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.

Signs of Increasing Local Food Production

Kenai Resilience, a volunteer-run community group, has published the 2012 update of its Local Foods Directory for the Central Kenai Peninsula.  The Directory includes 27 listings, up from 19 when it was first published in 2011.   Inspired by successful, season-extending Northern farmers from Tim Meyers in Bethel to Eliot Coleman in Maine, Peninsula farmers started planting and harvesting earlier this year than ever before.   Some high tunnel growers had lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, kale, and other greens for sale by late April or early May!

Local food producers are expanding their marketing channels from the traditional farmers’ markets to subscription services with weekly pick-ups (e.g., Ridgeway Farms, Winter Greens Organic Gardens, Peninsula Dairy), email or on-line ordering (e.g., Cloudberry Acres, Sarah’s Alaska Honey, Alaska Berries), U-pick operations (e.g. Jackson Gardens), and farmstand sales (e.g. Alaska Berries, O’Brien Orchards).  Buying locally supports a healthy local food economy and puts fresh, healthy food on the table for your family.  July and August are peak of the season for fresh fruit and vegetables on the Kenai Peninsula, so visit a farmers’ market or farm soon!   To view and print the 2012 Local Foods Directory, click here, or go to www.KenaiResilience.org.