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My family’s quest to eat local

March 10, 2011

I first met a member of the Alaska food challenge in the winter. I was at another environmental event and she told me all about the Alaska food challenge and where to find the website.

I have my degree in environmental studies and am committed to living a sustainable lifestyle but food is one area I really need to improve on. I came to Alaska in Spring of 2005 with my now husband. We didn’t know how long we were staying but we were excited about Alaska and started our family which now includes a baby, a toddler and a preschooler.  I try to live as environmentally as possible  and in most areas we do.  As much as we do I don’t like estimating my carbon footprint because of how little food we get locally.

Since the babies came so quickly and they are close in age, cooking has fallen by the wayside. We eat Alaska salmon but no other meat but I rely on processed foods and not much of what I get is local.  I have started a garden at my friend’s house 3 summers ago but not much of our year round supply comes from there.

I was excited by the energy of the group and now feel that my family will be able to eat a significant portion of our diet locally. When I first started I thought it would be hard and that I wouldn’t be able to eat mostly local during the first year of the challenge but as time has gone on and I heard all the great ideas, found recipes and found out about local grains I am now feeling much more optimistic.

We can most likely get barley and wheat locally. I got a test batch of barley that I finally got the courage to grind in my blend tech and found it to be fairly easy to do. I scoured the web and have found recipes using whole wheat, barley and oat. I found ways to make, english muffins, pasta, bread, tortillas, pancakes, chips, brownies, cookies, pot pies, pizza etc.

The local milk does cost a little more but we can either get raw milk directly from a cow or milk from the local creamery. We use tons of cheese every week and local cheese is expensive so I  searched and found ways to make cheese from the milk. 1 gallon is about a pound of cheese. I can also make yogurt and maybe cottage cheese.

My kids love apples and berries. I hoping to up the berry picking this year and spend a lot of berry season hiking for berries. I will stock up on local apples and go foraging for crab apples.  I went on my first apple adventure last week when we shook frozen crabapples from a tree in front of  the UAA campus. I now have 5 gallons of crabapple in my freezer ready for processing.

We have a 10 by 12 garden plot on my friend’s property. Our first year was very successful but last year our harvest wasn’t as plentiful because of the rain.  Soil is our most expensive cost and I been wondering how we can expand our garden as much as possible but be able to afford it. I found some you tube videos on making cheap green houses and the hubby is game to make one. We can probably build another bed or two. We also decided to use a greenhouse and some beds that are at my friend’s parent’s hillside home. We are in the process of selling our condo for a small house with some land. It is very hard to put the condo on the market with 3 little ones and no family help but we are making progress. It is unlikely we will get  a place in time for planting this summer but I am excited about future years. I was feeling a little dejected until I found out about the U Pick farm in the Valley. They have good prices for veggies so I can supplement and slowly build more raised beds through the years.

The hardest thing to work out is the protein. In Alaska there are no local nuts and beans. Right now we rely on that for protein. I am fine with eating game meat but we never hunted before and you need knowledge and equipment we don’t have. I am still working on the protein aspect. Some possibilities are buying 100% grass-fed beef from Kodiak. We can also get local chicken or turkey. I have considered raising some turkeys for meat. We are hoping to get on the road kill moose list so that is a possibility. I found out you can grow fava beans so I will be trying that. Some people had success with quinoa so that is another possibility. Every year we go down to Kenai for a couple of days to dip net and we do get plenty of Red Salmon from that. This year I will add in clamming since it is not to far.  We also can get some protein from the milk and eggs.

I am excited to be part of the Alaska food challenge and to meet people who are just as excited about eating local as me. I am glad to have a group to network with and to go on foraging adventures with.

“Bear” in the garden
“Raven” berry picking
“Baby bird” nursing
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