Alaska farmer challenges conference attendees to solve problems
From left, Casey Steinau of Sen. Mark Begich’s office, Diane Peck (Alaska Food Policy Council), Lisa Sadleir-Hart (Alaska Food Policy Council), visit with farmer Bryce Wrigley about solutions to food security.
Bryce Wrigley of Wrigley Farms and Alaska Flour Co. asked participants at the 8th Circumpolar Agricultural Conference/UArctic Inaugural Food Summit that started today in Girdwood, Alaska, what they would do if they didn’t fear anything.
“It’s important to act, to accomplish something, to chart out a process or path,” he said at Monday’s luncheon.
Quoting Winston Churchill and his “Never give up” line, Wrigley said, “That’s the attitude we need to have food security.”
Originally from Idaho, the Wrigleys moved to Delta Junction, Alaska, in 1983 to establish Wrigley Farms. They raised barley for animal feed for decades. Then Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and Wrigley could not stop thinking about the state’s food supply.
“It took two weeks for those people to get food and they are close to the food supply.”
So Wrigley decided it was time to start feeding humans in addition to livestock. At the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station’s farm at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a new variety of hulless barley, called Sunshine Barley, was released and Wrigley began growing it with great success.
He’d never even been in flour mill so he and his wife Jan visited several in the lower 48 and came home to hammer out things like equipment, insurance and regulations. “The devil is in the details,” Wrigley said. “It wasn’t a fun process.”
By December 2011 Alaska Flour Co. was fully operational and today it supplies Alaskans with barley flour and barley cereal, made in Alaska!
“Keep your eye on the objective,” Wrigley said. “Sure it’s cheaper to ship flour in but what does it really cost us?”
He said maintaining a farm is one way his children can stay productive and get involved in the family business, if they choose to do so.
He isn’t advocating that Alaska stop importing food. “I like bananas,” he said with a laugh.
“But what will we do if the planes, trucks and barges don’t make it? We need a mechanism to fall back on.
“We’ve got to develop policies and raise awareness of the process. Burying your head in the sand is not a solution. Let’s build something and solve problems."
Bryce Wrigley with SNRAS Interim Dean Stephen Sparrow and Professor Elena Sparrow.