In the News: District’s Farm to Food Bank Project

by Victoria Petersen, Peninsula Clarion, Friday, September 14, 2018

Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District are expanding their catalog of affordable agricultural rental equipment through a charitable project that benefits both farmers and the community.

Three pieces of equipment, which includes a potato digger, a potato washer and a potato planter, were purchased with the assistance of grants from the Kenai Peninsula Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation and Western SARE. The equipment can be rented to small-scale farmers for $25 day, plus a donation of 25 pounds of potatoes to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. It’s a small price to pay for equipment that could cost a single farmer thousands.

Full story: http://peninsulaclarion.com/news/2018-09-13/farm-food-bank-equipment-rental-leads-community-benefit/

2018 Weed-Free Inspections Offered

Aside

Alaska’s Certified Weed-Free Gravel Program is a voluntary inspection program administered by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources/Plant Materials Center and carried out on the Kenai Peninsula by the Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District.  The purpose of the program is to increase the availability of weed-free products to land managers working in sensitive areas to prevent the spread of invasive weeds and protect fish and wildlife habitat.

The demand for certified weed-free gravel is growing.  The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge began requiring certified weed-free gravel for all construction projects within Refuge boundaries in late 2013.  The US Forest Service, US Department of Transportation and BLM have also started to include weed-free provisions in their contracts.  We expect demand to continue to expand as a result of large-scale highway projects slated for the Kenai Peninsula.

Getting certified is probably easier than you think.  The first thing to know is that not all weeds are on the invasive list.  The second is that even when invasive weeds are found, it is possible to treat them to meet certification requirements.  Keep in mind that gravel has to be inspected before being moved.  Certificates are good for 1 – 6 months depending on time of year and site conditions.

Certification is affordable.  The annual fee of $500 includes three to four inspections and expert guidance on weed prevention and effective control measures at one site up to 5 acres.  Partial-year certification is also available for short-term projects.

Be ready to bid on projects requiring certified weed-free gravel by requesting inspection early.  Inspections are scheduled on a first-come-first-serve basis.

For an inspection request form and fee schedule or request information about our Certified Weed-Free Forage program, email kenaiswcd@gmail.com, or call 283-8732 x 5. To learn more about what weeds are a problem and why, visit www.kenaiweeds.org.

 

In the News: Weed-Free Gravel Certification

Kenai Soil & Water is helping contain the spread of invasive plants through its gravel certification program in partnership with Alaska Division of Agriculture and the Alaska Plant Materials Center.

Participants in Certified Weed-Free Inspector Training conduct a mock inspection at a Soldotna gravel pit in May, 2016.

Read more here: http://peninsulaclarion.com/outdoors/refuge-notebook-smarter-management-of-invasive-plants-with-weed-free-gravel

Local Media: Cultivating learning in Kasilof

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Students at Tustumena Elementary School spread soil, dig holes and plant willows and garden crops last week as part of Schoolyard Habitat project.

Cultivating learning experience — Kasilof students digging the opportunity to grow

By Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter

For some students, particularly those living in metropolitan or urban areas, learning about wildlife and wilderness habitats is an abstract concept learned from books or seen only by taking field trips. Not so for Alaska kids. They need only look out the window to see the woods and quite possibly a moose or some other wild animal.

Wanting to capitalize on the unique opportunities afforded students in this area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed the Schoolyard Habitat program, which aims to make school grounds more hospitable to wildlife, while simultaneously providing a place for children to learn about and connect with nature.

Now in its second full year, the program has expanded to three peninsula schools — Kaleidoscope School of Art and Sciences in Kenai, Sterling Elementary and Tustumena Elementary in Kasiof, which took on an ambitious end-of-the-year project.

“It doesn’t look like much now, but come back in five years,” said Dan Funk, (Kenai Soil & Water Conservation) District Schoolyard Habitat coordinator, about the fenced-in, 60-by-40-foot area adjacent to Tustumena Elementary. Fifth- and sixth-grade students spread topsoil, dug holes and planted 200 willow saplings, as well as some garden foods, last week. …

Full article: https://redoubtreporter.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/cultivating-learning-experience-kasilof-students-digging-the-opportunity-to-grow/

Press Release: $5/Week Alaska Grown Challenge

(Anchorage, Alaska) May 2015 – The Alaska Farm Bureau announces the $5/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, launched the $5/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, Farm Bureau chapters and local food advocates across the state.  …

Read the full press release and sign up for Challenge: http://www.alaskafb.org/take-the-5-00week-alaska-grown-challenge-and-increase-alaskas-food-security/

Local Media: Farmers Market Roundtable

Farmers market roundtable provides networking and education

Alaska not only presents farmers with different growing conditions than the Lower 48, but different market conditions as well. A workshop held on Wednesday at Kenai’s Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association building invited prospective farmers on the Kenai Peninsula to learn about both.

Organizer Heidi Chay of the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District said that the workshop, entitled “Scaling Up: Ready for the Farmer’s Market,” was aimed at hobbyists looking to become business owners.

“What we’re seeing is that all of the markets could use more vendors, and that there’s a lot of demand for local food,” Chay said. “The thrust of this event is to inspire those successful gardeners and high tunnel growers who are already scaling up and giving away food to their friends and family to think about becoming vendors.”

Workshop attendee Chelsea Holsonbeke is one such successful grower.

“We put in our own home-built high tunnel last year, and we did a bunch of preliminary experiments just to see what we could grow really well, and we were really successful, grew way more than we could eat, and decided that this year we’re going to look into making a business, going to farmer’s markets,” Holsonbeke said.

Although Holsonbeke has grown vegetables for personal use, she’s never grown commercially.

“We’ll see how this year goes, and if it’s really successful we’ll consider expanding,” Holsonbeke said. “Last year it was a hobby. This year it’s going to be serious.”

Chay encouraged gardeners like Holsonbeke by bringing together seven speakers, who presented on subjects ranging from practicalities like signage and booth display to food safety, how to use food assistance programs like SNAP and EBT, and the results of a 2013-2014 survey of Farmer’s Markets.

Read the full article: http://peninsulaclarion.com/news/2015-02-11/farmers-market-roundtable-provides-networking-and-education

Invasive Plant Update

Refuge Notebook: A window of opportunity to eradicate Elodea
By John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Nov. 7, 2013 Peninsula Clarion

Mark Twain was supposedly fond of saying “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” I don’t claim to be prescient most of the time, but when it comes to ridding the Kenai Peninsula of Elodea, the first submerged freshwater invasive plant to make it to Alaska, I’m pretty confident that we have only a very small window of opportunity.

About this time last year, Elodea had been discovered for the first time on the Kenai Peninsula in Stormy Lake (400 acres), with a single fragment found on the shores of Daniels Lake (620 acres). In February, we returned to Daniels Lake to confirm that Elodea was growing there with an ice auger and a modified chimney sweep as our sampling device. We returned by boat in late May just after ice-out to better assess its distribution in the lake. ….

The District is one partner of the Cooperative Weed Management Area, the multi-agency group that is directing elodea detection and eradication efforts on the Kenai Peninsula.  Read the rest of the article here