Your tour will begin at Alyeska Resort where you will meet in the hotel lobby to depart at 8:30 am. Please arrive at the latest by 8:15 am. Breakfast opportunities are available in the hotel. The weather is unpredictable, but snow is in the air in Alaska. You will be outside at the three farms we are visiting in the Matanuska Valley, so dress appropriately. We are using a motor coach so accommodations on the road will be comfortable. Snacks on the bus returning to Alyeska Resort will be substantial.
The route from Alyeska Resort will pass through Potter Marsh (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewinglocations.pottermarsh), a popular birding area, and skirt Turnagain Arm (http://www.alaskascenes.com/turnagain.html) named by Captain Cook because he had to turn again in his quest for an inland access to the North American continent by water.
Your first stop will be Bell’s Nursery where there is an opportunity to browse the gift shop and stop for coffee and snacks. Lunch will be at the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station’s Matanuska Experiment Farm and will feature our own beef. Then you are off to the Matanuska Valley and three of its farms and ranches. This area was first farmed in the 1930s as a part of the Matanuska Colony (http://www.litsite.org/index.cfm?section=Digital-Archives&page=Industry&cat=Agriculture&viewpost=2&ContentId=2752). You will be visiting one of the original colony farms, the Havemeister Dairy, established in 1935.
We hope you enjoy your tour. It will be long, but well worth the opportunity to visit just a portion of our beautiful state.
|8:30 am||Depart Alyeska Resort|
|10:00 am||Arrive Bell’s Nursery|
|11:30 am||Lunch at the Matanuska Experiment Farm|
|1:00 pm||Havemeister Dairy Farm (pictured above)|
|3:00 pm||Little Pitchfork Ranch|
|4:30 pm||Wolverine Farm|
|6:00 pm||Depart for Alyeska Resort|
|8:30 pm||Arrive Alyeska Resort|
BELL’S NURSERY (http://www.bellsnurseryalaska.com/greenhouse)
Bell’s Nursery is one of two controlled environment establishments in Alaska that operate year round. In part, it’s technology was adapted from the Controlled Environment Project in Kenai, Alaska that was a joint venture among the Kenai Native’s Association, General Electric, and the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station that operated from 1973 through 1976. The project has seen two adaptations: Bell’s Nursery and Chena Fresh at Chena Hot Springs Resort using geothermal energy for power. Bell’s is located in Anchorage thus has the advantage of low-cost natural gas power. At the coldest time of the year, Bell’s is preparing for spring. Their annuals start as either small cuttings or from seed. Both are closely monitored. All of the outdoor annuals and perennials that they sell are suitable for the Alaska zone. Each year they like to introduce new varieties of annuals to their customers. Sometimes these new varieties have brighter colors, a fuller flower bract, or are more hardy. In addition to all of the outdoor plants, they also sell indoor house plants such as African violets, tropicals, and cacti. Gardening tools, plant food, bird feeders, and interesting yard art are always available for purchase in the greenhouse.
During the holiday season they sell their poinsettias and Christmas trees. Every tree can be viewed entirely indoors making it a fun family outing to the greenhouse without standing in the cold or having to strap the tree to the car. They make the whole experience very easy in the midst of such a busy season.
HAVEMEISTER DAIRY FARM (http://www.havedairy.com/)
The Havemeister Dairy Farm has been farming in Palmer, Alaska since 1935. The dairy was established as a part of the Matanuska Colony that sponsored farmers from the midwest United States during the depression years. The Havemeister Dairy Farm is the last operating dairy in the Matanuska Susitna Valley, an area that once boasted 80 dairy farms. The creamery is a new addition to the farm. The Havemeisters now process and bottle their own milk. They currently offer nonfat, 2% and whole milk in gallons. All of their milk is pasteurized, homogenized, and rBST free.
LITTLE PITCHFORK RANCH (http://littlepitchforkranch.com/)
The vision that created Little Pitchfork Ranch began in 1950, when the current owner’s grandfather, Jack Seemann, tramped over the land that is nestled in the Chugach Mountain foothills, to help a fellow railroad worker build a cabin and clear a garden patch. In his own words, “I liked what I saw. Enough flat rolling land for fields and the mountains so close, so inviting, and timber for building. I knew then, as a 19-year-old, that it was very special.” Little Pitchfork Ranch has grown from the first 140 acres, into a 600 acre ranch, still operated by the family. The land was cleared by hand to create fields. Timber was harvested to build homes and cabins. Pieces of Alaska’s history were collected, often from trips to remote regions with draft horses. The history of the farm is now displayed in the “store”. Over the years, the family has raised cattle, grain, and hay. Now, as third-generation ranchers, they raise game animals: bison and elk, in addition to hay.
Ralph DeVilbiss and Maxine Peabody were married on June 13, 1942. He was from Stillwater, Oklahoma and she was from Shevlin, Minnesota. Alaska called and Wolverine Farms was first homesteaded on July 21, 1956 when Ralph purchased two parcels of land for $5.00 an acre. They raised their family and established a farm and now several generations of the DeVilbiss family play important roles on the farm and in the community. One notable feature you will see when you approach the farm is the carrot. The driveway to the farm is almost hidden so they solved that problem by planting a 24 foot carrot at the entrance to Wolverine Farm.