Alaska consumes $2 billion in food annually, but only produces around 5 percent of it. It's a statistic some people are working to change, and this week Johnson's Family Farm in Fairbanks will be stepping up its game in supplying local produce, with the opening of a new, large facility.
Bill Johnson started his operations in downtown Fairbanks in 2009, in a 700-foot facility designed as a retail store. That year he produced 2,200 heads of lettuce. Now, he hopes to grow ten times that amount, in a new 6,000-foot building in the warehouse district. Johnson says he is "really proud" of the accomplishments of his family and friends, and is excited to help people live healthier through eating well.
The farm is a hydroponic operation that grows micro-greens, including sunflower, snow pea seeds and radish, as well as heirloom variety basil, wheatgrass and lettuce. The farm also takes special orders, growing "any culinary herbs, micro-greens or animal fodder you would like!"
So far, Johnson's biggest customer is the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital cafeteria, but he also sells to local foods store Homegrown Market and a variety of restaurants. But he's just getting started. "I want to feed the whole state," he told the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.
Johnson tells Alaska Dispatch that the 11 restaurants he sells to have been "very influential" in helping his business flourish.
When he spoke with Alaska Dispatch, he was setting up a new credit card machine and making last-minute arrangements to open his new facility this week. He's most excited about the possibility of having his product used in schools. He also cites micro-greens, "live, raw nutrients," as helping boost his father's white blood count while fighting against cancer.