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Alaska Food Hub provides 'side-hustle' for growers, producers

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Alaska Food Hub/Cook Inletkeeper

The Alaska Food Hub based out of Homer was started a few years ago as a way to connect small local growers with residents. It has evolved to include items beyond vegetables, such as homemade treats.
    Robbi Mixon was on KBBI’s Coffee Table with Jeff Lockwood to discuss the Alaska Food Hub, and why it was created.
    “About seven years ago, Rachel Lord, who used to work at Cook Inletkeeper, gathered a lot of farmers, a lot of people that were interested. So this food hub idea has been kicking around in a bunch of our heads for a long time. And they had been on the rise down in the Lower 48. And then we submitted a USDA grant through Cook Inletkeeper. So Cook Inletkeeper took it on as a way to build more resilient communities through regenerative economies. And also, you know, there's the whole buying local reduces our carbon footprint.”
    Everything on the Food Hub is made in Alaska.
    “Most of it is made in the Homer and Soldotna, Kenai Peninsula area. But we do have a couple of folks like Barnicle who make seaweed value-added products, and we just don't have anyone in the area that does that. So we expanded out to include those folks and we have a Chugach chocolate that's based in Girdwood and then some smoked salmon as well from the Copper Valley,” she said. “We worked with the food safety and sanitation program at the DEC to be able to sell cottage food products through the food hub. And so that's the first time ever cottage food products have been sold legally online. So those are items that through the preparation you, you know baking it or the sugar content or the fermentation process makes it a really low risk food. So there's not not a lot of concern around food safety with those items.”
    Kyra Harty’s job includes checking in and checking out products to ensure their safety.
    “They'll come in with their coolers, (and) if it's frozen food, like salmon cakes, or the chicken, or sprouts, we have to check that temperature as well. And I have a log that I'll take the temperature of those things when I receive them, and then they sit in the coolers until we reopen again for customers at 3 p.m. I take the temperatures again. And then when it's the last item in the cooler, I'll take the temperature once more to just have a well-rounded that it was all frozen, it's all within safe eating temperatures,” Harty said. “And that's, that's my process.”
    Hannah Prescott owns Up Yonder Farm. She joined the Food Hub as a supplier last year.
    “And then I just decided to start selling vegetables because, you know, every year I had the surplus and so yeah, last year was my first year and it was super convenient, but I didn't want to do the farmer's market because I was setnetting that in also, well, last year I was doing it full-time this year, I'm doing it two days a week in Halibut Cove. I still wanted to do it because it's nice to get away from the farm and to just do something different. And so that's the main reason I don't do the farmer's market. And then if the fishing is good, I don't even get back until Saturday afternoon because that's when we deliver to the cannery on Saturday,” Prescott said. “And then the Food Hub also is just super convenient because you know, you just post what you got. A lot of things sell out, within minutes even.”
    And like Prescott, Mixon said a lot of Food Hub suppliers aren’t growers full time.
    “Probably half of our vendors use the Food Hub for side hustles. I mean, we do have quite a few larger farmers as well, but we do have a lot of folks like Hannah that farm part-time. You know, we have Christy Gates who sells apples for a few weeks out of the year,” she said. “So anyone really with a bumper crop that wants to you know, get it out into the community, but not have to hustle too hard, the food hub is a great place for those folks.”
    You can sign up for weekly food baskets by going to Alaska Food Hub online. (alaskafoodhub.localfoodmarketplace.com)
    You can hear the complete Coffee Table online any time at KBBI dot org.

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