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2017 Alaska State Farmers Market Organizers Conference

MARCH 2-4, 2017 – HOMER, ALASKA

In the fall of 2015 the Homer Farmers Market was awarded a Farmers Market Promotion Program Grant for the project, “Expanding Access and Solidifying Statewide Networks.”  A major component of this project was to convene a statewide conference, gathering farmers market organizers from across the state to come together and share resources and information.  By doing so, the Homer Farmers Market hoped to more closely link agricultural infrastructure through direct connections and networks, in turn benefiting individual farmers and consumers throughout the state. 

On March 2nd, delegates from 18 of Alaska’s 40-something Farmers Markets, from Sitka to Fairbanks, traveled to Homer, Alaska for the first ever Alaska Farmers Market Conference.  Just over 50 people participated in the 3-day event and included managers, board members, volunteers, state officials, and many more.  Each day was structured around a variety of sessions and special guests.  Most sessions were participant driven, with market managers leading the discussions, sharing information, and digging deeper into what our state’s farmers markets needed.  Other sessions were led by “experts” in the field, and included topics like Media 101 and DEC Basics.  Social events were held in the evenings and helped participants create stronger bonds.

The conference hosted a few very special keynote speakers: Arthur Keyes, Director- Alaska Division of Agriculture, Kathy Zeman, Director- Minnesota Farmers Market Association, and Will O’Donnell, Director- Washington State Farmers Market Association.  Each shared stories from their own experiences running farmers market and provided insight and encouragement.  Kathy Zeman outlined data collection standards, while Will O’Donnell provided best practices for conflict resolution and social media. 

Amy Pettit, Alaska Farmtrust & Alaska Food Policy Council, was on hand for the entire conference.  Pettit helped found the Alaska Farmers Market Association 10 years ago. The original vision for the Association was “to support and promote vibrant and sustainable farmers markets throughout Alaska.” AFMA had gone dormant for several years, but by the end of the conference every participant agreed there was a need to restart the Association. Participants had spent the weekend learning from each other’s successes and failures, and identifying what was needed to do as a state collectively to move our farmers markets forward. The Alaska Farmers Market Association is now currently being reformed and they hope to reconvene in the next year or two. 

5th Annual Harvest Moon Local Food Festival

Kenai Local Food Connection is holding it's fifth annualHarvest Moon Local Food Festival, Aug. 23-30, 2017. This year’s theme, “a community that cooks,” will promote locally-grown and wild-harvested food with an array of talks and demonstrations, a farm-to-table dinner, and family-friendly events including cooking workshops, farm tours and wild food walks.

 

Our keynote speakers are...

Maya Wilson, Alaska From Scratch: Maya is a Nikiski-based local food blogger and food

columnist at Anchorage Dispatch News. Her first cookbook will be published in early

2018. Maya will be speaking on family-friendly cooking that makes the most of locally

grown ingredients. More info at www.alaskafromscratch.com.

 

Verne Varona: Verne is professional speaker, health educator and author of Nature’s

Cancer Fighting Foods. His talk will focus on the health benefits of whole foods and

home cooking. More info at www.vernevarona.com.

 

For more information, go to www.kenailocalfood.org or follow Kenai Local Food on Facebook.

Farmers and Chefs Plant Seeds for Future Business

Twenty-six people gathered at Odie’s Deli on Nov. 1 in search of ways to get more local products into local restaurants.  Panelists representing farms and restaurants shared their challenges: the high costs of farming, confusion about what’s legal to purchase locally, the lack of local distribution systems.  All emphasized the importance of “communication, communication, communication” to develop business relationships.  Perhaps most heartening for farmers, chefs at high-end restaurants said they are willing to pay a premium for local, but ordering has to be simple and delivery has to be reliable.

Other tips for local food and flower producers:

·         Pick 1 or 2 items and do them very well. 

·         Timing is important. “Don't just walk in during the lunch rush and expect to start a conversation!” said one restaurateur.  Make an appointment.  Early morning is probably best.

·         Use the off-season to learn and develop relationships, e.g. invite chefs to the farm in the fall and offer them prepared samples of what you can grow next year.

·         Social-media savvy farms and restaurants are an asset to each other, so improve your social marketing on Facebook, Twiter and Instagram. 

·         Be professional: Have your business card with you. Answer your phone and return calls PROMPTLY.

One final point everyone agreed on: There’s a need for more conversations like this.  Look for more Farmers & Chefs events in early 2017. 

Dear Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Congressman Young

Read the AFPC’s letter to Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young

 

June 16, 2017

 

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski

United States Senate

522 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Dan Sullivan

United States Senate

702 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Don Young

United States House of Representatives

2314 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Congressman Young:

We are writing on behalf of the Alaska Food Policy Council to express our opposition to proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps). The president’s budget proposes unprecedented cuts to SNAP, and the effects would be detrimental for the 85,000 Alaskans who rely on the program – including children, seniors, working families, veterans, and more.

SNAP not only helps struggling Alaskans, but it supports a healthy food system. SNAP helps agriculture; every year, farmers receive billions of dollars in revenue from SNAP benefits, and every $1 billion of SNAP spending generates thousands of jobs, including an estimated 1,000 new agricultural jobs.

SNAP improves public health. Early access to SNAP can improve long-term health outcomes. Evidence suggests children receiving SNAP are less likely than low-income non-participants to be in poor health. Additionally, adults who had access to SNAP as young children reported better health and had lower rates of nutrition related diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. SNAP increases food expenditures, and higher food expenditures are associated with greater fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP participants.

SNAP helps local economies. For every $1 spent in federal SNAP benefit, $1.70 is generated in local economic activity. SNAP benefits are modest, but the few dollars a day can make a difference for a hungry family – and for the farmers, fishermen and grocers who supply the food. Cuts to SNAP would result in less spending on produce and healthy foods in local grocery stores, meaning that Alaska’s businesses and farmers would also pay a steep price.

We hope you will continue to oppose deep cuts to SNAP, and reject any efforts to make structural changes to this program (such as block granting) as part of the congressional budget process. Alaska’s farmers and families are counting on you.

Sincerely,

Liz Hodges-Snyder, Co-Chair
Lorinda Lhotka, Co-Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our First Webinar with Melissa Chlupach!

The AFPC has started a webinar series that will take presentations from our Conference & Festival – and from food system experts who visit Alaska – and offer them as webinars.  Our first webinar was May 26, 2016, and featured Melissa Chlupach:

Thanks Melissa!

In the future, webinars will be recorded and published online, but we had some technical glitches for our first attempt – Melissa has promised to come back and talk to us again so we can record it in the future! For now, you can the PowerPoint presentation right here.

Support Alaska’s Cooperative Extension Service!

Today the AFPC submitted a letter to Tammie Wilson (R – North Pole/Fairbanks), the Chair of the Alaska House of Representatives Finance Subcommittee for the University of Alaska, urging her to make funding Cooperative Extension Services a part of the UAA budget. We could lose up to 71% of CES’s budget!  If you have a moment today, please reach out by 4 PM to let representatives know you care about these programs.

 

Dear Rep. Wilson,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC).  The AFPC is a group of Alaskans who believe that food security is key to a healthy, self-reliant and prosperous Alaskan future.  I write today to ask that you support continued funding for the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) in the budget you present to the House Finance Committee tonight. CES programs play a critical support role for our state’s food system and agriculture sector and its impact throughout the state far exceeds its budget.

One example of CES’s impact is its role in keeping Alaskans free from food-borne illnesses.  The state’s Division of Food Safety, housed in the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), is charged with keeping Alaska’s food supply safe.  Unfortunately, budget constraints keep DEC officials from making frequent visits to individual businesses, particularly in rural communities. The CES has stepped in to provide Certified Food Protection Management (CFPM) trainings, where food service workers learn how to prepare food safely and avoid food-borne illnesses.  Under state regulations, every food business is required to have at least one CFPM-certified employee who understands food safety rules and is ready to act swiftly if he or she sees a risk for food-borne illness.   If CES loses funding for food safety training, Alaska’s food system will be less safe, DEC’s work will be less effective, and rural small businesses will face higher costs to travel to trainings.

In addition to supporting food businesses through food safety programs, individual Alaskans rely on CES for advice about canning and freezing food safely. This service is particularly important to Alaska’s low-income and rural residents, who rely on preserving wild-caught foods to maintain their food security more than residents of many other states.  CES is also working on developing emergency preparedness plans for Alaska communities.

CES plays a crucial role in the agriculture sector through programs youth education programs such as 4-H, and farmer support programs.  These programs do not cost the state much money, but have a huge impact on farmers, growers, and subsistence users across the state.

CES does a tremendous amount of work in our state with very little funding, and cuts to CES programs would be a major loss to the state and its citizens.  We hope you will choose not to cut these important programs in the budget you present to the House Finance Committee tonight.

Sincerely,

Victoria Briggs, Co-Chair

Dear Governor Walker,

Read the AFPC’s letter to Governor Bill Walker, and then send him your own letter with ideas for how to improve Alaska’s food system!

 

Dear Governor Walker,

The Alaska Food Policy Council is a group of Alaskans who believe that food security is key to a healthy, self-reliant and prosperous Alaskan future.  We know that you share our concerns, and we are writing to suggest a few policy proposals that could have a big impact on our state’s food system.

We understand that the state faces fiscal challenges and the ideas we suggest here do not require much new spending.  Over time, support for these ten initiatives will improve our economy by keeping more of the over $2 billion Alaskans spend on food each year within the state and reducing the cost of healthcare by increasing access to healthy, local food.

We want to let you know what our board recommends, but we think you should hear from our members around the state as well.  With that in mind, we are asking them to write to you directly and let you know which of these ideas they support the most, and offer suggestions of their own about how we can improve our food system.

Establish a sub-cabinet on food security.  Food security involves complex issues that cross the domains of many different state agencies.  In 2011, Governor Parnell established the Alaska Food Resources Working Group, and although the group technically still exists, it has not met during your administration.  Bring agency heads together to coordinate their response to food-related issues.

Keep funding for agricultural research and technical support.  Alaska is a unique and sometimes difficult place to farm, but the Division of Agriculture and the University of Alaska Fairbanks agricultural programs provide great resources to those up to the challenge.  Preserve their funding to protect our food supply and help new growers expand our ability to feed ourselves.

Encourage state agencies to buy more Alaska Grown.  A recent audit by the Alaska Division of Legislative Audit showed that state agencies do not buy Alaska Grown products as much as they could.  Ask your agencies to follow the five recommendations in the DLA report and you will support Alaska farmers while keeping our money in the state’s economy.

Open state-owned agricultural land to innovative local food producers.  Provide small farmers and ranchers with access to suitable land that is close to a customer base and transportation (like the Nenana-Totchaket region) and you will spur production and economic development. [For more on this, check out pages 26-27 of Building Food Security in Alaska.]

Support food storage infrastructure in rural communities.  Many communities are vulnerable to emergency food shortages because they do not have space to store reserves.  Many of our farmers could produce more food but have no place to store it in winter.  By investing in food infrastructure, you can make our communities safer and more self-reliant. [Take a look at the AFPC’s Town Hall Reports for more community input.]

Restore state support for Farm to School programs.  Programs that bring Alaska Grown products into our schools, like the Farm to School program and the Nutritional Alaskan Foods in Schools Program (NAFS), went unfunded in last year’s budget but remain popular.  Bring funding for Farm to School back and you support a balanced approach to food system change by developing a reliable market for Alaska Grown, educating the next generation of producers, consumers and leaders, and making a positive environmental impact.

Develop a strategy to increase Alaska’s livestock production. Alaskan farmers raise cattle, reindeer, musk oxen, bison, and pork, yet it is difficult to purchase Alaska Grown meats in stores. Alaska has only three certified slaughterhouses, one of which (the Mt. McKinley Meat & Sausage Company) may soon be forced to close. Build infrastructure that supports Alaska’s ranchers and meat producers and you will protect and increase Alaska’s food security while growing an important sector of our food system.

Provide SNAP incentives to encourage participants to buy fresh, healthy and local produce.  Food is expensive in Alaska and families that rely on food stamps sometimes must choose less healthy foods to have enough to feed their kids.  By helping SNAP participants buy more at farmer’s markets you can improve the health of our most vulnerable citizens while supporting local food producers. [Between 2011 and 2014, farmer’s market revenue from SNAP-related benefits rose from $13,291 to $139,217, due largely to the Alaska Farmers Market-Quest Program.]

Encourage schools, hospitals, long term care facilities, and other institutions to serve traditional Native foods, when appropriate.  Honor the deep cultural significance that food can have and you will improve the health and well-being of Alaska Native peoples.

Make sure that the Food Safety & Sanitation Program has sufficient resources to keep our food safe.  Alaskans count on the state to collaborate with our food businesses, as well as institutions like hospital cafeterias and schools, to ensure our food is prepared and served safely, but according to State data less than half of food businesses are inspected per year.  Be a champion for funding this essential government service and you will keep Alaskans healthy and safe.

As you approach the end of your first year in office, we hope you will make increased food security an important part of your administration’s legacy in Alaska.  Please contact us if there is anything we can do to help you with your efforts.

Sincerely,

Victoria Briggs & Elizabeth Hodges Snyder, Co-Chairs

Alaska Food Policy Council

Opportunities for Public Comment Today and Tomorrow

TOMORROW, July 14 at 6PM, the Anchorage Assembly is hearing comments on Muldoon Town Square Park. Head to the Loussac Library to voice your support!

The Assembly will consider Ordinance 2015-77, to dedicate the former Alaska Greenhouse site at Muldoon & Debarr as permanent parkland. For more info on the park, go to: http://ilovemuldoon.com/blog/parks/muldoon-town-square-park/

Ending TODAY at 5PM – Public comment period about the proposed 4.5-mile road from Orca Cannery to Shepard Point in Cordova. For more information, go tohttp://dot.alaska.gov/stwdplng/cip/stip/assets/STIP.pdf, or contact: EPC – eyak@redzone.org 907.424.5890.
For COMMENTS: indicate the following: ID: 6617 – Shepard Point Road Comments by email: dot.stip@alaska.gov Comments by mail: Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Program Development, Att: STIP P.O. Box 112500, Juneau, AK 99811-2500.

View the Reports

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View the reports for PalmerHomer, and Anchorage Town Halls.

Thank you to everyone who attended our town halls in Palmer in February! This report summarizes and outlines the public input we received from participants. Residents shared what they liked, disliked, and envisioned for the future of their food systems. Please share this report widely, and discuss the results and questions posed within it in your communities.

AFPC Sends Food Security Questionnaire to Anchorage Mayoral Candidates

The Alaska Food Policy Council sent out a candidate questionnaire to the two candidates in Anchorage’s mayoral election runoff, Amy Demboski and Ethan Berkowitz, in order to inform voters of their positions and their visions for Anchorage’s food system. Questionnaires were sent to both candidates on April 15th, and given a deadline of April 27th to have them completed. Amy Demboski did not respond to the questionnaire by the deadline, and so we are only able to include Ethan Berkowitz’s response. The runoff election will be held on May 5th.

AFPC Anchorage Candidate Questionnaire

Candidate Responses
Ethan Berkowitz Response

AFPC Hosting Town Hall in Anchorage – March 24th

The Alaska Food policy Council (AFPC) invites you to attend a community town hall meeting to gather your ideas and opinions about local food and food system issues from local community members. The purpose of these meetings is to increase awareness of Alaska food issues, promote involvement in local food issues by community members, and gain a perspective of local food issues to inform AFPC and policy makers. When: Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:30 pm Where: Downtown Soup Kitchen, 240, E 3rd Avenue, Anchorage, AK, 99501 Food: Light refreshments and beverages will be served.

AFPC Asks State Legislature to Return Farm to School Program Funds to Budget

(Editor’s note: The following item is a letter to the editor from the Alaska Food Policy Council sent to several newspapers around Alaska regarding cuts to the Farm to School Program. To learn more about the Alaska Farm to School Program, check out the brochure below or contact Program Coordinator Johanna Herron at 907-761-3870 or johanna.herron@alaska.gov.) As the legislature continues swinging its scythe at the state budget, one of the programs about to be felled is Farm to School. And in case you don’t have kids that can tell you firsthand the benefits of the program, or if you’re not an Alaska grower that finds a market in supplying school cafeterias with Alaska Grown produce, let us tell you what the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture, Farm to School Program does: It provides expertise and support for those working to increase the connection of students, teachers, and school food service providers with products grown and produced in Alaska. This connection most commonly happens in the school lunchroom or in a school garden. Yet, in a state that prides itself in self-reliance, consider these striking facts:

  1. Alaskans spend $1.5 BILLION dollars on imported food each year.
  2. Only 5-10 percent of food consumed is produced or harvested in state, but great swaths of arable land remain uncultivated.
  3. About 15 percent of Alaska households are food insecure.
  4. Alaskans spend about $450 million dollars on treating diet-related medical conditions.
  5. We have a population that is largely disconnected from the food system – most kids can’t tell you what lies beneath the frilly green of a carrot top coming out of the soil.

These figures might sound gloomy, but they highlight the immense opportunity that we have to become healthier, wealthier, and more food secure. What if we spent that $1.5 billion on Alaska Grown products and kept that money in local economies? What if we produced more healthy foods in quantities that could meet the demands of our school cafeterias? What if we provided our children with the tools and knowledge necessary to make healthy food choices and maintain a healthy weight? We already have a key mechanism to achieving these goals – it’s the Farm to School Program. The Farm to School Program helps to prioritize getting locally produced, healthy goods into cafeterias; raise a generation of food leaders and smart consumers; and create a large, reliable market for increased in-state food production. In three short years, the number of Alaska School Districts involved in Farm to School has grown from zero to 68 percent! There’s been an 11-percent increase in school gardens state-wide. One-hundred percent of the school districts are now serving at least one local food item in their meal programs and there’s still tremendous room for growth. In five years, the program has leveraged over $1 million dollars from partner agencies. This is just the shortlist of accomplishments. All of this and more has been achieved with an annual budget of about $190,000. Talk about bang for your buck! If the legislature eliminates or cuts funding to the Farm to School Program, they aren’t cutting the fat out of the budget. They are cutting the carrots, the potatoes, the greens, and even the local fish out of your children’s lunches, and they’re cutting supports necessary to expand in-state production. We implore the legislature not to eliminate or reduce the funding for our Farm to School Program. It is an incredibly efficient use of a small amount of funds that has proven itself over the past five years and is one of the shining pillars of a state food system that is becoming stronger, more sustainable, and more resilient. Don’t let the legislature undo our current progress, and don’t let it stand in the way of what more can be done. Signed, Liz Snyder, Victoria Briggs, and Lisa Sadleir-Hart Present and Past Board Co-Chairs, Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC) • Alaska Farm to School Brochure

AFPC And AMCC Hosting Town Hall in Homer – March 17th

The Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC) and Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC) invite you to attend a community town hall meeting to gather your ideas and opinions about local food. The AFPC is interested in hearing input from local community members on local food system issues.

The purpose of these meetings is to increase awareness of Alaska food issues, promote involvement in local food issues by community members, and gain a perspective of local food issues to inform AFPC and policy makers.

When: Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Homer High School Commons, 600 East Fairview Avenue (off of East Pioneer Ave in downtown Homer)
Food: Enjoy local food appetizers donated by community members and prepared by Two Sisters

AFPC Now Accepting Board Member Applications

The Alaska Food Policy Council is currently seeking applicants for 2 open governing board seats for the current term that ends 12/31/15.  The AFPC Governing Board is especially seeking committed individuals with skills in communications/public relations, fundraising and grant writing as well as being passionate about improving Alaska’s food system.  If you are interested, please review the board member job description submit the application and a cover letter outlining why you’d like to serve on the AFPC Governing Board by March 1, 2015.  Please send to akfoodpolicycouncil@gmail.com.

EDIT: The deadline for governing board applications has now passed; thank to all who applied. If you are interested in getting involved with AFPC, or want to be notified about future governing board openings, please contact us at akfoodpolicycouncil@gmail.com, or call (907) 269-8072.

AFPC Hosting Town Hall in Palmer – February 18th

The Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC) invites you to attend a community town hall meeting to gather your ideas and opinions about local food. The AFPC is interested in hearing input from local community members on local food system issues.

The purpose of these meetings is to increase awareness of Alaska food issues, promote involvement in local food issues by community members, and gain a perspective of local food issues to inform AFPC and policy makers.

WHEN: Wednesday, February 18, 2014 – 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: UAF Matanuska Experiment Farm, 1509 S Georgeson Road, Palmer, Alaska
FOOD: Light refreshments and beverages will be provided.

AFPC Is Hiring for Two Americorps VISTA Positions!

The State of Alaska is currently recruiting for two Americorps VISTA positions:

The Alaska Food Policy Council VISTA will conduct outreach, coalition development, grant writing and fundraising to further the structure and sustainability of the Alaska Food Policy Council, a non-profit group working to strengthen the food system for the benefit of all Alaskans. This is a one-year position located with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in Anchorage, Alaska. For more information and to apply for this position, visit: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=53164&fromSearch=true

The Alaska Farmers’ Market-Quest Card Program (AFMQP) provides funding and assistance to farmers’ markets and farm stands to help them accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. This VISTA position will serve as the AFMQP Coordinator and work to further develop the structure and sustainability of the program. This is a one-year position located with the State of Alaska Division of Agriculture in Palmer, Alaska. For more information and to apply for this position, visit:  https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=53159&fromSearch=true

Applications will be accepted until February 1, 2015.  The positions will start in April.

AmeriCorp VISTA benefits include: Monthly living allowance ($1,222), relocation costs ($0.34/mile up to $1000) and settling in allowance ($550), health benefits, child care assistance, training, and an Education Award ($5,730).

Alaska Food Festival and Conference Presentations Now Available

If you missed the 2014 Alaska Food Festival & Conference this past November, you can still see all the informative presentations given by our fabulous speakers! We’ve also posted all of the Alaska Food Policy Council’s commissioned reports in one, easy-to-find section. Just go to the Food System Research section of our website – the presentations are all listed under the Presentations & Talks tab.