Need Advice from AK (Anyone From - Alaska?) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

My family has been researching the best place for us to move and begin a lifestyle of self sufficiency. We've narrowed down the options to Southcentral Alaska, specifically: Palmer area or Kodiak Island. My current task is to find information about raising feed and grain crops. Any help?

-- Danni Warburton (, October 15, 2001


I was raised in SE Alaska. Palmer is a beautiful place in the summer, but they have typically AK winters. There is farming there. During the depression in the 30's the Fed. gov't sent some farmers there as I remember they were from Wisconsin or thereabouts. Most of them left after living there a few years. I remember one time I was thru there in the summer and they had huge vegetables for sale at a roadside stand and sweet peas climbing up to the roof on a house. As for Kodiak Island, I doubt if you could raise much feed or grain there. Write to the Chamber of Commerce in both towns, they will be glad to send you current info. Dept. of Tourism, Juneau, Alaska could also furnish info.

-- Duffy (, October 16, 2001.

Land may be very difficult to obtain on Kodiak.

There are working daries in the Mat-Su Valley (where Palmer is located) by they struggle even with subsities.

- Greybear (who live there 15 years)

-- Got Insulation ?

-- Greybear (, October 16, 2001.

Contact the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension. There has been extensive experimenting done with many crops and breeds of livestock and they have a lot of good information. They can also help you get climate and soils maps. Land is VERY expensive up there, though, even in the bush. The only grain I know of that is raised with much success is barley. Hay grows well, but you'll only get one cutting most years, and it needs fertilizer. Down around Palmer you *might* be able to get crops from the hardiest varieties of apples and bush plums, at least some of the time.

What really killed farming up there was cheap transportation of perishable goods from the Lower 48. If the world falls apart, there might be more of a chance for farms in Alaska to survive, as it would be harder for food to come in from Outside. But don't count on it. Your expenses will be a lot higher than those of a farmer in the Lower 48, and your growing season will be shorter. You'll be feeding hay and housing your stock longer in the winter, fuel bills will be higher, electricity is higher, etc., etc. Don't mean to be too discouraging, but you'd better know what you are getting into before you find yourselves stuck, broke, and cold. You might be able to make a go of it if you are well-funded to start with, otherwise not much chance.

I did read somewhere that the people who are most likely to make a go of it up there are the ones with no place else to go. It's a hard life. A beautiful place, yes, but a hard life.

(I grew up on a homestead in Delta Junction.)

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, October 16, 2001.

Kathleens information was pretty accurate. It is tough to try to subsist on a homestead without having a job to support the homestead. We can no longer count on all the fish and moose one wants as we did before big oil. There are too many people competing for the same wild food. Land is expensive also and unless you have a wad of cash when you come up here, will have a hard time making payments without a job. Most of the colonists that came up in 38 for the Matanuska colony were on welfare before they came and many of them couldn't make a living here either. Right now there are very few farmers that make a living off their farm only. Most have to supplement their income with a job. There are only 7 dairy farms in Alaska now , one of them being a homestead type that has just started making cheese curds for sale. The local dairy imports more milk from Washington cheaper than it can buy from the local dairys. Grain crops are raised mostly in the upper Tanana valley near Delta Junction and Barley is the leading grain. Some wheat, oats and Canola have been raised there. Some Barley, oats and peas are raised in the Matanuska valley. Most of the fields are in hay with horse owners or stables being the principal users of hay. In the Mat Valley, we can usually get 2 crops of hay a year but sometimes the second crop doesn't get cut till after freezeup. Good luck and bring lots of cash when y

-- David A. (, October 18, 2001.

I currently live in Delta Junction where, in the 1970's, the state sold a great deal of land for agricultural use in hopes of exporting barley to Asia. Obviously, this was a flawed idea and an export industry never really developed. Nonetheless, we have dozens of active and healthy farms locally that raise potatos, carrots, barley, hay, greenhouse tomatos/plants/cucumbers, and other crops. Livestock include buffalo, yak, reindeer, and even muskox. Many people -- including myself -- keep poultry, goats, and rabbits though obviously this can sometimes be tedious in the winter. Many people supplement their income by selling at the Fairbanks farmer's market. Agriculture is a big part of our community.

As far as making a living, I personally don't think Alaska is too different from any other state in the union. If you are starting out and don't yet own your land, it will be near impossible to make a living at farming by itself -- just like the rest of the U.S. You'll need to supplement your income until your house and home are paid for. The main problems for commercial farmers here in Delta (as opposed to the lower 48) however is that there is little infrastructure for distribution of what they raise, limiting markets for small farmers. [One exception is locally grown "farmer's market", organic, and gourmet type vegetables that are being carried by some of the supermarket chains, though the short growing season hurts this market.] If, on the other, you are looking only to keep enough livestock and grow enough for yourself, you will probably do fine. Land costs here in Delta are about $1000 an acre for land without access to electricity and phone service. Home prices vary. For example, there is a rustic home with garage on 20 acres in one of the agricultural areas, no phone or electricity, but a wind generator onsite (lots of wind here sometimes), for $45,000. I've also seens houses on 1 acre with electricity for $350,000. Land and homes with road access, electricity and phone are always higher in cost, as you might guess.

Currently, the Palmer area (and really the whole valley there) is undergoing a mini building boom. Land and home prices in that part of the state are going through the roof as the suburbia of "Los Anchorage" expands into those communities. I expect lots of farmland in those areas to be lost in the next few years -- even though it is the prime farming area for the state. Kodiak is becoming a hot tourist area. Lots of land there is either in the hands of government, private individuals not wanting to sell, or is being developed for tourism. As you would guess, prices are high.

Other areas you might look at, though they aren't traditional areas for agriculture in the state -- Glenallen, Copper Center, and Tok.

By the way, hunting and fishing, as others have noted, aren't as good in Alaska as most people think. There is more competition every year here for fewer and fewer resources. I only see it getting worse as we see more and more non-Alaskans visiting here (weekend trophy hunters)and commercial pressure. One issue to note and word of caution -- Alaskans are often opposed to newcomers moving to the state for fear of further depleting these resources. Most people worry that newcomers will bring with them the very things (suburbia, pollution, crime, traffic) most people moved here to escape. You won't get a lot of encouragement to move up here. Keep this in mind.

As far as your specific questions.... Here in Delta, farmers tend to get two cuttings of hay per season. Wet or cold summers are sporadic and may limit the cutting to one (such as last summer). Hay sells for $2.50 (if you know someone and buy direct) to as much as $6 a bale (premium for horses, which is actually a sizeable market). I bought some clean straw last week for $2 a bale.

The primary grain crop is barley though UAF has experimented with other grains with limited success. Agriculture up here is relatively new (20th century) and I suspect that new varieties and types of grains may grow here that haven't been tested.

For information on Delta agriculture, go to... http://www.alaska-

A good site to start with on Delta Junction, by the way is..

UAF's Cooperative Extension is at ext/index.html

Hope this helps.

-- Mike Nuckols (, October 18, 2001.

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