Got $5? Spend your cash locally and watch the economy grow says the Division of Agriculture
Wednesday afternoon Bill Longbrake walked across a field of bright green grass on his farm in Palmer.
"This is my office," Longbrake said, arms outstretched and looking toward the mountains.
For more than 15 years he's been a farmer in the Valley, before that he grew produce in Ohio and his parents were both farmers. His son-in-law and daughter have started slowly taking over the family business in Alaska; although, his work days are still at least 10 hours long.
Meanwhile, in Anchorage at the farmers market within the Mall at Sears, Alex Davis was selling potatoes, carrots and pork chops. He's been farming at Lazy Mountain for about 13 years.
How's it being a farmer in Alaska? Davis said, "Exhausting."
Both men, farmers just like them and Alaskans stand to benefit from a campaign started by the State Division of Agriculture. The $5 Alaska Grown Challenge starts Thursday. The pitch is for Alaskans to spend $5 every week on Alaska grown products. The campaign runs from now until October with more than 40 grocery stores across the state, including Carrs, Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart, participating and setting up special signs that showcase what's grown or raised in the state.
"It has the potential, if all Alaskans participate, to put tens of millions of dollars back into our local Alaska economy," Arthur Keyes the director of the Alaska Division of Agriculture said.
Longbrake said there is a trickle down effect from people buying local. He spoke about his own efforts to support local farmers including buying his hay for erosion control from Delta and his love of Alaska grown carrots from the Valley.
"My wife once bought a big bag (of carrots) from someone else," Longbrake said,"it wasn't as sweet."
Keyes said cucumbers are for sale now, and in the next few months expect carrots and lettuce, potatoes and just about every other kind of vegetable you can imagine. Local pork is also a favorite. Keyes said one big perk about the $5 campaign is that special accommodations are being made for smaller farms that can't grow enough to supply a big retailer. If the farmer can't supply enough produce for an entire store chain, the program helps them find individual stores, within the chain, that will showcase their product.
If someone participates in the challenge there's no signup, they just ask that you like Alaska Grown page on Facebook and maybe show some of your food pictures.