When people realize I get to visit farms as part of my job they are often curious or even envious. Well, on July 28 you get to be me.
Thanks to the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. and the participation of one Delta Junction farm and 12 Fairbanks farms, Fairbanks is having its first Tour of Farms. Each farm has its own hours and visitors are welcome to drive their vehicles to the farms, where they’ll get to see animals and vegetables and talk to farmers about why they farm and how they manage to do it successfully. There will even be snacks, fresh from the fields, of course, and door prizes.
“We wanted to help facilitate the development of the Interior’s agriculture industry, assisting in broadening and stabilizing the Interior’s economic base and the creation of stronger food security for our community,” said Julie Emslie, FEDC project manager.
Using the successful Tour of Greenhouses as her pattern, Emslie approached local farmers to see who would be interested and 13 farms bought into the concept. “My goal was to have 10 farms,” Emslie said. “We have quite the variety: hydroponics, farms that are community supported agriculture models, a school farm, peonies, a you-pick farm and a certified organic farm.”
Other farms wanted to get involved but weren’t able to do it this year. “The farms participating are only a small representation of many other farms within the borough,” Emslie said. “Hopefully next year we’ll be able to work in some more.”
Emslie promises a fun day of connecting with local food producers. “You’ll be impressed by the Alaskan ingenuity required of farming in the Interior,” she said. In a nutshell, she wants the tour to educate the public about the farming community and show people how they can access and purchase locally grown food.
The farmers are enthusiastic about sharing this day with visitors. Susan Willsrud of Calypso Farm and Ecology Center said, “We are happy to be a part of and support any effort aimed at making stronger connections between the community and local farms. It raises awareness of how many farms are in our community and helps connect community members to local farmers.”
At Dogwood Gardens, Cheryl Wood said, “We want our community involved in eating locally. We want to raise the awareness for Fairbanksans of the many options for choosing local produce.”
Wood desires that people embrace farmers. “Without farmers there would be no food,” she said. “Eating locally and supporting sustainable agriculture is an investment in our future. I especially like children to come see where food is grown so that when they grow up they will make responsible food choices for their families. Food is life.”
Adam Ottavi at Hay Way CSA got on board because he thinks the tour will encourage more involvement in and enthusiasm for local agriculture. “I hope those who visit the farm will realize how practical and enjoyable it can be to grow a variety of vegetables in Fairbanks,” he said.
Nancy Davidian of Arctic Roots Farm said, “This idea of a tour sounds like a fun way to get folks out to visit a variety of farms and know that there is an agricultural community here in Fairbanks offering a variety of foods. It’s also a great way to get ideas for your own garden and a chance to offer children exposure to where their food comes from.”
At Spinach Creek Farm, Lynn Mayo said, “We wanted people to come see a farm so they know what grows in Alaska and why there are no carrots in the spring. The other reason is for people to see how we do it and that anyone can make a living at farming.”
So think about taking a Sunday drive. It’s a good chance to learn something about local food production and meet some really nice people. Trust me, this I know for sure.
This column is provided as a service by the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. Nancy Tarnai is the school and station’s public information officer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.