The ever-increasing demand for fresh and organic food has fueled an explosion of community-supported agriculture around the nation.
And it's become more than fruit and vegetable stands on the side of the road — many growers cater to customers through direct subscriptions. Here on the Kenai Peninsula, Cook InletKeeper has added a cyber twist to the process with the Kenai Peninsula Food Hub, an online site that Carly Weir explains puts farmers and customers together.
"So it's kind of like an opportunity for folks who can't make it to a farmers market, or who want to plan ahead a little bit more," she said. "Instead of just seeing what's available at the farmers market, on the Food Hub you can see what's available each week ahead of time, and conveniently pay for it online and pick it up."
Weir, Cook InletKeeper's executive director, says there are pick-up points in Homer, Seldovia, Soldotna and ,new this year, Anchorage.
"We'll see how far this goes. It's been really successful here locally. There's about 600 customers, active customers right now on the Kenai Peninsula. And we hope that will just keep going," Weir said.
One of the farms that has a large presence on the Food Hub is the Blood, Sweat and Food Farms in Homer. According to partner Jenni Medley, the Food Hub model works well for them.
"We work with a lot of restaurants and some subscription customers, so having one place where we can work with a lot of individual customers but have only one drop-off, worked out really well for us," she said. "So we were excited when it started up."
Medley says the Food Hub has helped grow sales for Blood, Sweat and Food Farms, but its importance goes beyond that.
"Having a strong local food economy is important to us and we feel that the meat and vegetables and eggs that we produce can help build up our community," she said. "The Food Hub is a great way to reach out to different community members."
In the central peninsula, pick-ups for the Kenai Food Hub are on Wednesdays at Christ Lutheran Church near the Y on North Soldotna Avenue. You can find out more at KenaiFoodHub.org.