Alaska Legislature removes barriers for community seed sharing

The seed library at the John Trigg Ester Library, just outside Fairbanks.

Gardeners and community members can now participate in local seed exchanges and opportunities for seed sharing without onerous regulations on the books.  House Bill 197, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Johnston (R-Anchorage, Girdwood, Indian) passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday (April 18), after receiving bipartisan support last week in the House.

Over the last several years, community seeds libraries, such as the one at the John Trigg Ester Library just outside Fairbanks, have been springing up organically around the state, offering opportunities for gardeners to share seeds and stories of growing great Alaskan plants. To encourage these libraries to flourish and allow more Alaskans to participate in this time-honored tradition, House Bill 197 removes regulatory barriers for community seed saving and sharing.

“I was intrigued when this idea was brought to me by community members” Rep. Johnston said. “It didn’t make sense that such homegrown, community-centric activity would be regulated in the same way as commercial operations.”

The labeling requirements for noncommercial seed sharing will now be the seeds’ common name, information on the seed library, and a label denoting any toxic treatment of the seeds. Additionally, the seed library must display the statement, “Not authorized for commercial use and not classified, graded, or inspected by the State of Alaska.” Currently there are more than two pages of requirements for seeds that are shared within the state.

“Improving community unity, access to healthy produce and decreasing food insecurity have brought the Legislature together, and I’m pleased to see the bill get so much support,” Rep. Johnston said.

House Bill 197 now heads to Gov. Bill Walker for his signature.

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Registration open now for Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit on Feb. 24-26 in Haines

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Share lessons learned and techniques for overcoming challenges of commercially growing food in Southeast Alaska; learn specific skills, technology, and research that contribute to commercial farming success and efficiency; connect with new and experienced farmers to build an inspiring network.

Early bird registration is now open for the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit 2017, the second biennial summit designed to bring together experienced and aspiring commercial growers and support agencies. The summit will be held Friday through Sunday, Feb. 24-26, at the Chilkat Center in Haines. A discounted registration rate is available to attendees who register on or before Friday, Jan. 20. Travel and registration scholarships are available.

The conference will feature presentations from experienced commercial growers and support agencies, and topical discussions and panels to share resources and lessons learned. Speakers include Doug Collins, Extension Faculty and Soil Scientist with Washington State University’s Small Farms Program; Megan Talley, Farm Manager and Educator at Alaska Pacific University; and experienced farmers from Southeast Alaska; among others.

“This will be an opportunity for commercial growers of Southeast Alaska to learn from each other, find opportunities to collaborate, and build a network that can leverage everyone’s efforts,” said Lia Heifetz, Local Food Director for Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition. “Many resources will be shared over the course of the weekend – from financial planning for small farms to innovative solutions for soil building, policy implications for agriculture, and much more.”

Other topics to be addressed at the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit include:

  • On Farm Food Safety
  • Building your Farm Community
  • Planning for a CSA
  • The Future of Seed Saving in Alaska
  • High Tunnel Applications and Innovations
  • Electric and Walk-in Cold Storage for your Farm
  • Biomass Heated Greenhouses and Aquaponics
  • Per Foot Crop Values for Market Sales
  • Using Local Amendments to Improve Soil Quality
  • Fruit Trees and Grafting Techniques
  • Policy and Initiatives
  • Building a Future of Farming with Internships and Education
  • Business Planning and Farm Finances

For more information and to register for the conference, please visit this website, http://www.alaskawatershedcoalition.org/safs2017/, or contact Lia Heifetz at lia@growsoutheast.com.