Southcentral farmers battle inflation, hay shortages

PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) – Farming is not for the faint of heart, especially during inflated economic prices and unprecedented labor shortages.

On top of that, Alaska has seen yet another sun-fueled early summer, with temperatures in Southcentral Alaska breaking 80 degrees a few times.

While extreme climate conditions can cause uncertainty for farmers, the owner of Glacier Valley Farm in Palmer Arthur Keyes said this season has been incredible.

“These 80-degree temperatures, or high 70s consistently, it’s just made everything grow,” Keyes said. “So yeah, fantastic growing season.”

Keyes grows vegetables such as onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers. He admitted the sun would be an issue if a farm struggled with irrigation, but Palmer has abundant water resources that helped alleviate the dry spells.

This isn’t the case on the Kenai Peninsula, where farmers struggle to find hay to feed their animals. Local hay fields have been devastated by the dry weather, on top of soaring costs for fertilizer leading to low yields. Holly Malone owns Hidden Hillside Farmstead in Nikiski and calls the situation down there the “perfect storm.”

“Right now the market’s flooded with beef because people are butchering anything that they don’t feel is essential to their farm,” Malone said. “So there’s no profit right now in selling beef, and people aren’t buying live animals because they’re unsure about their hay.”

Currently, Malone’s supplier is entirely out of hay, and she’s only able to find a few bales at a time to feed her cows, goats, and sheep. Poor grass growth on her property due to low precipitation has also hindered grazing. Malone has also seen the price of hay almost double over the last year.

Even though the bounty looks promising for vegetable farmers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Keyes has made adjustments on his own farm to offset the costs of supplies and diesel. He hasn’t run his tractor in two months.

“Since January, prices have just continually gone up on supplies, whether it’s seeds or fertilizer or equipment,” Keyes said. “Just some of those costs have doubled or tripled.”

Keyes said he is prepared to get through this season without worrying too much but is hopeful that prices will stabilize before next season. As for Malone, the future is full of uncertainty.

“We’re gonna just ride the, ride the wave and hope that we can still continue to be in business in a couple of years,” she said. “But most farms aren’t.”

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