I have to admit that I start getting a little sentimental around this time of year. I can see by the calendar that we only have three more Saturday Markets left and only two more Wednesdays. One of my favorite summer activities in Homer is soon going to go the way of the sandhill cranes, not returning till next May.
So I find myself filled with gratitude. Our local farmers and artisans amplify the quality of our community tremendously. Each farm is like its own community, some run by families working together like Luba’s Garden, some developing dynamic relationships between neighbor, interns, volunteers and friends like Twitter Creek Gardens.
The lifestyle of growing your own food is a romantic one, but it isn’t easy. Sitting on the sidelines, I often find myself worrying about farmer burnout. The growth in the number of small farms in Alaska in the last decade has been incredible. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of small farms went up 73%. Here in Homer, we can see this with many farms that are less than 10 years old yet but supplying a staggering amount and diversity of food.
That famous garlic from Synergy Gardens? Those fields were mostly grass tussocks and alders just nine years ago. Those jam-packed fields out at Oceanside Farm? A fireweed patch just six years ago.
But even with the work load they carry farming in the Alaska climate for our intense but short season, they never seem to lose focus on caring about this place. There is a culture of caring for the soil, trying innovative techniques and varieties to best meet local needs while at the same time amplifying their soil’s productive potential.
Every once in a while, I like to think about this juxtaposition to the average industrial model of food production: huge farms with satellite guided machinery, degraded soils full of fertilizer and pesticide run-off that have left entire dead zones in downstream river and ocean systems.
I am so glad to live here.
So come on down to the Farmers Market this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or Wednesday from 2-5 p.m. and show your appreciation to the farmers of our community.
Kyra Wagner is the coordinator of Sustainable Homer and the Homer Farmers Market’s biggest fan.