By Cayley Eller
Spring Creek Farm and Kellogg Campus are an extension of Alaska Pacific University that focus on sustainability, community outreach, and responsible agriculture. Spring Creek Farm and APU, along with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and the Matanuska Experiment Farm and Cooperative Extension have joined together to provide food security to the people of the Mat-Su valley, through a program called Alaska Tilth. A project that began last year in efforts to produce and distribute healthful food to the surrounding Mat-Su Valley is continuing to grow and donate produce to local SNAP and Family Nutrition Educators who use the produce as a means to give cooking demonstrations to low income community members.
There are a number of ways, as members of the community that we can help support Alaska Tilth, to accomplish the end goal of food security, nutritional knowledge, and healthy cooking practices to our neighbors in need. The most valuable way to contribute is through a seasonal contribution, which serves essentially as a patron share. In the same manner as the Community Supported Agriculture program run by Spring Creek Farm, purchasing a patron share will provide each week’s share of produce directly to Alaska Tilth for food insecure members of the Mat-Su. Additionally, by sending a donation to Alaska Tilth 100 percent of your contributions go directly toward the cost of produce being delivered to the populations in need.
“During 2015 the program donated 3,000 pounds of food to approximately 700 people and hosted 220 nutrition education classes. With your help, the program hopes to achieve even more in 2016.” Said Spring Creek Farm Manager, Megan Talley.
The need for change is prevalent in the Mat-Su valley, where the population is vulnerable to the abundance and availability of processed food. The American obesity rate has peaked at more than one third of the total population and rates of obesity and related illness in the Mat-Su conform to the national average. Especially in Alaska where we are stricken with an absence of fresh produce and knowledge of regional growing practices, it becomes paramount to develop these programs which challenge to support a healthier local food system. Alaska’s food market is largely victim to a food system which is dependent on the transportation and storage of food from more reliable and abundant agricultural regions. It is estimated that as much as 90 to 95 percent of Alaska’s food is imported from other growing regions. Alaska Tilth has the capacity to influence Alaskan food systems and support availability of healthful produce to consumers who lack the resources to purchase expensive and scarcely grown agriculture that may positively influence their health.
Alaska Tilth relies on the expansion and development of partnerships in the Mat-Su Valley to develop its own success and secure the resources necessary to allow appropriate distribution of agriculture to the hands of the most vulnerable households in the local area. Megan Talley has said, “As more people come to the table, Alaska Tilth becomes a more robust operation, capable of increasingly more dynamic change to support our local wellness infrastructure and serve vulnerable Alaskan families.”
“Additional partners, such as the Plant Materials Center, have come on recently, and were able to utilize the existing partnership and distribution infrastructure of Alaska Tilth to harvest, clean, and distribute hundreds of pounds of trial potatoes that would otherwise have been wasted. Other collaborations with the Alaska Farmland Trust, the Food Bank of Alaska, and the Alaska Food Coalition are being formed in hopes to further support the work of each organization through mission driven cooperation.” –Farm Management at Spring Creek Farm and Founding Partners of Alaska Tilth
In addition to securing food and resources for much of the Mat-Su population, Alaska Tilth takes things a step further by utilizing the program as a means to educate up and coming growers in hands-on, small scale and sustainable farming practices. Alaska Tilth is opening a door for the next generation of local Alaskan farmers and healthy food activists, something that will be paramount to creating food secure communities in the states future.
The growing techniques which are utilized at Spring Creek Farm are ecologically sustainable and do not rely on petroleum heavy fertilizers which contribute to degradation of soil quality and farmland environments. Through teaching these practices they hope to provide skills and knowledge of environmental stewardship for the future of farming in the Mat-Su Valley.
The Mat-Su Health Foundation, has helped Alaska Tilth establish the first necessary steps to becoming a successful community oriented program, by providing them with capitol and resources to hire their first Program Coordinator and additional employees that work with the Farm and Alaska Tilth. These positions allow Tilth to focus on marketing, outreach, volunteer management, growth and distribution of produce to allow the program to become a robust social tool for community health and food security programs in the Mat-Su region.
Alaska Tilth is now accepting donations to feed seniors, shelters and vulnerable community members.
The program is a 501(c)3 that accepts monetary donations throughout the year towards the purchase of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. These shares provide fresh produce to the Mat-Su Valley Senior Centers, My House, Mat-Su Women’s Shelter and Mat-Su Food Bank.
CONTACT: Megan Talley