Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Upcoming conference will address northern agriculture

The 8th Circumpolar Agricultural Conference and UArctic Inaugural Food Summit, to be held in Girdwood Sept. 29-Oct. 3, will bring together world leaders to discuss northern agricultural issues and challenges.

Milan Shipka of UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences is president of the Circumpolar Agricultural Association. “We Alaskans need to be learning from and discovering that our agriculture means are more like those in other high latitude settings than those in the lower 48. Without being part of the circumpolar agriculture system, we have few opportunities to interact with agriculturalists from other countries in the circumpolar region.”

The conference, which occurs every three years, offers the opportunity for face to face interaction between farmers, lay people, agency representatives, scientists and elected officials. The goal is to learn and share ideas about agriculture in the north. “I hope some of the ideas can stimulate new activity to help Alaska discover what it really means to produce food in a sustainable means for all Alaskans,” Shipka said.

Carol E. Lewis, chair of the event, said, “Much attention has been focused on food supplies in deep Africa and underdeveloped nations. It is time to draw attention to the fragility of the food supply in the nations of the circumpolar north. We must broaden the agriculturally productive areas of the world and the circumpolar north is certainly one of them. It can become a leading production area for the world's feed and food grains and horticultural crops because of its productive soils and long solar days.

“The potential, particularly where geothermal is available, for energy efficient, controlled environments is here as are diversified livestock opportunities in reindeer, yak, elk, and bison; species adapted to the north as efficient converters of feed stocks into food stocks that are high in protein and low in fat. The message must reach the world about our potential here and we hope this conference leads the way in making that happen.”

The conference and summit theme is advancing food security and sustainable agriculture in the circumpolar north, building an integrated vision, and creating a process for sustainable food security in northern communities. The four objectives will help lead to a balanced approach between traditional subsistence natural resource access and agricultural production:

1. Educate world leaders on the critical nature of food supplies in the circumpolar north,
2. Encourage the exchange of information, material and technology of agriculture and rural development in circumpolar areas.
3. Establish and maintain relations with organizations that relate to the Circumpolar Agricultural Association and the thematic network on northern food security, University of the Arctic.
4. Discuss and define the barriers, challenges and opportunities of expanding regional food economies.

“The conference and summit adopt the perspective that food security is a driver in community development and sustainability,” Lewis said. “Rather than a commodity-specific conference, we will bridge diverse but common key areas to support, strengthen, and expand the food resources and northern community development. Very important long-term impacts will come from meeting this. If the conference and summit can do that, we have implanted a base from which food security and food supply in the circumpolar north and beyond can grow.”

The conference will be held at Alyeska Resort.

The event is hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Circumpolar Agricultural Association, UArctic and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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