The Homer area has become the epicenter for a small-scale agriculture boom in the last decade, mostly because of an NRCS cost-share program that gives farmers incentives for purchasing season extending high tunnels. On top of that, the Kenai Peninsula is going into its second year of piloting an online food hub so specialty crop producers and industry professionals are all pondering the unknown dynamics of price, supply and demand. What crops are in highest demand? How much are consumers willing to buy and willing to pay? What aspects of quality, cleanliness, and product form concern them? Understanding market dynamics is key to enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crop producers in our local economy.
As more people jump into farming, the more important it is to understand their needs for business success. Many of the people who have grown their home production don’t make the leap into the local food marketplace. What holds them back? Is it business planning, food safety issues, marketing? What would they need to consider market farming an economically viable option? What prevents producers that are presently successful at the farmer’s market from expanding? Is it labor? Is it access to land? Is it access to capital? Presently we have a thriving Homer Farmers Market, restaurants that appreciate local food, a local food consumer study in the works, and the Kenai Peninsula Food Hub, an online platform where producers can sell goods. All of this is trying to move forward with a dearth of information on the production side; the production that will make these other endeavors worthwhile and profitable.
At Homer Soil and Water, we are committed to supporting local agricultural production in any way we can, so we want to know how to best serve people with varying levels of understanding and expertise. What keeps producers from producing more? What keeps consumers from buying more? We are presently conducting two studies, one for consumers and one for producers, that will help draw a better picture of what our needs are here on the southern peninsula. Stay tuned for the results in the spring of 2019.