At this time of year, the lovable cloven-hoofed residents of the Valley's own Musk Ox Farm in Palmer have already reestablished their full coats in preparation for the colder months ahead. Now that the Musk Ox Farm is open year round, you can visit this iconic place and see these animals in their natural winter element and sporting their extremely warm qiviut undercoats. I can think of no better way to kick off this prime musk ox season than by enjoying local flavors, talent, and an unbeatable Alaskan agriculture backdrop at the Oxtoberfest.
Oxtoberfest is a fall season fundraiser that began in 2016, partly to celebrate the Musk Ox Farm's collaboration with Alaska Farmland Trust to secure the entire farm as dedicated farmland in perpetuity. As agriculture is such a cherished aspect of life in the Valley, this was a big win for everyone. In keeping with the sustainable farmland focus, Oxtoberfest was organized to showcase foods and flavors chiefly grown, made, or raised in Alaska. The event features beers and ciders from local breweries like Matanuska Brewing Company, Bearpaw River Brewing Company, Bleeding Heart Brewery, and more. Farm-fresh foods come from local growers like Vanderweele Farm. Other local culinary talents are featured, like Turkey Red, "Dillicious" Pickles, Alaska Sausage & Seafood, Buzz's Bakery, 203 Kombucha and more.
It doesn't stop at the table, however. Oxtoberfest kicks it up a knotch with live oompah music by the Alaska Blaskapelle band. If you've not sipped the Valley's local brews on a Valley farm with the melodious merriment of traditional German music in the air, then perhaps there are a few finer notes in your drink that you have yet to discover.
As the Musk Ox Farm's biggest fundraiser of the year, Oxtoberfest has become a great way to raise awareness of the farm's mission to support this wonderful animal as well as Alaska's special qiviut textile cottage industry. As one of the Valley's greatest collaborations of local food growers and vendors, Oxtoberfest serves as a highly effective reminder of the value of sustainable agriculture in the Mat-Su Valley. The importance of this to Alaskans is evidenced by the overwhelming attendance and support of Oxtoberfest every year. "It's amazing how many new faces come to support us," said the farm's executive director, Mark Austin, "Attendees come from all over southcentral, the Kenai Peninsula, and even from out of state!" The event also enjoys generous and faithful support from major financial backers Conoco Phillips and Alaska Mill & Feed.
Since the first year of this event, the Musk Ox Farm successfully completed the monumental project of preserving their historical barn, upgrading their visitor center, and designing their hay loft room to accommodate presentations and events. As VIP attendees of Oxtoberfest enjoy premium table service seated in the hay loft room, with its commanding view of the whole farm, VIP tickets sell out fast! At the time of writing this blog post, however, there are still some general admission tickets left to this year's event. I just purchased my tickets at MuskOxFarm.org. If you, too, would like a first-hand look at how deliciously meaningful sustainable agriculture is to this Valley, perhaps I'll see you at Oxtoberfest this year.