The first time anyone sees farms of the Matanuska Valley, they are amazed at the contrasts; rugged stormy mountains and tranquil milk cows.
>>The ruggedness of Alaska in the 30’s must have been even more amazing to the colonists who started these farms.
>>In 1935, the New Deal administration, to help farmers get off relief, imported 202 families to Alaska from the midwest.
>>Promoters thought the farmer’s northern-european background would help them endure the Alaskan climate.
>>Railroad interests wanted the valley settled to improve their business.
>>The experiment was not a great farming success.
>>Although 80 of the first settlers left and were replaced, the colonization did settle the valley and established a local dairy cooperative.
>>These farmers arrived with little but hope. They were expected to clear and subsist on 40 acres while living in tents.
>>Many did manage to settle, build homes and barns, and begin a community.
>>The government required the settlers to buy and sell through a socialistic style cooperative.
>>This was met with opposition from independent-thinking farmers.
>>Eventually a cooperative began that was controlled by the dairy farmers themselves.
>>The government continued to help the colony with federal aid of over 5 million dollars.
>>Of the historic 202 families, by 1953, 65 were still Alaskans, and 25 of those remained farmers.
>>Today there are few of the small family-style farms.
>>The components for continuing dairy growth, however, are all in place here.
>>Matanuska Valley has access to the University of Alaska’s breeding research.
>>There is reliable transportation to processors, available equipment and repairs, local grain and fish protein for feeds, and a processor and distributor right in Anchorage near the consumers.
>>Dairies here in Alaska are not that different from modern dairies in the Midwest.
>>The cows are bread from the same bulls and produce comparable milk.
>>The climate is not a problem. Cows are more adversely affected by heat than cold.
>>The local dairy co-op, Matanuska Maid, can offer Alaska fresh milk for long distance travel.
>>After processing in Anchorage, its products are flown to stores in Alaska’s northern villages.