FARM FAMILY OF THE YEAR
Alaska State Fair & Alaska Division of Agriculture
Farm Family of the Year
Nominations for the 2022 Farm Family of the Year are open!
The Alaska Division of Agriculture invites the public to submit nominations for the 23rd Annual Farm Family of the Year Award! The Alaska State Fair and Alaska Division of Agriculture established the award in 2000 to honor an Alaska farm family and showcase the hardworking Alaskans committed to producing agriculture and aquaculture goods in the state. The winning Farm Family will be presented with the award at this year’s Alaska State Fair in Palmer at the Board of Directors Reception on Aug. 19. In addition, all nominated families will be highlighted on the Alaska Grown Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dnr.alaskagrown to recognize and thank them for their contributions to Alaska’s agriculture industry.
The Farm Family of the Year will be selected by a nomination review committee of volunteer representatives from Alaska agriculture agencies such as the USDA Farm Service Agency, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Agriculture, the Alaska Farmland Trust, the Alaska Farm Bureau, and the Division of Agriculture. Nominations should include details about the family and how they meet the following criteria:
- Production of quality Alaska Grown food and other products.
- The families’ community involvement with civic organizations, school, sports, church, etc..
- Involvement in agriculture industry organizations, including local, state, and federal organizations.
- Overall farm family image, farming history, and other unique or special production techniques and ideas developed and used.
Nominations are due by July 1, 2022 via the following link https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FFY2022.
2021 – Allie Barker and Jed Workman of Chugach Farm, Chickaloon, Alaska
Allie Barker and Jed Workman of Chickaloon, who own and operate Chugach Farm. Chugach Farm’s mission is to grow nutrient-dense food with sustainable and regenerative methods with a focus on living self-sufficiently. In 2010, Allie and Jed decided to to share their nutritious food with others and committed to farming, nutrition, marking ferments, and putting up food full time. The family’s focus is on producing nutrient-dense, single-origin, and sustainable food by utilizing regenerative agriculture, alternative energy, and no-till farming methods. They have a program to donate food to hungry kids through the organization Kids Kupboard and have hired a variety of positions, including intensive apprenticeships.
2020 – Greg and Weatherly Bates, of Alaska Shellfish Farms in Halibut Cove, Alaska
Greg and Weatherly have been farming the watery fields of their mariculture farm since 2007. Along the way they have raised their two biggest helpers, son Rockwell, and daughter Vera. They applied their knowledge of oyster farming learned in their home state of Rhode Island and combined it with a lot of resiliency and Alaskan innovation to create a successful full-time mariculture farm. They produce and sell oysters and mussels, and have recently expanded in the evolving kelp market. They are very heavily involved in their community, both in Halibut Cove and the nearby hub of Homer, one important aspect of which is providing mariculture education through the local schools.
2019 – Brad and Christine St. Pierre of Goosefoot Farm in Fairbanks, Alaska
A first-generation farm family, Brad and Christine St. Pierre, along with their children Aviva, 8, and Silas, 3, grow vegetables, fruits, berries, honey, and hay on their 25 acre farm in Fairbanks. Christine was born and raised in Ester, while Brad is originally from the Lower 48, but now calls Alaska home. In addition to working the far, Brad volunteered as the vice president of the Ester Community Association for the last 5 years. He is currently servicing as the vice president of the Alaska Farmers Market Association, and is the general manager of the Tanana Valley Farmers Market.
2018 – Brian and Laurie Olson of Alaska Berries on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Brian and Laurie Olson moved to Alaska in 1990 and began farming in 2002. Brian and Laurie both come from multi-generational farm families. They started Alaska Berries in 2007. Today the farm/winery produces and sells wine, jam, syrup, juice, and vinaigrette. They also raise bees, chickens, and ducks. The are active in their local agricultural community as members of the Alaska Farm Bureau, the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Kenai Chamber of Commerce. They also support the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, the Alaska Farmland Trust, and the Kenai Watershed Forum.
2017 – The McCollum and Pinkleman families of Northwest Land and Livestock and Delta Meat & Sausage, Inc. in Delta Junction, Alaska
Doug and Cathie McCollum and their Daughter and son in law Jeannie and Russ Pinkelman operate both their farm, Northwest Land and Livestock, and their processing plant Delta Meat & Sausage. Doug and Cathie have lived in Alaska for 49 years, and currently there are 3 generations of the family working on their farm in Delta Junction. The farm began in 1984, when Doug and Cathie purchased 17 heifers and a Galloway bull from a farm in South Dakota. Today they arise between 400 and 500 head of Galloway/Angus cattle and 350 pigs. Delta Meat & Sausage, Inc. was established in 1997, and is a full-service slaughter and meat processing facility. They market beef, pork, yak, elk, and reindeer from local farmers, and process specialty game from local big game hunters.
While not working their businesses, both families sponsor many local non-profit kid’s events, little league, youth hockey, and local 4-H kids.
2016 – Scott and Connie Plagerman of Scott Plagerman Farms, Delta Junction
Scott and Connie Plagerman established Scott Plagerman Farms LLC in 2008. They grow hay and sell it to horse owners, beef, yak, and sheep farmers, and the Musk Ox Farm. They also sell bison for consumption to Delta Meat and Sausage Co.
Scott and Connie were raised in families who have farmed for many generations. Scott grew up on a Washington dairy farm and received a degree in dairy farming for the University of Utah. Connie grew up on an Iowa grain farm and has experience in pig farrowing and poultry laying operations.
When not working on their farm, the Plagermans are involved with the Healing Hoofbeats 4-H club (a therapeutic riding program for special needs children and adults) and are members of the Delta Farm Bureau. Scott is a board member of the Alaska Farmers Co-op. During the holiday season the family opens their home to church and community friends so that all ages may enjoy horseback riding, hay and sleigh rides, and socializing with one another.
2015 – Todd and Roxann Pettit of Little Pitchfork Ranch, Palmer Alaska
Jack and Jane Seeman of Lazy Mountain established Little Pitchfork Ranch in 1947 and are the grandparents of the Pettit Family. The ranch originally was an oat and barley operation that eveovled to include beef cattle and draft horses. In the mid-1980’s Timothy hay was added to the production. Todd Pettit assumed ownership of the ranch in the mid 1990’s, and began raising bison and elk on the farm. Todd’s wife Roxann has been experimenting with bison wool for 15 years and process the wool into fiber to make garments and small products that are sold locally. Todd also manages the Windy Valley Musk Ox Farm that produces qiviut wool.
The Pettits are founding members of the Alaska Diversified Livestock Association, Todd is the chair of the Palmer Soil and Water Conservation District, the president of the Alaska Association of Conservation Districts, has volunteered on the Agriculture Advisory Committee for the Alaska State Fair, the Alaska Division of Agriculture Plant Materials Center Advisory Board, and the Alaska Farmland Trust Board of Directors. Todd is also a member of the Mat-Su Chapter of the Alaska Farm Bureau.
2014 – Michael and Paula Williams of EagleSong Family Peony Farm, near Mt. Susitna, Alaska
Michael and Paula Williams moved to a remote location in the Mt. Susitna area in 1994 (40 miles from the nearest road system). In 2010, they created EagleSong Family Peony Farm. In 2013, Mi9chael and Paula started looking at how they were going to maket and sell their peoneies, and so they helped start Alaska Peony Distributors, LLC (or APD). Their goal was to purchase peonies direct from farmers and focus on marketing and selling peonies, allowing farmers to focus on growing. Currently EagleSong maintains 11,000 peony roots and sell cut flowers through APD. Their goal is to have 50,000 peony plants in production.
The Williams family has always been community minded. In the past, Paula was a member of the Parent Council for the State run Alyeska Central School and was appointed to the Governor’s advisory team. Mike served two terms on the Mt. Yenlo Fish and Game Advisory Committee. EagleSong received the Governor’s TRAAKS Award of Excellence in 2001 for their work on the Iditarod National Historic Trail. Mike designs and hand carves a birch bowl to be auctioned off at the March of Dimes Signature Chef’s Auction every year. EagleSong opens its doors to flight tours allowing guests from all over the world to learn about peonies in Alaska. EagleSong participates in the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms-USA program (WWOOF). WWOOF is an international organization where people volunteer on host farms in exchange for room and board during their stay. They have had WWOOF interns from all over the United States.
Mike and Puala conduct training seminars and growers schools on behalf of APD, Alaska Peony Growers Association and others. They want to share their knowledge with current and potential peony farmers. In the same sentiment, Paula’s brother, David Kapla, uses his experience with EagleSong Farm by participating in the Alaska Sudan Medical Project. David travels to Sudan to help teach the people of Sudan how to farm and feed their families.
2013 - Vern Stockwell and Becky Gardner of Stockwell Farm in Palmer, Alaska
Ven and Becky moved from Anchorage to Palmer in 2001 to a seven acre farm, and started Stockwell Farm, relying on Vern’s experiences growing up on a 600 acre farm in South Dakota and their extensive personal gardening. Stockwell Farm sells its produce at a variety of different farmers markets, and is notable for its eight different varieties of carrots, 18 different varieties of potatoes, as well as sweet onions, colored cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, strawberries, and more. Becky’s dandelion jelly, ginger-rhubarb jam and other prepared food products are famous amongst her friends.
Vern is a long time member of the Mat Su Chapter of the Farm Bureau. Vern and Becky also partner with Colony Next Step – part of a school district program in the Mat-Su that serves young adult students with disabilities to provide vocational training on their farm.
2012 – Martin Family of Diamond M Ranch in Kenai, Alaska
Carrol and Joanne started the Diamond M Ranch on the Kenai Peninsula in 1975, where they currently raise horse and cows, and also have had shee, pigs, and goats for 4-H projects. Most of the horses on the ranch are registered quarter horses, and their beef cattle have earned grand champion ribbons at several Alaska State Fairs.
The Martins’ four children were very involved in 4-H, as are some of their 10 grandchildren. JoAnne worked as a CES agent for 25 years. Carrol has been a 4-H member for 10 years and volunteered as a 4-H leader for more than 50 years. Their children have been involved in 4-H at the national level, attending 4-H Congress in Chicago, Ill. And Citizenship Washington Focus in Washington D.C.
For the past 36 years Carrol has spearheaded a barbeque at the Ninilchik State Fair, donating all the profits to 4-H. This October he will be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame at the National 4-H Center I Chevy Chase, Md. He is only the fourth Alaskan and first Alaskan volunteer leader to be awarded the honor.
Carrol has also been involved in many other organizations, including the Ninilchik State Fair Board, the Alaska Board of Agriculture and Conservation, the Matanuska Maid Creamery Board, the Soil and Water Conservation District Board, and the local Grange and Farm Bureau. Carrol said that he has always volunteered for these positions. “His whole life is agriculture,” JoAnne said.
2011 – Craige & Kathy Baker of Gray Owl Farm in Palmer, Alaska
The Baker’s opened Gray Owl Farm in 1998 and have been serving the community of Palmer and surrounding areas with exceptional nursery and greenhouse products ever since. The farm has diversified into production of sod, vegetables, peonies and much more. Craige & Kathy are committed to educating the public about agriculture and provide farm tours to hundreds of elementary school students each year.
2010 – Ted and Katie Pyrah of Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm in Palmer, Alaska
Ted and Katie Pyrah have been working their Palmer vegetable farm since 1979. Famous for their U-Pick business model, they sell over 30 varieties of vegetables, as well as sod and hay, and are experimenting with trees. Today they co-operate the farm with the help of their son Lucas, and their daughter Janet and her husband Joe. The nature of their U-pick business model makes them very active and connected to the community. They have held an annual Fall Harvest Festival for five years, with last years attendance numbered at 4,000 people.
2009 – Clyde & June Oberg, Carol Kenly & Family of Fishhook Dairy Farm in Palmer, Alaska
Clyde and June Oberg began selling milk from their farm in 1954. Daughter Carol (Oberg) Kenley and her seven children took over the farm in the mid 1980’s, and expanding to vegetables as well, providing weekly delivery of vegetable baskets to local families. Their produce can now be found at South Anchorage Farmers Market and Palmer Friday Fling.
The family has demonstrated their commitment and passion to agriculture for generations. June and Clyde have had five grandchildren selected as Alaska State FFA president. Carol launched the Winners Circle livestock 4-H Club in 1983. For years Clyde held popular tractor demonstrations at the fair; his cream separating and ice cream making demonstrations were also a big hit.
2008 – Brad and Pam Lewis of Lewis Farm in Palmer, Alaska
Brad began operating his Palmer vegetable farm in the 1980’s. They have build a reputation for premium potatoes, and their sun Wendel successfully ran a greenhouse operation selling corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and flower baskets.
2007 Bob & Randy Peterson and their families of Insanity Acres in Delta Junction, Alaska
The Peterson family moved to Delta Junction from Missouri in 1996. They raise oats and barley for grain, seed grasses, hay and potatoes. They family is very active in their community, including involvement in the Salcha-Delta Soil & Water Conservation District, the Delta Farm Bureau, the Delta Chamber of Commerce and the Delta Fair.
2006 – Rex & Bryce Wrigley and their families of Wrigley Farms in Delta Junction, Alaska
Wrigley Farms was formed in 1983 when Rex & Bryce moved their families to Delta Junction from Idaho. Over the years Wrigley Farms has successfully produced oats, oat hay, barley, brome, broccoli, potatoes and hogs. Rex and Bryce are both active in their area Soil & Water Conservation District and Farm Bureau Chapter. The family is also active in their church and community
2005 – Tom Zimmer & Susan Willsrud of Calypso Farm and Ecology Center near Fairbanks, Alaska
Calypso Farm began in 2000 as an effort to educate the community about local food supplies. Today Calypso is home to a fast-growing Community Support Agriculture (CSA) operation which has supported as many as 45 shareholders. The farm consists of 2.5 cultivated, terraced acres in a forested area 10 miles out of Fairbanks. In addition to growing food, Calypso works collaboratively with local organizations to provide hands-on educational and research opportunities in ecology and sustainable agriculture.
2004 – P&M Gardens in Eagle River, Alaska
P & M Gardens opened in 1976. Today it consists of a nursery wholesale operation with 10 acres of land, 200,000 square feet of growing houses, a retail store, shipping and warehouse area and a fleet of trucks that deliver plants across the state. The success of P & M Gardens has lead to the need for over 70 employees during the peak season.
2003 – Mark and Tammy Rempel of Rempel Farms in Palmer, Alaska
The Rempel Family Farm came into operation in 1960 when Mark Rempel’s father, Dietrich, purchased the acreage from the federal government. Mark bought the farm in 1990, became organic in 1992 and USDA Certified Organic in 1995. Today Mark operates 12 acres producing 70 varieties of organic vegetables. The Rempel Family Farm booth is always popular at area farmers markets and is known for having some of the best carrots in Alaska.
2002 – Bob and Jeanne Havemeister of Havemeister Farms in Palmer, Alaska
Bob’s parents, Arnold & Emmy arrived in the Mat-Su Valley in May, 1935, one of 200 Colony families selected by the federal government to settle and farm here during the Depression. Today the farm covers 200 acres owned and leased, and the Havemeisters milk about half of their 150 cow herd, producing approximately 2.2 million pounds of milk/year. The current operation is a high-tech dairy that tags and logs in the cows and tracks milk production, age and offspring.
2001 – Ben and Suus VanderWeele of VanderWeele Farms in Palmer, Alaska
Ben and his wife Suus began their farming operation in the Mat-Su Valley in 1967. Today the VanderWeele operation consists of 160 cultivated acres that are operated by Ben, Suus, and their three children – Glenn, Rodger & Michelle and 25-30 seasonal employees. VanderWeele Farms successfully produces a variety of vegetables including potatoes, carrots, lettuces, cabbages and onions that is responsible for a significant portion of the Alaska Grown produce available in Alaskan stores.
2000 – Paul Huppert and family of Palmer Produce in Palmer, Alaska
Paul Huppert came to Alaska in 1952 and homesteaded in the Mat-Su Valley. He worked as Produce Manager for Matanuska Maid until the Produce Division was sold in 1964. Paul purchased the Produce Division and formed Palmer Produce. Today many members of the Huppert family are involved in the farming enterprise including Paul’s son Gerald Huppert, his daughter Paula Giauque, his grandson Josh Lutz, and his granddaughter Terri Bernowski.