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.