Friday, November 2, 2018

Sustainable Agriculture Conference set for Nov. 5-7

An onion field at Vanderweele Farm in Palmer. Edwin Remsberg photo

The Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference will take place in Anchorage Nov. 5-7.

More than 80 presentations will cover diverse topics, including seaweed farming, rhodiola production, soil health, marketing, honeybees and pollinators, reindeer husbandry, livestock feeding, farm energy, the cut flower industry, and farming and gardening in rural Alaska. One session will even cover how to use pigs to improve land for farming. Pigs forage on vegetation, loosen soil, clear land and enhance soil fertility.

Casey Matney, an agriculture and horticulture agent for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, is coordinating the 14th annual conference.

“It’s about all things agriculture throughout the state,” he said.

Presenters include farmers, researchers, Extension agents, and representatives from agricultural agencies and businesses. Matney said a goal of the conference is to share information and improve the agricultural industry in Alaska.

For the first time, several sessions will focus on mariculture, or aquatic farming, of seaweed and shellfish. Participants will hear about Blue Evolution, which operates a seaweed hatchery in Kodiak. Farmed seaweed is used a variety of ways, including as an ingredient in sushi, seaweed pasta, vitamins and fertilizers for gardening.

“Mariculture is a great opportunity for producers in Alaska,” Matney said.

An all-day session will highlight research and producer experience growing rhodiola, an herb that Alaska farmers have begun cultivating for its roots. Proponents say the plant, which takes several years to mature, helps battle fatigue.

The conference location rotates among Alaska communities. It will take place this year at the BP Energy Center, with some sessions at the SpringHill Suites University Lake Hotel at 4050 University Lake Drive. The Cooperative Extension Service hosts the conference, which is sponsored by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

An all-day pre-conference workshop on Nov. 4 will focus on Alaska produce safety training to comply with new federal rules. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation will offer the training. Mel Sikes, coordinator of the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, will also lead an all-day post-conference workshop Nov. 8 on the Alaska Agriculture in the Classroom program and resources.

Registration and conference information are available at Participants may register by the day or for the entire conference. For more information, contact Matney at or 907-262-5824.

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