The Veggie Bus came to town yesterday. And Joe dug his potatoes. And we caught a couple of fish.
It was one of the best days of the year.
September can be difficult for me. The first autumn I was in Alaska, I remember standing in the produce section at Save-U-More, holding back tears. In my heart and soul, I am still a farm girl from Michigan (where you can grow just about everything except citrus, avocadoes, and mangoes), and five years ago I still felt pretty raw, missing my homeground. September is a time for vine-ripened tomatoes, a surfeit of zucchini, sweet corn, bell peppers, peaches, homemade pickles, early apples… What was I doing here in Alaska? In September!? Standing there looking at the weary produce shipped in from California, Mexico, New Zealand, and who-knows-where was enough to make me weep. It’s one of the things that was almost a deal-breaker for me. Rough-hewn, frontier Alaska: spruce-stumps in mud, glacier-grit, rocks, horsetails growing up through sodden garden plots, late frosts, early frosts. Farming, or even gardening, in Alaska is not for the faint of heart.
Since then, my palate has adapted. I’ve learned to love potatoes, kale, carrots, and onions on a deeper level than ever before. And I have encountered some dedicated – you might even say genius – gardeners. Cindy G., who knows how to coax tomatoes to ripeness in Eagle, Alaska, 64.78 degrees north, where low temps in the winter hit 60 below zero. Chris, embarking on a hydroponic strawberry farm project, with faith and southern exposure carved out of the edge of the woods. Joe, growing six varieties of potatoes in a rainbow of colors. Tobben and Tania, spending years (probably decades) transforming seaweed and chicken manure into rich compost. And this new guy I just met yesterday, Jeff Babitt, of the Veggie Bus. Thank you. Ya’ll have restored my faith in locally-grown food. It really is possible here.