It was the curiosity about Alaska that brought the VanderWeele family to Alaska, but it was Alaska soil that kept them here.
Why does a man and his wife from the Netherlands choose to immigrate to Alaska? Simple. A young farmer needs wide-open spaces and fertile land in order to grow. Ben VanderWeele and his wife, Suus, came to Alaska to begin their farming business in 1967 because farmland in the Netherlands was not widely available. Farming must be in their blood, as the VanderWeele’s parents were farmers in the Netherlands and all of their children have come back to farming as well.
Today, VanderWeele runs the 160-acre VanderWeele Farms with the help of his three children and 25 to 30 seasonal employees. The variety of crops is diverse, with most of his farm yielding potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, zucchini, radishes and onions. The VanderWeeles have their own trucks that they use to deliver their produce to the South Anchorage Farmers’ Market, as well as wholesale customers such as Carrs/Safeway, Fred Meyer and the NANA Native Corporation.
Everyone in the Valley agrees that Alaska is a great place to farm because of the cooler temperatures. VanderWeele said this is because the climate reduces the amount of pesticides necessary, there is less disease, and the land is cleaner overall. With these benefits, the VanderWeele Farms are able to emphasize the care “that grows into VanderWeele crops.”
Glacier Valley Farm
I’m Arthur Keyes, and my wife Michelle and I run A&M Farms. I’ve lived in Alaska since 1976, growing up on the south side of Anchorage and graduating from Service High School in 1989. In 1998 I married Michelle (nee VanderWeele). In 2001, my wife and I were about to have our first child when we moved to Palmer from Anchorage. My wife’s parents have been farming in the Matanuska Valley since 1967, and we moved to be closer to her family.
I have always found the idea of growing something from a little seed and creating something of value to be intriguing. My father was raised on a farm in Illinois, when I was a boy he was always talking about the farm he grew up on. I could tell he had enjoyed that lifestyle. I grew my first crop in 2002, starting with a small patch of corn, and I have been hooked on growing ever since. The next year, I grew 180 zucchini plants. The following year I made the big leap to a full acre of squash and corn. I commuted daily to Anchorage to work, but in 2005 I made the leap and started farming full time. No more commuting, YAY!! In 2006 I built a 3800 square-foot commercial greenhouse, and now I grow tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant in it.
Also in 2006 I started the South Anchorage Farmers Market. The market initially ran from late June to the end of September, and now runs 9am to 2pm from early May to early October. In 2007 we added a Wednesday market at the Dimond Center, which runs from 10am to 4pm.
I now farm three and a half acres as well as the greenhouse. In 2007 I was elected to the board of supervisors for the Palmer Soil and Water Conservation District. In 2008 I was elected President of the Mat-Su Chapter of the Alaska Farm Bureau. Every year presents some interesting challenges, but it just makes me look all the more forward toward next year!
Rempel Family Farms
Rempel Family Farm is located in the Butte area near Palmer, Alaska with virgin soils, abundant water and wilderness for 150 miles to the east. We raise over 100 varieties of Certified Organic vegetables on 135 acres that Mark’s dad purchased from the Federal Government in 1960.
Mark’s grandfather (a Russian immigrant) came to Palmer in 1944 when Mark’s father was just 14. They purchased a farm on the Springer System where Ben Vanderweele now has the one of the few circle irrigations in the state. The Farm was later sold in 1953 , but the young Rempel could not stay away long and soon purchased the Butte property which has soils much like those in California where he was born. By 1962 he was growing tomatoes and cucumbers for local stores, and in the 1970’s grew carrots to put his children through college. Thus began the now famous Rempel Carrots.
In 1990 Mark and his wife, Tammy, took over the farm and by 1992 were farming organically. In 1999 they became certified through Alaska Organic Association which they helped to organize.
Farmers Markets are our main outlet because we enjoy knowing our customers and growing what they need and want. At market you will find multi-generations , Grand parents, their children and their children.
The diversity of our vegetables is driven by our customers desires, their suggestions, and what we are able to grow up here in Alaska.
Challenges in farming are multitude; frost, disease, weather, pests, moose, seed availability, and time (not much rest for a market farmer in the summer), but the greatest challenges are good dependable labor and appropriate, stable market venues.
Kenley’s Alaskan Vegetables & Flowers
Kenley’s Alaskan Vegetables and Flowers is owned and operated by Carol Kenley and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Rachel. Carol was raised on a dairy farm in Palmer and her mother, June Oberg, has always been known for her fabulous garden. Carol inherited June’s love of growing things and endeavored to pass that love on to her seven children. Some liked it more than others and thirteen years ago daughter number four, Amy, decided to make some money from her hours in the garden so she started a subscription vegetable business (CSA) with the help of her mother. After she graduated from high school, her younger brothers inherited the business and five years ago Rachel (the youngest) took it over from them. The garden has kept growing bigger every year and the Kenley’s started selling their excess produce at the market in Palmer. This year they decided to change their focus. They discontinued their subscription service so they could sell at the South Anchorage Wednesday Market along with the Friday Flings in Palmer.
Kenley’s raise a large variety of vegetables, from artichokes to zucchini in their large gardens and greenhouse. Carol’s first love is flowers and each week she brings lovely floral bouqets fresh picked from her numerous flower gardens to see and adorn their booth.
Rachel, a senior in high school, is President of Alaska’s State FFA (Future Farmers of America) and uses her experience in the vegetable business as one of her FFA projects. In addition she raises beef and sells at the 4-H Auction at the State Fair. Agricultural involvement is a large part of her life.
Carol and Rachel are excited to be at the South Anchorage market and enjoy meeting all the people to who come to enjoy the fresh produce. They are committed to bringing their customers the very best the Valley has to offer.
Vern Stockwell, Stockwell Farm
I was born and raised on a 600-acre farm in South Dakota. I then served in the U.S. Navy and later graduated from South Dakota State University. In 1989, adventure brought me to Alaska for a vacation and I’ve been here ever since. I lived in Anchorage for 12 years where almost my whole yard was used for a personal vegetable garden. In 2001, my girlfriend, Rebecca Maslanka, her three sons and I decided to look for a little farmland and move to the country. We soon discovered that farmland is not that easy to find with developments gobbling up the land, but eventually found 5 acres of tillable land in the Butte area of Palmer. We built a home on the land and tilled much of the rest for farming. By 2002, we were growing vegetables and living our dream of having an eco-friendly, sustainable farm. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy as the Alaskan summers are known to be short, cruel, and cool. We also knew we could not grow enough produce on our land to supply on a supermarket level, so we decided to direct-market our fresh-picked produce through the local farmers’ market, in hopes that someone would buy it. We were very pleased to find out how enthusiastic and grateful the locals are to receive fresh-grown local produce. We are now in our sixth year of production and look forward to the coming season. We are very proud of our vegetables and proud to be Alaskan farmers.
Northern Lights Mushrooms
Growers of oyster and shiitake mushrooms
A.D. Farm was established in 2005. We are a part of a much older farming operation, Wolverine Farm. A.D. Farm is committed to producing food the way God intended them to grow, with no chemical interference or enhancement; this is why we are a Certified Organic Food Producer. A.D. Farm is committed to getting our customers the freshest and highest quality produce we can grow.
Wolverine Farm is a family farm in its third generation. We work to fill the need of both the organic and non-organic markets. Farming is a low-income, high-family time operation, and we value family work and play over money. Farmers’ markets let the farmer see his efforts from the beginning to the end user. The biggest challenges in farming is overcoming the rising cost of doing business.
Heart of the Mountain Organics
We are Tom and Trish Lee - Organic & Bio-Dynamic garden farmers and distillers of highest quality Essential Oils. We grow flowers, veggies, and herbs and offer ‘starter plants’, essential oils, and inspiration to grow more food at home. Our farm is located at the Sanctuary of the Heart on Sheep Mountain in the eastern part of the Matanuska Valley - up by the glacier, surrounded by wilderness. We are stewards of this land, and hold this land sacred for those of us who choose to preserve a way of life that honors Gaia, Nature, Mother Earth, the world as it has been for eons, the Spirit of ‘Love for Life’ in humans. All life is seen as a creation of God/dess and is honored as such.
This is land we have lived on since 1981. In 1987, we started Enzyme Express, Anchorage’s first primarily Organic juice bar and vegetarian restaurant. Also that year, we began to grow organic vegetables (and wheat grass) on our farm - all organic, of course. In 1999 we were in the first batch of farms to be “Certified Organic” in Alaska. Our farm and gardens have always been organic. We use certified organic (USDA - NOP standard, OMRI approved) fertilizers, seaweeds, and home-made bio-dynamic preparations to enrich our soils, providing vitality for our plants and a welcome home the bees and the nature spirits.
You will find us at the South Anchorage Farmers Market during the ‘garden planting times’ in May and June, and possibly in September when we offer natures bounty of wild mountain grown plants and essential oils from our home bio-region We also work exclusively with Young Living Essential Oils and welcome any inquiries into the applications of these amazing, therapeutic quality essential oils.
Country Garden Farms
A family owned and operated farm in Palmer, Alaska (two generations), Country Garden Farms continues the harvest of high-quality sod, endeavors to keep local farmland in production of hay and other crops, and expands nursery and native plant growing capacity each season. We challenge ourselves to provide our customers with high quality products and services, create jobs for local young adults, and engage in dialogue about agriculture and landscape while preserving the abundant natural resources of our land. Farmers nationwide share our challenges, including pressure to develop agricultural land and the lack of consumer education regarding food and energy. Farmers’ markets provide us with direct, regular contact with our customers, which promotes understanding of our products and services as well as the larger issues of the need for statewide food security, efforts to mitigate climate change the possibilities for agriculture and renewable energy across Alaska.
Three Bears Farm
Bakery and Food
Rise & Shine Bakery
Our passion is making delicious, nutritious, high-rising bread using 100% whole wheat organic flour and natural leavening (also known as wild yeast, or sourdough). That’s a tall order, since using 100% whole wheat can make a loaf of bread awfully dense, and wild yeast doesn’t have the same leavening power as commercial yeast. As we developed our recipes, we discovered that the same things that make a 100% whole wheat loaf rise high and taste great (long, cool fermentation and a hot, steamy bake) also make the loaf a fantastic keeper. Our bread will stay fresh on your counter in its plastic bag for four or five days. (Don’t refrigerate it—it will stale more quickly.) Buy the bread that you’ll need for the week, two weeks, or the month (however often you’ll buy the bread) and freeze all but the loaves you’ll be eating right away. Those frozen loaves will still be moist and delicious when thawed. (Thaw them on a rack, still in their plastic bags.)
Our signature bread, the 100% whole wheat sourdough pan loaf, is made with just four ingredients: organic whole wheat flour, well water, sea salt, and wild yeast. We call these loaves “levain,” a French term for naturally-leavened bread, rather than “sourdough,” because the flavor of our loaves is complex and delicious, but milder than a typical white sourdough bread. We make several special Alaskan breads, containing ingredients grown and produced here in Alaska! Our Alaskan barley bread is made with barley grown in Delta Junction, and our Alaskan cheese & roasted garlic bread contains loads of cheese made in Wasilla at Cranberry Ridge Farms. Our Alaskan potato & chive bread and our Alaskan baked potato pan loaves are softened and conditioned with piles of baked potatoes grown in Palmer! And our Alaskan onion rye bread contains loads of lovely onions grown in Palmer, cured and stored there!
Many of our breads are 100% whole grain, and they are all leavened with sourdough. They make fantastic toast and sandwiches. These include the raisin & pecan, golden maize, Alaskan baked potato, and Alaskan barley pan loaves, and hearth loaves such as toasted walnut bread, toasted seed bread, and dark pumpernickel with raisins.
In addition to the 100% whole grain breads, we bake several lighter loaves, suitable for dinner breads and sandwiches, These breads are made with 60% organic whole wheat flour (or a combination of whole-grain wheat and rye flours), and 40% organic unbleached bread flour. These flavors include kalamata olive, Alaskan cheese & roasted garlic, fresh rosemary, Alaskan onion rye, Alaskan potato & chive, and in the fall, a savory pumpkin bread.
For holidays and special occasions throughout the year, we also bake two very special sweet breads, also leavened with sourdough. They are our dark chocolate & cherry bread, and our fruited almond bread. These lovely, rich loaves are just packed with luscious ingredients, and are more like cake than bread… but the beauty of them is that you can toast them—and they are definitely more nutritious for you than cake!
About one quarter of the flour in our loaves is freshly ground from organic wheat berries in our bakery, and the result is a bread with a fresh and complex taste. Because we use whole wheat organic flour, and as many other organic ingredients as we can in our specialty breads, the bread is healthy—not just for you and your family, but for the environment, as well.
French Oven Bakery
Southfork Jams and Jellies
Denali Kettle Corn
Gray Owl Farm
Family owned & operated since 1993. Opened sod and greenhouse business in 1998. We offer unique and unusual combination hanging baskets and container gardens. We carry “difficult to find” plants to help customers build their own creations. Our turf/sod is 100% Nugget Bluegrass, Alaska developed and winter-hardy. We offer farm pickup or installation for the homeowner.
Our family came from the midwest with a background in farming and an interest in the land. The biggest challenge in farming is local infrastructure and ag awareness, creating a “need” for our products and getting a fair price for our efforts.
The Blue Poppy
Gary and I purchased The Blue Poppy from Stanley Ashmore in 2005, although I had worked for Stan as the grower since the early 1990s. We grow the Himalayan Blue Poppy, or Meconopsis. This large blue flower is very suited to the Alaskan climate, and even though it’s not the easiest plant to grow, it does very well here. Ninety percent of our sales are in Alaska but we also ship to the Lower 48. Our biggest challenge is the same for all growers in Alaska: the weather. We enjoy doing business at the farmers’ market as the rest of our sales are wholesale, and this gives us a chance to deal directly with the public.
Mile 5.2 Greenhouse
In the Garden Nursery
In the Garden nursery was founded in 1997 and has been solely owned by Lorri Abel for the past two years. The focus of the business has never changed, providing quality plants and expert friendly advice. Finding and trying new perennials has also been part of our passion. Our retail operation is located at 7307 O’Brien Street, off Lake Otis and 74th. The Farmers Market has been a fun way to connect with our existing customers and make new friends too!
Andy and Janet Copping and between us we have 60 years gardening experience. Andy is from England originally, so we grow double flowering petunias and a few other plants he is familiar with. Janet has lived in New York, Tennessee, Washington, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah beside Alaska, and has gardened in all those different climes. Janet had an extensive garden in Wasilla for 17 years, and won many grand champion and blue ribbons at the AK State Fair for her flowers and hanging baskets. Her Alaskan gardening career began in 1982 in June Oberg’s greenhouse in Palmer, and that’s where she met Carol Kenley!
We moved to this location in Rabbit Creek, South Anchorage, in February of 2000. We built our greenhouse in 2005, just to extend our seasons a bit longer…we’re sitting at 1400’ elevation! When friends found out we were growing herbs, annuals, and perennials, they place orders for hanging baskets and planters, and our business has grown from there.
We love to meet people who love plants, and we grow new varieties every year. This year we are growing Love-lies-bleeding and Peek-a-boo eyeball flowering plants, Greek bush basil, and spicy basil, in addition to many varieties of herbs, flowers, and vegetables. We grow several varieties of perennials that are winter hardy, even at our altitude! We hope you’ll come visit us at the SAFM.
Arctic Choice Seafood
Lavish Me Soap
My name is Tisa Witham and I began crafting soap out of necessity, with the realization that my daughter had very sensitive skin and was allergic to many skin products. Making soap seemed to be a logical starting place so I could control what touched her skin. At that time, my husband Mike and I owned a few Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats, (now 8), and knowing how wonderful the properties of goat’s milk was, I had to try it; thus the start of my addiction! Coming from an artistic background, my passion is to create art in all I do, thus striving for not only for a quality product, but one you’d be delighted to purchase, use and give as gifts. A small piece of art in your hand; Lavish Me Soap Bar was formed. I strive to make lovely products that are top quality and nutritious for skin as well as look and smell great! We now carry a wonderful line of organic Whipped Shea Butter Frosting, Lotion Bars, Salt N’ Sugar Body Scrubs, Moisturizing Lip Balms, Bath Shots Bath Fizzies, soap for your pooch and an ever changing seasonal line.
We are located in Wasilla and participate in several shows around the state. You can check our website out at http://www.lavishmesoapbar.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with new products and where you we will be next. We look forward to a summer with SAFM and connecting with great people; hope to see you there!