John Land, Christina Land, Joshua Land and Edgar Land of Grace Acres Farm show off some of their produce at the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival at Soldotna Creek Park on Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

John Land, Christina Land, Joshua Land and Edgar Land of Grace Acres Farm show off some of their produce at the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival at Soldotna Creek Park on Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Harvest Moon fest to celebrate local food

Events at the stage, a chef tent and a demonstration tent will run between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Soldotna Creek Park

Food from and by the Kenai Peninsula will be celebrated this Saturday at the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival.

Held at Soldotna Creek Park, the festival features a farmer’s market, a pie contest, a fermentation station, food trucks, musicians, workshops, demonstrations, a kid’s tent and more.

The event is organized by Kenai Local Food Connection, and volunteer Heidi Chay spoke about why celebrating local food is so important.

“The Harvest Moon Local Food Festival is the biggest farmer’s market and local food celebration of the year here on the Kenai Peninsula,” she said.

The event gathers farmers to sell their products and also to educate about agriculture in the area in a fun environment, according to Chay. The purpose is to celebrate and grow the local food scene.

A schedule shows off a busy event, with the stage, a chef tent and a demonstration tent all running constantly from between approximately 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Chay said that far more than just produce is being showcased. Classes include cooking with chicken, making barbecue sauce with rhubarb, working with salmon, jam, potatoes and wild plants.

“This festival is celebrating all the aspects of the local food system,” Chay said.

A major attraction is the annual pie baking contest, according to Chay. Pie makers are being challenged to use locally sourced ingredients.

A press release says the pie baking contest is hosted by the local chapter of the Alaska Farm Bureau.

Chay said that she’s hoping to see someone enter a strawberry pie after seeing strawberries from Ridgeway Farms selling in huge quantities at last weekend’s farmer’s market.

The pie contest will award bakers in three categories, youth, adult, and homesteader. After the contest, pies will be sold by the slice.

Chay said that the variety of food trucks will be a mixture of some Wednesday Market regulars and some less familiar faces, but all of the trucks will be featuring local food from local farms in their offerings.

There will also be a wide assortment of vendors and booths, with Chay naming Wilson’s Proper Edge as a new addition to the roster this year. The fermentation station will also be returning.

A press release says that local farmers and entrepreneurs will be showcasing their vegetables, fruits, jams, baked goods, coffee, honey and more.

Awards will be given to the most local food truck and the most festive booth.

“The whole thrust of Kenai Local Food Connection and the festival and why we’re celebrating is that we are in fact building a local food economy here where small businesses buy from each other and we’ve got a whole supply chain going,” Chay said.

Examples given by Chay include The Reindeer Hut sourcing many of their ingredients from local farms and Odie’s Deli purchasing all of their eggs from Lancashire Farm and lettuce from Ridgeway Farms. She said microgreens grown at fresh365 are used at Veronica’s Cafe and Everything Bagels. Local caterers Where It’s At and The Hearth Eatery source local chicken, seafood, eggs and vegetables

The Kenai Peninsula is, Chay said, experiencing radical growth in agriculture. New farms are being established, existing farms are growing.

Anecdotally, Chay said she’s seen the weekly farmer’s market grow more lively with each passing year. But she can back up that claim with hard numbers.

Chay shared a 2017 presentation by the Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District — composed of data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service — that shows a nationwide 5% decrease in the number of farms between 2012 and 2017. In Alaska, the number of farms is growing — increasing by 30% in the same period. On the Kenai Peninsula, that growth is 60%.

“The Kenai Peninsula is the fastest growing farming area in the state,” Chay said.

Chay said that growth has continued since that presentation was compiled. Part of the growth is due to the “high tunnel boom.” High tunnels are long greenhouse-like structures in which crops can be protected from the weather and other hazards. Their use allows farmers both to extend their season and also to grow a much wider variety of crops.

“It’s getting easier and easier for consumers to find locally grown products in retail stores,” she said. The Goods on Kalifornsky Beach Road, Maggie’s General Store in Kenai, Kenai Feed & Supply and Cad-Re Feed in Soldotna all sell locally grown food products.

The Alaska Food Hub is an online farmer’s market that further connects consumers to local producers.

To celebrate and promote this growth, the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival has been held since 2018, after growing out of the Harvest Moon Local Food Week, which was started by Kenai Local Food Connection in 2013.

“It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Chay said. “If you want to learn something, you’re going to learn something. If you want to eat something delicious, you’re going to eat something delicious. If you want to take food home for your winter pantry? The farmers will be loaded, so bring your bag.”

More information about the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival can be found on Facebook, at the Kenai Local Food Connection Facebook page.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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