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10th Harvest Moon Festival coming this Saturday

Signage promoting the 2023 Harvest Moon Local Foods Festival.
Riley Board
Signage promoting the 2023 Harvest Moon Local Foods Festival.

The annual Harvest Moon Local Foods Festival is celebrating ten years of promoting local farming with food, activities and cooking demonstrations. On Saturday, farms, chefs, food trucks, gardeners, educators and musicians will come together in Soldotna to honor the end of the summer growing season.

Organizer Heidi Chay said the festival started in 2013 as a week-long event spread across town, then evolved into a single-day celebration in 2018.

“In 2018, we had the idea of bringing all of the local food vendors — the farmers, the folks who produce honey, the food trucks, etc. — all together in one place,” she said. “And that has just been so successful.”

She said reception to that format has been positive, and thousands of people attend each year, so organizers decided to stick with that schedule.

At this year’s event, there will be representation from nine farms, and more than a dozen food trucks and booths. There will be five cooking demonstrations, as well as foraging walks and educational stands.

The festival will also include a couple of popular traditions, like the fermentation station, which allows attendees to get their vegetables pickled on the spot. There’s also the pie baking contest, where bakers use local ingredients and present their work to a panel of judges.

“The heart of that contest is that you use one or more Alaska-grown ingredients in your homemade pie, and that you do something new and creative with those ingredients,” Chay said.

The star of the festival is local produce. This growing season has been a well-documented struggle, with everything from peonies to berries struggling amid a cold, wet summer. Chay says that has impacted local producers.

“Yes, it was a challenging season for farmers. They got a slow start. They couldn’t necessarily grow all the volume or variety of things they were intending to,” she said. “But there hasn’t been a notable shift in what we’re seeing.”

That’s because there’s a silver lining — she said produce is even more available a bit later in the season.

“The season having run late means there will still be farm stands you should be on the lookout for, there will still be produce at the stands, so keep your eyes open.”

Chay said she’s most excited about the day’s close-out musical performance from the Homer-based KP Brass Band.

The Harvest Moon Local Foods Festival kicks off at 11 a.m this coming Saturday, Sept. 16, and runs until 6 p.m. at Soldotna Creek Park.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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