Farmers market vendors and shoppers from all over Alaska will meet, virtually, this Friday for the 2021 Alaska Farmers Market Summit.
Events include talks on food access and funding for the upcoming market season. KBBI's Kathleen Gustafson has this preview.
Robbi Mixon of Homer is the Executive Director of the Alaska Farmers Market Association. She says this year's program is packed with good information for farmers and for anyone who is interested in supporting locally grown food. One of the goals of the summit, Mixon says, is to connect markets across the state.
“So our markets have a varying degree of capacity. Some don't have paid staff. Some have temporary locations, so we just want to level the playing field by sharing resources, what works, what doesn't work," said Mixon.
The day's agenda includes sessions on USDA grant programs, the 2023 Farm Bill,Public Food Assistance and Local Food, along with Mental Health first aid training and a Farmer's Market Legal Toolkit.
Amy Pettit is the Executive Director of the Alaska Farmland Trust, a nonprofit based in Palmer that is tasked with protecting Alaska farmland and the health of agricultural soils.
Pettit wrote the initial grant to start the association and now serves on the board of directors.
"Back in 2005 there were only 13 farmers markets around the state. Today we have over 50 farmers markets. Back then, I was just trying to get all the market managers in the same room. At that time it was literally a teleconference line," Pettit said.
The Summit focuses on Alaska but there are speakers and presenters from all over the country, including keynote speaker, Qiana Mickie.
"She's the former director of Just Food, that focuses on bringing more equity into food and farm policy and her talk is about cultivating resiliency; how farmers markets can be places of community, culture and solidarity," said Pettit.
Both Mixon and Petit say they'll be listening for a presentation by Ben Feldman, the Executive Director of the national Farmers Market Coalition. Pettit said she's looking forward to his perspective on how markets across America are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Things are changing fast. We can learn from our friends and neighbors in the south. We have some incredible farmers markets in Alaska and they did incredible work last year to maintain access to local food for Alaskans. And I can't wait to hear from them about what their plans are for 2021."
The one-day summit runs from 8 a.m. To 5 p.m. this Friday and is free to attend, but registration is required. To sign up to participate, go to alaskafarmersmarkets.org