Frontiers 113: Feeding Alaska
We ran this show in April, but as Alaskans lavish their attention on their gardens and cast their nets on the waters, it seems a good time to revisit what it takes to feed our state.
We Alaskans like to think we’re self-sufficient, but when it comes to our food supply we’re surprisingly dependent on the Lower 48.
Maybe those Alaskans who hunt, fish and gather wild foods come closer to this ideal, but here’s the truth: we import about 95 percent of the food we eat.
This struggle is really not a new one for Alaska. From barley farms to the dairy industry, the early days of statehood focused on self-sufficiency. But our modern transportation network made it much cheaper and easier to import our food.
But not all Alaskans are happy with the tradeoffs. They want to know more about the food they’re eating – how fresh it is, where it comes from, what preservatives and pesticides are used. The list goes on. Some are even willing to pay a little more to be assured of the quality of the food they’re eating.
In this Frontiers program, we look at the farm to table movement in Alaska from a variety of perspectives. Here are some of the highlights:
- Homegrown Meat. A visit to Mt. McKinley Meat and Sausage in Palmer. Why it’s key to the future of livestock industry in Alaska (Since this show aired, the plant has been sold to a private company, Mike’s Quality Meats).
- Yak on the Menu. KTVA’s Heather Hintze takes you to a Yak ranch in Glenallen, where the owners say they can’t keep up with demand.
- Featured Guest: Mike Mosesian, owner of Bell’s Nursery. Mike talks about his successful Anchorage greenhouse operation, where he grows tomatoes, cucumbers — and yes, grapes! But back in the 1970’s he had trouble convincing banks and others that hydroponic farms had a future in Alaska.
Once again we’re at a crossroads in our state’s history. Will new enthusiasm for homegrown food, along with new ideas and technology, lead to more self-sufficiency? Or will we once again find ourselves limited by the same kinds of economic challenges that have dogged us in the past?
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