Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Localvore - the northern edition

So, the localvore movement (and yes, I know it is generally spelled locavore, but as the movement does not address eating locas that makes no sense.) As the localvore movement makes greater and greater headway, I thought it would be interesting to see how this notion would hold up here in Alaska. It is an issue of some immediate import, as well as the general "important to the next generation" kind of important. Anchorage is pretty much right on the Pacific Ring of Fire, and has had a very nasty quake in recent memory (I think '64). So what? Well, official estimates say that there is a 3 day supply of food in the state, and almost all that comes in comes through Anchorage's port. Which would certainly be destroyed in any major earthquake. So in addition to being green and so forth, it makes a certain amount of sense to have as many local food sources developed as is reasonable. Also, shipping costs are astronomical!
First, assessing resources. There seems to be a long, strange, and troubled backstory behind the dairy farms of this area. Apparently there are cows, and they are being raised on purpose by farmers who would like to harness the power of milk for commercial production. However - and I don't pretend to know why this is - no one can keep a dairy functioning in this darn state. I got all excited because a Mat-Su area dairy had started production on milk and ice cream and was attempting to work out cheese as well. This is well worth supporting, but is shaky from the consumer perspective. Their milk costs a good deal more than the stuff that gets hauled up from Seattle. I know - support your local. But paying more for something that doesn't have the shipping costs on it? I'm sure there's an explanation somewhere, but I'm going to have to see the data on this one. Also, apparently you have to drive to the dairy (about an hour from here) itself to get the ice cream, and I just don't care that much.
Vegetables are pretty abundant, depending on what you are looking for. If you are after carrots and potatoes, you are in luck. Anything else...well, if you consider Hawaii local, then you're in even more luck. And there are people here who consider basically the whole Pacific "local". Also, the two Anchorage/Mat-Su potato suppliers have happily chosen some of the funniest labels for their packaging that I have seen in a while, so that is an added bonus. If you like reindeer and caribou and so on, you will never lack for local meat. Also, if you like salmon and/or seafood, you are also in pretty good shape.
Of course, if you have any skill as a forager and know what to look for, you can also do pretty well. Alaska native cookbooks have all kinds of great tips for food you can find in the wild. Also, there is the famous whale blubber ;) However, I have a spotty track record with that sort of thing, so I plan to just stick to your commercial groceries.
Second, assessing allies in this quest to eat locally. Just judging by my cursory web search, there seems to be a small plucky band of Alaskans committed to localvore ideals that posts very occasionally on a website. There is the Alaska Grown organization. And that's about it. The hippies where I work buy veggies from a CSA...that is based in Seattle. That's the local. It gets flown in every week. I take this lack of a huge and active localvore movement to mean that no one else thinks its going to work that well, either.
But I'm not giving up on this notion! I will do some more investigating and get back to you. So there's something to look forward to.


Unknown said...

Your blog came up on a google alert. Just wanted to let you know about a new grassroots documentary that we're screening in state and beyond called
EatingAlaska .

Eating Alaska, the documentary, is a funny and serious portrait of a vegetarian who move to Alaska, marries a fisherman and hunter and sets off on a quest for the "right thing" to eat on the Last Frontier. The film features women hunting, kids in a home economics class in Kotzebue talking about moose meat, while making pretzels, a vegan cooking class in Wasilla and no guest appearances from Sarah Pallin. It takes viewers from a farmer's market in San Francisco to the state fair to a caribou hunt in the tundra, as a way to talk about the meaning of local foods and subsistence and all the choices we make every day about what we put in our mouths!

We're setting up community screenings and such to get people talking gatherings and connecting that to community projects, be it in a living room, a school or a clinic. Last week we showed the film to the entire high school in Sitka, Alaska and the kids had great questions and thoughts. It fun and ironic at times to get people talking about something like eating, that is so basic that at times we overlook it!

We have a youtube channel too so folks can add their story to the story! So appreciate another Eating Alaska on the web! Let's hope that eating sustainable, healthy and meaningful food is something accessible to all.

Unknown said...

So much for my blogging skills
you can find the film at www.eatingalaska.com

L and P said...

There is a somewhat local CSA called Glacier Valley
www.glaciervalleycsa.com the have AK root veggies year round and the rest they order in.

Anonymous said...

A couple of other links for you. There are several community projects centered around local food, and you can find several links on the Sitka Local Foods Network site (down the right column), http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/. Also, there is the Alaska Farmers Market Association, http://www.alaskafarmersmarkets.org/. The Last Frontier Locavores, http://alaskalocavores.wetpaint.com/. The Alaska Grown site also has links to local CSAs (there are several around the state, including one in Bethel called Meyers Farm), farmers markets and other places to buy locally produced food.