Borough launches new ag program

Mar 27, 2019

 

High tunnels have proven successful for small farmers on the Peninsula. Now, the borough is working to make more lands available for agricultural production.
Credit Redoubt Reporter

Of the roughly 5.7 million acres that make up the Kenai Peninsula, very little is dedicated to agriculture. But a new initiative from the borough would change that.

The borough’s lands department is launching a pilot project aimed at identifying areas of the Peninsula that would be best suited for some agricultural use and they’re taking suggestions. Borough Land Manager Marcus Mueller says the program evolved out of some land classifications made a couple years ago and a lot of conversations with local farmers. That in turn led to a rough draft of what such program would look like.

“This policy document, a white paper, was really focused around the idea of rolling out an agricultural leasing program. The idea of making a buffet of lands available through a contract structure that tries to provide what folks need in order to start up an operation and then taking it from there.”

That white paper isn’t a fully fleshed out policy, but does include some broad ten year goals, including identifying 4,000 acres as well suited for agriculture, developing 100 farm contracts and filling those acres with a variety of crops and activities. More details will be ironed out by a task force.

“And that’s really, from my point of view, what it’s going to take to navigate through how to put together a land program that is going to work well for individuals that would participate in that, and is going to work well for the public accountability that goes into how you manage public resources in a way that meets the goals and the expectations," Mueller says.

Plots of land will be available all over the Peninsula, but the pilot program will focus on areas in Kasilof and down East End Road outside Homer. A brochure and sample contracts will be developed in the coming weeks and the first contracts could be finished by the end June.