The Alaska Farmers Market Association (AFMA) will host its third statewide conference this April 2-4, 2020 in downtown Anchorage. Sessions and activities will focus on strengthening statewide connections and networks, as well as building tangible market manager and vendor skills.
Farmers markets have experienced a renaissance throughout the nation, and have begun to spring-up all over Alaska. While our short growing season and cold climate offers many challenges to our farmers, farmers’ markets are thriving across Alaska. In 2005, the Division of Agriculture listed 13 markets throughout the State, in 2014 that number grew to 37, and in 2019, there were 50 markets statewide, with more in the planning stages. Our conference theme, “Buy Local, Grow Local,” highlights how markets are a vital part of strong local economies and thriving communities.
“This is an exciting event and it’s already drawing strong interest from the farmers market community around the state,” said Robbi Mixon, Alaska Farmers Market Association’s Director. “Alaska is experiencing more growth in farming than anywhere else in the nation, and markets play a vital role in supporting this momentum.”
Farmers markets are good for farmers and good for the communities they serve. For farmers, markets provide a place where farmers can reconnect with consumers and capture retail dollars for their fresh, high-quality products. For communities, farmers markets are family-friendly, community-building events that bring neighbors together, attract retail activity to surrounding businesses, create forums for civic education and involvement and provide direct access to Alaska’s agricultural bounty. The “Buy Local Grow Local” conference supports a statewide network of market leaders by enhancing and building a variety of skills for running successful markets.
The weekend-long event will kick-off with a Thursday night Welcome Reception at the 49th State Brewery, sponsored by Alaska Farmland Trust. The AFMA Conference will offer trainings and guidance on a variety of topics including food safety regulations, social media promotion, conflict and stress management, and much more. Guest speakers will include Ben Feldman (National Farmers Market Coalition), Keynote Speaker Colleen Donavan (Washington State Farmers Market Association), and Catt Fields White (San Diego Markets/ Farmers Market Pros), who will offer a Market 101 for vendors and managers. The conference will end with a book reading by Anchorage’s own Julia O’Malley, featuring excerpts from her newly released, “The Whale and The Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska,” a collection of stories about Alaska’s foodways
Conference partners include Cook Inletkeeper which houses the Alaska Farmers Market Association in its Local Foods Program, and markets and organizations statewide: Alaska Farmland Trust, Homer Soil & Water Conservation District, Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District, FRESH the Food Research, Enterprise, and Sustainability Hub, Alaska Food Policy Council, and the Alaska Division of Agriculture
“As our mainstream food system becomes more and more globalized and industrialized, we’re really looking for ways to bring our food production back down to the local level” said Tanana Valley Farmers Market Director and AFMA Vice President, Brad St. Pierre. “We want to build and strengthen our community with trust and collaboration, one market at a time, so we know who produced our food and how they produced it.”