Farmers Market and Local Food Festival promotes eating locally

Juneau Commission on Sustainability sponsors event for the second straight year

Posted: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Scott McPherson held a fresh sockeye down on a cutting table Saturday at the Juneau Farmers Market and Local Food Festival in front of nearly a dozen people as he began to demonstrate how to properly fillet a salmon.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

"We're pretty spoiled around here," he told the crowd as he cut down the backbone of the fish before flipping over the bright red, moist fillet for all to see.

McPherson, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, was one of dozens of people Saturday extolling the virtues of the locally grown and harvested foods of Southeast Alaska. The idea of the farmers market was to promote sustainable local food, organizers said.

Salmon has been a primary local food source for many generations and remains a vibrant part of Southeast living to this day. From a recreational and commercial standpoint, the Juneau area is full of healthy stocks of salmon, including the prized king, sockeye and coho, McPherson said.

"They are all a sustainable resource," he said. "We've managed to keep our habitat in very good shape and the local communities and the departments have fought for that over many decades."

And not only are the locally harvested fish delicious, they're healthy too, McPherson said.

"Wild salmon from our wild stocks or hatchery stocks locally are just full of those good Omega 3 fatty acids, which are the good kind of fat that helps you with your cholesterol and other aspects of your daily nutrition," he said.

This is the second year in a row the Juneau Commission on Sustainability has sponsored the event, member Eva Bornstein said. She said the commission had a two-pronged approach for the market -- to provide educational seminars that encourage people to be more sustainable in the own lives, and to promote businesses that create local food.

"I hope people have more of an idea of buying local and eating local, and also more of an idea of growing for themselves here in Juneau," Bornstein said. "So it has the different avenues of the event."

Nearly 1,600 people attended the market Saturday, up from an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 attendees last year, she said. There also were more vendors than last year, she said, including a couple businesses from Haines and one from Hoonah and Kake.

"It's a Southeast event, which is something that we really hadn't expected, but we're delighted to discover that there are businesses in the communities that are coming to promote their goods here," Bornstein said.

A plethora of Southeast Alaska bounty was up for sale Saturday, from huckleberry jam to locally grown potatoes to seaweed.

Tom Henderson, the owner of Pearl of Alaska, was selling his Rocky Pass Oysters that he farms out of Kake. He was selling them between $10 and $12 a dozen, depending on the size of the oyster, and had plenty of demand for his locally cultivated product.

"They are always expensive, so nobody is really going to subsist on oysters because of the price. But there is a worldwide demand, a nationwide demand, and so I don't have any trouble selling everything I produce."

Henderson, who has been farming oysters for 15 years, said he sold 9,000 sets of dozens last year. He expects to increase that figure to 30,000 sets of dozens in two years.

Ed Buyarski, the proprietor of Ed's Edible Landscaping, was at the festival Saturday promoting vegetable gardening and including more fruits and berries in home gardens.

"Certainly we have the option to harvest wild berries and wild salmon and deer and moose and caribou and all that, but as much as we can grow ourselves improves our lives," he said.

The Southeast climate provides the opportunity to plant myriad fruits and vegetables each year, Buyarski said.

"Garlic and potatoes, carrots, the wild berries," he said. "I grow hardy kiwis, apples that we really enjoy, lots of different vegetables."

It is very important to encourage people to eat well and to teach them how to grow locally as much as possible, Buyarski said.

"Get out there, gather it, cook it, eat it and enjoy it," he said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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