Produce Hits Anchorage Farmer’s Markets

The Alaska Grown program is working to promote local produce and other farm products in a bid to strengthen the state’s fragile agricultural economy.  A variety of produce is available at farmer’s markets that are already springing up in Anchorage shopping malls with the coming of spring.  This month, savvy consumers can save money and put food on the table by taking advantage of a glut of locally grown potatoes.

Alex Davis, owner of AD Farm near Palmer’s Lazy Mountain, is already making the trek into Anchorage two days a week to man his farm products stand in an urban mall parking lot

April’s chilly breeze offsets the warmth of the  noon sun, but the sunlight shines through glass jars filled with golden honey, stacked next to jars of homemade jam.  Huge loaves of fresh bread wrapped tight in  plastic, duck eggs, organic parsnips and ice cream  entice lunchtime customers.   And then there’s the German butterball potatoes piled high in bins

Davis says his dwindling stock of last season’s German butterballs are going fast.  That’s not the case for some other varieties of potato grown in the Matanuska Valley.

That’s Ben Vanderwheel, a major producer of potatoes and other vegetables in Palmer.

The variety most available in stores now are called NORKOTA, suited for growth in a chilly climate.

Vanderheel says last summer’s cool and drizzly weather was responsible for a bumper crop.

Vanderheel says, last year his fields averaged 22 tons of potatoes an acre.  The potatoes are stored all winter in modern facilities with ventilation and humidification at his farm.  But new crops are to be sowed in mid May, so last season’s crop has to move out.

The Norkota potatoes are mild flavored and versatile.  Mash ‘em,  fry ‘em, bake ‘em. If you like your spuds, now’s the time to stock up.  It’s a buyer’s market for Alaska Grown potatoes.

Franci Havemeister, Director of the Division of Agriculture, challenges all Alaskan’s to eat more Alaska Grown products in April, for a healthy family and for a healthy economy.

VanderWheel says Alaska potatoes are priced to compete with Washington state potatoes shipped into the state by major grocery chains.

He says the Alaska Grown trademark can be found on red and yellow Yukon gold potatoes, too.

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