Farmers of the Kenai Peninsula now have an ally in high places.
Lifelong resident Allan Baldwin has been appointed to the Alaska Board of Agriculture and Conservation by Gov. Tony Knowles.
"This is the first time someone from the peninsula has been on the agriculture board, so it's kind of an honor," Baldwin said.
His appointment, announced Sept. 1, is part of a revamping in the state's agriculture administration. The board was previously known as the Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund Board. It is responsible for approving and administering agricultural loans, disposing of agricultural lands and adopting regulations, according to a statement from the governor's office.
"I'm not sure of the full extent of our role," he said. "I'm sure it will be exciting."
Other members of the new board are Harvey Baskin of Wasilla, Donald Brainard of Palmer, Ann DeArmond of Palmer, James Drew of Fairbanks, Jon Dufendach of Delta Junction and Sam Lightwood of Copper Center.
Baldwin's first meeting with the new board will be Sept. 19 and 20 in Palmer, with a public comment period beginning at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 19.
He runs Alaska Harvester with his brother, Roy. The 2-year-old firm on Kalifornsky Beach Road provides industrial hydroseeding, landscaping restoration and propagation of native plants. Their father, Dick Baldwin, runs Seeds of Alaska, which specializes in native wildflower seeds.
"We've been involved in agriculture basically since the day we were born," Allan Baldwin said.
He was approached about being on the board and decided to apply. He thinks the governor selected him to broaden the board's experience and geographic diversity and because of his background in community and resource development, he said.
Baldwin serves on the boards of the Kenai Peninsula Resource Conservation and Development District and Healthy Communities-Healthy People and on the council of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.
Continuing the development of agriculture in Alaska is a major issue, he said.
Baldwin predicted a period of developing the potential of native products like berries and indigenous grasses.
Increasing public awareness of agriculture and assuring it's sustainable are other priorities, he said.
The Kenai Peninsula has a lot of small farms, most of which grow produce for family consumption or feed for animals. The area has potential, he said.
People working with the Resource Conservation and Development District are developing proposals to open a berry fruit kitchen and slaughterhouse in the central peninsula area.
"One of the main problems with the Kenai Peninsula is there is no slaughterhouse. That is a problem our animal producers have faced for years," Baldwin said.
"We want to promote agriculture in Alaska, and the peninsula is one area that can be very conducive to agricultural opportunity."
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