Alex Davis has been selling locally raised pork products for years at farmers markets.
Mt. McKinley Meat and Sausage Co. plays a critical role in getting the pigs from Davis' A.D. Farm to the chops on your table. Mt. McKinley Meat is the Valley slaughterhouse Davis uses to process his pigs. The slaughterhouse is Southcentral's only USDA-certified meat-processing facility.
And its future is up in the air.
On Wednesday, the Alaska Farmland Trust and Matanuska-Susitna Borough member Matthew Beck are hosting a public meeting on the future of Mt. McKinley Meat. The meeting is 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at the Assembly chambers, 350 E. Dahlia Ave. in Palmer.
"It's fairly straightforward," Davis says of the need to keep the slaughterhouse operating. "If people want locally grown meat products, the plant needs to remain open and providing the same services it currently provides. It is the only facility that is USDA the whole way through in the region. It is the only way I can legally sell cuts to the public."
Without USDA certification, farmers raising red-meat animals in Alaska can't sell that meat to restaurants, grocery stores or individuals. The certification prevents sick animals from entering the food chain and allows a chain of command in case of illness. Two privately owned facilities are in North Pole and Delta Junction.
Currently, the Valley facility is scheduled to close at the end of June when state funding expires. A flier provided by Alaska Farmland Trust says it is seeking another year of state funding, allowing for privatization of the slaughterhouse.
For Davis and other local meat-producing farmers, an operating slaughterhouse is essential.
"I am in year-round production; I'm on the calendar for five animals every two weeks for all of 2016," he says. "I am scheduling animals that haven't been born yet. Why? Because that is what my market needs. I have my own unique breeding herd that I developed and any interruptions in processing could likely ruin the market I have spent years building."
Duanes Top Shelf Artisan Market
The Valley market has added Saturdays to its schedule. It is now open 2-7 p.m. Fridays and noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays at the MTA Sports Center, 1507 N. Double B St. in Palmer
Duane Clark's Country Health Foods will have beef, yak and lamb, along with honey and honeycomb, jams, salsa, zucchini relish and Alaska Sprouts items.
Clark says Farm 779, Voodoo Chocolate and Jonesers will also be at the market.
"This venue combines many of the elements we have been looking for," he says. "Central location to many in the area, popular basketball tournament host, convenient for special exercise classes and no membership needed to shop at our market."
Davis will be at both markets this week with pork items including chops, roast and sausage; vegetables including beets, carrots and potatoes; fresh eggs; barley products; and Alaska Spouts items including basil and microgreens.
La Grassa will be at both markets with two new raviolis -- vegan Alaska potato and garlic and Alaska beet, goat cheese and almond. Other pasta options include hand-cut noodles, vegan basil strozzapreti, garlicky green and pecorino cheese ravioli and spinach gnocchetti.
Earthworks Farm is back at the market this week, bringing the entire line of Abeille Alaska body care products to both markets. "We'll have our new and popular line of body lotions once again in three fragrances: while lilac, royale honey and azure," says owner Dee Barker. "And we still have some jars of raw honey as well."
Earthworks Farm also is reopening its on-the-farm-store. It will be open noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays.
Country Health Foods and Farm 779 will be at Wednesday's Center Market.
From the sea
Dannon Southall of 10th & M Seafoods says the seafood world is "rocking and rolling."
"The main season for Pacific cod kicked off this month in the Gulf," he says. "Fresh skinless, no bones cod filets will be available all week at $5.95 per pound. These flaky white meat filets are great in any fish taco recipe.
"The weather has been cooperating in Southeast, allowing both the king salmon and shrimp fisherman to get out and target these winter treats. Fresh side-stripe shrimp as well as fresh king salmon will be available this week."
Southall says they have some fresh warm-water fish in the store too, including big eye tuna, spearfish and marlin from Hawaii.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at email@example.com.
Local farmers markets
Monday in the Valley: Depot Farm Market, noon-6 p.m., Palmer Depot
Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Friday in the Valley: Duane's Top Shelf Farmers Market, 2-7 p.m., 1507 N. Double B St., Palmer
Saturday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Saturday in the Valley: Duane's Top Shelf Farmers Market, noon-7 p.m., 1507 N. Double B St., Palmer