At a time when the number of farms nationwide is declining, Alaska is bucking the trend. The state saw a 30 percent increase in the number of farms between 2012 and 2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of Agriculture.
The growth can partly be attributed to the relative youth of the state’s agriculture industry. It is experiencing the same trajectory that regions like the Midwest and the South saw decades ago. As Amy Pettit, executive director of the Alaska Farmland Trust, put it: “It’s the wild, wild West up here, and if you have access to land, you can grow whatever you want.”
Alaska has the nation’s highest percentage of beginning farmers, with 46 percent of its producers having fewer than 10 years’ experience. Many sell at farmers markets, which have surged since 2006.
The state’s fruits and vegetables boast high sugar content thanks to the “high-latitude agriculture.” Crops are exposed to constant sunlight during peak season and, as a result, develop carbohydrates that are converted to sugars at higher rates. This makes the produce sweeter when harvested.