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.