Mat-Su farmers take over morning commute in 6th annual event
Drive Your Tractor To Work Day had agriculturists hitting the streets instead of the fields
PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Cooler morning temperatures and biting wind didn’t stop a group of farmers from gathering at the Alaska State Fairgrounds to officially kick off the start of farming season in Alaska.
Around 40 farmers started rolling into the gravel lot early Monday morning to take a group photo before firing up their John Deere and Kubota tractors to parade through the streets of downtown Palmer in a celebration of the start of growing season.
The event marked the sixth annual Drive Your Tractor To Work Day, and was organized by Arthur Keyes in 2017 after the state legislature established the first Tuesday in May each year as Alaska Agriculture Day. At the time, Keyes was the director of the Division of Agriculture for the state.
“In 2017, I was the only tractor to do it when I drove to work,” Keyes said. “The following year, we had over 20 tractors.”
Participation has nearly doubled since those first two years, with about 40 tractors taking part in the 2022 parade.
The farmers left the fairgrounds at 8:30 a.m. and headed down Outer Springer Loop in a single file line before hanging a left on South Chugach Street to make their way downtown to the Palmer pavilion. All along the route, excited students at Palmer Junior Middle School and residents along the parade route watched from the sidewalks and waved as the tractors lugged down the streets, happily honking back at spectators.
But it wasn’t just an opportunity for the farmers to show off their equipment, it was also a chance for members of the community to get to know the individuals who grow their food.
“This is equipment that the residents of Palmer have been driving by for years,” Keyes said. “... This is an opportunity for them to see them up close and personal and say hi, say thank you.”
Once the parade concluded, the farmers parked their tractors at the pavilion where Matanuska Electric Association provided a hot breakfast made from locally sourced ingredients while the farmers and community members who had gathered enjoyed the meal together.
Palmer is historically known for its unique microclimate that produces large, healthy crops that provides food to communities all across the state.
“Nothing has a greater impact on the quality of a person’s life than the food they eat,” Keyes said. “... Local food from Palmer, Alaska — that’s the pinnacle. It doesn’t get any better than that. So we’re going to be here doing it.”
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