Farmer's markets mean potatoes, carrots and lots of green

Published: Nov. 21, 2016 at 2:26 PM AKST
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Every Wednesday and Saturday a cluster of tables line the inside of the Mall at Sears. You can buy potatoes, carrots, parsnips and pork, there are purple carrots, deep, rich, slightly sweet and fruity with a blue edge that hovers around the color of Barney the Dinosaur.

Ladies with canvas bags load them up by the handful.

"The farm is how we grow everything, market is how we vend it," Alex Davis, a local farmer and vendor said.

Davis has been a farmer in Alaska for more than 12 years, and his brother-in-law is a local pig farmer.

"I grow seven acres of vegetables a year," Davis said, "I also raise about 100 head of hog and goats."

Davis is one of an estimated 1,000 farmers in Alaska, a trend that includes both the large-scale hay and barley farms in the Interior to the smaller, gourmet farms in South Central. Over the years, as the "buy local" movement has grown, farmers have increasingly turned to selling directly to their customers at farmer's markets.

"I think these farmers are seeing there's an opportunity here to sell in a direct way," Danny Consenstein, the state executive director for the United States Department of Agriculture Alaska Farm Service Agency, said.

More than ever, buyers are looking to buy local, pointing to their support for local farmers as well as better tasting produce.

But, in Alaska, where did this trend begin?

Food and lifestyle writer Julia O'Malley, who grew up in Anchorage, points to salmon as the reason.

"It's right at the center of Alaska's food culture," O'Malley said, "other seafood is too, but salmon is the bread of life in this place."

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute says the seafood industry accounts for $2.1 billion in total labor income and $5.9 billion in total economic activity in Alaska. That doesn't include sport fishing and local anglers looking to stock their freezers.

On a recent weekday, O'Malley planned for dinner.

She dipped a large chunk of Copper River salmon into a plate filled with dijon, butter and garlic, then dipped the fish into a plate loaded with smashed Saltine crackers. Most of O'Malley's dinners, which she often writes about on her blog, involve local produce, fish and meat.

Salmon, thick and fatty, is a star at most of her summertime dinners.

The oven was turned up to 400 degrees, a timer set to eight minutes and the salmon went into the oven. The smells of butter and garlic filled the room.

"Dinner is served," O'Malley said, "we need some wine."

The full recipe can be found here: