Alaska may be the largest state in the United States, but due to our geographic location, our farmers have an extremely short growing season. On average, Alaskan farmers only have about 105 growing days in a year according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which limits what types of crops we can grow, in comparison with about 198 days in northwestern Missouri, according to NOAA.
Despite the length of our growing season, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are 762 farms in Alaska, up 11 percent from the last Census, conducted in 2007. Nearly 834,000 acres of our land is dedicated to farming and ranching. In 2012, Alaskan farms produced nearly $59 million worth of agriculture products. By the way, nearly a third of all of the farms in Alaska are run by women, significantly outpacing the national percentage.
While the number of farms in Alaska may seem small, our producers raise a great variety of crops and livestock. Many of our farms are more traditional operations, raising products like barley, hay, oats, cattle and hogs. In addition to these products, we also have farms that focus on commodities uniquely associated with Alaska, such as reindeer, musk ox, and yaks.
We also have a strong vegetable production industry. Our long summer days and cool nights can result in what we think are some of the best-tasting potatoes and carrots. Our vegetable growers also produce more than 90 other types of vegetables that are often sold in local grocery stores, CSA’s and more than 40 farmers markets across the state.
Our agriculture industry is also one of the leading sectors when it comes to new technology. More than 85 percent of our farmers have access to the Internet, putting us in first place in the nation. And, despite the fact that we have the longest winter nights in the nation, we have 57 farms that produce renewable energy with solar panels.
Technology is not the only new trend on our farms. As of 2012, many Alaskan farms are offering agritourism and recreational services. In 2012, our farms raised more than $2 million in this manner. We also now have 23 organic farms.
Alaska may be known as The Last Frontier, but our farmers are on the forefront of many new developments in U.S. agriculture.