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Market Fresh: For the Clarks, farming is a family affair

Steve Edwards

Farming is often a family affair.

That's the situation in Duane Clark's family. For his eldest son, Johnathan, it's an education too.

Duane Clark and Alex Davis are co-owners of the Center Market, which will be open Wednesday at The Mall at Sears. They have spent several years growing their businesses side-by-side and eventually hand-in-hand.

Alongside Clark for much of the time is Johnathan, 14.

"I have the opportunity to work with my son Johnathan; he has really come to enjoy the market as his abilities have grown and developed of working with people and our products," Duane said. "We homeschool, and Wednesdays are a day when math skills are enhanced.

"As the local farmers market scene has developed over the last 12 years, I was not able to grow, produce and market as effectively as I wished and decided to back out of production and focus on marketing.

As Alex and I have grown our businesses, it became clear that as a producer, Alex needed to take time to manage his farm during different seasons. It has opened up opportunities for Johnathan and me to run the markets for Alex and even more so now that Gideon (Alex's son) is dealing with his illness."

Duane and his wife, Teresa, have four other children -- Jessica, Julia, Joyanna and Joshua -- but Johnathan is taking to the farming and marketing quickly.

"He recently purchased his first wire feed welder and has been eagerly learning and helping his grandfather, John Hett, as he makes repairs on trucks for feeding cattle," Duane said. "He is able to run the market as well as I do as he has listened as I have helped customers and understands what they are looking for. Often, folks ask for Johnathan to help them instead of me. I am so glad I can work with him as he learns people skills that can help him in all he does."

Beef and honey

For this week's market, Clark's Country Health Foods will have beef produced by Hett and another local farmer; honey provided by Steve Victor of Big Lake; frozen Alaska seafood from Seward, Homer and Kodiak; goat cheese; and Clark's own free-range chicken.

Davis' pork products and storage crops will also be at the Center Market. The market is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Also scheduled to be at the market are Sleeping Lady Alaskan Seafoods with bread products from Anchorage's House of Bread store, including Irish soda bread, garden herb, raspberry swirl and blueberry crumb. Clark said Northern Lights Mushrooms "anticipates bringing several types of mushrooms and will be expanding the amount he can produce as winter storms seem less and he can have consistent electricity and new equipment."

Dahlia tubers

Also Rob Wells (the Persistent Farmer) will be at the market to begin distribution of dahlia tubers. While Wells said some varieties are running low, many can still be ordered. He also will have catalogs detailing the options. More information is available at www.thepersistentfarmer.com.

While visiting a March farmers market may seem odd to some, Clark said it's perfect for boosting local products and producers.

"This year-round farmers market has brought stability to our business as we strive to bring the best products that can be produced and grown in the Great Land we call home," he said. "We have been pleased as our inside market has been very well attended by vendors and shoppers. As we look forward to our spring and summer season, we have several vendors looking to join us and expand our market outside."

Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. If you have a suggestion for a future Market Fresh column, please contact him at sedwards@adn.com.


By STEVE EDWARDS
Daily News correspondent