Annual farm tour boosts Alaska Grown products

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2002

DELTA JUNCTION (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles said he made a phone call that could catapult lettuce from Alaska's fields into stores.

Knowles said he called Sam Duncan, president and CEO of Fred Meyer Corp. in Oregon, to ask why the giant retailer was no longer selling Alaska lettuce. Knowles told him that Alaska agriculture needs his support. Knowles said Duncan was willing to help.

Safeway, too, has been called on to help Alaska agriculture. It is selling 400,000 pounds of Alaska potatoes in its Washington stores.

''We're looking at opportunities for all of our farm products,'' Knowles told the audience of more than 100. ''It supports a great industry; it supports some great families.''

Knowles made the comment Wednesday during the Delta Farm Tour while stopping for lunch at the Clearwater Lodge.

The 88 tour attendees, many of them from Fairbanks, applauded the new opportunities, as did the Delta Farm Bureau members serving lunch. Rex Wrigley, who has farmed with his son in Delta Junction for 19 years, endorsed the governor's ideas as the tour moved on to Northern Lights Dairy.

''I hope they work,'' Wrigley said. ''I hope they follow through with sending potatoes down there.''

Wrigley, who is from Idaho, said he believes that once Northwesterners get a taste of Alaska potatoes, there will be a market.

The grocery stores' cooperation wasn't the only boost to the industry that Knowles announced during his whirlwind tour of Alaska agriculture. Knowles spent Wednesday morning in the Mat-Su Borough, visiting an organic farm and produce operation in Palmer before flying to Delta to join the annual farm tour.

With Knowles were Pat Pourchot, commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources; and Robert Wells, director of the Division of Agriculture.

In Palmer, Knowles announced that NANA Development Corp. has agreed to step up its use of Alaska Grown produce in its food service contracts to Pioneers' Homes, the University of Alaska and other entities. Alaska Department of Administration contract language also will be amended to require Food Services of America, which supplies the Corrections Department and Alaska Marine Highway, to list Alaska produce available each week.

Knowles said the change will make it easier for state workers to purchase quality Alaska products for food service.

On Monday, Knowles proclaimed Aug. 12-17 ''Farmers Market Week'' in Alaska to recognize the 10 farmers' markets around the state, including the farthest north market in America in Fairbanks. Last year Alaska farmers produced record crops of potatoes and other vegetables. The potato crop alone was worth more than $3 million in cash receipts, representing one-tenth the value of cash receipts from all farm marketing.

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