The farm-to-table movement has highlighted the benefits of buying groceries that were created closer to home. It causes less waste, since local food does not have to be shipped as far, and local foods are often fresher than food that has sat on a barge for days.
Shopping locally in Alaska in the middle of winter presents problems. How do you get fresh fruit and vegetables made in Alaska when there is a foot of snow outside?
Thanks to advances in hydroponics and grow lights, it’s not as hard as it used to be.
Read the labels
The Alaska Grown label is easily recognizable and can be found in bigger grocery stores around the state. For people who can’t take extra time out of their schedules to seek out local farms, keeping a close eye on the labels at Safeway, Wal-Mart, Three Bears Alaska and Fred Meyer. Many local businesses, such as Seeds of Change, have found outlets in these bigger stores and are able to sell a lot of their products through them.
If you have a little more time on the weekends to seek out local food, The Center Market at the Mall at Sears can be a great resource. It is Anchorage’s only year-round market, and many local distributors show up weekly with hydroponic-grown fresh foods, as well as preserves and other products. There is a wide array of things to shop for, from dog treats to baked goods to kale.
For people outside of Anchorage, the farmer’s markets often start around May and end in late September. For Eagle River residents, the VFW hosts a farmer’s market during the week each summer. For Mat-Su residents, there is the Wasilla Wednesday Market, KGB Corner Market and a host of others.
For a full list of farmer’s markets by region, visit www.dnr.alaska.gov
For the protein part of your dinner, going to a local butcher instead of a supermarket can make a huge difference for the state economy. It’s also fresher meat more diverse cuts than found at chain stores.
In Anchorage, Butcher Block 9 has Alaskan-grown pork and beef products for sale. In Eagle River, Mike’s Meats provides meats from their family-owned farm, already processed and ready to go.
Go directly to the supplier
While this is the most time-consuming option, it can also be very rewarding. Consumers get to build a direct relationship with suppliers and know exactly where their food is coming from. In Anchorage, Seeds of Change has a hydroponic farm in the middle of the city. In Eagle River, Alpine Farms sells eggs and jams throughout the winter. In the Valley, the options are endless. Because of this, the Mat Su Farm Co-Op group formed on Facebook to help consumers navigate the many different farms and products in the area.
Whichever options you choose, you can help boost the state economy, help a local farmer and support businesses in your area.