Alaska Food and Farm Festival 2023 Celebrating Abundance, Diversity, and Innovation
by pedro graterol
The 7th Alaska Food Festival & Conference took place November 10 - 12, 2023. Hosted at the Egan Center in Anchorage, Alaska, this event, jointly organized by the Alaska Food Policy Council, Alaska Farm Bureau, and Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE), aimed to be a celebration of abundance, diversity, and innovative solutions in Alaska’s food and agriculture landscape.
The conference, which began in 2014 and takes place every 18 months to accommodate the growing and harvesting seasons, served as a platform to address the unique challenges faced by the state’s food systems. Robbi Mixon, the Executive Director of the Alaska Food Policy Council, discussed some of them in an interview with Sol de Medianoche News: “Some of the main challenges facing Alaskans are access to affordable land, access to infrastructure such as storage and processing, and the high cost of importing seeds and equipment.” She also mentioned the need for greater access to education, technical assistance, and workforce development. Mixon further added: “The reality is that because of these hurdles and the growing season, our farming and agriculture are by necessity pretty small scale, and these small-scale farmers would never be able to compete with the big players in terms of price point.”
Hence, events like these allow stakeholders to come together, exchange ideas, and work toward building a more resilient and self-reliant food system in the state, which, despite its challenges, also is witnessing promising opportunities. Mixon pointed out that Alaska is currently experiencing an explosion of farmers’ markets, food hubs, and Community Supported Agriculture programs, and Alaskans have a strong connection to food systems, especially in areas where hunting, farming, and fishing are essential for community food accessibility.
In fact, collaboration was at the center of the event, as it was jointly organized by the Alaska Food Policy Council, the Alaska Farm Bureau, and Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education. Robbi Mixon highlighted the value of the festival’s partnership with strategic allies: “This year our partnerships with the Alaska Farm Bureau and SARE have been truly inspiring because we all bring in different perspectives and different crowds, and from that we can build truly innovative solutions that work with and for more Alaskans.”
This year’s festival included a wide array of potential innovations that can help improve every step of the food production process. It featured an entire Food Hub track, with discussions on existing and emerging food hubs. There were guest speakers from Hawaii sharing their collective impact model, panels on hydroponics, mariculture, and agrovoltaic systems (combining solar energy and farming). The event also covered topics such as school and community gardens in rural areas and highlighted traditional foods and Indigenous foodways, which can be innovative approaches to food security in Alaska. In a state where food security and agriculture were critical for many communities, the festival and conference were pivotal in nurturing innovative solutions, building partnerships, and celebrating the diversity and abundance of Alaska’s food landscape. As the event approached, the anticipation of transformative discussions and the exchange of ideas continued to grow, promising a bright future for Alaska’s food systems.
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