Silver salmon swim in Sucker Creek on Sept. 18, 2020. (Photo by Matt Bowser/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Silver salmon swim in Sucker Creek on Sept. 18, 2020. (Photo by Matt Bowser/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Workshop highlights farming risk to salmon

The number of farms in Alaska has grown by 30% over the last five years.

Warmer temperatures are causing a farming boom in Alaska that has some activists concerned about new threats to salmon populations statewide. That’s according to a virtual workshop hosted by Cook Inletkeeper last week, which featured people around the country who are working to make farms safe for salmon populations.

The virtual workshop was held via Zoom and featured Cook Inletkeeper Local Foods Director Robbi Mixon, Cook InletKeeper Science and Executive Director Sue Mauger, Kevin Scribner with Salmon Safe and Sager Small, who owns a vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

The number of farms in Alaska has grown by 30% over the last five years, with the number of small farms — defined as farms between 1 and 9 acres — is up 73% since 2021.

Mauger said that climate change has had a big impact on farming in Alaska.

“With my consumer hat, I’m thrilled that we are having more local food production, but with my science cap on I have some real concerns about how that growing culture that’s happening here, particularly on the lower Kenai Peninsula but across the state … will intersect with our water quality.”

Mauger said she thinks one of the reasons Alaska is seeing an increase in farming activity is because of climate change, which she said has resulted in warmer temperatures on top of Alaska’s long summer days.

“We can really take advantage of those 19-20 hours of daylight with that extra warmth,” Mauger said.

Data from the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy shows that statewide annual temperature trends are going up. Temperature changes have been most dramatic in the northern parts of Alaska, where air temperatures have increased by about 6.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Air temperatures in the Kenai Peninsula region have increased by about 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit on the eastern peninsula and 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit on the western peninsula.

While climate change is generally associated with “long-term trends of warmth,” Mauger said, Alaska farmers will most directly experience it in the form of unpredictable weather conditions. Farmers may feel the impact when trying to establish planting and harvesting schedules around seasons, for example.

Even if people cannot see a water system from their house, however, they may still directly impact the “salmon support landscape.”

“I think [it’s] really important to understand that you are a part of the watershed and what you do on your plot of land is connected to the health of the salmon stream,” Mauger said. “That’s why we feel it’s really important to cast a really broad net in this conversation and to help people understand … that they play a really valuable role as a steward of the landscape.”

A desire to make sure “broccolini and the sockeye salmon sit happily on a plate together” led to the collaboration between Cook Inletkeeper and Salmon-Safe, which Mauger said will work this year to help partner them with Alaskan farmers.

Salmon-Safe aims to improve farming habits that maintain a healthy watershed. Those habits may include optimizing water use, keeping streamside vegetation health, using long-term soil conservation techniques and using pest management practices that protect water quality. Farms that make those changes may qualify for a Salmon-Safe Certification, in the form of a label they can add to products made at their farm.

Salmon-Safe has a stated mission of working to transform land management practices so that Pacific salmon can thrive in West Coast watersheds. Kevin Scribner, who presented on behalf of Salmon-Safe during Friday’s workshop, said sites that are safe for salmon have a net positive impact on their watershed.

In determining whether a site is safe for salmon, Scribner said they look at wetland area management, irrigation water use, erosion and sediment control, biological diversity and fertility and pest management systems.

“Many of the Salmon-Safe standards are about maintaining your land such that you do not have runoff, or if there is runoff, it’s not toxic to fish,” Scribner said.

The benefits farmers stand to gain by becoming Salmon-Safe certified, Scribner said, come from the marketplace and include market access, product differentiation, price premium and operational efficiencies.

The full workshop can be viewed on Cook Inletkeeper’s YouTube page.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

More in News

Lydia Jacoby of the United States, sees the results after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo / Martin Meissner)
Seward buzzing over Jacoby’s victory

SEWARD — An Olympic buzz permeates an Alaska coastal community thousands of… Continue reading

FILE - A sign advises shoppers to wear masks outside of a store Monday, July 19, 2021, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Infections are climbing across the U.S. and mask mandates and other COVID-19 prevention measures are making a comeback in some places as health officials issue increasingly dire warnings about the highly contagious delta variant. But in a possible sign that the warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates are creeping up again, offering hope that the nation could yet break free of the coronavirus if people who have been reluctant to receive the shot are finally inoculated. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
CDC changes course on indoor masks in some parts of the US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course Tuesday on some… Continue reading

Alaska State Troopers and local law enforcement agencies in Ketchikan arrested a woman on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 in possession of more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of drugs at the Ketchikan International Airport. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Semi-truck crash marks fourth major car accident in 10 days

There was another vehicle accident on the Sterling Highway this morning, according… Continue reading

Resurrection Bay is seen from Seward, Alaska on Saturday, July 24, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Seward approves construction of animal shelter

The Seward City Council approved up to $1,930,500 for the construction of… Continue reading

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche speaks to reporters after a Senate floor session on the opening day of the second special legislative session on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the special session to address the budget. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Per diems add up for lawmakers

State lawmakers could make more than $85,000 in per diem payments and… Continue reading

Daniel Balserak and Luke Konson fish for salmon in Alaska. The pair has been traveling the country and catching every official state fish for the past 11 months. (Photo provided)
A gap year like no other

High school graduates defer college enrollment to fish in every state

Hikers look at the Harding Icefield in August 2015 in Kenai Fjords National Park, just outside of Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Hiker rescued from Harding Icefield Trail

A hiker was airlifted off of the Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai… Continue reading

COVID-19 cases are rising and health officials say new variants are spurring the increase, even among the vaccinated. But health officials note the majority of hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in unvaccinated people. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire file)
COVID-19 surge continues

‘They’re getting sicker this time around’

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Weekend car accident leaves 1 dead

Alaska State Troopers reported another car accident fatality over the weekend, marking… Continue reading

Most Read