I’m sitting on my deck watching as a Steller’s jay grabs some large insect and then lands nearby and shows it off to me as if bragging. An eagle is flying in the distance, surveying the beaches for something to eat.
We all need food. Somehow the human animal has discovered ways to separate themselves from the food they eat. Food is produced in some far-off place, shipped miles, stored in refrigeration, then delivered to your local store. The original product has probably been processed into some chunk or can or box that doesn’t resemble anything in nature.
This is why our local farmers markets are so appealing. We get to know our farmer, we get to know our food, we get in touch with the seasonality of things.
But we couldn’t do this without farmers. The increase in the number of new farmers (less than 10 years experience) in Alaska is greater than any other state in the nation. Learning about how to farm in Alaska is a huge learning curve. Dealing with cold soils and short summers requires experimentation, risk and experience before one can develop the knowledge and confidence to navigate how to run a successful farm in Alaska.
If the overarching goal of a community is to increase food security, then one would need to provide as much support to those farmers as possible. That would mean running experiments on different varieties and crops, providing incentives and creating a structure of financial support for new and beginning farmers.
We have many high quality farmers here on the southern Kenai Peninsula. However, we do not have enough people producing food to say we can feed ourselves. If we want true food security, we need to focus a concerted effort on improving the lives of farmers, helping them gain experience and knowledge while at the same time earning a livelihood.
One of the simplest ways to do that is to head on down to the Homer Farmers Market this Saturday from 10 to 2 p.m. or Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. and find out how you can support a local farmer.
Kyra Wagner is the coordinator of Sustainable Homer and the Homer Farmers Market’s biggest fan.