Ep 96. Allie Barker on Thriving in an Atypical Farming Climate
Ever wondered what it’s like to run a farm in extreme climates?
Hailing from Alaska, Allie Barker of Chugach Farm joins us for today’s episode. Chugach Farm’s mission is to support biological and soil health by nurturing plants and animals to provide an abundance of nutrient-dense food, empower the community to re-connect to local food systems, enable personal health and wellness through herbal medicine, food as medicine and energy-efficiency, adopt food storage methods that maintain years of food without consuming fossil fuel, and to develop energy-efficient farming methods and tool hacks as a model for others to live luxuriously with less. As lofty a mission as this is, Allie tackles them head on with gusto! Growing up as part of a passionate outdoorsy family, responsibility and discipline came early in life and has continuously developed ever since…and it certainly shows on the farm! Tune in to find out all about Chugach Farm’s complex operations and how they stay thriving in their atypical climate!
In This Episode:
An overview of Chugach Farm’s operations 2:13
About the impact of having 20 hours of daylight in the Summer and cold dark Winters on the farm 3:40
How Allie handles the heavy summer workload 7:41
Which vegetables work best in the short/cold season 9:07
How their crops and ferments are sold 11:45
What the ferment development process looks like 12:42
About the state of local food in Alaska 15:52
What the scope of the animal side of the Chugach operation looks like 21:02
How Allie manages the numerous tasks on the farm 27:54
About the hardest thing Allie had to do while building Chugach Farm 29:57
Who Allie’s mentors were throughout her farming journey 35:51
How Allie runs the fan systems for her greenhouses 35:45
What Allie would go back and change at the beginning of her farming operation 36:11
How Allie manages labor on the farm 38:15
Where Chugach Farm sells their products 40:42
About the transplants side of Chugach Farm 44:52
How Allie maintained her customer base when moving to online sales 46:36
The biggest mistakes Allie sees newer farmers making 48:12
What newer farmers should avoid during their first year of farming 49:00
Allie’s favorite farming tool 51:10
How Allie feels about starting a farm today 53:29
Where you can find out more about Allie and Chugach Farm 54:26
What Allie uses as a food preservation system 55:03
About the Guest
Allie spent her early years in Ohio on her parent’s farm shoveling manure, playing in the dirt, and observing her mother put-up more tomatoes than anyone could eat in a lifetime. These formative years were not easy to wash off and helped to nurture her intuitive passion for self-sufficiency.
Growing up as part of a passionate outdoorsy family, responsibility and discipline came at an early age. Her commitment to athletic pursuits, combined with an incredibly positive father as a role model, gave her the determination and courage to follow her dreams.
At 18 years of age, Allie migrated to Alaska to attempt a winter ascent of Mt. Marcus Baker. She found more than mountains to climb. In addition to endless epic mountains she saw the potential to build a homestead, grow food, and live off-grid.
Knowing she would soon return to Alaska permanently, Allie finished up her Bachelor of Arts Degree majored in sustainable agriculture, herbal medicine, alternative energy and sustainable architecture at Evergreen State College.
Most of Allie’s adult life has been spent in the outdoors as a mountain guide, avalanche forecaster, and homesteader. She naturally settled in the quiet town of Chickaloon nested between the beautiful Talkeetna and Chugach Mountains, nurtured by the rapids of the Matanuska and Chickaloon Rivers, located at the end of a beaten path deep in the heart of the Matanuska Valley, Alaska.
After meeting her husband on a 40-day mountaineering trip on the Nelchina and Matanuska Glaciers, she convinced him to stay and be part of the adventure.
Since purchasing land in Alaska in 2002, Allie and Jed have put their hearts, souls, blood and a few tears into creating a small scale, off-grid homestead and farm. In 2010, with Jed’s encouragement, Allie began to lead the charge in farming after deciding to produce on a different scale and committing to farming, nutrition, making ferments, and putting up food “full time.”
Having been diagnosed with celiac disease in her mid-20’s, Allie was motivated to commit to a 100% local and nutrient dense diet of wild game, farm raised meat, good local fat, ferments, root veggies, raw goat milk, and eggs. She is proud of not having to rely on the grocery store for over 14 years and feels better than ever, never looking back.
Allie melds her education, strong work ethic, love for the soil, and passion for herbal medicine and a nutrient-dense diet, into a full-time farm-life obsession.
Chugach Farm has been in full operation since 2010, selling their goods at farmer’s markets, restaurants, on and off CSAs, CSF, local customers, and now direct marketing through the NEW Chugach Farm online store.
Resources and mentions
Website – https://www.chugachfarm.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/chugachfarm/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/chugachfarm/
And if you want to keep the conversation going, join us in our Facebook Group to connect with us and other farmers looking to grow their business!
We also have six free eguides to help you be more effective on your farm (Winter Growing, Pastured Poultry, Washing Shed Efficiency, Profitable Farmers Toolkit, what to look for in a farm property, etc), which you can download here.