Uplifting Farmers in Southeast Alaska

Jennifer Nu

Jennifer Nu

Southeast Alaska Regional Food Systems Catalyst

Meghan Stangeland and Jennifer Nu at the Ecotrust table during the Farmers Summit. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Nu

Southeast Alaska’s Juneau staff supported the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit with pre-summit marketing workshop.

This story was first published on Sustainable Southeast Partnership’s monthly column in Juneau Empire and on Sustainable Southeast Partnership’s blog.

With generous support from an Edgerton Foundation grant, Ecotrust supported the Southeast Farmers Summit with a day-long Farmers Marketing Workshop. The pre-summit event was curated by the farmer summit committee and hosted by Ecotrust’s Juneau-based staff and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. Meghan Stangeland, Distribution Coordinator of the Salt & Soil Marketplace, took a lead in organizing the event, which included logistics, venue, travel scholarships, and on-site technology. Jennifer Nu, Southeast Alaska Regional Food Systems Catalyst, assisted with emceeing and keeping track of time for panelists. It was the first time for both Meghan and Jennifer to visit Petersburg, a town of about 3,000 people on Mitkof Island. Bright winter sunshine and the majestic mountains of Petersburg glowed in the windows overlooking the workshop. The workshop opened with a land acknowledgement and a welcome from Barbara Erickson, president of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp #16, the local chapter.

several individuals in chair inside a large room with vaulted ceilings watch a presentation on a tv screen

Participants gathered for a special day-long marketing workshop before the 2023 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Nu

One panel featured farmers who shared their experiences and answered questions about various ways to sell their vegetables, such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture shares, or wholesale to restaurants and grocery stores. Another panel addressed tips and tricks for record-keeping and managing a small business. Katherine Ivy of Ivy Patch Produce in Wrangell, and who is also a popular vlogger on YouTube, shared her savvy spreadsheet processes. John Krapek of Juneau Greens, shared his process for running his commercial hydroponic operation, which has grown by leaps and bounds since the last summit in 2019. His talk was as much about practical tips as it was a life-coaching session. His presentation included productivity tips, such as scheduling weekly accounting tasks. “You’ll free up time at the end of the month by staying on top of them.” He shared that his morning walk-through was “a critical first step of every day,” while the evening walk-through involved taking care of anything essential while taking a step back to appreciate the beauty of the plants. “Growing vegetables can be a grind, so it is important to end the day on something that reminds us of why we do the grind. End on a high note,” he reminded the audience. 

Farming has brought joy to my life. It has given me the opportunity to have a gift in my hand, and giving is on a personal level.

— Scott Hansen of Sunnyside Farm in Haines

With an array of innovative and beautiful handmade displays, Marja Smets of Farragut Farm demonstrated how she sets up a farmstand to be attractive and functional in displaying veggies while managing traffic flow. Another panel of farmers discussed ways they make their products more accessible to community members. This included being set up to accept public assistance benefits, such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs (SNAP) and Women Infants and Children (WIC). Others coordinate matching funds or customer-supported pay-it-forward programs. They also contribute direct donations. For example, Scott Hansen of Sunnyside Farm in Haines explained, “Farming has brought joy to my life. It has given me the opportunity to have a gift in my hand, and giving is on a personal level.” Common to all the farmer-presenters was the generosity and desire to make their produce available as much as was financially feasible.

The event was a resounding success and received supportive and enthusiastic feedback from participants. With over 30 participants in attendance, the free event ran smoothly and established an opening of camaraderie and connection for the three days of summit that followed. 

Ecotrust’s staff would like to express appreciation and gratitude to the following people and organizations for making this event possible: Bo and Marja of Farragut Farms, Spruce Root, and the community of Petersburg.

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This story was produced for Resilient Peoples & Place, our monthly column with the Juneau Empire.

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