UAF Cooperative Extension reaches out to farmers

By Kasey Peterson
Sun Star Contributor

Outreach programs in Alaska mean not only reaching out to communities, but also to the industries that form the economic base for those communities.

This was the case on Feb. 27 when the UAF Cooperative Extension Service reached out to the Tanana Valley agricultural industry at the annual Delta Junction Farm Forum. In a daylong event co-sponsored by CES and the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District, agriculture producers of all types, from fruit and vegetable farmers to livestock producers and grain farmers, were able to take part in a series of research-based presentations at Delta High School.

With over 100 people in attendance, speakers primarily spoke to the audience about current trends in the agriculture industry and pressed for increased awareness of the value of eating locally grown products.

Speakers during the event included newly appointed Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency Danny Consenstein, who met with several agriculture producers following his presentation. “It was good that the FSA Director hung out for a while and got a good introduction to farming,” said Phil Kaspari, UAF Cooperative Extension Agent for the Delta office.

Bob Van Veldhuizen of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agriculture Sciences and Tim Meyers, an agriculture producer from Bethel were key speakers on the topic of locally grown produce for human consumption. Van Veldhuizen presented research related to grain products as human edible cereals.

Meyers presented information on his successful farming set-up in the remote part of Alaska where infrastructure is lacking and demand for innovation keeps him busy. Frank Borman, a Delta Junction farmer who runs a self-pick vegetable farm also spoke about using wind generation to delay early frosts for an extended growing season.

Throughout the day, information booths were on display with a wide variety of free publications about getting started in agriculture, from small personal gardens to large commercial farming operations, and how to be successful at farming in Alaska.

Marla Lowder, 4-H and Youth Development Agent with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, worked in conjunction with DJ Saddle Tramps 4-H club to provide an open house/round-up for kids present during the day. Participants were able to see demonstrations on proper livestock showmanship, science experiments, and how to make no-bake cookies.

Throughout the day, producers, researchers, and agency representatives were able to exchange information with each other in hopes of expanding their knowledge about farming in Alaska’s interior.

Cooperative Extension has been involved in every Delta Farm Forum since it began about 35 years ago, Kaspari said. For Cooperative Extension’s outreach and education, “it’s about getting relevant research information out to the masses,” he said.

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