Alaskans will celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day on Tuesday, May 7. On this day, Alaskans are encouraged to support local agriculture by seeking out and purchasing products produced in Alaska and educating youth about the vital role that agriculture plays in our economy. This is Alaska’s version of National Ag Day (which took place on March 14 this year, when many parts of Alaska were still thawing out). The 2019 Alaska Ag Day theme is Farm Animal Fun. Don’t forget Monday, May 6, is the third annual Drive Your Tractor To Work Day in Alaska.
Here are a few ideas from the Division of Agriculture on how to celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day:
- Join the 58,201 people who “like” the Alaska Grown Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dnr.alaskagrown and learn about the exciting things Alaskans are producing around the state.
- Contact your local agriculture groups/chapters (such as Future Farmers of America, the Alaska Farm Bureau, Agriculture in the Classroom, etc.) to see if they are hosting an event in your area.
- Sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at a local farm.
- Buy and incorporate Alaska Grown products into your meals. The Alaska Grown program has a new Buy Alaska Grown website (with cellphone apps) where it is registering Alaska farmers so they can list their items on the web. In Southeast Alaska, a new food hub called the Salt and Soil Marketplace just launched a similar website where Southeast food producers (including fishermen) can list their products.
- If you are a farmer, consider asking a local school if you can visit a classroom to educate children about your operation and Alaska agriculture. The Alaska Division of Agriculture provided this lesson plan for how to make carrot seed tape.
- Cook some Alaska Grown food using these recipes.
- Visit and thank a local farmer in person. To find a farm near you, check the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book (the most recent update) at http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/sourcebook/sourcebookindex2016.html. The new Buy Alaska Grown site still uses the info from the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Sourcebook.
In Sitka, you can celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day by starting a food garden (even a couple of containers on your deck can provide you with potatoes, carrots or greens). Teachers are encouraged to offer a lesson plan or two about the importance of agriculture in Alaska and in Sitka. Here’s a link to an article about how Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Also, the Sitka History Minute feature on KCAW-Raven Radio has had several episodes about agriculture in Sitka (click here to listen to a feature about the potato in Sitka, click here to listen to a feature about the Sitka Agricultural Station, and click here to listen to a feature about the cows of Iris Meadows).
During the growing season, please support the Sitka farmers and production gardeners listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book (chief contact in parentheses, the Buy Alaska Grown website is still using this information even though it is somewhat dated) — Anam Cara Family Garden (Lisa Sadleir-Hart), Blatchley Community Gardens (David Nuetzel, this garden closed in 2016 and there is a group seeking a new location for what will be called Sitka Community Gardens, but its 2019 status is unknown), Down To Earth U-Pick Garden (Lori Adams, switched to a CSA in 2017 and no longer is a public u-pick garden), Finn Island Farm (Keith Nyitray, this farm closed), Sprucecot Gardens (Judy Johnstone, this may be closed), and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (Laura Schmidt/Sitka Local Foods Network). There also are a few Sitka farms and production gardens not listed in the 2016-17 Alaska Grown Source Book, such as Beyond Leafy LLC (Jimmy and Leslie Kranz, this hydroponic basil growing operation may be closed in 2019), Middle Island Gardens (Andrea Fraga/Kaleb Aldred), and Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Garden (Florence Welsh).
Many of these farms and gardens will be vendors during the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 6, July 27, Aug. 10, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept 21 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). We are in the process of scheduling a Sitka Farmers Market vendors meeting or two where rules and responsibilities will be discussed.