Livestock has been raised in Alaska since the 1850s, when the Russians introduced cows to provide fresh milk at their missions on Kodiak Island and on the Pribilof Islands. Gardens were cultivated and greenhouse vegetables were raised in gold rush days at Fort Yukon, Eagle, and Unalakleet and at points far north of the Arctic Circle. Cattle were driven inland from the coast to the goldfields, to be fattened on summer grasses before slaughtering. Commercial agriculture became quite significant in the Fairbanks area in the early part of the 20th century with the development of dairy and potato farms. The United States government sponsored the development of agriculture, particularly dairying and potato and vegetable farming, in the Matanuska Valley in the 1930s. Commercial agriculture today plays a significant role in the Matanuska Valley, Alaska’s leading agricultural area, and in the Delta region.
The Delta is a significant producer of milk and milk products as well as potatoes, grass seeds for lawns and animal fodder, and barley. Cattle are raised on Kodiak Island, and a facility in Palmer processes pigs and some cattle from the Delta and Matanuska Valley.
Most of Alaska’s arable land is in the inland river valleys, where the rainfall is light and the winters are long and cold. The grazing season for cattle is only about 100 days, and eight to nine months of indoor feeding are necessary. Similarly, the growing season for crops lasts only about 90 to 100 days throughout much of the Interior region, although this is offset by the long hours of continuous sunlight. During this growing season, cabbage, cauliflower, and many root vegetables grow to mammoth sizes. Hardy strains of barley, potatoes, and other crops have been developed, and the seeds of these grains have been tried with much success in other parts of the United States with long, rigorous winters.
Farming in Alaska is generally confined to the Matanuska and Tanana river valleys, to part of the Kenai Peninsula, and to the area around Fairbanks. Greenhouse and nursery products are Alaska’s chief farm commodity, by value. Other commodities include milk and cream, potatoes, crops used for silage, hay, cattle and calves, barley, eggs, vegetables, and hogs.
The Matanuska Valley is an extensive, well-drained area of moderately fertile soils, lying at the head of Cook Inlet, near Palmer. The Alaska Railroad commenced agricultural development in the Matanuska in 1928, and in 1935 the federal government established a colony there of about 200 farm families from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. A number of these farmers gave up and returned south, but those who remained made the experiment a success. The valley now supplies Anchorage with dairy products, grain, fruit, potatoes, and other vegetables. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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