Southcentral weather has been stunning. And that makes farmers and growers smile and sweat simultaneously -- along with the rest of us.
Here is what's going on at Gray Owl Farm in the Valley, which sells its items at the South Anchorage Farmers Market.
Craige and Kathy Baker opened the farm in 1998, after moving to Alaska in 1984. Kathy describes Gray Owl Farm's approach this way: "Our specialty in the greenhouse is custom creation of the 'unusual' hanging baskets and containers. We offer those same 'unusual' elements for our customers to use in their own creations. We provide personal customer service and create an atmosphere for a unique plant shopping experience."
They also grow sod turf, which is available to landscapers and individual home owners. The Nugget Bluegrass sod is Alaska hardy.
"Farmers market has allowed us to expand our friends and loyal customers and we look forward to seeing them each week," Kathy says. "We owe a lot to our exposure at the market. Alaska weather is always our biggest challenge. We've learned to expect the unexpected and proceed in whatever the season brings."
Visit Gray Owl Farm at Saturday's South Anchorage Farmers Market, contact them at 907-745-0353 or find them on Facebook. This week, Kathy says they will have baskets, containers, 4-inch pots and perennials.
Other vendors at the South Anchorage market this week include: Glacier Valley Farm, Non-Essentials, Southfork with jams and jellies, Green Winter Farm, Alaska Sprouts, Sweet and Sassy Kettle corn, Mat Valley Meats, Earthworks Farm, Country Garden Farm, The Blue Poppy and Everybody's Business.
Mark Rempel of Rempel Family Farm echoes what most farmers have been saying: "The wonderful heat and rare showers have been caused exuberant growth in the veggies, thus we will have greens this week." Rempel expects to have arugula, tatsoi, mizuna, salad greens and maybe spinach. They will also have about seven varieties of last fall's potatoes.
At the Spenard Farmers Market, this week is Kids Day, which includes plenty of free activities and highlights some of the market's youngest vendors.
The Blooming Youth Booth vendors include Skeeter Farms with fresh quail eggs and hand-crafted mini-camp stoves; Nunaka Works will have earrings; and the two young brothers behind Getting Started will be selling hearty and creative plant starts. Bosco's will have free games and prizes for all ages and there will be a sidewalk chalk drawing area for young artists.
Other vendors include Brown Dog Farm with spring mix, arugula and baby kale; Chugach Farm with organic mixed greens, basil, medicinal herb vinegar, blueberry-basil vinegar, local kambucha and their artisan-crafted salve, no doubt perfect for gardener's hands; Ten Hen Farms will be collecting fresh chicken eggs and a sweet garden greens mix, rinsed and packed in gallon bags; Glacier Seafood will have Alaska spot shrimp on ice for Saturday morning; Alaska Sprouts will be on hand with a variety of microgreens, spouts, shoots, fresh tofu and other items; and Alaska Flower Lady will have dahlias, strawberry plants and delphinium starts.
At the Anchorage Farmers Market, the regular vendors are lined up to deliver fresh early season produce and some other items for gardeners.
Seldovitsch Farm will have turnips, bok choy, lettuces, radishes and spinach (also available at the Wasilla Market, the Peters Creek Market and the Eagle River Market.) Arctic Organics will be back with plenty of basil, some arugula, apple trees for transplanting, a few tomato plants and hanging baskets.
Alex Davis of A.D. Farm and the Center Market at the Mall at Sears will have first-o-the-season chives along with fresh chicken and duck eggs, his full lineup of pork products (and he's taking orders for 40-pound boxes of pork), along with whole barley, barley flour and barley cereal from Delta.
Also look for honey, seafood, grass-fed beef, free-range duck, beeswax and honey skin care lotion and a full lineup of Alaska Sprouts items including sprouts, shoots, fresh tofu, live basil plants, romaine and butterhead lettuce.
Quest Cards at the markets
According to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources' Division of Agriculture, 11 farmers markets are accepting the Quest Cards. The Alaska Quest Card is used by households qualified through the Alaska Food Stamp Program to purchase food from farmers markets and grocery stores.
"This program improves access to fresh, local foods to community members who are struggling financially. Additionally, the program helps increase understanding of food insecurity issues in our community and how produce and other food vendors can be part of the solution," said Lisa Sadlier-Hart, manager of the Sitka Farmers Market, in a press release.
The cards are accepted at these markets: Spenard Farmers Market, the Anchorage Farmers Market, the South Anchorage Farmers Markets (Saturday and Wednesday), Anchor Point Saturday Farmers Market & Swap Meet, Homer Farmers Market, the Bethel Farm Stand and the Dillingham Farmers Market, Downtown Fairbanks Market, Calypso School Garden Farm Stands and the Sitka Farmers Market.
Fresh from the sea
There is plenty going on in the Alaska seafood world.
"With the beautiful weather we have been having and the salmon starting to show up summer is in full swing," says Dannon Southall of 10th & M Seafoods. "This week we are running a special on troll king salmon to celebrate all the dads of the world. Fresh head-on trolls will be available for $10.95 per pound and fillets for $16.95/pound to honor all the dads. There will be plenty of white kings as well."
He says they will also have sockeyes in the 4- to 7-pound range that are headed and cleaned, along with fillets. Halibut is coming across the docks fresh daily and 10th & M has 10- to 20-pound headed and clean fish for $8.95/pound and fillets going for $15.95/pound.
Jumbo Alaskan red king crab will be available for $22.95/pound and large golden for $15.95/pound, along with a large selection of shellfish.
John Jackson from New Sagaya Markets was recently Outside and was shocked to hear of the slow start to the Copper River fishery.
"We are looking toward different fisheries such as Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet that are now having fish available," he says. "King salmon and red salmon will be available in the retail markets this weekend."
Fresh whole halibut is available for $9.99/pound, while Hawaiian albacore tuna and marlin loins are also $9.99/pound. And coming next week is live Dungeness crab.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. If you have a suggestion for a future Market Fresh column, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.