Alaska Grown more than just a just a logo

Monday, September 25, 2017 - 10:24

With the Alaska State Fair in full bloom, farmers from across the state are showing off their most audacious products — think 1,000-pound pumpkins and cabbages the size of small cars.

But Alaska Grown means a lot more than just giant gourds and rotund rutabagas. The program is intended to highlight and promote all Alaska agricultural products, according to Johanna Herron, market access and food safety manager for the Alaska Division of Agriculture.

“It does stand for more than food,” Herron told the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce during its Aug. 16 member luncheon.

In fact, the largest agricultural export in Alaska right now is one people might not expect.

“Our biggest export is peonies,” she said of the booming flower industry.

In 2000, she said there were zero peony farms in Alaska; by 2010, that number was 200 and continues to grow.

Finding new ways to grow Alaska’s agricultural market requires buy-in from both consumers and producers, Herron said.

“Every Alaskan deserves to have access to clean, healthy and affordable food. Just as important though, every farmer has a right to a reliable and consistent market,” she said.

Those sound like easy concepts, but in a state that’s 94 times the size of Vermont — with roughly the same population — it’s not always easy to unite farmers with consumers.

“You’ve got to be really creative,” Herron said.

That’s where things like the Alaska Grown label come in. The familiar logo has become iconic in the 49th state, and can now be seen emblazoned on hats, t-shirts and bumper stickers from Kotzebue to Kivalina.

“I would say Alaska Grown is the most recognizable logo in the State of Alaska,” she said.

The Alaska Grown program also has a new website (buyalaskagrown.com) and Herron said its Facebook page is the second-most popular of any U.S. state agricultural page on the social media site.

The biggest way to increase the sale and interest in Alaska agricultural products, she said, is for people in the state to continue to seek out the Alaska Grown label.

“It’s a very simple concept,” she said. “You’re going to look for it, you’re going to ask for it and then you’re going to buy it.”

Herron said Alaska agriculture continues to play a larger role in the daily lives of Alaska, and she sees a bright future for farming in the 49th state.

“It’s really exciting, there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at editor@alaskastar.com or call (907) 205-0082

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