will fund one high tunnel per qualifying farm, and a high tunnel can cover as much as 5 percent of one acre.

High tunnels have been used successfully in Alaska, including up in Fairbanks where temperatures drop to minus-50. Last September, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences reported on a two-year project where 39 varieties of apples had been grown in high tunnels at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service also reported on the project (with short videos), and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner also reported on the story.

• Wanton waste of deer meat, a record high herring quota and other local foods stories in the news

Over the past couple of weeks, at least 10 Sitka black tail deer corpses have been found in Sitka with lots of edible meat still on the bone but the prime cuts missing. According to the Anchorage Daily News, state wildlife officials are searching for the hunters, and wanton waste charges may be coming for those involved. There were six deer found off Green Lake Road, then four deer were found near Harbor Mountain Road five days later.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages the responsible and sustainable harvesting of traditional subsistence foods, such as deer, but we must respect the resource and use the entire animal. Not only is leaving edible meat in the field wasteful, but the last couple of years have been down years for deer survival and the actions of these wasteful hunters may mean fewer hunting opportunities next year for hunters who need the deer to feed their families. Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 747-3254 or, to remain anonymous, Wildlife Safeguard at 1-800-478-3377.

In other local foods news, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game established a record sac roe herring quota for the 2010 season, a quota of more than 18,000 tons (more than 4,000 tons higher than last year’s then-record quota). The commercial herring fleet is very happy with the higher quota, but KCAW-Raven Radio reports local subsistence gatherers worry that the record quota will harm their ability to gather herring eggs on hemlock branches, a popular subsistence and barter food for local Tlingít and Haida residents. They also worry two straight years of record quotas will hurt the resource, since herring also serves as a key forage food for salmon, halibut, whales, sea lions and other species in the region.

The Juneau Empire reported that the State of Alaska asked for an extension to reply to an inquiry on subsistence management from the federal government. The federal government took over some management of subsistence in Alaska more than a decade ago because state laws weren’t in compliance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which calls for a rural preference on subsistence in times of shortage, and the federal government may be expanding its role in subsistence management.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Alaska pork being ready for the freezer at A.D. Farms, and that pork will be sold at the indoor farmers market at Anchorage’s Northway Mall. The story included a wrap-up of other local foods available at the market, and it had a recipe for crock-pot cod.

Laine Welch’s Alaska fishing column was about how more local fish is appearing in school lunch menus.

The Anchorage Daily News Alaska Newsreader feature reported on several Arctic travelers getting trichinosis from eating undercooked bear meat. The National Post of Canada also had a story on travelers eating undercooked bear meat, while the New York Times had an article about how trichinosis is common in bear meat that isn’t cooked properly.

The Anchorage Daily News had an article about how Alaska’s rhubarb probably first came from Russia.

Miller-McCune magazine had an article about how Alaska’s complex salmon politics can serve as a model for sustainable fisheries elsewhere in the world.

The Alaska Public Radio Network reported on a woman from Aniak, Dee Matter, who has taken freezing her food to a new level. The story also was on APRN’s Alaska News Nightly show.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had a feature article about Kotzebue hunter and trapper Ross Schafer and the “Eskimo” way of life.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had an article about a conflict between farmers and hunters over the future of the Delta bison herd.

The Juneau Empire ran a story about glaciers providing an important food source.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels wrote about magazine gifts for gardeners.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an Associated Press article about Monsanto’s role in the business of agriculture, especially the way it squeezes out competitors in the seed industry.

Finally, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences blog featured an article about a new study about food security challenges in Alaska.

• Food security in Alaska a big issue in recent local foods news stories

Last week, the Anchorage Daily News’ Alaska Newsreader blog reported on a story from the Huffington Post’s The Daily Beast blog that ranked Alaska second in failing to properly feed its people. The story used data from a new USDA survey on household food security in 2008, where Alaska was ranked in the middle of the pack, but it re-ranked the states based on the household food security rankings combined with statewide income and access to programs (including bureaucratic issues) that feed the hungry. By the way, Colorado had the dubious No. 1 ranking. The Juneau Empire ran an editorial from the Washington Post about the USDA survey that compared food insecurity vs. hunger.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Science blog reported on a food security meeting in Fairbanks earlier this month hosted by the Sustainable Community Action Network for Fairbanks (SCANFairbanks, site hasn’t been updated in more than a year). The UAF SNRAS blog article mentioned food security projects from around the state, including work being done by the Sitka Local Foods Network. The Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market blog also had an article about the meeting.

The food security issue has been around for awhile. Earlier this year, the Alaska Food Coalition reported on Alaska’s Hungriest Communities. More than a year ago, back when Sarah Palin still was governor, Kim Sollien of the Alaska Trust Food Network (and Chickaloon Tribe) wrote an open letter to then-Gov. Palin detailing Alaska’s food security problems. While the letter is more than a year old, many of the issues still exist. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor ran an article about Alaska’s food challenges and how new farmers are coming online.

In other local foods news this week, the Tundra Drums reported that a teacher from the Kuskokwim River village of Quinhagak is receiving a $10,000 grant from former talk show host Jenny Jones’ foundation to build a community greenhouse.

Laine Welch’s Alaska Fisheries column this week discussed how more halibut this year was consumed in homes instead of restaurants.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported on a problem moose hunters in the Interior have been having with Tanana Valley Meats being overloaded so it’s taking too long to process the meat, processed meat returns have been light and some meat has been rancid.

Finally, the Alaska Dispatch reported on a KTVA-TV story about Permafrost Alaska Vodka, which is made by Glacier Creek Distillery and uses potatoes grown in the Mat-Su valleys, earning a top ranking from the Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago.

• Local foods a topic of several Alaska news stories over the past week or so

This has been an interesting couple of weeks, with food security being discussed at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, subsistence rights and responsibilities in the news and other stories highlighting the local foods market in Alaska.

The Alaska Public Radio Network ran a story about food security being a hot topic at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. One element of the discussion was a report from former state Sen. Kim Elton, now is the Interior Department’s senior advisor for Alaska Affairs, who said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar plans to upgrade subsistence management for the coming decades.

The Alaska Public Radio Network also ran a story (from KRBD-FM in Ketchikan) about an invasive plant species conference in Ketchikan and how to prevent the spread of noxious and invasive plants in Alaska.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner ran an article about how food grown in gardens on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus is finding its way onto the plates of UAF students at the Lola Tilly Commons.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce had an article about how wild plant seeds from Alaska are being stored at the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank (aka the Royal Botanical Gardens) southwest of London.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce also had an article about Anchorage chef Robert Kineen of Orso Ristorante and how he is incorporating more local foods into his menus.

This week’s issue of the Alaska Journal of Commerce also has several articles about various fisheries, from whitefish to salmon to crab. Included in the issue is an article about how wild-caught Alaska salmon and Pacific cod made the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s recent listing of “super green” seafoods because of their health benefits, the sustainable ways the fish are harvested and lack of contamination. Here is a link to the full list from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Consumer’s Guide to Sustainable Seafood.

Former Anchorage Daily News Outdoors Editor Craig Medred, who now writes for the Alaska Dispatch Web site, wrote this column about how some hunters have lost their connection to the culture of hunting.

The Alaska Dispatch also had an article about tough times at the Triple D Farm and Hatchery in Palmer. The turkey farm was made infamous during a KTUU-TV interview of then-Gov. Sarah Palin video last year, when she was pardoning a turkey as a worker in the background was butchering other turkeys (a link to the video is with the story).

The Anchorage Daily News also ran an obituary for Lawrence Clark, 94, aka “The Apple Man,” who was one of the leading apple tree growers in the Anchorage area and a member of the Alaska Pioneer’s Fruit Growers Association. Clark also was able to grow apricots on his land in the Rabbit Creek area south of Anchorage.

The Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market blog posted this essay about sustainable agriculture in Alaska from Mike Emers, the owner of Rosie Creek Farm in the Fairbanks bedroom community of Ester (Rosie Creek Farm is the northernmost certified organic farm in the country). Emers writes about how he wouldn’t have imagined his life’s direction 10-20 years ago, and how becoming a farmer is such a departure for someone who comes from a long line of Jewish tailors. By the way, while you’re done reading Emers’ essay, check out the rest of the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market site. This is a project to build a market specializing in local foods for the Fairbanks area.

Finally, here is an article from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service about whether or not there are regions in the country that have lost their ability to feed themselves. The article focuses on a county-by-county study in the northeast part of the U.S. about what local foods currently are available, but it sounds like similar studies are taking place across the country.

• Sitka Local Foods Network gets mentions in Juneau Empire, Daily Sitka Sentinel, Capital City Weekly and on APRN’s Talk of Alaska show

The Sunday edition of the Juneau Empire and Monday edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel (Page 4) both featured a press release about a Sitka Local Foods Network-hosted presentation about “Growing in Sitka and Southeast Alaska: The Food of Today, Tomorrow and 200 Years Ago” that takes place at 5 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 16, at the Kettleson Memorial Library. The presentation is by UAS anthropology student Elizabeth Kunibe of Juneau, who has spent the last six years researching traditional gardens in Southeast Alaska. The presentation also received a write-up in this week’s issue of Capital City Weekly that came out on Wednesday.

Monday’s issue of the Daily Sitka Sentinel also featured a press release about a put-the-garden-to-bed work party the Sitka Local Foods network is hosting from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

On Tuesday, the Alaska Public Radio Network’s statewide call-in show “Talk of Alaska” was about food security and during the show the work of the Sitka Local Foods Network was mentioned. The Talk of Alaska topic on food security was a preview of the Bioneers In Alaska conference this weekend (Oct. 16-18) in Anchorage where food security will be one of the topics. Kerry MacLane, president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, is supposed to travel to Anchorage to participate in the conference.

In addition to the Sitka Local Foods Network mentions, there has been a lot of other local foods news around Alaska this week.

In Sunday’s Juneau Empire, Ginny Mahar (a chef at Rainbow Foods) wrote a column featuring a mac and cheese recipe with king crab. Ginny also writes the Food-G blog, which features a lot of local foods recipes for Southeast Alaska.

Also in Sunday’s Juneau Empire was an article about the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp meeting in Juneau and discussion about subsistence fishing rights following the recent arrest of Sen. Albert Kookesh.

In this week’s Capital City Weekly, there is an article from Carla Peterson about the chocolate lily and how to prepare this edible plant for food.

In the Alaska Newsreader blog Wednesday on the Anchorage Daily News Web site was a link to a feature from TheDailyGreen.com, which listed Anchorage ninth among U.S. cities in per capita space given to community gardens. The list (opens as PDF document) was compiled by the Trust for Public Land, and it had a distinct Northwest feel with Seattle ranked No. 1 and Portland, Ore., was No. 2. Click here to learn more about Anchorage’s community gardens program.

In his Anchorage Daily News garden column last week, Jeff Lowenfels wrote about planting garlic now for spring flowers and an August crop.

The Mat-Su Frontiersman recently ran an article about a sustainability project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Mat-Su College where students were gathering organic spuds.

Finally, while this isn’t about Alaska, you might want to read an article about efforts to preserve our biodiversity so we don’t lose more food plant varieties and why these efforts are important.