Walk around one of the local farmers' markets and you will see some of the freshest food Alaska produces.
For Alaskans using the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the markets are a way to double their dollars. At 11 markets or stands around the state, SNAP participants can use their Quest cards, spending up to $20, but getting $40 worth of items.
"At every participating market, Quest users get $40 worth of produce, honey, bread, plant starts, jam, fish, meat and only spend $20 of their SNAP benefits," says Beki Parham, AmeriCorps VISTA Farmers' Market Quest program coordinator. "It's a win-win, because it keeps those dollars local and allows Quest users to get fresh, healthy, local food."
The Quest at the market program started in 2011 with just three markets -- the Spenard Farmers Market and markets in Homer and Sitka. The program now includes three markets in Anchorage -- Anchorage Farmers Market, South Anchorage Farmers Market (both Wednesday and Saturday) and the Spenard Farmers Market. Other participating markets include the Homer Farmers Market, the Willow Farmers Market, the Downtown Market in Fairbanks, the Tanana Valley Farmers Market, the Bethel Farmers Market, the Sitka Farmers Market, the Farragut Farm at the Petersburg Market and the Calypso School Garden Farm Stands in Fairbanks.
To use the SNAP benefits at a market, a recipient first visits the information booth and runs their Quest card for the amount they want to spend. They receive market tokens for that amount, which can be spent at any participating vendor at that market. A market will provide double the amount of market tokens, and a farm stand double the amount of produce, up to the first $20 spent.
If Alex Davis looks a little tired this week at the market, he's got a good reason. Well, several.
"Is it ever-busy around here and boy, are the crops coming on," he says. "We have had three litters of piglets from Wednesday morning to Sunday morning."
This week, look for kohlrabi, cauliflower in several colors, broccoli, cabbage, red and green romaine lettuce, butter-head lettuce, beet greens, kale, collard greens, pool-ball zucchini, green zucchini and whatever "we may trip over between now and harvest" for the markets. He also will have eggs, barley products and plenty of pork items, including chops, fresh side, breakfast sausage patties, fat and skin.
Alaska Vegan & Gluten Free is back with a full lineup of items, highlighted by a new item -- sliced loaves of vegan and gluten free bread. Also returning is the popular roasted beets and sweet potato soup, along with plenty of other items including chunky split pea soup, pico de gallo and homemade corn tortilla chips.
La Grassa will have original and spinach fresh-cut pasta, along with roasted tomato and goat cheese ravioli, spinach and ricotta ravioli, and two vegan pastas -- orecchiette and strozzapreti.
South Anchorage Farmers Market
Kristy Schenk of Arctic Choice says things are changing in the seafood world.
"Aug. 15 marks the end of the season for fresh side-stripe shrimp out of Prince William Sound," she says. "Seldovia Point sockeyes will continue for another couple of weeks and then we will start seeing coho salmon coming in. The huge variety of red king crab will find its way back to the market again this Saturday."
This week, the always popular Rempel Family Farm stand will have green beans, sugar snap peas, kohlrabi, lettuces, turnips, arugula, basil, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, dill, cilantro, basil, mint, rhubarb, daikon, mizuna, several kales, Napa cabbage, beets and loads of other vegetables.
Drool Central will have plenty of treat and meal options available for dogs and at least one option for cats too. "Drool Central bakes and dehydrates canine treats from scratch made from wild Alaska fish, Alaska grown barley and Alaska grown vegetables," says owner Daisy Nicolas. "Cooked fresh frozen meals of salmon, chicken and beef with corresponding organs, Alaska grown carrots and Alaska grown barley are sold in 14-ounce containers.
"All treats and meals are made with the dogs' palates in mind. Bring your four-legged canine to the market and let them decide."
Drool Central will also be at the Spenard Farmers Market as part of Pet Day and will share a tent with the Anchorage Waterways Council.
Market organizer says if you've got a taste for cannoli, show up early. "The Hungry Squirrel will be back again Saturday at the market with pistachio cannoli; he sold out early last week and assures me that he will have more this Saturday for those who missed it!"
Northway Mall Farmers Market
Dinkel's Veggies will highlight the Northway Mall options with green and yellow zucchini, beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, strawberries and potatoes.
They will also be in Wasilla on Wednesday and Sunday, and the Anchorage Market and Festival on Saturday and Sunday.
Anchorage Farmers Market
Vendors scheduled this week are Arctic Organics, Stockwell Farm, Vanderweele Farms, Northern Flowers, Vang Family Home Garden, The Magpie farm to table fare and Turkey Red baked goods.
Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics says new items this week are green cabbage and radicchio. Other fresh veggies include broccoli, daikon radish, radishes, spinach, four kales, baby kale, collards, rainbow chard, watercress, tatsoi, escarole, sorrel, Catalogna dandelion, arugula (bunched and loose-leaf wild), greens mix, leaf lettuces, baby lettuce mix and nasturtium blossoms. They will also have herbs, including basil, fresh-cut flowers and apple trees.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at email@example.com.
Local farmers markets
Monday: Mat-Su Farm Market, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Palmer Depot
Tuesday: Eagle River Farmers Market, VFW, 3-7 p.m.
Wednesday: APU Farmers Market, 1:30-6:30 p.m., 4101 University Drive; Center Market, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Northway Mall Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Northway Mall; South Anchorage Wednesday Market, Dimond Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wasilla Farmers Market, near Wasilla Wonderland Park, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday: Peters Creek American Legion Post 33 Farmers Market, 3-7 p.m., 21643 Old Glenn Highway
Friday: Willow Farmers Market, 2-7 p.m., Mile 69 Parks Highway
Saturday: Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 15th and Cordova 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, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Homer Farmers Market, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Ocean Drive; South Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Subway/AT&T Sports Center at the corner of Old Seward Highway and O'Malley Road; Saturday Eagle River Farmers Market, Mike's Meats in Eagle River, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 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 streets