Copper Valley Development Association (CVDA) is researching ways to increase agricultural production in the valley. While many residents have gardens, farms and participate in subsistence activities. We currently produce only a small amount of the food that is consumed in the valley. CVDA believes that increasing agricultural production will have multiple benefits for our region and we are looking for ways to help local farmers increase their production. CVDA is offering assistance to those who may be interested in developing an agricultural business.
Legistlative appropriation for Agricultural Development
-Feasibility Studies: CVDA was recently awarded a legislative appropriation for agricultural development in the valley. To help local producers expand their markets and to assist residents who may be interested in entering the market, CVDA will be conducting some feasibility studies on potential agricultural projects.
Feasibility studies will be conducted to determine if CEA (controlled environment agriculture) projects could be profitable. This includes determining construction costs, operational costs including energy and labor in relation to the potential profit and outputs. Identification of specialty markets and sales potential are also included.
In addition to feasibility studies and production assistance, CVDA is putting forth efforts to promote the further development of a ‘Food Distribution and local Markets Network’. CVDA has begun working with the Mat-su and Prince William ARDORS to promote and facilitate an ‘Alaska grown & harvested’ food distribution program for the Copper Valley and 2 additional regions. Updates will be posted on the webstite @ coppervalley.org
USDA Farm to School Program: CVDA recently teamed up with Copper River School District and some local farmers to apply for a farm to school program. This program is a win-win for everyone and has multiple benefits including:
· Bringing locally grown “healthy” foods to the school lunch room
· Creating new local markets for farmers/producers
· Teaching kids about nutrition and where their food comes from and;
· “Farming New Farmers” by providing classroom instruction and some “hands on” experience for those kids who may be interested in farming
Planning Grant: Since we’re just starting out we needed to build the foundation for the program through a planning grant. This is a small 1-year grant up designed to help communities conduct the planning to implement a successful program. If funded, over the next year a Project Coordinator will conduct a series of structured planning activities with teachers, parents, farmers, and kids to develop an implementation plan. The planning process will help the district adopt new policies for how they procure, store, process and serve locally grown foods. Taste tests will be conducted with kids to find out what foods they will eat and how they should be prepared. The program will then work with local farmers and producers to gear their production to the new market.
Facility & Equipment Planning: During the planning process, CVDA will be helping the district acquire some new facilities and equipment for the Farm to School program. Local produce will need to be stored at the district and there is currently no storage space (last year, potatoes that had been donated ended up in the bus barn) so we will be assisting the district in designing and constructing an appropriate storage facility with freezers and other equipment that will be needed for the program. Given that education is a key component of the project, to compliment the curriculum taught in the classroom the school will also need to construct a greenhouse and some garden beds to give kids some actual hands on experience with food production.
The Farm to School program is part of a growing state and national movement to increase the amount of locally grown foods used in schools. We’re excited about the program but there is stiff competition for the planning grants so we are keeping our fingers crossed that our program gets funded during the next round.