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Why does Alaska produce so much less food than 50 years ago?

Alaska Dispatch
Courtesy Jennifer Kehoe

Local movements to reclaim Alaska food production have been on the rise in recent years, but Alaskans still have a long way to go. In 1955, 55 percent of the food consumed in Alaska was produced in the state. Today, however, the amount has shriveled to just 5 percent, according to the Redoubt Reporter.

“In 1955 we were pretty self-sufficient, but from 1955 to 2010, we have gone from being self-reliant and independent to completely vulnerable, completely dependent on the next plane,” Danny Consenstein, director of the Alaska Farm Service Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, told the Redoubt Reporter.

Why does Alaska produce so much less of its food in 2012?

The Redoubt Reporter cites a complex web of factors, including decreased fuel costs and a heightened supply chain that allowed for cheaper and more convenient food than one could grow in a family garden. Increased convenience led to demand for non-seasonal items, such as exotic fruits from across the world, while large corporations began to dominate the market over local business.

Yet as fuel prices increase, and concerns over carbon emissions and food security follow suite, Alaska is looking to produce more of its own food.

"We have gone from being self-reliant and independent to completely vulnerable, completely dependent on the next plane,” Consenstein tells the Redoubt Reporter.

Increased food production will mean a healthier, more stable and economically sound state, he says.

One U.S. Department of Agriculture survey notes that Alaskans spend $2 billion annually on food, but only 2-3 percent of that food comes from within the state.

“Imagine if just 10 percent more stayed here…That 10 percent is like $200 million dollars that would be bouncing around local communities,” Consenstein told the Redoubt Reporter.

Read much, much more from the Redoubt Reporter.

Read more about eating local in Alaska here.