Red oak lettuce can’t handle Alaska’s long summer days. But you don’t know until you try, and for more than a century Alaska’s Matanuska Valley farmers have been doing just that – testing and refining cultivation methods to discover how best to grow food in a post-glacial, subarctic climate.
Today, Alaska’s small farmers have the knowledge and experience to produce a bounty of nutritious, healthy food here but now face a new challenge: maintaining arable land against the rising tide of subdivisions.
Nautilus recently joined the Alaska Farm Tour to learn more about our home-grown food producers. Co-sponsored by Matsu Farm Bureau and the Alaska Farmland Trust, the Farm Tour led us on an adventure through Alaska’s surprisingly fertile Matanuska Valley, where we met up with some of the area’s most innovative farmers and ranchers.
Grapes in Alaska? It can happen. Sweet potatoes? You bet, with the right conditions and lots of encouragement.
We learned cold soils make for sweeter peas, that over 50 varieties of rhubarb grow in Alaska, and that bison beats beef when it comes to ranching in bear country.
But the most important fact was this: were shipping, road and air traffic to be disrupted, Alaska’s metropolitan areas would only have between 3 and 7 days’ supply of food.
Clearly, food insecurity is a serious issue for isolated areas like Alaska, and our precious remaining farm systems are too vital to lose. As the t-shirts worn by our host farmers read: you can’t eat a subdivision!