Alaska – The Last Two Years Part 1
By Karla Anderson-Weber
The last two years have passed quickly. There have been many adventures.
Our four legged critter family has grown by one cat, two goats, four chickens, and 5 turkeys. Three of which are being raised for the neighbor to use at Thanksgiving for church and family functions. Two have been tamed into pets. One is a palm turkey. It is a decorative heritage breed. The other is a broad brested. Raising them this summer has been a fun experience for us. The throaty chirps on my days off were a welcome, calming, treat as they waddled on the porch and settled in for the afternoon naps. The goats have been a helpful alternative to a lawn mower and weed eaters. They are friendly and often wander by for extra treats and scratches
Most food production happens in places other than Alaska. However in the extreme climate conditions the hearty Alaskan community has two primary farming areas. The first is Palmer and the second for the interior is Delta Junction. The first two years the girls have participated in the high school FFA programs. FFA stands for Future Farmers of America. On one field trip we toured farms in Delta Junction and learned about food production in Alaska. Two stop overs were the farmer that is the main production farm for Delta Meats and the Northern lights Dairy. They talked to us about the deep commitment they have for the chosen life style. They helped us understand the different challenges they face throughout the year. The other stop over is Calypso Farms and Ecology Center in Fairbanks. Calypso Farms has a year long farmer training program that teaches interested individuals how to farm under these extreme growing conditions of the Alaska Interior. They also have a fiber festival for local fiber producers and fiber artist to market their home spun creations. The Fairbanks area also has two local micro fiber mills. One specializing in musk other. The other prepares all kind of fiber. Some of the Fibers processed include icelandic, Alpaca, and Shetland.
Alaska has been facing on ongoing issues with food security. The struggle has been on going since Alaska was purchased in 1867. During the great depression Roosevelt established a number of farming colonies throughout the US. One of which one was in the Matanuska Valley. The early years presented many challenges. Commercial Farming areas were eventually established in Palmer and Delta Junction. The current trend that appears to be working is individual family gardens. In Addition there are many hobby farms and urban farmsteads. The USDA has a program for free hoop houses.
After a few months in Alaska I found myself missing the fresh produce from my small garden, Alpaca farm garden, and access to the produce stands in western Washington. So I started my garden the first year its was just potato in old stacked tires. The garden soil quickly grew expensive. I started using woodchips, birch leaves, and straw over the last two years to have more nutrient dense soil. The small crop combination has varied in combination from lettuce cucumber and potato. Lettuce and cucumber starts were purchased from the greenhouse. The potato were planted outside around mother’s day. The planters are right next to the house. Any noise the dog starts barking. She is a highly effective deterrent for hungry wildlife. The long daylight hours and warm summer days make for a rapid growing season. We live on an acre. We rent. I work full time. Our Garden is still small. .