Empire editorial: Farmers Market offers tips for self-sufficiency

Posted: Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Living sustainably." It's a concept that is easy to embrace but harder to embody, especially in a city where even "Alaska Grown" sweatshirts arrive on barges. In Juneau, it is easy to feel disconnected from the rest of the world, even though the rest of the world provides us with nearly everything we use, right down to cases of "Washington-grown" blueberries and sprigs of parsley.

And yet, here in the rain forest is a bounty of berries, seafood, mushrooms, art, music ... the list goes on. Nearly every Juneau resident has tapped into these local resources before (who hasn't foraged through a nagoonberry bush, all the while wondering how many more calories they're burning in relation to how many calories a handful of those little berries actually contain?)

But, once again, the Juneau Commission on Sustainability's Farmers Market and Local Foods Festival showed residents just how far these resources can go. Held Saturday at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, the farmers market drew hundreds of residents to booths featuring nagoonberry jam, locally baked goods, homegrown produce, flowers and herbs. It also offered presentations on "Rain Gutter Gardening," "Raising Chickens for Eggs," and "Gathering and Enjoying Seaweed (for food!)." Some of the topics were so popular that presenters had to turn people away.

During this event, everybody got a small taste of local sustainability. The festival offered a few how-to tips, a few tasty treats, and a number of long-term ideas about backyard gardening and local business initiatives that everyone could chew on. The event focused on education and not just commerce, meaning participants didn't just leave the event with jars of jam, but also a better idea about how they could make their own.

The second annual farmers market was a success because it hit its goal, which was to promote the eat-locally movement. Across the United States, more people are planting backyard gardens, buying locally made goods and seeking out produce that was grown within a short distance from their homes. In doing this, Americans are not only supporting their families and their communities, but also reducing their personal impact on the environment.

Many in Juneau may think that eating locally is too difficult here, because it's either too rainy, too dark or too cold. The Farmers Market and Local Foods Festival proved that eating locally is possible in Juneau. Not only that, it showed Juneau residents how it can be done.

Alaskans pride themselves on self-sufficiency, and what better place to start than our own backyard? As one demonstration showed, if you catch a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. But if you teach him how to smoke and can fish, and he'll have food all winter long.

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