In spite of our remote setting, we cultivate a high standard and commitment to good food.
Alaska is far from lines of supply. Within the last 10 years, however, small-scale agriculture and farming has grown significantly in this subarctic state. While fish and shellfish have always been easy to obtain, we can also get pork, elk and reindeer meat from animals raised in-state. Small farms such as Denali Organic Growers and Rosie Creek Farm supply us with lettuces, hardy greens, and, later in the summer, onions, carrots, potatoes, squash and more.
Not only does fresh food taste better, but buying from in-state sources lowers our environmental footprint, so we purchase Alaska-grown whenever possible. Each night we serve a main entrée of meat or fish that is obtained from responsibly farmed or wild-caught sources in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. Whenever possible and in-season, the vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs are either grown on site or purchased from organic farmers in our region.
For 25 years we have maintained an on-site greenhouse and outdoor, raised bed gardens where we grow herbs and vegetables that thrive in northern growing conditions. This provides us the freshest cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, salad greens, rhubarb, herbs, and flowers possible while eliminating the need to transport such fragile produce long distances in refrigerated trucks to our Denali lodges. Though these items represent a small portion of our overall use, growing this bit of our own food keeps us connected to where our food comes from and reminds us of the effort required to supply organic produce.
One hour north of Denali National Park, amidst spruce and birch forest, Jimmie and Laura Hendrix work tirelessly on their 20-acre farm. Everything grown at Denali Organic Growers is organic, and it becomes our job to use the product while it’s at its peak. If the Alaskan weather is kind, they start harvesting lettuces as early as mid-June.
Denali Organic Growers is a small operation; they supply Camp Denali and North Face Lodge, several restaurants at the East End of the Park, and have a 10 member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Everything is done by hand, meaning no tractors, mechanized fertilizer spreaders, or compost sifters. Jimmie and Laura make and mix their own potting soil and seedling mix. Their garden plots are irrigated with springtime run-off or collected rainwater. Each garden has its own composting area. In Laura’s words, “we strive to better feed the soil to feed the plant.”
Vegetable farming is hard work in Alaska, but raising animals is no picnic either! We’re lucky to get some of our meat and sausages from Delta Meat and Sausage Company. Located 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks in the tiny town of Delta Junction, Delta Meat is truly a family business, run by Cathie McCollum and her daughter, Jeannie Pinkelman. They raise their own cattle and pigs and run a USDA certified meat-processing operation.
Not that long ago it was difficult to find locally raised meat in Alaska that could be served in a restaurant. Delta Meat was the first establishment in Alaska to embrace the raising and processing of animals all in one location. By keeping the entire cycle close to home, Delta Meat knows exactly where their animals come from, how they were raised and what they ate, so they are confident in the quality of their products.
Just outside Fairbanks, Rosie Creek Farm operates on fertile floodplain where Rosie Creek flows into the mighty Tanana River. On 40 acres, Mike Emers grows an incredible spread of 100% USDA certified organic produce. One of the Interior’s largest, Rosie Creek Farm supplies Fairbanks-area farmer’s markets, a handful of Fairbanks restaurants, and our lodges.
Every week we track down Mike by phone, and he’ll head out into the gardens to let us know what looks good that week. Twenty-four hours of daylight in the high summer months means that vegetables grow quickly, but one cold snap can set growing back for weeks. On delivery days, we’ll get updated messages from Mike about tomatoes that are suddenly ready after a glorious sunny weekend.