Home Living Food Introducing the Curious to the Breadbasket of Alaska

Introducing the Curious to the Breadbasket of Alaska

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On a misty, early August morning, workers in a Matanuska Valley farm field harvest heads of lettuce, loading them on a truck to be shipped to stores and markets across Southcentral Alaska.

“Harvesting in the morning keeps field heat out, which helps lettuce stay fresh longer,” explains Arthur Keyes, owner of Glacier Valley Farms and our tour guide on the 5th annual Mat-Su Farm Bureau Farm Tour on August 1.

The Mat-Su Farm Bureau Farm Tour has become an annual tradition celebrating the cornucopia of foods grown and raised by farmers in the Valley. By taking the tour, residents can explore the land and meet the farmers that produce their food.

When Mark Rempel was four years old, his family purchased 120 acres of Matanuska Valley farmland for $600. Today, the Rempel Family Farm grows over 100 varieties of certified organic vegetables in meticulously groomed fields under Pioneer Peak. From tomatoes for sandwiches to mint for mojitos, lettuce for salads to dill for salmon, you can find it at Rempel’s stand at the South Anchorage Farmers Market on Saturdays at the Subway/Cellular One Sports Centre at the corner of Old Seward and O’Malley or Wednesdays outside the Dimond Center Mall in Anchorage.

Buffalo Graze at Pitchfork Ranch. Photo by Sam Weis.
Buffalo Graze at Pitchfork Ranch. Photo by Sam Weis.
Elk Graze at Pitchfork Ranch. Photo by Sam Weis.
Elk Graze at Pitchfork Ranch. Photo by Sam Weis.

Those looking for a more meat-and-potatoes meal are also in luck. Originally started in the 1940s, Pitchfork Ranch overlooks the beautiful Matanuska River Valley where herds of elk and bison graze. Pair a Pitchfork Ranch bison burger with Daisy Gold or Butterball potatoes from VanderWeele Farms, and you have a local meal that promises to satisfy the heartiest of appetites.

Potatoes aren’t the only crop at VanderWeele farms. The farm raises a wide variety of vegetables that are available at stores and farmers markets throughout the summer. One particular vegetable has become increasingly popular in recent years.

“I’ve sold more kale in the last two years than I did in the previous 20,” explains Ben VanderWeele.

Lettuce at Pyrah's Pioneer Peak Farm. Photo by Sam Weis.
Lettuce at Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm. Photo by Sam Weis.

Looking to feel even closer to your food? Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm allows you and your family to pick over 30 kinds of fruits and vegetables for about half the price of what you’d pay in a grocery store.

Families pick at Pyrah's Pioneer Peak Farm. Photo by Sam Weis.
Families pick at Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm. Photo by Sam Weis.

If all that picking leaves you feeling thirsty, you can quench your thirst with a tall glass of milk from the Havemeister Dairy. Milk from the Havemeister’s herd of 83 cows is sure to do the body good.

“Milk has everything the body needs,” explains Jean Havemeister. “We don’t use any hormones or antibiotics with our cows.”

This year’s farm tour highlighted the rich diversity of local foods grown and raised by hard-working farmers right in our backyard. Whether you’re looking for freshly picked fruits and vegetables, a tall glass of cool milk or even a bison burger, you can find it fresh and locally grown in the Matanuska Valley.

Sam Weis is an Anchorage-based writer and the communications director of Alaskans First. When not writing, Sam can be found hiking, biking, fishing or skiing in the mountains of Southcentral Alaska. Originally from Wisconsin, Sam takes pride in his Badger roots, though quickly fell in love with Alaska which he now calls home.

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