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Peninsula talks farmers market

KENAI (AP) — Kenai Peninsula farmers and gardeners would bring produce to a central location under a plan being discussed with Kenai Peninsula Food Bank officials.

The central peninsula currently features farmers markets in Kenai and Soldotna but growers say there are advantages to consolidating them at the food bank on Kalifornsky Road.

Judy Fischer, owner of Fischer’s Fresh Farm Produce in Kasilof, pitched the idea in January at a Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

"The goal is to provide a variety of produce on a regular basis for local consumers and restaurants," Fischer said.

The current two markets are 25 minutes apart, she said, and it’s inconvenient for farmers and gardeners to supply both. It’s also too slow for restaurants to obtain needed produce.

"This would be the best way to get the most amount of food out with the least amount of waste," she said. "There’s so many reasons why this would work well, too."

The Food Bank, she said, has ample parking, public bathrooms and refrigeration. It has a state-approved kitchen and is close to restaurants, she said.

Bonnie Miller, food donor coordinator for the Food Bank, said her organization would receive a major perk in the arrangement — donated surplus food. She met with nine farmers or gardeners last week to discuss the plan.

The market could have significant benefits, said Lydia Clayton, Agriculture and Horticulture Extension Agent for University of Fairbanks’ Cooperative Extension Service.

"It will be a place for farmers to interact with consumers and consumers to interact with farmers," Clayton said.

That interaction, she said, will reinforce the "farm-to-fork relationship," she said.

"People get to know who is growing their food and, at the same time, have a chance to support their local food in the community," she said.