Fresh Growth

Blue Creek Livestock: Building Soils and Herds

April 26, 2022 Co-hosts Stacie Clary & Steve Elliott with guests Tangy & Matt Bates Season 3 Episode 6
Fresh Growth
Blue Creek Livestock: Building Soils and Herds
Show Notes Transcript

Today’s guests are Tangy and Matt Bates who operate Blue Creek Livestock in Delta Junction Alaska. They aim to provide their community with fresh, natural meat – beef, lamb, and pork. Since the beginning, Blue Creek Cattle has been building soils and herds. 

Tangy and Matt talk about the opportunities and challenges of farming in Alaska.  The opportunities are plentiful, providing farmers and ranchers with room for creativity and profitability. The infrastructure, however, is not what it is in the lower 48. For example, there were challenges getting replacement heifers and custom butchering. The Bates faced a “huge learning curve” with the need to process and market their meat. With no one local to handle their volume for processing, they built their own butcher shop. 

“It has gone extremely well, and it just took that bottleneck out for us.”

As they found their input costs higher than their revenues, Matt began researching cover crops and intensive grazing, and it made sense to him. Some in Alaska thought it wouldn’t work there, but it has been very successful – with great forage producing fat cows, as well as lowering input costs.

Next, they plan on burning bones from the butcher shop to make biochar.

Speaker 1 (00:07):

Welcome to Season three of Fresh Growth, the podcast by the Western SARE program, that’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. I'm your host, Steve Elliott, alongside co-host Stacie Clary. Just for background, Western SARE promotes sustainable farming and ranching across the American West through research, education and communication efforts like this podcast. It is funded by the US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Fresh Growth introduces producers and ag professionals from around the West who are embracing new ways of farming and ranching. They'll tell us about their experiences adopting more sustainable agricultural practices and challenges and benefits they've seen.

 Today's guests are Matt and Tangy Bates, who operate Blue Creek Livestock at Delta Junction, Alaska. They aim to provide their community with fresh, natural meat, beef, lamb, and pork. Since the beginning, Blue Creek cattle has been building soils and herds because their cattle are born, raised and butchered in Alaska, the meat is fresh and local. Tangy, Matt, thanks for sitting down with us today.

Speaker 2 (01:09):

Thanks for having us on.

Speaker 3 (01:11):

Thank you.

Speaker 4 (01:13):

So as a start, it'd be helpful for us to hear a description of your area of Alaska.

Speaker 3 (01:19):

Oh, so we live in Delta junction, Alaska, which is basically two hours from the Canadian border, two hours from Fairbanks and about eight hours from Anchorage. That's kind of, so we're kind of more in the middle of the state, so it's, it's a pretty much..

Speaker 2 (01:36):

In the interior.

Speaker 3 (01:36):

Yeah. And the interior, it's a pretty different demographic. Like right now I would think we got like 40 inches of snow out there and it has warmed up to like 30 degrees, where it's been 30 below the last two weeks. So we're pretty excited about that.

Speaker 1 (01:50):

Talk to us a little bit, excuse me, tell us a little bit about your operation. How big it is, your values, where you market your products, what you do.

Speaker 3 (02:00):

So we're a beef operation. We came from Idaho originally. We both raised beef our entire lives and we decided kind of being overran from, from Idaho, with everybody like flooding in there that we decided we were going to go somewhere else. So that's why we ended up, you know, my husband put me on a plane and said pick where you want to live. And I ended up in Delta Junction Alaska of all places. And, so we, we raised beef, hogs; we do have a small herd of goats and sheep. It's pretty rural. We're probably one of the bigger farms in Alaska and more than we're bigger, we're more diverse than most farms, most farms up here. You have, you know, your hobby farms that kind of have two or three chickens in the backyard goat and a cow, or you have the farmers that pretty much specialize in one thing, which is beef cows, grain. Just because there is no middle men up here, if you have a product you have to not only raise that, you know, animal or grain, you have to market it, you have to make the finished product and you have to sell it.

So there's not a lot of the middle men that you find out in the lower 48, so you can't diverse as much, but we are more diverse in the fact that we raise quite a few different animals and raise most of our own feed stocks for our cattle.

Speaker 1 (03:29):

That's, I mean, that would be quite a difference coming from Idaho. I mean, just now having to process and market, and…

Speaker 3 (03:39):

It was, it was a huge, huge learning curve. And when we first decided to move up here, the first thing that we did was when I came up here looking at for property, I met with the local farmers and I say, okay, so what are going be my, you know, what are going to be my issues? And, you know, of course, coming from Idaho, or, you know, pretty much any rural farming community in the lower 48, you don't have the issues that you have in Alaska. That being, you know, I try to buy a couple of the farmer's heifer crops and they just kind of giggled at me like, no, and I'm like, well, that makes sense to me. I don't have to haul cows all the way to Alaska, if I can just buy your heifers for the year. And, and they says, no, and I'm like, why not? You know, in Idaho, you go to the neighbor all the time and say, Hey, can I buy 40, 60 calves and not a big deal up here? They're like, you don't understand, we can't replace them. And that, you know, that didn't really register till we actually moved here. And it's the truth. You don't have all those other avenues to be able to pull from. It makes it a lot harder because there, you can't go to the local auction yard and buy 50 calves to, you know, fill an order. In the same regards, you don't have butchers to butcher those animals and we'll, we'll get into that, but that's what makes it more difficult is, is there is not the infrastructure in Alaska for agriculture that there is in lower 48. It it's a good and a bad thing. 

 In the same regards as you know, I market every animal that I, you know, every cow that I breed, every calf that hits the ground, I feed every one of them out and I market every one of those calves. So from the time that it's seeded to the time that it's in the packages, I'm in that whole entire process and I don't have a middle man, one taking their cut, but two, it also, you know, builds a couple other issues, like not having enough slaughter houses up here to support the number of animals that we need produced or processed every year.

Speaker 4 (05:45):

So you said, we’d talk about the butchering. You do your own processing. Is that part of what you're saying from going from beginning to end?

Speaker 3 (05:53):

Yes, we do. So after being here for about three years, we've only been in Alaska for, this will be our, this will be our sixth summer. So after about three years, we've now we brought our cows with us from Idaho. We brought a load of heifers up with us and started our herd over again. So about three years in to it now we're starting to see, well, there's, here's a bottleneck, you know? Yeah, I've got this, we can feed them and we've got this, this, you know, breed them and getting them growing and, you know, got the struggles of growing animals in Alaska figured out now, but now I've got all these animals that are ready to be processed and there's only three USDA processors in the entire state. And some of them struggle at times to whether stay open or business, or it it's kind of a, a struggle for, for some of them. And there's not a lot of custom butcher shops in the state of Alaska. And those that are in the state of Alaska, don't really take a lot of domestic game it's mainly based off from the wild game season up here. Personally, in our town, there, there was one USDA butcher, but there's no custom butcher shops, probably within 200 or 300 miles and I could be wrong, but pretty close to that. There's just not a lot of custom butcher shops, like in the lower 48 the town I grew up in there was five or six custom butcher shops right in the same town. So that became, that became the bottleneck: okay, well, we can produce these animals. We can feed these animals. We can finish these animals. Well now how are we going get them processed?

 So, we finally here this year got to the point. Well, it was, 2020 started the process of okay--2021. Well 2020, we were getting in the process of, okay, we've really got a problem. And 2021 we're going, okay, we’ve really got a problem because now we've got, you know, there was 150 finished steers sitting in the feed lot that have got to be processed and that equivalent of pigs and you know, so many goats and sheep, these animals all have to be processed, but nobody can handle that volume of animals that we need processed. And to go to a USDA processor, which we still, we still go to the local USDA processors. We still use those for our retail sales. We have to use those for our retail sales, but for the custom animals, you know, what do we do?

So we, we just started building ourselves a butcher shop because we didn't have an option. It just came down to, we didn't have an option, so we had to fix the problem. My husband has a carpenter background, which is amazing right now. And, we spent all last summer building ourselves a custom butcher shop and it has went over extremely well. And it just took out that bottleneck for us and, and a lot of producers in Alaska have that bottleneck, whether you're talking about, you know, Bryce Rigley, and having his grain and then, you know, not having place for it to go. So his solution was to put in a flour mill, you know, who puts a flour mill in Alaska, you know? Bryce Rigley. And he does an amazing job at it, but you find a lot of Alaskans have to take care of their bottleneck and they have to take care of it themselves. There's just nobody else that's going to do it. So you raise grain and you've got to have a finished product. So you've got the Green brothers that started up a pellet mill. So that's the one unique thing about Alaska that I think is amazing is there's just, you know, you get to a bottleneck and then these, these farmers are like, we got to fix it, man. They make it happen. <laugh> <laugh>

Speaker 1 (09:47):

What, what percentage of your sort of sales or retail through the USDA butcher and custom through your own, your own shop now?

Speaker 3 (09:58):

I would say probably, 70% is custom. 30% is USDA <affirmative>. and that's just honestly, just dealing with, you know, restaurants, you know, grocery stores, farmers markets, you know, any of those places where I just have to sell an individual cut. Most of what we sell is, you know, a half or a hole of an animal and can have it cut and wrapped, at the, the custom butcher shop.

Speaker 1 (10:24):

Right.

Speaker 4 (10:25):

And a hundred percent stays in Alaska?

Speaker 3 (10:28)

Absolutely.

Speaker 4 (10:31):

What, what challenges were there, if any, was starting the custom butcher shop: permitting, regulatory?

Speaker 3 (10:39):

Fortunately in Alaska, it really wasn't that hard. It really wasn't that hard to do. Lower 48, you have a little bit more issues depending on which state you're in which county you're in. Honestly it was, it was simple in the fact of, you know, we need it, let's do it kind of thing. You know, we still follow a lot of the USDA regulations like having the washable, you know, all stainless steel tables and the washable walls and, and you walk into it and it looks like a, you know, a professional butcher shop. And we did that on purpose because if we ever wanted to go USDA, then we've already got the, infrastructure's already there. We could get the USDA permitting at that point and, and move forward, but building it out of your own pocket, you, you, you just kind of do things a little bit slower and a little bit more on budget, and <laugh> try to do it all right, right from the get go, but just, you know, make it all happen.

Speaker 1 (11:35):

So, cover crops, you mentioned that earlier, has been part of some of what you're doing has building soils and herds. Talk about that a little bit.

Speaker 3 (11:45):

Now, that's where I'm going to hand you over to my husband, because he is my soil—he’s my soil geek. I love him. 

Speaker 2 (11:52):

So when we got up here, we asked everybody how they farmed in Alaska. And within the first year we could see that inputs were higher than the revenue that we could get off of an acre of ground, by the time we put everything into it. So I started researching different avenues on how to grow things differently and raise things differently. And I, I listened to a lot of Gabe Brown's stuff and Joel Salatin, and, what is his name that did the holistic management, Allan Savory. I listen to a lot of their stuff and, and then there's an individual in Idaho that’s about management intensive grazing. And I can't remember his name right now, but, it just made sense to, to add the legumes to feed the nitrogen to the carbon-rich plants. And when things make sense, I gave it a shot, you know. We contacted Green Cover Seeds out of Nebraska and they sent me up some seed and we put it in the ground and our cows love it. We, let it grow up to about the soft doe stage. And then we rotationally graze it. We'll, we'll bring the cows in, let it graze off and trample some in the ground.

Speaker 3 (13:18):

But we were, I mean, there's a lot of like 19, you know 1970s kind of mentality of farming up here because I mean, that's kind of the, the, the age group of farmers, you know? And so when we start putting in these cover crops at first, people are kind of like, okay, you're crazy, this is not going to grow in Alaska. You know, this is not, you know, and, a few of the neighbors we kind of got on board, you know, Bryce seeing one of them, will say, you know, Hey, let's, let's, let's give this a go. And, man, we were pulling turnips out of the ground that first year that were, you know, bigger than your head. And you know, it just building that health of that soil, it was amazing to see because the ground up here is sterile. You know, they come in and this is, this is really heavily wooded areas. And when they come in, they just take bulldozers and a chain and just drive through to clear the ground and then they just pile it all into a big pile. And you know, it's got all those thou thousands of years of pine needles on the ground. So the ground up here is very, it's—

Speaker 2 (14:23):

Very acidic.

Speaker 3 (14:23):

Acidic, not sterile. So it's super acidic. And getting stuff to grow up here is, is quite the feat and not to mention the fact that your permafrost doesn't go away very fast <affirmative> and your summer times you don't really get, it rains a lot here. You know, you don't, and you can't really do alfalfa because it's just not going to get dry. So you just run into all these different things while the cover crops for the cattle just turned into this amazing soil building and, you know, cattle that have come off from basically eating a salad bar, man, they're just roly-poly, fat as can be. And that was just kind of a game changer in our world up here, especially after everybody say, that's not going to grow up here that is not going to grow. That is not going to work. And you, those cows out and you can't even find them because the, the oats and all the, the forage is so high, because it does stay such sunshiny here all the time. It, it was, it was a game changer in farming in Alaska for us.

Speaker 1 (15:29):

How about for your neighbors? I mean, has anybody else said, Hmm, these people from Idaho, they were onto to something.

Speaker 2 (15:36):

So there's, there's been several more that are trying different avenues. And, Bob and Dan Green are putting 400 acres of cover crops in that, after we visit with them, and told them and let them watch what our cows have done, they're doing the same. They're going to plant them and let let the cows graze them off and man, the cows come off of them fat. And one of the biggest problems we got in Alaska is when the grass goes dormant in September, cows get nothing out of them, there's 2% protein and no sugar. So the cows won't even eat the dormant grass, if it goes past about September 10th, they won't even eat it. So we had to find a way to extend our grazing because obviously we can't graze cows in Alaska year round yet, but we're trying to get there. Right now we extended last year, we extended into the end of October when there was 10 inches of snow on the ground. So that to us was a huge accomplishment that, we were able to keep cows out on grass, well, cover crops for an extended period of time and help, you know, cause every time you put a bale up that's money out of your pocket. And that's something that we're trying to do is cut down our input crop,

Speaker 4 (17:04):

Since most of the, the research and the trainings about cover crops does come from the lower 48. Did you have to, when you first started to play around with what might work up in Alaska and make changes and tweak it along the way?

Speaker 2 (17:21):

Yep, absolutely. And, the cover crop, the green cover crop seed place has been very good to work with us. And Bryce is a lot more familiar with the studies and the things that they do, with SARE and that kind of stuff. So he's worked with them and we give reports on what grows and what doesn't grow, because some of the varieties that they sent me the first year, some of the, some of the plants just didn't even germinate, but by the time we got the second year around, we had, when we turned the cows out in the second year of cover crops, the oats and the peas and the barley, the tall plants were tall enough that we turned 50 head of steer or 50 head of cows out into it. And you couldn't see them, they disappeared <laugh> and they went through and selected what they want and tramped a bunch and then they'd select what they wanted the next time. And I had, I had not nearly enough cows in for the space that I had, but I didn't know how, I didn't realize how tall it was when it got out away from the fence. It, it went over six feet to all and for Alaska that's in Delta Junction, that's amazing.

Speaker 3 (18:34):

You don't get tonnage like that. You don't get tonnage like that in Alaska. Well, and honestly too, like I, I emailed this, that sound. So Matt is kind of a Gabe Brown geek. And so I emailed Gabe Brown and I was like, hey, you know, we're in Alaska, these are some of the issues we're having. That man called him like 30 minutes later and was like, this is what works here. This is what works here. And so it was really great to have somebody that has talked to all of these farmers from all over the, you know, the country and if not the world and say, okay, well this is, what's been working in, you know, the Yukon and this is what's working here. And so that was very beneficial for Matt to be like, okay, well let's eliminate some of these seed varieties because they're just not going to work in our climate. Right. So that was, that was super amazing to, you know, here's your like hero calling you, it was kind of cool, you know? So Gabe Brown was very, very instrumental in that first year in helping Matt with what can you do.

Speaker 1 (19:35):

Right. Well, and now you guys are a data point that he has to share with other farmers. This is what works in Delta Junction, you know? So you're, you're now part of the network, that helps others.

Speaker 3 (19:48):

Yes.

Speaker 4 (19:51):

I guess I'm curious about the soil, the changes that you've seen in the soil itself, since you started with the cover crops, are you doing some soil measurements?

Speaker 2 (20:04):

We've been working with the Soil and Water District a little bit, but when I started, you know, we were just doing it out of pocket and I didn't take any core samples to begin with. I didn't, I probably didn't do it the scientific way. I just did it. You know, I, I took it out and I said, okay, this isn't growing. We got to, you know, we had grass that only grew two inches that first year we were here. So we took the grass out, planted cover crops in, within two years we have 6 foot oats in that same spot. So as far as the science is telling us what's happening, I'm not sure, but I know that we're, I know that some something went right when we, uh—

Speaker 3 (20:50):

And in the last two years we have started pulling some soil samples. So then we'll have some more data to base this off from after the next couple years, I do know that our soil and water, our soil and water girl, she's amazing, she comes out here and she pulls some soil samples off from some of the plots that we were doing and she come back and she's, “I've never seen 90% organic matter in Alaska, in my life.” So some of the places—

Speaker 2 (21:11):

That was the garden plot where we'd been doing our compost and stuff.

Speaker 3 (21:15):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, so, so we've been trying some different avenues and using more, you know, manure and less commercial fertilizer on some of our properties. And, you know, just really trying to, you know, let's build some organic matter in this soil. Cause there is not any here. <laugh> right,

Speaker 6 (21:31):

Right.

Speaker 1 (21:32):

How many acres do you have? I mean, what's your, what's it look like?

Speaker 2 (21:38):

Well, we have, we have, 540 in pasture ,in permanent pasture. And then we lease about 900 acres of forage ground.

Speaker 1 (21:52):

Okay.

Speaker 2 (21:53):

So our, our permanent pastures are broke up to do management intensive grazing. We've been working on putting permanent fencing in that we can run temporary wires in between. So, each one is only about 1,800 feet from fence line to fence line. So we can break each one of the, each one of our paddocks up into smaller paddocks as we go through. And it's, you know, it's a work in progress and everything has to change. You have to monitor it and change it and monitor it and change it and monitor it and change it. And every year's different, but, yeah, it's, we don't have enough—we don't produce enough manure to fertilize everything that it takes to feed our cows through the winter yet. That's why we're trying to extend our grazing more and more just because, every cow patties that ends up in the field rather than in a trail is one less time I have to move it.

Speaker 6 (22:53):

Yeah.

Speaker 4 (22:54):

What, changes do you see over the next year or two, as you said, it's like one step at a time. What do you think you might start doing next?

Speaker 2 (23:03):

Well, our next goal is we, we took a lot of our built up manure piles and we've been composting. We're starting to do more compost all the time so that we can spread less and get a higher value out of it. And we're going to put, we're wanting to put a biochar unit in to burn our bone, to burn our bones from the butcher plant and turn those into bone char which once you inoculate them with the compost and get the bacteria and the fungi that's needed, then that's a house for that, that's a house for that microbiology and that's a permanent house that doesn't break down and doesn't go away with trampling or with tractors or compaction or usage, you know? So once we get a house for our microbiology to live in, we're hoping to see an uptick in our, in our soil biology, which is what our plants need to thrive and survive.

Speaker 1 (24:14):

Yeah.

Speaker 4 (24:15):

And also take care of a waste product, correct?

Speaker 2 (24:18):

Yes, absolutely. And, and it will take care of a waste product that right now is—there's, I'm unfamiliar with anything other than most people just take their bones to the landfill which is, which is a waste because all that needs to be returned to soil so that it can be used.

Speaker 4 (24:40):

Kind of going back to, you said 70% is custom. How did you build your market in the area? I mean, you’re, relatively new to the region, so how did you build a market?

Speaker 2 (24:53):

Social media.

Speaker 3 (24:55):

That, and a lot of farmer's markets and a lot of talking <laugh>.

Speaker 2 (24:59):

Yep. And, and we live in Alaska and there's still a lot of people here in Alaska that want to be self-sufficient. They want to know that their freezer is full. So when their game season didn't turn out the way they wanted, and they're looking at a half empty freezer, they're looking to get it full so that they don't have to worry about if the roads are closed and the barges can't get in that they're not going to be able to feed themselves. <Right. Right.> So we have that as a benefit here in Alaska, that people are really, really still looking at being self self-sufficient and make sure that their families are fed.

Speaker 1 (25:38):

That makes sense. Did, did you expect that when you, when you left from Idaho and why Alaska? I mean what, what was it when you like looked at the map that said, I want to go to interior Alaska and farm?

Speaker 3 (25:51):

So that was when we were, when we were younger, when we were first married, my husband, back to the contractor part of him, he had built some  buildings and part of the bonus was, is we got to come to Alaska with, our friends now, friends, family, and go fishing. And so that was down in Soldotna down on the Kenai. And so we had come up two years in a row and actually helped them guide and fished. And so we would spend two weeks a summer, up there helping their family with their guide business and their fishing business. It was amazing. So we always just kind of talked about, you know, you joke around like when you retire, well, let's just move to Alaska. It's beautiful. It's amazing. There's a whole different mentality of people up here. Let’s just, let's just move to Alaska. Well, 2015, you know, kind of came and my husband was working in oil fields the oil fields had kind of tanked and I was running the family farm and he came home and we had a college, that had moved in. It had always been there, but it had turned from a two year college to a four year college.

So now we have a college taking over our entire town.  It’s making it super hard for you to rent ground by ground. You know, the whole property taxes are going up, everybody's moving in and it just kind of took away our home, you know, our home town feel to our, our home. And, my brother had decided to come home and he had just retired from the NFL and he wanted to take back over the family farm that I and Matt had. And I was like, you know, what, take it, like you take the family farm, as long as I know, it's still the family. You know, you take family farm and let's go somewhere else. And we thought about Montana and we thought, you know, you know, Montana's just, just getting as overran as Idaho is right now. Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Speaker 3 (27:53):

And we have a couple friends that live there and that was kind of the same consensus they had as you know. Yeah. We're just getting overrun just like everybody else is. And then we thought about Canada because Canada's beautiful. But … I don't really want to live in Canada. I still want to kind of stay in America. I was like, you know what? We always talked about retiring in Alaska, let's check it out. And he's like, well, get on a plane. And I drove around the state of Alaska for 10 days and I started in Palmer Wasilla area. Beautiful country, but more, in my opinion, more, hobby, farming, vegetable farming. Yep.

Speaker 2 (28:30):

Things that we were unfamiliar with. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (28:32):

You know, that's just not, not the kind of farming we were used to. And so then when we drove up through Delta, it was, it was our farming, you know, it was more, you know, bigger chunks of ground, hay ground, grain ground, cow country. You know, I was like, you know what, this is it. I put a piece of, I put a deposit down on a piece of ground and said, okay, Matt, we're moving to Alaska. And this is where we ended up. So that's just kind of how it, it fell into line. And we had talked to the farmers and knew that we knew that, there was going to be some issues like equipment and you know, that kind of stuff. So my husband spent that whole summer, moving our entire farming operation from Idaho: tractors, cows, dogs, and kids, the whole nine yards. And we moved it all. We moved it all to Alaska.

Speaker 1 (29:27):

What's that drive?

Speaker 2 (29:30):

2,552 miles, one way. <laugh>

Speaker 1 (29:32):

I, I knew you. I knew someone would know.

Speaker 2 (29:36):

<laugh> …from, from farm to farm.

Speaker 3 (29:38):

Yeah. So, and we know we would've been smart to just retire and not farm at all. Just buy a house up here and retire and live by a lake and fish every day. But no, I'm stupid. I love farming. So I had to <laugh> I had to continue to farm <laugh>.

Speaker 1 (29:54):

What advice would you give to other people who, who want to stay in farming and are facing the kind of urbanization issues that you did or who honestly want to get into farming?

Speaker 2 (30:06):

Alaska is a great place to move to. Everywhere has its challenges and, and there's different challenges for every different environment. And I'm not going to say one place is easier than another. Alaska definitely has challenges in the fact that we have long winters, but we also have very long sunshine in the summer time, which helps a lot to make up for it. Alaska is the agriculture industry in Alaska is in its infancy. We don't have the infrastructure that, the meat packers aren't setting the price of what the meat is. So you, you set your own price on what you have into the animal. That's what you sell the animal for. You have to set it so that you're going to stay in business. And the same with the grain, the grain is you put your input costs together. That's what you sell your grain for. The downside is you have to have your own market. You can't just take it to the grain elevator, like down in the lower 48, we'd always contract our grain or, you know, we'd need a load of grain. We'd just go to the grain elevator and get a load of grain. But here you have to know who grew it, what supply they have, how much they have into it. And can you afford to pay for it? 

Speaker 3 (31:22):

<affirmative> and can you get them to up tick, if you, you know, okay, Hey, I'm going to bring in another, you know, I'm going to have 2000 hogs. I got to finish out this year and I'm not going to do all that grain. Can I get you to put in another 400 acres or grain or whatever it's going to take to get us through for what commodities we are not growing ourselves. So you definitely have to work with your neighbors and, and just, you know, there's a, there's a balance up here. There's a balance that has to be, you know, talked about and, you know, deal with, you know, you're helping this neighbor. They're helping you. Mm-hmm <affirmative> but Alaska, in my opinion is if you are a young farmer, move to Alaska. It is hard. It's not going to be easy. It is completely different farming, but it is. So—

Speaker 2 (32:12):

The opportunities are endless.

Speaker 3 (32:13):

Yeah. The opportunities here are just, you know what? You would've found 75, a hundred years ago. it's just a different mentality. It's a different way of farming. And it's a different life style.

Speaker 2 (32:27):

And there's opportunity for every type of farmer in Alaska. There are people that make a living on a few acres of intensely gardened, intensely farmed gardens. You know, there's, there's mushroom farmers, there's mushroom farmers in Alaska. There are potato farmers in Alaska, Alaska imports, 95% of its food. We need farmers. So whatever kind of farming you want to do, there is an opportunity in Alaska. We have a lot of different climates in a lot of different parts of the state. So I would suggest anybody that's looking to get away from the urbanization, come to Alaska and help Alaskan agriculture, because we'll find a place for you. And the Alaskan agriculture community is small and willing to help everybody that's willing to help them.

Speaker 4 (33:22):

Well, that sounds pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us and how much, how much you accomplished in a relatively short period of time and everything you're, you're doing there and seemed like you got the attention of some of your neighbors. Thank you for, sharing that with us.

 

Speaker 3 (33:42)

You're welcome.

 

Speaker 4 (33:48)

Thank you for listening to Fresh Growth. We hope you enjoyed this episode. For more information on Western SARE grants and our learning resources, visit westernsare.org.