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Food producers seeing increased demand for Alaska products

April 06, 2020 - 6:53 AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Some food producers in Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Valley have experienced increased demand for locally produced products during the coronavirus pandemic.

A dairy and potato farm in the south-central region are working hard to fill orders from grocery stores as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, KTVA-TV reported.

Staff at Havemeister Dairy in Palmer are milking 80 cows and shipping about 5,000 gallons (19,000 litres) per week, most of which is on store shelves within 24 hours, creamery manager Ty Havemeister said.

“We were pretty much selling everything before this happened," Havemeister said, noting that since the virus outbreak there has been a “snowball effect.”

“Stores are calling us nonstop trying to get milk,” Havemeister said. “If I had it I’d be more than happy to take it there. But we only have so many cows milking, and you can’t really turn them on like a light switch.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

VanderWeele Farm in Palmer has experienced unprecedented demand.

“I can tell you that I’ve never sold this many potatoes in my life, in the last two weeks, in the same time period,” owner Ben VanderWeele said.

VanderWeele estimated his farm is shipping three to four times more sacks of potatoes than normal.

“The purchase agents from the national chains, they’re just tickled pink that we’re here,” he said.

Both producers said the demand for local products shows the importance of having Alaska products in stores.

“It kind of recognizes the importance of being able to buy local rather than have it come up from the Lower 48. At short, it takes a week,” VanderWeele said. “Over here, they call you up and we can be there within 48 hours at the back door of the store.”

The local supply offers residents a “very small amount of food security,” Havemeister said.

“If something else were to go down, if the supply chain goes down coming from Seattle to here, the stores, they’re going to be bare in a matter of hours," Havemeister said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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