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Council to ask questions on Alaska grown food

Series of town hall meetings to be held

Posted: February 4, 2014 - 1:53am

JUNEAU — The Alaska Food Policy Council is conducting a series of town hall meetings across the state to answer people’s concerns on food security.

The hearings also will touch on how much local food is produced in different Alaska regions and the methods used in making food production easier in each region.

The council, which is dedicated to Alaska increasing local food production, held its first meeting on the subject in Nome on Friday, with a second meeting Monday in Juneau, KTOO reported.

Researcher Lia Heifetz said Haines holds the highest promise to grow food in southeast Alaska.

Heifetz’s study noted that there is a high demand for local foods in southeast Alaska, but currently there is not enough produced to meet those demands.

Her study, sponsored by the Cooperative Extension Service, the Southeast Conference and Sheinberg Associates, was to find items that would increase the capacity for crop production in the southeast. The study was based on a survey of food growers.

“Things like equipment shares, cooperative buying to buy amendments and things needed to produce food,” Heifetz said. “Some examples of added infrastructure are things that could be included in the umbrella term food hub, which could be anything from a commercial kitchen to a shared storage facility and a center for education and creation of value-added products.”

All these elements, she noted, could reduce the costs of food production for southeast Alaska. Currently, she said, small local operations are unable to make a living at growing for local food needs.

Before World War II, the Mendenhall Valley north of Anchorage was dotted with farms producing potatoes and dairy products. In 1899, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted that the Haines area and Point Agassiz, near Petersburg, had the potential of being good for farming. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1899 noted a number of potential farming sites in Alaska and had set up agricultural stations throughout the then territory for the raising of experimental crops.

Darren Snyder, a University of Alaska Cooperative Extension agent and council member, said the goal of the organization is to promote a healthy and secure food system feeding all Alaskans.

“And each one of us are part of that vision,” Snyder said. “So the Food Policy Council is attempting to have each person who sees themselves as part of the overall Alaska food systems be able to weigh in and contribute what they think would help to improve that system.”

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