Farragut Farm goes gaga for garlic

first_imgMaking a living out of a lifestyle is many people’s dream.At Farragut Farm, Bo Varsano and Marja Smets live off the grid, four hours by slow boat from Petersburg. It’s a good life but it’s hard to make money especially when there’s only one market to sell to in the summer and it’s only once every two weeks.So they’re moving into another type of business that’s all the rage in Alaska right now. Nope….not marijuana. Gourmet garlic.Download Audio:Bo Varsano and Marja Smets stand in front of their crop of gourment garlic.(Joe Sykes)When Bo Varsano moved to Farragut Bay 20 years ago, he built a homestead. Now that homestead is both his home and his income.“We’ve just figured out a way to make a living at home in a remote place basically,” he says.Together with his wife Marja Smets, he runs a farm which feeds the people of Petersburg in the summer months. Farragut is so out of the way it takes them four hours to transport their veggies to town and they can only leave with produce on the highest tide. This means they might make a living but it’s a struggle.“What takes me a month to earn fishing, takes both of us the whole growing season,” he says.And apart from the difficulty of transportation they are limited by the fact they only really have one market to sell to.“Ever since we started we have asked ourselves: ‘There’s only 3000 people in Petersburg, is this really going to work?’ he says.So Varsano realized what they really needed was a booster crop, something which would give them a supplemental income alongside the market.He takes me into a greenhouse filled from top to bottom with big, chunky bulbs of garlic.“So this stuff is being cured right now,” he tells me.This is no supermarket quality garlic though. Varsano says right now people have a taste for gourmet.“There’s a subculture that’s obsessed with garlic,” he says.Harvested garlic. Photo: Joe Sykes/KFSK.Garlic is planted in the fall and with mild winters Southeast has ideal conditions for garlic growing.“If it’s done right Southeast Alaska garlic is as good as any on the planet. It’s beautiful stuff,” he says.What makes garlic so attractive for Farragut farm is they can dry it, stick it in a sack and they don’t have to worry so much about the usual travails of transportation. And Varsano says because it’s hard to grow garlic well elsewhere in the state there’s a market in Alaska“We can grow garlic more easily in Southeast Alaska than you can in the better agricultural areas in the interior,” he tells me.And Mike Emmers, a farmer near Fairbanks who’s been growing garlic for about 15 years says while it’s hard to grow garlic up north, it a lure for customers.“It’s certainly a very popular crop. When we announce that we have garlic at farmers markets it certainly brings everybody in,” he says.For Emmers, though, the freezing winters mean it isn’t practical or profitable to grow garlic in the interior.“There are more crops that are more forgiving than garlic,” he tells me.Marja Smets blows up her inflatable boat so she can get out to Farragut’s skiff. (Joe Sykes)But for Bo Varsano and Marja Smets the fact that garlic growing is unforgiving in the rest of Alaska is good news. They want to become Alaska’s biggest garlic growers and sell to northerners hungry for quality although Smets, who’s taking apart the pea fences at the other end of the farm, admits it is tempting to go for a higher yielding crop.I ask why they haven’t thought of growing marijuana?“That would be worthwhile more than garlic,” Smets replies, laughing.But Varsano says while pot growing might be lucrative, it’s not the look he’s going for.“I don’t wanna be the person who’s selling marijuana in Petersburg and lettuce too. We’re gonna go with garlic,” he tells me.They’re going with garlic and the journey back to my lift home shows the difficulty of making a living based around just the Petersburg farmers market.We squelch through a marshy bog, hike out over a mile long tide flat and I watch as Smets pulls out an inflatable boat from her backpack and struggles to blow it up.She paddles off to pick up the skiff and take me out to my ride. Soon she’ll be hoping those long hard journeys to market are made a little easier by a bumper crop of every lover’s least favorite cooking ingredient.last_img read more

Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires

first_img Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact And perhaps that mindset should not come as a surprise, especially given that he’s spent a lot of his career dishing out punishment rather than receiving it.“I’ve definitely developed a mentality of getting after people, and not just doing it once, like all game long, just wearing on you,” he said. “And really letting you know that I’m on the field and I’m going to be here all night.”Niklas said the Cardinals have told him the initial plan is to use him as an edge setter in the run game and then going from there in the passing game.And as he embarks on his rookie season, Niklas is facing fewer questions about his ability to handle defensive linemen than he is about his prowess for catching the football. Given his relative inexperience as a tight end, there isn’t much film of him being a dominant member of the passing game. Fair or not, people wonder if he can be a threat there.“I think there is a lot that I can improve on, but there’s a lot that’s a pretty significant natural ability,” he said when asked if receiving is something he can learn. “I’ve played basketball since I was probably like seven up until my senior year of high school, so I’ve been used to catching balls my entire life.” TEMPE, Ariz. — Back in 2006, the Arizona Cardinals attempted to turn a defensive-turned-offensive lineman into a tight end.Fred Wakefield’s career ended with him catching just two passes for 24 yards.Like Wakefield eight years ago, the Cardinals’ newest tight end, Troy Niklas, is also still learning the tight end position.However, unlike Wakefield, whose move was necessitated largely due to a need at the position and a lack of playing time elsewhere, Niklas’ transition was all about getting the most out of his abilities. Until it happens on the field, though, people may have some doubt. While all rookies, at least to some extent, have something to prove, Niklas may have a bit more considering his draft status but relative inexperience at his position. That’s fine, he said, because at this point it doesn’t matter what he’s done in high school or college; the only thing that matters is what he does in the NFL as an Arizona Cardinal.“I’m just looking to work hard and produce as much as I can for the team,” he said.And if he can do what the team believes he can, they’ll have themselves the type of player the organization has been seeking for a long, long time.“They definitely say that the well-rounded tight end is a bit of a dying breed, but hopefully we can spark a little bit of a revival in that,” he said. – / 7 Top Stories center_img 0 Comments   Share   The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling “I just feel like it’s a better position for my skill set and better use of my size than outside linebacker,” he said Tuesday while speaking the media at the team’s Tempe training facility. Niklas spent just two seasons as a tight end in South Bend, catching 37 passes for 573 yards and six touchdowns. As a junior last season, the 21-year-old caught 32 passes for 498 yards and five touchdowns, showing a clear progression of his comfort at the position.The Cardinals, having spent a second round pick on him, are banking on his continued development. If they’re right, the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder could become a valuable weapon in the offensive attack.“In the NFL, tight ends are being used so much more than in the past,” Niklas said. “It’s a pretty vital part of the offense now. It’s just hard for linebackers to cover us because of our speed, and it’s hard for safeties to cover us because of our size. So it creates a lot of mismatches.”That’s the idea, and it’s the type of advantage the team has never really had but has been a staple of Bruce Arians’ offense in previous stops.Of course, one of the other things the Cardinals liked about Niklas — and one of the reasons they drafted him 52nd overall — was his ability to block. The rookie said that’s a part of the game he enjoys because he likes the contact and feels there’s no better feeling than getting a good block on a surprised defensive end. last_img read more