“Growing Success” Workshop for Small Farmers

Do you understand how the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will (or will not) impact your small farm? On-farm food safety, FSMA, intentional crop planning and post-harvest handling are some of the topics to be covered in a free workshop to be held Saturday, Apr. 8, 9 am to 5 pm at Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association in Kenai.  We are fortunate to have Atina Diffley of Family Farmed coming to lead the workshop, as well as a similar workshop in Homer on Apr. 7. Atina is an organic farmer, top-notch presenter and author of the 2012 award-winning memoire, Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works.  This don’t miss event is co-sponsored by Homer Farmers Market and Homer Soil & Water Conservation District.

There is no fee to attend.  Bring your own lunch.  And please register at http://tinyurl.com/FamilyFarmedAK. Questions? Email Heidi at kenaiswcd@gmail.com.

In the News: Local Agriculture

Growing the Economy: Agriculture Flourishing on the Kenai Peninsula

By Jenny Neyman

Dec. 23, 2015 — Redoubt Reporter

When people think about the economy of the Kenai Peninsula, it’s usually oil and gas, fishing, and maybe education, health care or government. But there’s a growing trend to add another sector to that list — farming.

“These are not hobby farmers, these are hard-working folks. They are investing in infrastructure, they are buying equipment, they’re building storage, they’re building refrigeration for peonies, they’re putting up more high tunnels planting more. These folks are thinking ahead, and I think the rest of us should, as well,” said Heidi Chay, manager of the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District, speaking at a Kenai Chamber of Commerce meeting Dec. 16.

Commercial agriculture is typically thought of on a big scale, but the Kenai Peninsula is growing its own agricultural revolution, one small operation at a time.

“Today the farms that are making headlines are the small farms under 10 acres, very likely under 5 acres,” Chay said.  …

Link to the full article: https://redoubtreporter.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/growing-the-economy-agriculture-flourishing-on-kenai-peninsula/

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

Local Media: Alaska Berries’ New Winery

Picked to pour — Alaska Berries plans winery from plant to finished product

By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter, Nov. 5, 2014

By the time Alaska Berries opened its new winery last month, owners Brian and Laurie Olson had already spent two years of intricate, meticulously conducted, carefully recorded experimentation, testing and polling in creating their menu of fruit wines.

They built a facility just for this purpose, with conditions specifically designed for optimal wine production and storage.

They’ve spent over 10 years gradually working toward this step in their long-term plan for their farm, starting with gradually clearing and fencing their 4 acres at the end of West Poppy Lane off Kalifornsky Beach Road between Kenai and Soldotna, then cultivating and perfecting their berry plants, selling plant starts, expanding into producing and selling jams and syrups, and, finally, producing the fermented fruits of their labor.

Read the rest of the article here.