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Kodiak’s local food co-op is going from distributing its wares at pop ups and occasions to a set brick and mortar location – a 2,000 sq. foot business area Kodiak Harvest opened this month close to Mill Bay Road.
“We’re really excited with where we are today. Normally for the average food co-op it takes a while to actually get to a brick and mortar space,” mentioned Tifani Perez, the challenge director for the Kodiak Harvest Food Cooperative.
Kodiak Harvest has solely been round since the summer season of 2016. It’s picked up greater than 500 members since then. And it sources the whole lot from lettuce, root greens and canned salmon from throughout the archipelago. That consists of farms out in Bell’s Flats – close to the Coast Guard base – and the villages.
“Last year we did source from Old Harbor, Port Lions and Larsen Bay,” mentioned Perez.
The new food hub was funded by $293,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s not a full scale grocery retailer, nevertheless it serves as a connection between local food producers and prospects – who pick-up weekly orders positioned on the co-op’s web site.
Perez mentioned on an island like Kodiak – the place the whole lot from produce to exploit arrives by barge – food safety has at all times been prime of thoughts. And she says the co-op noticed a soar in gross sales when the pandemic hit.
“Some of the challenges that we always face as a remote island community, they’ve been exacerbated even more so by the pandemic,” mentioned Perez. “The interruptions in the supply chain have brought that to the forefront of people’s minds.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s additionally introduced up that time when he delivered his State of the State tackle again in January.
“It’s often noted that Alaska’s grocery stores only have two weeks of food in stock,” Dunleavy mentioned. “At the onset of the pandemic and more recently we’ve seen some empty shelves here in Alaska. The key component of a modern state is the ability to produce what it needs to ensure its own survival and that means we must build our own supply chain.”
As of 2019, greater than a tenth of Alaskans had been thought of food insecure by Feeding America. At the identical time, Alaska imports about 95% of its food, based on the Alaska Food Policy Council. That’s one thing fishermen and farmers on Kodiak Island are acutely conscious of, says Kelli Foreman. Foreman – a fifth era farmer with household ties in Nebraska – is the Alaska Farm Bureau’s vice chairman.
She additionally runs the Kodiak Baptist Mission’s Heritage Farm, which is the state’s solely Grade A Certified goat dairy. And the children enrolled in the mission’s afterschool program play a pivotal position in the operation – feeding the goats and serving to round the farm. Foreman mentioned she’s not essentially attempting to lift the subsequent era of farmers, however they’re studying an even bigger lesson.
“They understand now that each of these baby goats represent sustainability for our island,” mentioned Foreman.
Like the Kodiak Harvest food hub, Heritage Farm is an agricultural success story on the island; it’s standard. And merchandise from the farm – like artisan cheese and goat’s milk ice cream – can be found at some Kodiak retailers.
But Foreman says it’s not straightforward. Back in 2019, Gov. Dunleavy proposed chopping dairy inspection from the state funds, which might have shuttered her operation altogether. And there’s different hurdles.
“For agriculture in Kodiak, shipping is expensive. It’s really challenging to get feed at reasonable costs,” mentioned Foreman. “A huge issue for us – we have two great beef producers on our island, but we have no place for them to get their meat processed.”
Meanwhile, state lawmakers in Juneau are taking discover. A invoice transferring by means of the legislature would set up momentary grants for meat processors and farm improvement in Alaska. The governor additionally created a food safety job pressure simply after his State of the State tackle. Kelli Foreman was amongst 13 members appointed to the group this month.
There’s additionally the Alaska Food and Farm Caucus – one other group targeted on Alaskan agriculture that was established again in January. Half the legislature – members of each events – have joined the caucus since then. That’s the approach it needs to be – notably in terms of Alaska agriculture – based on Foreman.
“I think any farmer will tell you they’re not into farming for the income or for what they get – they’re in it because they love the people that they get to feed,” mentioned Foreman. “And no matter what you believe, everyone has to sit down and eat.”
Tifani Perez says that concept has proved to be a profitable enterprise mannequin at Kodiak Harvest. And that it’s one small step towards statewide food safety.
“I think that we can work together to use the resources we have here on the island so we can have a more reliable food source,” she mentioned. “And frankly, if it’s grown here it’s going to be way more nutrient dense and better for you than something that was harvested a few weeks ago.”
Kodiak Harvest hopes that it’s going to additionally be capable of inventory its new Selig Street storefront with retail objects in the coming months.