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

Growers and Chefs Connect at Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

It was a full house on Jan. 16 when the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce, Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District and UAF Cooperative Extension co-sponsored a joint luncheon to promote business relationships between local restaurants and farmers.  Speakers included Alaska Division of Agriculture Marketing Manager Amy Pettit who introduced the Alaska Grown Restaurant Rewards Program.  The program, launched in 2012, reimburses food service businesses up to 20 percent for what they spend on Alaska-grown produce.  Alice Kerkvliet, owner of Michel’s Restaurant in Soldotna, said she would certainly be signing up for the new program.  She and chef Denise McCamon both sang the praises of locally-grown and said they buy it whenever possible, to the tune of 20 to 25 % of their produce purchases annually.  Judy Fischer, owner of Fischers’ Fresh Farm Produce in Kasilof, listed the health, economic and environmental benefits of consuming local, organic produce. She has sold produce to the Mermaid Cafe in Homer and would love to find buyers in the Central Peninsula area.  After the luncheon, local growers and restaurateurs had the opportunity to visit and explore possibilities for the upcoming growing season.  Click here for a Peninsula Clarion article on the event.

From the Local Press

Homegrown revolution — Gardeners expand to tackle Alaska’s food insecurity

 By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter

Here’s something to chew on with your breakfast: The eggs for that omelet you’re eating — or the milk in your cereal, the meat in your sausage, the honey in your tea, the jam on your toast — probably wasn’t produced in Alaska. But half a century ago, it probably was.

The factors contributing to this fact are many, and about as complicated as making a soufflé in an Easy-Bake Oven with no electricity at the 17,200-foot camp on Denali’s west buttress.

Convenience, cost, and consumer demand related to those, are big parts of the equation. It’s also a product of changes in globalization, infrastructure, transportation, supply chains, the increase in corporations and conglomerations vs.. privately owned businesses, marketing strategies, subsidies, technologies and growing conditions. It doesn’t break down into an easy recipe, with one part of this to two parts of that, or three tablespoons of this whisked into four cups of that.

The result, however, is quantifiable: In 1955, 55 percent of the food consumed in Alaska was produced in Alaska. Today, a mere 5 percent of the food Alaskans eat is produced in Alaska.

And that, say experts concerned with the health, stability and economy of Alaska, is as bitter a problem as mistaking salt for sugar.

 “In 1955 we were pretty self-sufficient, but from 1955 to 2010, we have gone from being self-reliant and independent to completely vulnerable, completely dependent on the next plane,” said Danny Consenstein, director of the Alaska Farm Service Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Consenstein points to three justifications for needing a better local foods system in Alaska… See the rest of the article at:  http://redoubtreporter.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/homegrown-revolution-gardeners-expand-to-tackle-alaskas-food-insecurity/

Borough Schools Get Funding for Local Food

Did you know that the Alaska Legislature allocated $3 million in this year’s state budget for the pilot phase of the Nutrional Alaskan Foods in Schools grant program and that $131,135 is earmarked for Kenai Peninsula Borough schools  Register now for an introductory webinar on Sept. 14 at 9:30 – 10:30 am, or Sept. 19, 2 – 3 pm to find out how you can take advantage of this program to market your produce, perhaps in future years.  Have produce for sale right now  Contact Dean Hamburg, Student Nutrition Services Administrator at 714-8890 to let him know what’s available right here in our community.  And please spread the word to parents, teachers and students!  Local decision-makers need to hear that local people want fresh, healthy local food.