It’s the best time of the year to get healthy and make a fresh start on eating habits, thanks to the efforts of long time proponents of local agriculture like Carolyn Chapman. Chapman has been helping to organize and promote the Central Kenai Peninsula Farmers Market for three decades and July 5th was on hand for the cooking demonstration by Chefs Ally Bril and Ann Creighton. “The purpose of our Chef at the Market program is not to bring in fancy four star hotel chefs, but cooks who have been using and creating recipes for the items you can buy that day at our market,” explained Chapman. According to Chapman the popularity of high tunnel gardening on the Peninsula has lengthened the growing season and variety of produce available tremendously, “They have been such a gift to all the farmers that grow and have been a boon to the local agriculture market increasing the supply and availability for local families and restaurants,” she said.
Chef Ally Bril of the Ionia community in Kasilof told the Dispatch in an interview that she has been cooking and gardening since she was 7 years old, “We showing folks here today quick and easy ways to use a vegetable that you can buy here at the market. A lot folks are so use to frozen micro-wave cooking that they don’t know how to cook fresh from the farm produce and we’re here to help with that and showing how you can do it light, quick, easy and delicious,” she said. Her partner Ann Creighton added, “We find that eating the whole vegetable as well as how it’s prepared enhances the vitamin content when it’s fresh, crisp and locally grown,” In just a few minutes the chefs prepared a kale/tofu stir fry that had youngsters lining up, eating it like candy and asking for more, “The kids love fresh vegetables, earlier when we made the tofu, kale dish folks were saying ‘We don’t like tofu’ and when they saw the kids run up and gulp it down they were amazed so they tried it and learned that if you make vegetables delicious it’s a different experience from trying to make your kids eat their veggies from a can,” said Creighton.
There are local farmers markets four days a week on the Central Peninsula, Saturday in Soldotna on the Spur Hwy and in Kenai at the Visitor & Cultural Center, Tuesday at the Food Bank on K-Beach Rd. and Wednesday in Soldotna at the Peninsula Center Mall. Farmer’s markets opened in May and will continue through September. Chef Ally Bril will continue to demonstrate quick and healthy cooking at the Tuesday and Saturday markets in July and August. For a complete schedule of events for the local Farmers Markets go to www.kenailocalfood.org. To learn more about high tunnels contact Kenai Soil & Water conservation district at 283-8732 ext. 5.