Alaska may be better known for oil and fishing, but it’s unique for another reason: At a time when the number of farms nationwide is declining, the state saw a 30 percent increase between 2012-17. That stat was revealed by USDA’s latest Census of Agriculture.
The ‘wild, wild West’: The growth can partly be attributed to the relative youth of the state’s agriculture industry. It’s experiencing the same trajectory that regions like the Midwest and the South did decades ago. As Amy Pettit, executive director of the Alaska Farmland Trust, put it: “It’s the wild, wild West up here, and if you have access to land you can grow whatever you want.”
A local-first attitude and ‘sweet’ sunshine: Alaska has the nation’s highest percentage of beginning farmers, with 46 percent of its producers having fewer than 10 years experience. Many are selling at farmers markets, which have surged since 2006. At that time, there were 13 in the state, while today there are more than 50.
Fruits and vegetables in the state boast high sugar content thanks to the “high-latitude agriculture.” Crops are exposed to constant sunlight during peak season and, as a result, develop carbohydrates that are converted to sugars at higher rates. This makes the produce sweeter when harvested.
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