This has been quite the year so far, eh? Normally this would be when I would be telling everyone about how the long winter is done and so the wait is over for local food. But it turns out that people haven’t been waiting.
There’s nothing like a pandemic to get people to start thinking about their food supply. Statewide, farmers and ranchers with vegetables and meat available have been selling quantities like never before for this time of the year.
When our online farmers market, the Alaska Food Hub, opened here in Homer at the beginning of May, its sales were almost double its average weekly sales of past years. Farmers are getting more requests for CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) where customers pay for a subscription from a farm and get a box of vegetables delivered regularly throughout the summer.
The Homer Farmers Market doesn’t open until May 30, but those direct sales are invaluable to farmers. Not only do customers get access to the high quality fresh food, but all the money you spend at the Farmers Market goes directly to the farmer. Besides, customers get to know who grows their food and farmers get to meet the folks they grow for.
But this year will be different at the Market. Keeping customers, vendors and staff healthy is a top priority. Though COVID-19 regulations will change the look and the feel of the Market, the core goal of connecting people with local food will never change.
Some people are worried that we are opening up the community too soon, others are frustrated that we aren’t doing it fast enough. But everyone can agree that having a stable, strong local food economy is a good thing.
It all comes down the farmers. How do we best support them to keep them growing our food? Even if you grow much of your own, check out the Alaska Food Hub when it opens every Friday-Monday at alaskafoodhub.org, now with a variety of starts available along with all the other baked goods, oysters, flowers, pickles and jellies. Don’t wait to connect to the source of your local food.
Kyra Wagner is the coordinator of Sustainable Homer and the Homer Farmers Market’s biggest fan.