In the News: Local Agriculture

Growing the Economy: Agriculture Flourishing on the Kenai Peninsula

By Jenny Neyman

Dec. 23, 2015 — Redoubt Reporter

When people think about the economy of the Kenai Peninsula, it’s usually oil and gas, fishing, and maybe education, health care or government. But there’s a growing trend to add another sector to that list — farming.

“These are not hobby farmers, these are hard-working folks. They are investing in infrastructure, they are buying equipment, they’re building storage, they’re building refrigeration for peonies, they’re putting up more high tunnels planting more. These folks are thinking ahead, and I think the rest of us should, as well,” said Heidi Chay, manager of the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District, speaking at a Kenai Chamber of Commerce meeting Dec. 16.

Commercial agriculture is typically thought of on a big scale, but the Kenai Peninsula is growing its own agricultural revolution, one small operation at a time.

“Today the farms that are making headlines are the small farms under 10 acres, very likely under 5 acres,” Chay said.  …

Link to the full article: https://redoubtreporter.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/growing-the-economy-agriculture-flourishing-on-kenai-peninsula/

Help ID Soil Research Priorities

Kenai Peninsula farmers and gardeners are invited to participate in a quick-and-easy survey to help establish priorities for soil-based research right here on the Kenai Peninsula. An initial list of projects was developed in November by representatives of Kenai and Homer Soil and Water Conservation Districts, NRCS and UAF Cooperative Extension. Now it is your turn to weigh in!  Here’s a link to the survey:
It will take about 3-5 minutes to complete. Please respond by Dec. 15 if possible. For more information, contact Heidi Chay at Kenai Soil and Water, 283-8732 x 5.

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

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:  http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/flowers-from-alaska/372994/

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

 

 

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 vheinz@alaska.edu

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.

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

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!