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.

Local Media: O’Brien Garden and Trees

High tunnels boost Kenai orchard

By KELLY SULLIVAN and RASHAH McCHESNEY
Peninsula Clarion
June 22, 2014
Inside the towering high tunnels’ at O’Brien Garden and Trees, are rows of meticulously sown trees, erupting with vibrant green leaves; the branches laden with the beginnings of this year’s fruit crop.

The expansive green space is the result of four-decades of experimentation and the recent move to indoor growing for the agricultural operation.

Link to the full article: http://peninsulaclarion.com/news/2014-06-22/how-to-use-a-high-tunnel

From the Local Media

In the Market for Community: Farmers Markets Set to Sprout Up

By Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter
May 14, 2014

Among the sure signs of summer on the central Kenai Peninsula are the return of salmon and the crowds come to harvest them, the grow-while-the-growing’s-good burst of wild foliage, and the efforts of the green thumbed to similarly make the most of what climate, ecosystem and science allow.   Starting soon, the fruits and vegetables of those local labors will be available for customers at a bounty of farmers markets in the area.   One of the most food-oriented of the seasonal markets is the Farmers Fresh Market, opening June 3 and running from 3 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday into September. It’s in the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank parking lot, on Kalifornsky Beach Road and Community College Drive.   “This is a collaborative effort by local growers, the food bank and Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District to promote local sustainable agriculture, provide an outlet for producers of small quantities of products, raise awareness about nutritious local food and provide healthy, fresh, local food to everyone in the community,” said Dan Funk, an organizer for the market. “Our vendors are farmers. We only sell food, plants, flowers — no crafts.”

Cauliflower and tomatoes are just a few of the options on offer at a previous Soldotna Saturday Market. Growers, arts and crafts makers as well as musicians are invited to participate in the seasonal, community-based markets in Kenai, Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. The virtues of buying local produce are many, Funk said,…

Full article: http://redoubtreporter.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/in-the-market-for-community-farmers-markets-set-to-sprout-up/

From the Local Media

Alaska gardening interest booms, as tunnels extend growing season

Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter
May 2, 2014

(excerpt) “This will be our third year with a high tunnel, and they’re unbelievable,” said Bill Lynch, of North Kenai, who along with this wife, Liz, led the discussion on this subject.

“We used to be limited to the usual Alaskan crops: cabbage, carrots, broccoli, etc. But now I grow fruit, like melons and blackberries, and artichokes and tomatoes,” he said. Having high tunnels increases what he grows, and it also increases how much and for how long.

“It used to be all the produce we grew would come ripe all at the same time, but now we can harvest fresh produce year-round. We got three full crops of carrots last year. We planted tomatoes by April 15th and by the first of May we were already harvesting. We ended up getting 400 pounds of tomatoes and 2,000 pounds of produce total last year from our unheated high tunnel. It would be 10 degrees outside, but inside the plants were fine,” he said.

Lynch said that the high tunnel was responsible for much of his success, but he also learned about using smaller low tunnels, within the larger one, to exponentially increase solar heat to plants. He said the concept is one that should be familiar to many Alaskans — dressing in layers to stay warm.

“Studies have shown the more layers, the more heat is retained,” he said. “Each tunnel over a plant is equivalent to moving one and a half zones warmer, or 500 miles south. This means a high tunnel will bring you to a growing season equal to northern Kansas, and adding a low tunnel in the high tunnel will move you to a growing season similar to Oklahoma.”

Link to full article:
http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20140502/alaska-gardening-interest-booms-tunnels-extend-growing-season

 

 

Alaska Food Resources Working Group Launches


State department heads come together to figure out Alaska food security

by Suzanna Caldwell
Nov. 4, 2013 Alaska Dispatch

In a small, gray Atwood Building conference room, half a dozen state commissioners passed around a surprising snack: An enormous bowl full of yellow, purple and bright orange Alaska-grown carrots.

While carrots might not seem like the most expected snack for a high-level early morning meeting, it made sense Monday, when commissioners from various state departments came together in Anchorage to talk about one thing that ties all Alaskans together: food.

It was the first meeting of the Alaska Food Resources Working Group, a committee set up under an administrative order by Gov. Sean Parnell this summer to recommend measures to increase the purchase and consumption of Alaska seafood and farm products. The goal is to identify challenges while, at the same time, increasing coordination within government agencies.

Read the full article here: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20131104/state-department-heads-come-together-figure-out-alaska-food-security