The Mat-Su Valley has long had a rich agricultural history, and that history is getting a new chapter with two exciting developments in the last few weeks.
Palmer's agricultural history can be traced back to 1935, when more than 200 families were relocated to the area to establish an agricultural-based community through the Matanuska Colony project, part of FDR's New Deal. These families were given 40 acres of land near Palmer, a barn, a home and other basic supplies, and they had to "prove up" the land. While many families ultimately didn't make it and moved back to the Midwest, those who stuck it out helped plant the seeds for Palmer's growth in farming and agricultural.
Today, there are two exciting things going on in the agricultural realm. Recently, Alaska Farm Tours opened for business, becoming the first tour operator fully dedicated to showcasing farms and the importance they play in Alaska. Owner Margaret Asdit is the former director of Alaska Farmland Trust, and this summer she'll be leading tours of local farms, including lunches that feature Alaska Grown vegetables. It's a niche that hasn't been filled previously. While some farms are open to tours, there hasn't been an operator who has toured several farms.
"I'm excited about it, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it grows," Asdit said recently. You can find out more about the tours at www.alaskafarmtours.com.
Yesterday, another Palmer farmer made news - Arthur Keyes of Glacier Valley Farms was announced as the new Director of Agriculture for the State of Alaska.
Keyes has be a big advocate for agriculture, and has helped establish farmer's markets in Southcentral Alaska that showcase the many varieties of fruits and vegetables grown here. At his farm, he grows some of the sweetest strawberries you'll ever taste - something visitors to Alaska probably would never guess.
Ag has long been a part of the Valley's heritage, and the future looks bright.