Homer Farmers Market awarded USDA funding

The board of directors for the Homer Farmers Market announced this week it has received an award of $81,345 in USDA funding through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Farmers Market Promotion Program. 

The Homer market is one of 164 projects funded this year around the nation through this program, and one of two in Alaska. The other Alaska Program is Calypso Farm in Fairbanks. 

Market funding runs through 2016-2017, and will provide the market with support for:

• Encouraging diverse attendance and increased awareness of local food availability by expanding outreach to surrounding communities including Seldovia, Ninilchik and Anchor Point;

• Increasing year-round vendor engagement through ongoing farming and marketing training and support;

• Expanding weekly food demonstrations during the market season; and

• Improving the management capacity of the market staff and board through increased training and learning opportunities.

In addition, the market will work with other farmers markets around Alaska to convene a statewide farmers market conference in the spring of 2017. The conference will be held in Homer. 

“By bringing together market managers, farmers and volunteers from around Alaska we will be able to create a network of support, information and ideas with the goal of increasing sales and production of local foods, benefiting not only the Homer-area but elsewhere around the state,” said Robbi Mixon, the Homer market manager.

Since 1999 the Homer Farmers Market has served the lower Kenai Peninsula by providing access to fresh, local foods, flowers and crafts. The market has grown substantially in the past five years, according to a press release from the market announcing the award.

 The 2014 Alaska Department of Natural Resources Alaska Grown Sourcebook lists 47 farms on the Kenai Peninsula, with 24 of them located on the lower peninsula. Since 2009 the USDA has provided more than 300 high tunnel season extension grants in this region, creating an environment for increased agricultural activity. This has corresponded to a huge growth in regional producers, especially small-scale or part-time market gardeners or farmers. 

With this USDA funding, the Homer Farmers Market will be able to provide more resources and increased market opportunities for these producers while maintaining the popular and successful mix of vendors, activities and other offerings during our markets. 

“This grant will dramatically improve our ability to support the core mission of the farmers market which is ‘To aid in the development of a sustainable local agricultural community for the benefit of the greater community of the Kachemak Bay area,’” said Scott Miller, the market board president.

The Homer Farmers Market is run by a volunteer board of directors and managed by a year-round, part-time paid market manager. Three additional part-time employees are hired during the summer months. 

Everyone is encouraged to join the Homer Farmers Market as a supporting member. Members are able to nominate and run for the board of directors and vote in elections. The Homer Farmers Market runs from Memorial Day to the end of September, hosting more than 40 full season vendors, as well as a rotating list of occasional vendors. The annual meeting is held in late-January. 

To learn more and stay connected with what’s happening at the market, check out the website at www.homerfarmersmarket.org and find the Homer Farmers Market on Facebook.