Recruiters of Young Farmers, Fishermen Face Same Issues
An organizer working to recruit more young people into farming says the individual attributes and community efforts needed to bring these folks on board are also key to recruiting new blood into the rigorous work of commercial fisheries.
That advice from Severine von Tscharner Fleming, director of the Greenhorns, came during the first Homer Halibut Festival Sept. 19-20 in Homer, Alaska.
"We are interested in a different system that orients the wealth more locally, that ships the product less far, that makes use of a broader range of products and processes, a more diverse use of the landscape and one that is sustainable and sustaining for the producers," Fleming said in an interview during a community fish fry hosted by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council on the Homer Spit.
"On an individual basis it does a lot of good to have a certain amount of charisma, and to be deeply determined, very strong work ethic, high level of stamina, independent mindedness, opportunism, but that's on an individual basis," she said.
"As a community, we benefit from working together and what's certainly proven true within the young farmer's movement has been the towns and clusters of towns that figure out how to work together, how to cooperate."
Fleming's message to young fish harvesters, she said, is the power of sharing knowledge, infrastructure, and the ritual and culture of their profession to strengthen the group as a whole. "And when the consumer knows they are going to get a higher quality product and they can rely on that, and they have had a good experience, it accelerates how quickly that consumer can go from an occasional buyer of local food to a dedicated buyer of local food," she said.
The festival got under way on Sept. 19 with panel discussions at Homer's Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, with speakers representing the International Pacific Halibut Commission, the Alaska seafood Marketing Institute, the charter boat industry and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
"Halibut has played a key role in the economy and lifestyle of Homer," said Don Lane, an IPHC commissioner who lives in Homer and fishes commercially as a longliner. "The sustainability of halibut as a resource plays a fundamental role in the economy of Homer. We should all celebrate that we have had this resource for so many years and that we have so many people engaged in research (about halibut)," he said.
Bruce Leaman, executive director of the IPHC, and IPHC research biologist Claude Dykstra also participated in the panel discussions. Leaman provided extensive background information on the history and responsibilities of the IPHC, and spoke of cooperative efforts between the IPHC and North Pacific Fishery Management Council, while Dykstra talked about the life cycles of halibut, stock assessment surveys and the partnership of IPHC with other agencies in surveys and research.
The weekend also included a community fish fry and halibut filleting demonstration, a fund raiser for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, a Halibut Hustle 5k run on the Homer Spit and a presentation by Fleming for young fishermen.
In addition to AMCC, sponsors included IPHC, ASMI, veteran fisherman and state legislator Paul Seaton of Homer, Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, the North Pacific Fisheries Association and several Homer area businesses.
Find more information about Fleming and the Greenhorns at http://www.thegreenhorns.net.