Friday, October 28, 2005

Farming in the Interior

One of the projects I am working on at my regular job is a history of farming in the Tanana Valley, a book written by Jo Papp and Josie Phillips. One of our original local media stalwarts, William Fendtriss "Wrong Font" Thompson (founder of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner), was a major booster of agriculture in the Interior.

I can relate. It's a wonderful thing to get fresh food that hasn't been shipped halfway around the world. I love buying food from Calypso Farm or the Farmer's Market, knowing that I'm supporting local farmers, that I'm not wasting oil by getting something shipped from who knows where when I can get it here, that the food I get is fresher and better for me. I like to buy my bread from Hearthside Bakery when I can, because even though the flour isn't Alaskan, the bread is, and it's fresh, and really tasty, besides.

The Tanana Valley could almost feed itself back in the twenties, but then, as now, the big obstacle was that food from Outside was often cheaper than local food. But it costs to buy food from far away in ways that we aren't immediately charged for. We subsidize the big agribusinesses and trade treaties that make it harder for small, local, family farmers to make a living.

Reading about these local farmers after whom our streets and schools and buildings and malls are named, I get a deeper appreciation of what they were working for, and what modern-day farmers are continuing to build: independence and good meals and healthy people.

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