By Jill Jordan
Dig In! That’s this year’s theme for the Alaska State Fair, and it reflects our short growing season here in Alaska. If you’re anything like me, you have been digging in since early April, getting beds ready, planting or transplanting vegetable seeds and starts and, of course, digging out weeds.
The Fair brings with it the last bittersweet hurrah of summer as we harvest our hard work of the past few months. Exhibits are open to anyone who gardens and is a great place to show off all of your hard work and maybe even win a blue ribbon for your beautiful broccoli or colorful carrots.
“People don’t think of Alaska as agricultural,” said Kathy Liska, superintendent of Crops Exhibits. “We can grow anything here.”
Backyard gardeners and professional growers promote Alaska-grown produce from broccoli to zucchini, edibles you might not expect (asparagus? tomatoes?) and, of course, the giant cabbages.
“The biggest cabbages are the sweetest, and the zucchini are really good,” Liska said.
All exhibited produce (more than 1,000 pounds) is donated to the Food Bank of Alaska and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
Still, the Fair is about more than vegetables. In the livestock pens, visitors will find pigs, goats, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks and a variety of poultry and rabbits. The statewide 4-H program helps educate and encourage kids to learn about local agriculture and stay involved. The 4-H exhibits and judging, usually scheduled after school hours, offer livestock for market, where visitors can purchase livestock from 4-H participants.
The numerous statewide farms also offer their entries for sale; contact information is usually posted on the pens.
But there’s more:
• Locally produced honey has a reputation for being the purest honey available because of the lack of pesticides on the plants bees visit. The Southcentral Alaska Beekeeping Association will be share information about beekeeping in Alaska and selling their honey at the Fair at the Farm Exhibits Barn.
• Visitors to the Fair can purchase locally grown produce and honey every day of the Fair. To learn more about Alaska agriculture be sure to visit the Fair Thursday, Sept. 3, for Alaska Grown Day.
Alaska State Fair
WHEN: Aug. 27-Sept. 7
WHERE: Alaska State Fairgrounds, Glenn Highway, Palmer.
HOURS: Monday-Friday, noon-10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Labor Day, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
ADMISSION: $7-$13. Parking fees start at $5 per day.
MORE INFO: Alaskastatefair.org