Friday, January 30, 2015

11th annual Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference set for March in Fairbanks

By Darcy Etcheverry, UAF Cooperative Extension Service

Where is the agriculture industry in Alaska headed? Are we on a pathway to providing a higher percentage of locally grown products to residents? Will Alaska soon be in a position to grow the industry toward export markets? Or will the focus remain on supporting smaller family farms that provide products locally? These questions have been asked since the advent of Alaska’s agriculture industry, and will be addressed at the 11th annual Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference. The theme this year is “Defining Our Goals.”

Phil Metzger
Alaska farmers and ranchers are here at an exciting time where local products are increasing in popularity. There appears to be growing demand for local foods from a variety of consumer, retail and wholesale markets. This could be the catalyst to increasing the impact of Alaska producers on the marketplace.

This year we are focusing on providing growers with information that will help you make decisions on how to manage and potentially expand your farming operation. Both of our keynote speakers have backgrounds in helping farmers manage their businesses. Phil Metzger comes to us from New York through Holistic Management International, an organization dedicated to sustainability of farms and ranches across the world. His workshop and conference presentations will be of value to farmers and ranchers of all experience levels. He will introduce the concept of holistic management, and work with producers to help them secure the progress they have made while assisting them with wise expansion. The tools he will present will make producers more confident in the decisions they are making to take advantage of new opportunities. Phil’s sessions are sure to be packed with energy and enthusiasm.

One key to a sustainable farm is profitable farm. Gina Greenway is a professor of business and accounting at the College of Idaho with a background in agricultural economics. She will assist Phil at the Holistic Management workshop, and will present about enterprise budgeting and developing niche markets during the conference. Gina has visited Alaska and is familiar with our agriculture industry. We are looking forward to having her at the conference to help guide the decision making process.

Jeff Werner is no stranger to Alaska agriculture. As a former researcher at UAF’s School of Natural Resources & Extension, Jeff has a strong background in controlled growing environments. He will be leading a workshop on growing vegetables hydroponically along with experts from across the state. If you are interested in commercial hydroponic production, join us for the four-hour workshop March 3.  Learn about structures, systems and plants with the basics of how these elements integrate in greenhouse vegetable production. Several types of soilless culture will be covered for vine crops and leaf crops. Although all of the information needed to start your own commercial hydroponic operation will not fit into a few short hours, the workshop should help you get started in the right direction. Jeff will be teaching with other hydroponic growers from as far north as Nuiqsut and as far south as Copper Center.

There will be plenty of presentations from producers about their particular operations and how they have been successful dealing with Alaska’s unique mixture of climate and geographic isolation. With the growing popularity of the Sustainable Agriculture conference, we have decided to offer concurrent sessions on March 4-5 so that attendees may choose between two topics at any given time. Sessions include: livestock, fruit, vegetables, marketing, managing a farm and sustainable practices. There will be breaks throughout the day to encourage networking across all focus areas.

Join us March 3-5 at the Westmark Hotel and Conference Center in Fairbanks. This will be an opportunity to learn more with your fellow farmers and join with policy makers to keep Alaska agriculture growing.

Contact Darcy Etcheverry at or 907-474-2422.

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