So many things to be aware of in the agriculture world
It is funny to me how busy I am in winter when everything is buried in snow, but there is so much going on in the next few months. This column will highlight some of those things.
The annual Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference will be in Fairbanks Feb. 21-23 at the Westmark Hotel and Convention Center. It will include two days of workshops that sandwich one day of meetings. The featured speaker, Mike Ridenour of Meadow Maid Foods, is a sustainable farmer from Wyoming who has successfully built a business in an area like ours — cold with long distances to markets and where farmers use high tunnels and make a strong direct marketing effort.
The workshops will cover birch tree sap and syrup, wood lot management, reindeer management, farming/gardening in rural areas, loans/risk assessment, biochar and soils management. These topics are quite varied and each workshop runs from half to a full day. I am confident attendees will find something that appeals to them. Most of the meeting day will be broken into concurrent sessions that focus on some aspect of growing sustainably in Alaska. To register and see a schedule of events, go to http://bit.ly/sareconf.
The Master Gardener class will be taught this year by horticulture agent Julie Riley. Those classes start Feb. 9 and run to April 6. If you are a gardener and want to improve, this is the class for you. For details go to http://bit.ly/mgfairbanks.
Progress continues at the Georgeson Botanical Garden. We have spent that last four months actively meeting with and organizing people to reinvigorate the garden in this climate of reduced funding and staffing. The Georgeson Botanical Garden Society, the Alaska Landscape Architect Association, staff and faculty at UAF and so many others under the guidance of Jewelz Barker are all working hard to oversee the garden as it evolves. These are exciting times for the garden and for those of us who work in it. There will be more events, more educational and outreach activities, and there will be fewer weeds. Stay tuned and we will keep you informed about our changes and adaptations. I am very excited about the future of our beautiful and informative garden.
A new grant has been funded to test vegetable varieties for Interior Alaska. If you live in Northern or Interior Alaska, from Copper Center up to Barrow, and you are a good gardener who likes to take notes, we have a deal for you. We will send you seed of some new and old varieties of a couple kinds of vegetables. There will also be a data sheet to fill out and instructions for planting your seed. The last question will be, would you plant this variety again?
We want to be able to recommend the best varieties to grow in Alaska, but we are having to deal with a changing climate and a huge geographical range. With this study, we hope to separate out the influence of your latitude from the climate. It may be that in a few years Fairbanks will soon be as warm as Copper Center is now, but the number of hours of sunlight we have will always be longer. The best varieties in Copper Center may not be able to handle our longer days. There is some evidence that some squashes that do well in Fairbanks will not produce female flowers in Manley Hot Springs. The days are longer there, but is that the cause?
I was at a box store three weeks ago and there was a display of vegetable seeds! Seed catalogs are showing up in my mailbox, but seeds at the store in early January is a bit much. National chains and national policies are always a mess when it is one size fits all. Are those varieties on display really the best for Alaska? With your help we will find those superior varieties and we will adapt our varieties as our climate changes.
I hope you stay warm and busy this winter. And I hope to see you at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference in February.