"Farm to fork"

Food Bank to stitch farmer-community bond

Kenai Peninsula farmers and gardeners are in the early stages of planning a farmer’s market at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

“Getting the word out is the thing,” said Bonnie Miller, food donor coordinator for the Food Bank.

Miller met with nine others from the farming and gardening community Wednesday afternoon at the Food Bank to discuss the potential market’s logistics.

The market is still in its early stages, but the Food Bank agreed to host it, she said. The Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District also received a $2,000 grant to broadcast the idea in newspaper and radio ads, Distinct Manager Heidi Chay said.

Judy Fischer, owner of Fischer’s Fresh Farm Produce in Kasilof, originally pitched the idea for a centralized market at a January Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon. She said the Food Bank would make a great hub for farmers, gardeners and consumers to exchange vegetables and fruits.

“The goal is to provide a variety of produce on a regular basis for local consumers and restaurants,” Fischer said.

The market will also supply the Food Bank with surplus food, Miller said. That is a major perk for them, she said.

The two major farmer’s markets in the central Peninsula area are the Central Kenai Peninsula Farmer’s Market in Soldotna, and the Kenai Saturday Market in Kenai.

But the two markets — about 25 minutes apart — are too spread out, Fischer said. It is inconvenient for farmers and gardeners to get their produce to both markets, and it is too slow for restaurants to get the produce they need, she said.

“This would be the best way to get the most amount of food out with the least amount of waste,” she said. “There’s so many reasons why this would work well, too.”

The Food Bank, she said, located off Kalifornsky Beach Road, has plenty of parking, public bathrooms, an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation-approved kitchen, a walk-in refrigerator where surplus crops could be stored; and it is close to restaurants in Kenai and Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula College’s dorms.

While the market is only in its early stages, it will have big benefits, said Lydia Clayton, Agriculture and Horticulture Extension Agent for University of Fairbanks’ Cooperative Extension Service.

“It will be a place for farmers to interact with consumers and consumers to interact with farmers,” Clayton said.

That interaction will strengthen the “farm-to-fork relationship,” she said.

“People get to know who is growing their food and, at the same time, have a chance to support their local food in the community,” she said.

Farmer’s markets in general also pump money into the community, foster healthy eating habits, strengthen an area’s food security and give residents a place to gather, she said.

Fischer agreed. The Food Bank farmer’s market has a lot of potential, she said.

“We just got to get this ball rolling,” she said. “It’s very important for all the farmers to get on the same page before we can do this.”

 

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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