Valley farmers adapting to cooler temperatures
Last year at this point in the season, Palmer already had 21 days in the 70s, this year there have only been five.
Farmers in the valley are noticing the cooler temperatures but have learned in Alaska, you have to be ready for anything.
That’s the case for Mark Rempel, who has been farming in Palmer his whole life. He took over Rempel Family Farm from his father who had been harvesting the land since 1959.
In nearly 60 years he’s seen just about everything when it comes to weather, including large hail.
“The field had holes in it like someone had shot it with a shotgun. It was three-quarter inch hail,” said Mark Rempel.
What Rempel isn’t seeing this year is the extreme heat like last year. The cooler temperatures remind him of his early years on the farm.
“From my feeling, this is normal. This is really the normal I remember as a kid,” said Mark Rempel.
Now Rempel has four kids of his own, in their teens and 20s. To them, this year feels a bit odd.
“Really unusually cloudy and windy for this time year. Usually, it’s just clear skies for June and most of July,” said Ben Rempel, Mark’s oldest son.
Hot or cold, rain or shine, the Rempel’s are prepared for it all. They grow nearly 100 different varieties of organic vegetables.
“We don’t have all of our eggs in one basket. If it freezes early the carrots are going to be okay, the potatoes might not be but the carrots will be, and we will have had the greens of all summer, different pieces will carry us, we won’t be wiped out,” said Mark Rempel.
That diversity has allowed them to concentrate on whatever is growing well at the time.
Snow apple turnips will be harvested this week to be sold at the South Anchorage Market this weekend.
Up next, the sweet carrots everyone’s been asking about. Rempel was hoping for an early harvest like they got last year, turns out they’ll need at least one more week to be ready.
“That’s the size I’m looking for,” said Mark Rempel describing a carrot about three inches long. “I’m looking for that fairly consistently and then I’ll pick them.”
Being creative, having patience and not giving up are all things Rempel has learned about farming in Alaska. Now he’s planting those seeds with his children who say it’s the most important thing their dad’s taught them.
“If something doesn’t work the first time, try and make it work, and keep banging on it until it does work,” said Ben Rempel.
And if it doesn’t, he’s teaching them to be thankful regardless.
“I say thank you to God every year because every year we do well. We have enough,” said Mark Rempel.
Right now Climatologists are forecasting a warmer than average July August and September. Rempel says, either way, he’s happy with the crops he has.