National Press: Flowers from Alaska

Flowers From Alaska

by Amy Nordrum, Atlantic Monthly

For late-summer weddings, the peonies can only come from one place. And when one woman realized that, she started planting.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beks, North Pole Peonies

Peonies—those gorgeous, pastel flowers that can bloom as big as dinner plates—are grown all over the world, but there’s only one place where they open up in July. That’s in Alaska, and ever since a horticulturalist discovered this bit of peony trivia, growers here have been planting the flowers as quickly as they can.

… Meanwhile, large flower companies like Currie’s in the lower 48 states are watching Alaska’s small growers to see what they can make of the opportunity before them. One company—Kennicot Brothers from Chicago—has already invested in the state’s peony industry, buying into several farms on the Kenai peninsula. …

Full article:

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:



Feb. 10/11 Workshops for Hay Growers and Users

UAF/Cooperative Extension, in partnership with Fox River Cattlemen’s Association and Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District, is hosting a Forage Workshop in Kenai and Homer.

Kenai – Monday, February 10, 2014 5:30 PM registration, 6:00-8:00 PM program, Kenai Community Library

Homer – Tuesday, February 11, 2014 5:30 PM registration, 6:00-8:00 PM program, Kachemak Bay Campus, Room 219

To Pre-register, contact Vicki Heinz at UAF CES Kenai District, 907.262.5824 or

Dr. Mingchu Zhang will present on “Organic and inorganic nutrient sources for hay production in Alaska”. The talk will cover the results of experiments in Homer and Fairbanks area for hay production from adding organic (including fish fertilizer) or inorganic fertilizers. He will also briefly discuss soil testing.

Dr. Milan Shipka will present on “Hay quality considerations and how best to use the hay you have available”. You can’t change the quality of hay once you’ve put it in your barn. Anyone with animals needs to consider the nutrient needs of their animals and how best to get the nutrients to their animals. Dr. Shipka will discuss nutrient needs and digestion in ruminant animals (e.g., cattle, goat, sheep, llama, alpaca, etc.) and the nutrient needs and digestion in horses.

This FREE workshop is offered to all animal and hayproducers and the interested public.

Invasive Plant Update

Refuge Notebook: A window of opportunity to eradicate Elodea
By John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Nov. 7, 2013 Peninsula Clarion

Mark Twain was supposedly fond of saying “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” I don’t claim to be prescient most of the time, but when it comes to ridding the Kenai Peninsula of Elodea, the first submerged freshwater invasive plant to make it to Alaska, I’m pretty confident that we have only a very small window of opportunity.

About this time last year, Elodea had been discovered for the first time on the Kenai Peninsula in Stormy Lake (400 acres), with a single fragment found on the shores of Daniels Lake (620 acres). In February, we returned to Daniels Lake to confirm that Elodea was growing there with an ice auger and a modified chimney sweep as our sampling device. We returned by boat in late May just after ice-out to better assess its distribution in the lake. ….

The District is one partner of the Cooperative Weed Management Area, the multi-agency group that is directing elodea detection and eradication efforts on the Kenai Peninsula.  Read the rest of the article here

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:

Poster Contest Winners 2013

Poster Contest Winners Announced!

The Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District is pleased to announce the winners of the annual conservation poster contest. This year’s theme — Where Does Your Water Shed? – challenged students to learn about the special place we live, the Kenai River Watershed, and to convey through artwork ways to take care of the fresh water that we need each day. First place winners in each age category (K-1st, 2nd-3rd, 4th-6th, 7th-9th) win $25 and the chance to compete in the state-level competition. Second place in each age group wins $15, and third place wins $10. All winners will be honored at a joint meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce to be held at noon, Nov. 6, 2013 at the Kenai Visitors Center.  Winners of the state level contest proceed to a national competition sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts.

This year’s local contest was co-sponsored by Kenai Watershed Forum, 4-H/Cooperative Extension Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service Kenai Field Office.

Prize Name Grade School Age Teacher
Grades K-1
1st Tait Cooper 1st Mt. View 7 Ms. Young
2nd Cole Langham 1st Aurora Borealis 6 Mrs. Harding
3rd Samuel Klein 1st Aurora Borealis 7 Mrs. Harding
Grades 2-3
1st Ashley Dahlman 3rd Kaleidoscope 8 Mrs. Stroh
2nd Daniel Shelden 3rd Kaleidoscope 8 Mrs. Stroh
3rd Madison McDonald 3rd Kaleidoscope 8 Mrs. Stroh
Grades 4-6
1st Cloey Followell 5th Kaleidoscope 10 Mrs. Andrea
2nd Sadie Daly 6th Kaleidoscope 11 Ms. Hackbarth
3rd Virginia Orth 6th Kaleidoscope 11 Ms. Harper
Grades 7-9
1st Jaedyn Gale 8th Connections 14 homeschool



“Where Does Your Water Shed?” Poster Contest

The Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District is happy to announce a poster contest open to students in grades K-12 in Nikiski, Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling, Kasilof and Clam Gulch.  The theme of this local, state, and national contest, “Where Does Your Water Shed?,” gets kids learning and thinking about the special place we live — the Kenai River Watershed –and how to take care of the fresh water that we need each day.  The contest is co-sponsored by Kenai Watershed Forum, 4-H/Cooperative Extension Service and NRCS.  First prize winners in each age category (K-1st, 2nd-3rd, 4th-6th, 7th-9th, 10th-12th) win $25 and the chance to compete in the state-level competition.  Second place in each age group wins $15, and third place wins $10.

Posters are due September 30, 2013 and may be dropped off at any of the following locations:

Kenai Watershed Forum — 44129 Sterling Highway, Soldotna

 4-H/Cooperative Extension Office — 43961 K-Beach Road

Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District  —110 Trading Bay, Suite 160, Kenai

Click the link below to download contest rules, watershed learning resources, and contest entry form.  Good luck!

Contest Info and Entry Form

2013 Central Peninsula High Tunnel Tour

Despite a slow start to the season, the Central Peninsula’s high tunnels have made up the lost time by yielding some impressive produce. Come check out some of this year’s abundance by attending the 2013 High Tunnel Tour. The tour features high tunnels from three different manufacturers and a variety of ventilation and irrigation systems. Times and locations are as follows:

Saturday, Aug. 10

1:00 pm – Suzanne Phillips, 35′ x 60′ Farm Tek Pro Solar Star with roll-down sides

Driveway is located on the North side of K-Beach between Ciechanski and Diamond M Ranch, directly across from Mosey Along. Look for the Phillips arch over the long driveway. High tunnel is visible on the right as you turn onto Grant.

3:00 pm – Travis Keller, two 24′ x 32′ Farm Tem Pro Solar Stars

In Soldotna, take Irons Ave. off Kenai Spur. Look for the greenhouse behind Lucky Raven Tobacco.

Saturday, Aug. 24

2:00 pm – Ginger Bouton, 30′ x 72′ Oregon Valley, semi-gabled

Take Poppy Lane to the college then go left on Poppy Ridge. Turn right on Bonita, go one block. Turn left on Fern Forest. Boutons are at 35656 Fern Forest Street.

4:00 pm – Ron Homan, 30′ x 48′ Rimol Nor’Easter

At mile 12.5 K-Beach turn left on Equestrian. Go one block to a “T” and turn left. Go to the log house on the right at the dead end.

See you at the 2013 High Tunnel Tour!