Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Washington State University shares marketing strategies with Alaska farmers

For the first time, one of the sites for Washington State University’s Women in Agriculture Conference was in Alaska. Over 600 participants gathered at 26 sites in four states Feb. 21.

The event at the University of Alaska Fairbanks drew 29 women and one man for an all-day focus on  making sense of marketing.
Conference attendees at UAF's Women in Agriculture Conference discuss marketing techniques.

In between presentations from WSU by a farmer and a marketing consulting, participants worked in groups to tackle the basics of creating a marketing plan for their own farm or products. At the end of the day, the women reported they had learned to: identify target markets, understand branding and business planning strategies that incorporate marketing, condense their message, write a concise, clear, compelling and repeatable message, deciding what to be known for. Many left with a renewed enthusiasm for updating their farm or business websites.

SNRE Professor Jenifer McBeath, one of the conference organizers, said, “Marketing is a very important issue in agriculture, especially for women.”

Carolyn Chapin, co-owner of Polar Peonies and a doctoral student with SNRE, said, “People are excited about what they are growing and making and they want to get it out there. There’s always something to learn. When I started farming you put a sign at the end of the field that said ‘rhubarb for sale,’ now so much is web-based.”

Margaret Viebrock of WSU said farmers need to learn to tell their stories and include how they care for the land and soil. “It’s a great day for women in agriculture,” she said, encouraging the women to put into action what they learned.

Quoting the 2013 USDA Census of Agriculture, Viebrock said 1 million women in the U.S. are farmers. She urged the women to refer to themselves as farmers, not producers, to use the word farm, not operation and customer not consumer. “Marketing is a way to express our passion for what we do. It’s a lifetime process,” she said.

Emily Asmus of Welcome Table Farm in Walla Walla, Washington, told the gathering to build a business they enjoy that matches their lifestyle. “Take pride in what you are producing and share what you do with confidence,” she said. “And take more pictures.”

Erica Mills of Claxon Marketing in Seattle led the group through exercises to help them figure out marketing methods that will work for their farms. “Our goal is to have farmers who think like marketers,” she said. “The magic is being intrinsically who you are and infusing marketing into it.”
There is more to marketing than Facebook, she cautioned. “It’s about connection, engagement and authenticity.”

She asked, “What does marketing success look like? Who do you want to reach for your marketing to be successful? How can you most effectively reach your ideal supporters?” Mills had the participants come up with concise and memorable messaging to represent their farms. “What do you want your farm to be known for?”

In an exit interview, many women mentioned how much they enjoyed the networking opportunities. One said she was inspired that there are so many women who are successful in different areas of agriculture. “I learned a lot about what other people are doing and how they are succeeding,” she wrote.” I met a very diverse group of people in many fields within agriculture.”

The UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension hosted the conference.

From left Beth Cender, Jenifer McBeath and Roxie Rodgers Dinstel network during the Women in Agriculture conference.

UAF hosts Peace Corps sessions

Opportunities to learn more about Peace Corps service abound at UAF this week. Stephanie Nys, regional representative for the Peace Corps, will be on campus Feb. 25-27.

Stephanie Nys
On Wednesday, Feb. 25, Nys will have a table at the Student Job Fair in the Wood Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Thursday, Feb. 26, she will host a panel discussion featuring storytelling by returned volunteers from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Wood Center room E/F.

On Friday, Feb. 27, she will be at College Coffehouse, 3677 College Road, from 7 to 10 a.m. for individual sessions with people interested in Peace Corps service. Walk-ins are welcome from 9 to 10 a.m. Email snys@peacecorps.gov or call 206-239-6618.

UAF has two programs for students to earn graduate credit while serving in the Peace Corps. The Master's International Program is offered through SNRE or the College of Rural and Community Development.

Peony farmers examine labor needs

Obviously, Alaska’s farms can’t run without workers and there is growing concern among farmers about who is going to do the work required to keep them in business.

At the Alaska Peony Growers Association winter conference in late January, a packed room of interested attendees listened to a panel discussion called “Alaska’s Peony Industry: World Class Flowers and Its Labor Needs.”
FFA members such as these from North Pole High School may be the future leaders of agriculture in Alaska. For the time being some of the students spend their summers working on farms.

Joni Simpson, a high school counselor and peony farmer, said, “We don’t have the labor support.” She chose to slow the expansion of her farm for this very reason. “We want highly skilled workers and high wages for Alaskans,” she said.

“We don’t have a lot of ag programs in our state, which is alarming for us,” Simpson said. She hopes to spread the word to borough assemblies, Chambers of Commerce, businesses, policy makers, legislators and educators. “We need to build our workforce,” she said.

Calling the growing peony industry in the state “insane,” Simpson said, “If we don’t have experienced harvesters the industry can’t grow. This is very critical. Buds come in groups of hundreds with 24 hours of daylight; harvests are intense.”

Peony farms need employees who are familiar with farm tools and have skills such as being able to pull weeds without destroying plants. “It’s happened,” Simpson said. Workers are also likely to place tubing for drip irrigation and trim plants in the fall. “You can’t have anybody afraid of getting dirty on a peony farm,” she said.

Desired employee skills include dependability, punctuality, good work ethic, good attitude, ability to follow instructions, knowledge of agriculture, interested in learning new things, enjoy working outdoors and ability to use tools and equipment safely and efficiently, Simpson explained. There is room in the peony workforce for growers, harvesters, laborers and pack house owners and managers.

She would like to see harvester certification programs where people could learn the proper techniques before going to work on farms. She envisions mostly seasonal jobs that local people could fill. “We have no strategic plan but this industry can’t grow until we have labor,” she said. “We’re open-minded; we’re looking for answers.”

Chris Beks of North Pole Peonies said, “This could turn into a $20 million industry for this state,” and noted that Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative, has 52 members.

“Labor is a big deal,” he said. “It takes skilled labor. It gets to the point when farms are big that there is too much work to be done by family members.” Beks said his farm is willing to pay a good price if workers are willing to learn.

Demand for peonies is incredibly high, Beks said. “Last year it was 50,000 stems and we can double or triple that. This can be a big deal, a big industry during the summer. This could make jobs. I’m really excited about it.

The third panel member, Kevin Fochs, is the new state advisor for FFA, a youth leadership organization emphasizing natural resources and agriculture. “We have the opportunity to grow agriculture in this state,” he said. “Alaska is in a bind because of our dependence on oil. It would be nice to have more stability by increasing the agricultural economy.”

Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference set for March 4-5

The Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference, set for March 4-5 in Fairbanks, will highlight farm decision making and sustainable farming practices.

More than 40 presentations will cover a wide range of agricultural topics, including livestock care, growing fruit and vegetables, farm management and even overwintering bees.
A photo captures a discussion on agriculture at last year's conference.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host the 11th annual conference at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel.

The conference draws participants from across Alaska and includes presentations of interest to gardeners and also small and large commercial operations.

“It’s for anyone who farms, gardens or ranches,” said Steven Seefeldt, Fairbanks Extension agent.

The featured speakers will be Phil Metzger of Norwich, New York, who teaches and consults on farm decision making, and Gina Greenway, an assistant professor from the College of Idaho who specializes in agricultural economics.

Metzger will lead a preconference workshop on holistic farm management, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 3. It will cover how to manage toward profitability, land health and social well-being. A second workshop, from 1 to 5 p.m. March 3, will focus on hydroponics for year-round vegetable production.

Agenda and registration information is available at http://bit.ly/sareconf.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SNRE Science and News blog has new address

As of Feb. 18, the School of Natural Resources and Extension blog address has changed to snrenews.blogspot.com.

Subscribers, please note the new address.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

NRM outstanding student named

Katherine Mihalczo is the natural resources management outstanding student for 2014-15.

Katherine Mihalczo
Hailing from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Mihalczo married her high school sweetheart, David Thomasson, in 2011 and followed him later that year to Fort Wainwright where he serves in the U.S. Army. Mihalczo had taken courses at a community college and at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga when she arrived at UAF.

She was studying history, but then discovered she was good at science. All it took was Natural Resources Management 101 for her to realize she had finally found the right major. Associate Professor Susan Todd, who teaches 101, influenced Mihalczo greatly. "She is as passionate as me about nature," Mihalczo said. She also loved studying Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold in NRM 101 and the soils classes she took.

Mihalczo likes the closeness of the NRM program."All the professors really care about the students and how they are progressing," she said. "They are willing to accommodate you if you get behind. I just try to stay on top of everything."

Her goal is to work for an agency such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service but added, "My secret dream is to work for a farm sanctuary where they rescue abused farm animals."

Mihalczo is president of the Resources Management Society and enjoys reading and hiking.

Her advisor Susan Todd said, "She is very solid and knows what she wants to do. She's got a lot of talent and is always very engaged. Katherine is a good team player and keeps the discussion going."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Produce growers to gather in Palmer

The Alaska Produce Growers Conference,  to be held Feb. 21 at the Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer, will highlight production tips for small-scale growers.

Palmer Cooperative Extension agent Steve Brown said the conference is geared to individuals who sell vegetables, fruit and other produce at farmers markets.

Alaska farmers markets will be a topic of discussion at the Alaska Produce Growers Conference.

Several sessions will focus on potatoes, including seed potato certification and bacterial ring rot. Bryan Bowen, a potato expert and new agronomist with the Alaska Plant Materials Center, will talk about the potato industry. Other topics will include applying for U.S. Department of Agriculture farmers market grants, weed control, math for pesticide applicators, Rhodiola rosea production and farm agency updates.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension and the Alaska Division of Agriculture will host the conference, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the farm’s Kerttula Hall, 1509 S. Georgeson Road.

The $30 registration fee includes a hamburger lunch with beef grown on the farm. Register at http://bit.ly/ces-workshops. For more information, see the agenda at www.uaf.edu/ces or contact the Palmer Extension office at 907-746-9450.

Delta Farm Forum set for Feb. 21

The annual Delta Farm Forum, Feb. 21 in Delta Junction, will draw area growers and the community together to hear about agricultural research, recommendations and farm agency news.

Steve Sparrow
Steve Sparrow, interim SNRE dean and interim director of the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, will welcome participants at 9 a.m. Presentations will run until 4:30 p.m. in the Delta High School small gymnasium.

Lloyd Wilhelm will talk about the Farm Service Agency programs and orchard enthusiast Travis Czechowski will talk about production techniques for orchard crops suitable for the Delta area.

Extension veterinarian Dr. Lisa Lunn will address livestock issues, and UAF assistant professor Anna Liljedahl will talk about glacier studies pertaining to local watersheds.

A potluck lunch is planned. The forum is co-sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District.

See the full agenda at www.uaf.edu/ces. For more information, contact Delta Extension at 907-895-4215 or the conservation district in Delta at 895-6279.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Graduate seminar focuses on agriculture

For the first time, an Extension agent is coordinating the Natural Resources Management 692 graduate seminar.

Since the School of Natural Resources merged with the Cooperative Extension Service, professors decided to ask Agent Steven Seefeldt to lead the seminar as a measure to further the integration process.
Steve Seefeldt welcomed Carol Lewis as a guest speaker in the spring graduate seminar.

Seefeldt chose agriculture as the theme for spring semester, hoping to expose students to Alaska agriculture through guest speakers. “There are a myriad of road blocks and opinions about where agriculture in Alaska is going and what can be done to expand production and use of Alaska grown products,” Seefeldt said. Another goal is to prepare students for future employment.

Seefeldt gave the first lecture on Jan. 15. An agronomist with the Agricultural Research Service prior to joining Extension, Seefeldt’s focus was weed science but now he works broadly in a range of agricultural topics. Seefeldt is concerned about Alaska’s food security and works to encourage greater local food production. “We have people with the skills. How can we help them become full-time farmers?” he said.

The second session’s speaker was Carol Lewis, professor emeritus and former dean and director of SNRE and AFES.

“Normally you wouldn’t find somebody like me in an ag school,” Lewis said. Before coming to UAF, she was a research physicist at a naval weapons center in Virginia. “My career has been really diverse,” she said.

Lewis shared with the graduate students her philosophy on overcoming obstacles in life. “They are the three C’s,” she said. “Circumstance, challenge and conquer.”

When Lewis entered her field she was told it was a man’s world; over the years she had to overcome many obstacles to achieve her dreams, but she nevertheless maintained her sense of humor. She credited former School of Natural Resources Dean Jim Drew with leading her to a career in agriculture. It began with controlled environment work which she still believes has an incredible role to play in Alaska. She also worked in agricultural development, conservation tillage, agricultural marketing and agriculture history.

She predicted for Alaska agriculture: expansion to rural areas, regionalization and hubs, alternative energy, controlled environments, in-state processing and specialized products. “Potatoes, hay, vegetables and florals will dominate the market,” she said. “People are willing to pay 10 to 15 percent higher for quality products. “We’re not going to compete with Birds Eye but we can compete on a lesser level.”

Agriculture isn’t native to Alaska, Lewis said. “We are hunters and gatherers. Without education and research we won’t have the information.”

Other speakers have been Ann Rippy of the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Brett Nelson of the Alaska Department of Transportation.

The lineup for the next few weeks is:
  • Feb. 12, Pete Mayo of Spinach Creek Farms
  • Feb. 19, Bryce Wrigley of Alaska Flour Co., Wrigley Farms and president of the Alaska Farm Bureau
  • Feb. 26, Professor Milan Shipka
  • March 12, Katie DiCristina of the Georgeson Botanical Garden
The class meets Thursdays from 3:40 p.m. to 5:10 p.m. in Arctic Health Research Building, room 183. Guests are welcome to observe.

For more information, contact ssseefeldt@alaska.edu.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fairbanks couple taps into birch syrup market

Frank Tomaszewski was satisfied operating his electrical business when he happened upon a video about tapping sap from birch trees.

Frank Tomaszewski prepares to process birch sap. (Photo courtesy Sample Alaska)
“Leave it to YouTube to complicate our lives,” he said. “I saw people tapping trees and I said I could do that. I ordered a couple of taps, put them in trees and the sap started flowing. I was hooked from there.”

A few years later, Sample Alaska, the birch syrup company owned by Frank and his wife Harmony, is going strong, selling products in 30 outlets across the state. Birch syrup is included in almost all the products made by the Tomaszewskis and their children. In addition to syrups, there are vinegar infusions, glazes, jams, jellies and teas.

Hot sellers are a birch and coconut hot cocoa mix and drizzles (toppings for ice cream, cakes, breads or meat). The number one seller is birch syrup, but the chokecherry rhubarb vinegar and the apple pie drizzle give the syrup stiff competition.

 Frank and Harmony are thrilled about their family business. “It’s so good and healthy,” Harmony said. “These are great products from out in the woods.

“We’re happy it’s so well received.”

Prior to going commercial, the couple tested products on family and friends with Harmony developing all the recipes. She took Cooperative Extension Service food preservation training and completed the Master Gardener program. “We spent the first two seasons educating people about the vitamin content and how it’s available in our own back yards,” Harmony said. “We showed examples and talked about the process.”

They also talked to maple producers and determined what methods would work with birch. “We had to figure out the best way,” Harmony said. “It’s totally different from maple because of the sugar content.”

The family made a list of ideas and discussed which they should tackle. “There are so many things you can do with birch,” Harmony said. “One of the hardest things is trying to narrow it down.”
While Frank’s favorite part of running the business is being out in nature and breathing the fresh air, Harmony’s is being together as a family. “We work really hard and we make good products,” she said.

The greatest challenge they face is weather. “The tapping season depends on the temperature,” Frank said. And that can vary wildly each spring. “Our first commercial year the tapping season was seven days,” Harmony said. “We were so disappointed.”

Ordinarily, sap flow can occur for 14 to 21 days. Once the flow starts Frank is on the go collecting sap as quickly as possible. When it comes time for cooking days, the Tomaszewskis rent a commercial kitchen. “We work odd schedules,” Harmony said.

One of her goals is to have her own commercial kitchen. Frank’s goals are to get the infrastructure they need, produce a sustainable amount and maintain a stable supply of products.

In addition to tapping sap and harvesting forest products like berries and chaga, Harmony has a large garden and a high tunnel. “We want to be more self-sufficient,” she said. “We’re going to grow our own peppers for our products.” Last fall she planted fruit trees, including saskatoons, apple and cherry trees, plums and seaberries.

When they aren’t immersed in Sample Alaska, the family enjoys church activities, road trips and board games. Frank likes hunting and fishing. They homeschool their children, ages 5 to 16.  The 16-year-old is already talking business classes at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and offering his parents advice. “It’s nice to have him get involved in the business,” Frank said.

In the beginning the family thought the business would keep them hopping for about a month each year but it has turned into a year-round vocation. “It doesn’t really slow down,” Harmony said. “We’re always busy with wholesale shows, the harvest season, the Farmers Market all summer and then holiday bazaars.”

Harmony and Frank work together on marketing and outreach. “We make a good team,” she said.

Sample Alaska products are available in Fairbanks at Alaska Feed, Arctic Traveler and the Great Alaska Bowl Co. They are at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market all summer.

Friday, February 6, 2015

New landscape change video features local knowledge

A new video, Observations of Landscape Change in Interior Alaska -- Nenana Local Knowledge Holders and LTER Researchers, has been released by the Long Term Ecological Research Program at UAF.

Fish wheels and salmon harvests are in the harvesters' discussions, as well as other aspects of the changing climate.
The 20-minute film features interviews with LTER researchers, including SNRE's Professor Gary Kofinas, and many Nenana-area residents who expressed concerns about dwindling moose and fish harvests, drought, forest fires, changing rivers and permafrost.
Kofinas said it is crucial to learn from the people who live there and know the land. "We hope to develop a long-term community-based research and monitoring program that contributes to the work of scientists and to community sustainability," he said.
Professor Emeritus Terry Chapin said climate change at high latitudes impacts people tied to the land. Dramatic changes in wildfires and disappearing lakes make a huge difference to people who make their lives on the land, he said.

The film, produced by the Bonanza Creek LTER, would not have been possible without the tremendous contributions of the Nenana harvesters and the tireless work of technician Naomi O'Neal, Kofinas said. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation and Alaska EPSCoR.

DVDs are available by contacting Professor Kofinas at gpkofinas@alaska.edu.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

SNRE names outstanding employee

Jeff Fay, media specialist, has been selected the SNRE Employee of the Quarter for October through December 2014.

Jeff Fay, media specialist, hard at work.
In the 17 years Fay has been making educational videos for Cooperative Extension Service, he has produced a myriad of products and learned a lot about being patient.

Born in Anchorage, Fay came to Fairbanks in 1967. He got interested in photography during high school and studied journalism at UAF. He was on air for the campus radio station and then KUAC, where he worked his way up to TV crew chief. He later joined a private video production company. During two decades of freelancing, he began filming for Extension and eventually joined the staff full time.

He’s seen a lot of changes in technology over the years but said one constant has been the nice people he works with. “Most people I’m working with don’t have experience making videos and I try to help them understand the process,” he said. “It may be a five-minute video but it takes time to produce it.”
Jeff likes the variety of his job. “It’s not the same thing every day,” he said. The challenging part is helping people have realistic expectations. “I want to make videos that are interesting and exciting. I want to take pride in producing a really good product.”

When not working, Fay can be found on the slopes of Mount Aurora Skiland where he is either skiing, doing the ski report or maintaining trails. “Skiing is life for me,” he said. “It’s what keeps me sane.”

Co-workers said:

“Jeff has high professional standards and is very knowledgeable about video production and editing. He is also good-natured, responsive to questions and is always looking for innovative solutions to problems. He is a pro and an Extension ambassador.”

“He handles multiple deadlines well, rarely complains and stays professional. His work is outstanding. He perseveres through changing deadlines and priorities to create quality productions.”

“Extension is very lucky to have such a talented, experienced and highly qualified videographer. Without Jeff and his videography, editing and producing of digital media, Extension would have significantly less visibility and outreach to our constituents.”

To view some of the videos Fay has created, visit here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Women farmers invited to marketing conference at UAF

The 2015 Women in Agriculture Conference will offer women in Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Oregon a unique opportunity to gather in 28 locations on Saturday, Feb. 21 for knowledgeable speakers, inspiring stories, networking with other producers and practical advice for learning new skills.
More women, like Pioneer Produce's Jen Becker, are entering agriculture professions.
“Put Your Best Boot Forward” will explain how to make sense of marketing.

Locally, the conference will be held at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Margaret Murie Building, room 107, 982 Koyukuk Drive. Parking is available behind the building or at the UA Museum of the North and is free on weekends.
More and more, producers are asked, “Tell me about your farm.” It’s more important than ever to be able to talk about it positively and with passion. Everyone has a story that needs to be told to promote agriculture, according to Washington State University Douglas County Extension Director and chair of the conference, Margaret Viebrock. The format enables WSU to offer headline speakers at all locations, while still tailoring the conference content for each region.

“Last year, nearly 600 women attended,” said Viebrock. “Many attendees reported it was the best conference for women producers because it presented practical information they could use right away.”

The lineup includes farmer and marketing specialist Emily Asmus of Walla Walla, Washington, who will showcase how her farm, Welcome Table Farms, keeps its brand fresh to build interest and loyalty. Learn what tools and techniques are critical to her marketing plan.

Marketing expert Erica Mills of Claxon Marketing believes every woman should have a consistently compelling way to describe her farm business. She knows this isn’t easy and will help farms of all shapes and sizes tackle this challenge. Using proven tools participants will learn a simple three-step marketing method and create a marketing action plan that gets results.

“In addition to telling a compelling story as part of a marketing plan, this conference will help provide ways to inform decision makers, non-farmers and community members about best management practices,” Viebrock added.

This conference is designed for women who have been farming for years, as well as new and aspiring farmers. Supporting spouses, students, interns or people who own an agriculture-related business are also welcome.

The conference registration fee is $30. Register by Feb. 13 to receive the early bird price of $25. The fee includes the workshop, light breakfast, lunch and conference materials.

Persons with a disability requiring special accommodations may contact Margaret Viebrock, viebrock@wsu.edu. Anyone needing more information about the UAF event, contact Carolyn Chapin at 907-474-5548, carolyn.chapin@alaska.edu or Meriam Karlsson at 907-474-7005, mgkarlsson@alaska.edu.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Peony conference addresses research

During a research panel presentation at the Alaska Peony Growers Association conference in Fairbanks Jan. 30, the moderator introduced UAF Professor Pat Holloway as the “matriarch of peony research.”
Researchers addressed the peony conference attendees.

“Pat was the first to do peony research in Alaska and the first to study growth and development of peonies, what cultivars to grow and now she is studying post-harvest techniques,” said Jill Russell, a researcher and peony farmer.

Holloway said funding for agricultural research in Alaska is flat. She praised Washington State University researchers Beverly Gerdeman and Gary Chastagner for their efforts. “What they are doing is truly a gift,” Holloway said. “They are helping the growers do a better job.”

Gerdeman studies thrips (insects) and Chastagner botrytis blight, a fungal disease. Gerdeman and Holloway are studying thrips on the 100 peony cultivars at the Georgeson Botanical Garden.  Chastagner said botrytis gets to plants by blowing in the air. “Temperature, length of time and moisture on the leaves affect it,” he explained.

UAF Professor Mingchu Zhang studies fertilizers, fish amendments, compost, top soil and peat moss to improve peony production. He divides Alaska into three zones for peony production: Kenai/Homer, Matanuska Valley and the Interior. “We are looking for solutions to enhance stem strength,” he said.

Audience members asked the research panel about everything from geothermal energy to companion crops. When questioned about optimal spacing, Holloway said when she set up peony plots at the GBG she copied a farm in Oregon and planted double rows with two-feet spacing and five or six feet between the double rows. “The plants were really happy and they still are,” she said. “Production is still high after 13 years.”

New farmers were advised to get their soil tested by the Soil and Water Conservation District. “The soil should not be waterlogged,” Mingchu Zhang said.

Nearly 200 people attended the conference in Fairbanks Jan. 30-31 and 40 stayed Feb. 1 for a special soils workshop led by Research Technician Bob Van Veldhuizen.

Russell asked growers to participate when researchers send them surveys. “They are vital to us, and help us solve problems as we continue our research,” she said.

Visit the GBG website to follow peony research.

Piet Wierstra of Oregon Perennial Co., left, congratulates the new president of the Alaska Peony Growers Association, Richard Repper of Echo Lake Farm in Soldotna.

The conference featured a trade show, art display and awards banquet. Growers' schools and sessions on taxes, workforce development, peony diseases and insects, preparing your farm, soil health, weeds, chilling buds, selling to brokers, shipping and handling and more were presented.

The new video, Peony Tissue and Soil Sampling, was introduced at the conference.