Alaska farmer challenges CAC attendees to take action

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From left, Casey Steinau of Sen. Mark Begich’s office, Diane Peck (Alaska Food Policy Council), Lisa Sadleir-Hart (Alaska Food Policy Council), visit with farmer Bryce Wrigley about solutions to food security.

Bryce Wrigley of Wrigley Farms and Alaska Flour Co. asked CAC participants what they would do if they didn’t fear anything.

“It’s important to act, to accomplish something, to chart out a process or path,” he said at Monday’s luncheon.

Quoting Winston Churchill and his “Never give up” line, Wrigley said, “That’s the attitude we need to have food security.”

Originally from Idaho, the Wrigleys moved to Delta Junction, Alaska, in 1983 to establish Wrigley Farms. They raised barley for animal feed for decades. Then Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and Wrigley could not stop thinking about the state’s food supply.

“It took two weeks for those people to get food and they are close to the food supply.”

So Wrigley decided it was time to start feeding humans in addition to livestock. At the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station’s farm at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a new variety of hulless barley, called Sunshine Barley, was released and Wrigley began growing it with great success.

He’d never even been in flour mill so he and his wife Jan visited several in the lower 48 and came home to hammer out things like equipment, insurance and regulations. “The devil is in the details,” Wrigley said. “It wasn’t a fun process.”

By December 2011 Alaska Flour Co. was fully operational and today it supplies Alaskans with barley flour and barley cereal, made in Alaska!

“Keep your eye on the objective,” Wrigley said. “Sure it’s cheaper to ship flour in but what does it really cost us?”

He said maintaining a farm is one way his children can stay productive and get involved in the family business, if they choose to do so.

He isn’t advocating that Alaska stop importing food. “I like bananas,” he said with a laugh.

“But what will we do if the planes, trucks and barges don’t make it? We need a mechanism to fall back on.

“We’ve got to develop policies and raise awareness of the process. Burying your head in the sand is not a solution. Let’s build something and solve problems.”

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Bryce Wrigley with Stephen and Elena Sparrow (both UAF professors). Steve is interim dean of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the interim director of the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

More about the Wrigleys’ flour mill:

http://bit.ly/GzFd0l

Fellowships available

John Sadler, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) theme coordinator, the Natural Resources Challenge, Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, Cooperative Research Program, announced at the CAC/UArctic Food Summit that in addition to sponsoring conferences like this one, his office offers fellowships for Ph.D.s to work in foreign countries.

“We want to achieve the link between science and policy,” Sadler said.

“This conference has everything from plant and animal science to sociology and anthropology. It has both a broad and narrow geographical focus. It is one of the most multi-disciplinary conferences we have sponsored.”

Ph.D.s interested in working with other OECD countries may contact John. Sadler@ars.usda.gov.

His website is http://www.oecd.org/agriculture/crp

Sen. Lisa Murkowski weighs in on conference

CAC Conference Co-Chair Carol E. Lewis (emeritus dean of UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and emeritus director of the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station) read a letter from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski:

I regret I am unable to join you at the 8th Circumpolar Agricultural Conference.

The unique challenges we face as Alaskans truly align with the conference’s mission and innovative philosophy. Alaska is poised to be an international leader on the interconnected issues of food security, climate change and energy costs. Alaskans are continuing to expand our state’s agricultural base in new and innovative ways. From farms in Bethel, hoop houses on the Kenai Peninsula and geothermal greenhouses in Fairbanks, the fortitude of our state’s farmers and entrepreneurs never ceases to amaze. Alaska and the Arctic have so much collective potential and it is imperative we help develop and execute well-crafted policies to ensure we are a leader in this area.

It is encouraging to see this conference bring together and partner with diverse groups of stakeholders to best serve Alaska. These kids of gatherings help facilitate a much needed dialogue regarding how we as Alaskans envision our collective future. The expertise of educators, elders, politicians, public workers, students, business owners, industry leaders and community members will help ensure that the quality of life and opportunities we enjoy are sustainable over the long term.

I applaud everyone who took part in planning, executing and participating in this project. I look forward to hearing about the practical solutions and innovative strategies discussed at this year’s conference. Thank you for your dedication to Alaska.