WASILLA, ALASKA — The new face of Alaskan agriculture is being unveiled. The University of Alaska discovered that the most demanded bridal flower in the United States, the peony, is a prime crop for Alaska. Historically the availability of peonies was limited to a strict spring season schedule; a schedule that Alaska Peonies are turning on its head, to the delight of florists, designers, and brides-to-be. Alaskan agriculture has had a hard-hitting ride of ups and downs. This is a land known to the world for its hunting, fishing, and spectacular mountains. Few, though, think of Alaska as an agricultural producer. In 1935 the Federal Government transported hundreds of displaced Dust Bowl colonists to Alaska in an attempt to create a farming community in the wild frontier. Farms sprang up in new land, but 78 years later only a handful of those farms remain. In more recent decades the government attempted to create both an Alaskan dairy and barley industry, which ended in unfortunate failures.
Over the years there has been success with Alaskan vegetables, such as potatoes, and colossal record setting, cabbages and turnips. The land of the Midnight Sun has produced unmatched produce of unheard sizes. However, these successes have been predominately on a local scale, with very little demand from outside the State.
Now, during the months of July, August, and September, Alaska has the world’s ONLY supply of fresh blooming peonies. Couple that with the effect of the 20+ hours of sun during those months, and you create some of the largest peonies the world has ever seen. This unique opportunity has resulted in over 19 peony farms being created in Alaska in the last five years.
This year Alaskan peonies have reached a capacity to start making a significant impact on the world’s floral market. It is now to be seen if this budding agricultural industry will survive its infancy or go the way of so many attempts before it. “There is a world-wide demand for these flowers,” said Meghan Williams, general manager of Alaska Peony Distributors, LLC. “The trick is letting the world know that demand can now be filled.”
Alaska Peony Distributors, LLC is a wholesale commercial peony pack house that has been created to support the needs of the expanding peony industry in Alaska. “Our mission is to provide the best post-harvest service possible to the peony farmers. In turn we offer the highest quality peony stems that Alaska can produce to the international cut flower market,” said Ms. Williams.
“The problem that Alaskan agriculture has had in the past,” continued Ms. Williams, “is that, while Alaskans are exceptional when it comes to getting hard work done, the ball often gets dropped when it comes to the selling stage. This time we’re not going to let that happen. We have an exceptional product growing here, there is no reason it should not be a worldwide success. Our company was established to let these exceptional farmers concentrate on farming. We then do all of the marketing, sales, quality control, and transportation. ”
“The fact that Anchorage International Airport is the 2nd largest cargo hub in the US is a huge benefit for us,” adds Ms. Williams, ” Our peonies can be shipped to 90% of the developed world in less than 9 ½ hours. We are the connection between farms and consumers for this new industry and this incredible flower, and we take that responsibility seriously.”