This time of year, Alaska settles into the busy pace of planting and gathering, even this far north. Summer may be short in the Last Frontier, but 12 hours of daylight (or more) means a unique form of gardening and agriculture that results in amazing produce.
As is AKontheGO’s style to promote aspects of the state relevant to history, culture, recreation, and industry; farming – and the community markets scattered all around Alaska’s landscape – are a favorite task. To crunch into an Alaska-grown carrot, chop a stalk of rhubarb, or mash a Yukon gold potato, there is nothing quite like the products of 49th state soil.
Visitors to Alaska are often surprised at the range of produce available, and the accessibility of open-air marketplaces through which to purchase the pounds of cabbage, kohlrabi, radishes, lettuce, and other delicacies from our rich earth.
Traveling around the state with kids? Make a point to stop by one or more Alaska farmers markets; each region offers something a bit different but with the same flair for community-supported agriculture. Here are a few favorites:
- Spenard Farmers Market, Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Looking for a bit of funky with your farm-fresh produce? This is the place. Not large, but huge on character, the Spenard Farmers Market is just right for families, especially those looking for entertainment, food, and interesting local vendors.
- Anchorage Market and Festival, Saturdays 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sundays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. A bit on the touristy side, but still full of food, music, and market-fresh produce to munch upon, the Market and Festival is located downtown, and is extremely convenient for visitors staying in the city’s core. Local music groups, many of them made up of youth, often perform at the market and it’s a wonderful way to support Anchorage kids in their musical endeavors.
- Mountain View Farmers Market, Thursdays 3-7 p.m. The newest market in Anchorage, the Mountain View market is an endeavor sponsored by the Anchorage Community Land Trust for the benefit of this old Anchorage community that is the most diverse in the country. As a result, look for various samples of cultural produce, from Bok Choy to Thai basil, in addition to your garden favorites. We will be supporting this market as often as possible, thanks to the Trust.
- Colony Farmers Market, Mondays 12-7 p.m. Visit the historic center of Southcentral Alaska farming with a visit to this market, held each Monday afternoon at the old train depot downtown. Looking for a volleyball-sized squash? I bet you’ll see one here, but you’ll also find those amazingly sweet, crunchy Alaska-grown carrots I raved about above. Take time to wander the market, explore the nearby visitor center and museum, and be appreciative for the colonists who arrived in the 1930’s as part of then-President Roosevelt’s New Deal.
- Tanana Valley Farmers Market, Wednesdays 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Visitors to Fairbanks are often surprised that Interior Alaska has so much in the way of local produce, and this reason alone is a good reason to visit the Tanana Valley market. With three days each week available for browsing the many booths featuring Alaska-made and grown products, Fairbanks is lucky indeed.
- Homer Farmers Market, Wednesdays 2-6 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Why yes, I’d love some fresh scallops and oysters this weekend while spooning smoked salmon chowder and listening to a youth contingent of marimba players. That’s Homer, and that’s one reason why I love this market. Homer itself is a quaint fishing village with myriad opportunities for beachcombing, fishing, and hiking. But getting to know the people of this community is something you shouldn’t overlook.
Alaska farmers markets are in full swing now that June has arrived, but hurry, summer is short, even though the days are long, but it’s a fleeting season.