Mar 18, 2010
How do you capture all the ideas presented in just last two days? Give up and do an overview!!!
I can tell you I have started two posts so far and had to scrap them for later as there is too much information and excitement I want to pass on NOW :-) I am going to go for a recap of the last two days and hopefully come back and do more in-depth.
First off there are more people here than last year and they had 200 then. I haven’t heard a final count but will find out. Also the presence of farmers, some with 2,000 acres or more, has been a surprise this year.
I am also trying to get more information on all the places in the state that have things happening in agriculture. There were over 27 communities present last year and I am hearing still more this year.
The national speaker, Chris Blanchard from Iowa, brought us up to date on a lot of issues from the lower 48. Things like food safety. Case in point…spinach sales have YET to recoup from the food poisoning recall of 2006 so these things make an impact EVEN if you are not involved directly in the production of the problem product.
He also did a great presentation on time management for farmers that I believe can be transferred to anyone’s life. More than getting more organized it was on choosing priorities and giving yourself permission to say no to more things, at least for this time in your life. Also how to give yourself credit for all the different hats you tend to wear. (we do a lot of that kind of thing in Alaska so it hit home with LOTS of people)
Some type of federal regulation structure for fresh greens and produce will most likely be passed in the near future, with little to no exemption for smaller farmers. IF this goes the way of organic certification it will take a number of years to be fully implemented but it is coming. The FDA and federal government have food safety on the radar now and are being pushed to come up with some guidelines. It is understandable, although I am not sure how much it will really help when you look at how much is produced in the US and how relatively safe it is.
We had a number of presentations on subjects such as Insects That Threaten and Enhance Alaska Agriculture, If You Garden, Think Cabbage Moth/Potato Virus and Bees That Help. We are pretty lucky that we do not have lots of harmful pests, but would benefit from a few more positive ones.
We had a GREAT presentation on a historical garden in Skagway, Jewell Gardens. This is an old homestead from the 1840’s gold rush time that was one of the biggest vegetable producing gardens in the state.
The current owner has used the cruise industry as a way to support her gardening. She does vegetable gardening as much as flowers. One neat thing she brought up was that she planned at least one of her gardens to look like a big flower from the air as a way of bringing attention to her place. Also, each year she gets at least one complaint from the visitors that they did not get to see a HUGE vegetable, like a cabbage, on the tour in MAY!!! She is determined to do that but is not sure how it will ever happen. It does bring to mind how much of a disconnect there STILL is for people about how and where their food comes from!
We got a quick update from Tim Meyers of Bethel, he is the farmer in the coastal village north of us that is producing such things as squash and cucumbers in a growing zone of 4. (Photos)If you are not aware of what that means, it is where temperatures rarely get over the 40s at night, is cloudy and cool most of the time. He let us know that he continues to have great success with converting the tundra into vegetable producing lands.
He brought an article for us to review that shows the food growing regions of the world, and areas that are some of the most productive or fertile, even if they do not produce food. Some of the BEST AND MOST FERTILE LANDS are in the Alaska Peninsula (that is us in Bristol Bay) and the Bethel area!! This is in a National Geographic, September 2008 issue!! His comment, of which I have to agree, is ‘what are we waiting for?” It was brought up later that the entire organic movement was pretty much taught farmer to farmer. It sure looks like this is needed to help get food production going again in Alaska.
Unfortunately there was no presentation on goats, thus nothing on cheese and milk products, although they were discussed in another context.
Our neighbor to the north, Igiugig Village, gave a presentation on how their first small greenhouse constructions went, until a major wind blow 50+ mph hours in July. They were left with it in shambles and a few beans surviving.
They currently do a community table scrap to egg program (Editor’s note:??) that might turn into a business someday, also a community potato growing program.
They will put in a new, bigger greenhouse this coming year – not sure what all they will do as a precaution against the wind but as the tribal president said, sometimes baby steps are better when you are just learning.
We learned of a new community grocery, featuring only AK grown products, that has just opened in Fairbanks.
There were a couple of presentations of programs that provide resources so that farmers, researchers and support people can work together to exchange ideas and methods of research. Some funding is available for these projects but must undergo a pretty tough examination program.
Composting, grant writing and more food security finished up the day. Lots of subjects, presented in a quick, efficient and interesting program.
LOTS of energy and excitement that carried into the dinner featured upstairs.
Oh yes, fun things! I noticed some differences between fishermen and farmers; farmers tend to wear jeans, fishermen Carharts; lots of women are doing knitting and crocheting today, more real young kids are present, and LOTS more food at farmer events, much more coffee for fishermen :-) Biggest thing, everyone here also gets excited over new ‘toys’. A tractor dealer brought a ‘sample’, we all flocked around it :-)
~ Victoria Briggs