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Market Fresh: Earthworks Farms' approach is ‘zero farming'

Steve Edwards

Each week, dozens of vendors set up at farmers markets throughout Southcentral.

At those stands, customers will find all variety of goods from A (arugula) to Z (zucchini) and just about everything in between. Eggs? Check. Honey? Check. Potted perennials? Check. Bread, seafood, jelly, sprouts ... you get the idea.

Of course, behind each bin of broccoli or jar of jam, is a farmer, fisher, craftsperson or some sort of entrepreneur.

Bruce Hougan and Dee Barker at Earthworks Farm are a couple of those vendors. They have been growing specialty cut flowers and vegetables on their Palmer farm since summer 2010. The 7-acre farm was an original Colony farm, owned by the Quarnstrom family.

"We selected our name because it fits our outlook: That the earth supports a network of life cycles and food webs, and we endeavor to work with earth's living systems," Barker said. "Our approach to farming is what we call 'zero farming;' we apply zero herbicides, zero pesticides and zero synthetic fertilizers. We use a 'walking tractor' and timely hoeing to tread lightly on the soil, avoiding soil compaction and over-tilling. This practice helps to increase soil structure and nutrient availability to our crops.

"We test our soil and improve soil fertility when necessary through such practices as using compost and soil blocks that we prepare for seeding. Because of these practices, our field grown plants are strong and healthy."

Some of the cut flowers Earthworks offers include unusual sunflowers, Chantilly snapdragons, sweat peas and stock, cosmos, long stemmed kale rose and zinnias.

In the summer of 2011, Earthworks started selling honey at the end of the summer season.

"We strive to ensure our bees are happy and healthy, through our farming practices and the availability of lots of flowers to choose from," Barker said. "We over-winter our bees and to achieve this successfully, we take only a portion of their honey and then feed them to prepare them for the winter season. Our honey sells out fast because our customers know that they are getting honey that our bees make from the nectar of the cut flowers they have been enjoying over the summer."

Last year, Earthworks started offering Abeille Alaska Alaska-grown beeeswax and honey body care products. The lineup includes moisturizing creams, solid perfumes, lip balms, lotion bars, honey-infused mineral bath salts, body powder and deodorant.

Look for Earthworks Farm at the South Anchorage Market on Saturdays and at the Center Market on Wednesdays. Chat with Bruce or Dee to find out more.

In fact, chat with any vendor you meet at one of the local markets. You'll get plenty of information about what it takes to fill up those booths.

And here are some of the other vendors lined up for Saturday's South Anchorage Farmers Market: Martin Hruby Honey Bucket Ranch, Glacier Valley Farm, VanderWeele Farm, Rempel Family Farm, Mat Valley Meats, Arctic Choice Seafood, Rise & Shine Bakery, Stockwell Farm, Sweet and Sassy Kettle Corn, Alaska Sprouts, Southfork Jams and Jellies, Non-Essentials and Three Bears Farm.

Joan Johnson of Southfork will have her first-of-the-year heirloom tomatoes, along with salmonberry jelly. Rise & Shine will have baked potato, spent grain, toasted seed, kalamata olive and fruited almond loaves.

The Northway Mall Wednesday Market will feature a multitude of vendors. Check out what's available at the Rempel Family Farm booth: organic bunches of small baby carrots, arugula, green onions, chard, tatsoi, mizuna, green mustard, salad mix, spinach, radishes, cress, kales, bok choi, Napa cabbage, zucchini, kohlrabi and snow apple turnips. Dinkel's Veggies will have zucchini, leaf lettuce, green beans, broccoli, new potatoes, picking cucumbers, cabbage and strawberries. Papa Bamarito's Specialty Fruit stand will feature black velvet apricot flats, avocados and melons.

The Center Market will feature plenty of items from A.D. Farm, including pork products, fresh duck and chicken eggs, barley products from Delta and fresh beet greens, salad mix, spinach and zucchini. Duane Clark of Country Health Foods said "chicken is back at the Center Market on Wednesday." He will also have grass-fed Alaska beef, scallops, lettuce and Alaska Sprouts products.

At Saturday's Spenard Farmers Market, it is Bird TLC Day. Volunteers from Bird TLC will bring non-releasable wild bird to the market, offering a chance to get up close to some of Alaska's wildlife.

When it comes to wild vendors, check out these, which are just a few of those scheduled to be at the market: P&M Gardens, Glacier Seafoods, Big Woof Dog Treats, Wild Rose Natural Harvest, Dinkel's Veggies, Glacier Valley Farm, Brown Dog Farm, Spring Creek Farm, Fresh International Gardens, Ba-Lesca Brothers, Vitali's Organic Veggies and Adina's Acres.

The Anchorage Farmers Market will have a "growing number of farmers at market," said Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics.

Arctic Organics will have snow apple turnips, broccoli, rainbow chard, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, mizuna, watercress, tat soi, leaf lettuces, butter lettuce, romaine, escarole, spinach, baby spinach, greens mix, pac choi, kale by the bunch, baby kale by the pound, arugula, baby arugula, radishes, basil, chives and marjoram and maybe some zucchini.

Mat-Su Farm Tour

The Fifth Annual Mat-Su Farm Bureau Farm Tour is Aug. 1. Find out where your local veggies come from, talk to the farmers and eat an all-Alaska-grown lunch.

The tour visits six farms, including: VanderWeele Farms, Havemeister Dairy Farm, Pitchfork Ranch, Pyrah's Pioneer Peak Farm and Rempel's Family Farm. Lunch at Pitchfork Ranch includes all-Alaska grown stew, barley flour rolls and Alaska sweetie pies. Participants also receive a goodie bag that includes $50 in "Market Bucks" for produce at the participating farms.

Tour day pickups begin at 8 a.m. at the Carrs on Muldoon Road in Anchorage, returning at 6 p.m. Cost is $65 per person and the tour is limited to 95 people. For more information, email: Akfarmtours@mail.com.

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.

TUESDAY: EAGLE RIVER FARMERS MARKET, 3-7 P.M., VFW POST PARKING LOT

WEDNESDAY: CENTER MARKET, 10 A.M. TO 6 P.M., THE MALL AT SEARS, BENSON BOULEVARD AND DENALI STREET; NORTHWAY MALL FARMERS MARKET, 9 A.M. TO 4 P.M., NORTHWAY MALL; SOUTH ANCHORAGE FARMERS MARKET, DIMOND CENTER, 10 A.M. TO 4 P.M.; WASILLA FARMERS MARKET, 11 A.M. TO 6 P.M., BEHIND THE WASILLA PUBLIC LIBRARY

THURSDAY: PETERS CREEK FARMERS MARKET & CRAFTS, 3-7 P.M., 21643 OLD GLENN HIGHWAY

FRIDAY: MAT VALLEY MEATS, 6175 EAST PALMER WASILLA HIGHWAY, 11 A.M. TO 6 P.M., PALMER FRIDAY FLING, 10 A.M. TO 5 P.M. AT THE PAVILION ACROSS FROM VISITOR'S CENTER

SATURDAY: ANCHORAGE FARMERS MARKET, 9 A.M. TO 2 P.M. AT 15TH AVENUE AND CORDOVA STREET IN THE CENTRAL LUTHERAN CHURCH PARKING LOT; ANCHORAGE MARKET AND FESTIVAL, 10 A.M. TO 6 P.M., THIRD AVENUE BETWEEN C AND E STREETS; CENTER MARKET, THE MALL AT SEARS, 10 A.M. TO 7 P.M.; SOUTH ANCHORAGE FARMERS MARKET, 9 A.M. TO 2 P.M., SUBWAY/CELLULAR ONE SPORTS CENTER AT THE CORNER OF OLD SEWARD HIGHWAY AND O'MALLEY ROAD; SPENARD FARMERS MARKET, 9 A.M. TO 2 P.M., SPENARD ROAD AND 26TH AVENUE

SUNDAY: ANCHORAGE MARKET AND FESTIVAL, 10 A.M. TO 6 P.M., THIRD AVENUE BETWEEN C AND E STREETSLocal farmers markets


By STEVE EDWARDS
Daily News correspondent