As the new agriculture and horticulture Extension agent for the Kenai Peninsula District, Casey Matney is finding his responsibilities are almost as broad as his territory, the entire Kenai Peninsula.
Matney will work with livestock producers, hay farmers, berry and peony growers, and will help gardeners, high tunnel operators and others learn how to better grow food for personal use and for sale. Because Alaska imports a high percentage of its food supply, improving food security is a priority, he said.
“It’s important for people to produce their own food here,” he said. He notes a strong interest among Alaskans who want “farm fresh food.”
Some of the agent’s work will depend on needs and requests from area residents. Matney expects to make recommendations on soil amendments and fertilizers and as well as on pest and weed management. In the off season, Matney hopes to conduct research to better understand how the winter and temperature fluctuations affect plant growth and survival.
Matney, who grew up near Sandy and Mount Hood in Oregon, is a rangeland specialist by training. He earned a doctorate in rangeland ecology and management, a master’s in rangeland resources and bachelor’s degree in habitat management in fisheries and wildlife, all from Oregon State University.
After earning his doctorate in 2010, he worked as a rangeland management Extension specialist for Colorado State University for five years, consulting with private, state and federal land managers about managing rangelands for livestock and wildlife. He also taught rangeland courses and served as co-chair for the CSU Drought Team.
Matney began his new job Aug. 10 and is working with others to learn about Alaska’s conditions and agricultural issues. He is already familiar with gardening, since he grew up gardening and surrounded by Oregon berry fields.
He is excited about the move to Alaska for his family, which includes his wife, Stevie, two daughters, ages 2 and 5, and a 15-year-old son. His wife’s family lived in Ketchikan until she was 11, and she has always wanted to return to the state, he said. He is also happy to relocate.
“I grew up hunting and fishing so Kenai is a good place to be,” he said. Contact Matney at 907-262-5824 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.