RESOURCES (Historic Alaska Information)
Agriculture is yearly becoming more and more an established industry. Already the Matanuska and Tanana districts are furnishing practically all the vegetables required for local consumption. Forage for horses and cattle is being grown, and even wheat, which it was at one time thought impossible to mature, is, through the efforts of the agricultural experiment stations, now a regular crop. Fairbanks has the first flour mill to be built in Alaska, and it will be only a few years before that district will be supplying the whole of the interior and the towns along the line of the government railroad with flour.
The average yield of wheat at Fairbanks is 19.6 bushels to the acre. The farmers there are commencing to organize for the purpose of co-operation in buying machinery and equipment.
The sugar-beet industry is worthy of consideration for Alaska. The Alaska beets contain a larger percentage of sugar than do the beets of the States, and can be worked during the winter months without refrigeration, which is most desirable.
An established sugar-beet factory in the vicinity of Anchorage would be able to draw on the Matanuska Valley, the whole line of the railroad and Cook Inlet for the needed supply.
The live stock industry has hardly progressed beyond the demands for dairy products, but eventually beef cattle will be grown in many parts of the Territory.
The growing of live stock should be encouraged by the loan of blooded cattle to the farmer for a period of years under regulations to insure proper care. A return to the Government to be made in kind for issuance to other stock growers.
Mount McKinley, Alaska
At Holy Cross mission a herd of twenty-five dairy cattle is kept and fed exclusively on swamp grass and red top made into hay and siloed.
For more detailed information, those interested are advised to write to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C, for the latest publications relative to Alaska investigations.
Most of the homesteads are located in the Matanuska and Sustina valleys along the line of the government railroad; in the Cook Inlet region in the Tanana Valley in the interior, and in Chilkat and Eagle river valleys of Southeastern Alaska.
Main Street of Juneau, Alaska
The principal crops are turnips, potatoes, and other root crops. All the hardier grains mature in the Tanana Valley.
Competent authorities estimate that approximately 100,000 square miles of valley lands with their adjacent low foothills are available as arable and grazing lands, comprising the valleys of the Yukon, Tanana, Susitna, Copper River, and portions of the Kuskokwim, with less areas on the minor streams; as well as a considerable portion of the Kenai Peninsula, and the Alaska Peninsula, including its adjacent islands.
The prospective farmer must look for his profits to a diversified product, which shall furnish his table with the necessary things of life, and sell the remainder to near-by purchasers. It should be clearly understood that for the present, at least, farming must partake more or less of the character of market gardening around the mining centers, gradually expanding as these industries grow.
The consensus of opinions by those who have made a special study of the subject in all its aspects, not only in theory, but by actual experience on the ground, is that many thousands of Europe's population would gain by change of residence, especially those living in similar latitudes under similar conditions.
Top—Atlin Inn on the Farther Shore
Bottom—Lake Atlin, B. C.
Dawson, Yukon, Public School
Grain Crops and Grasses. That oats, barley, wheat, and rye can be grown successfully has been demonstrated at the experimental stations in the Yukon-Tanana valleys and also by the farmers around Fairbanks and in the Susitna Valley, who have cut barley for hay giving three tons to the acre. Much time has been devoted to the study and growth of all kinds of grain from northern countries and the end is not yet. In the rooms of the bureau may be seen handsome sheaves of all these grains and their cleaned products, 6o-day and Finnish oats, as well as hull-less and beardless barley. There are also handsome samples of wheat, but this is a more tender grain. It has been demonstrated by the farmers around Fairbanks in the Tanana Valley that hard wheat can be matured, and wheat raising by them has passed the experimental stage. The winter-sown grain does well if covered by snow, but it is liable to be frost killed on ground swept bare by the wind.
It is no new thing to grow these cereals in northern countries as they mature rapidly. At Uleaborg, Finland, in the same latitude as Fairbanks, oats, barley, and rye are staple crops and are also largely grown in Northern Russia, requiring only from seventy to eighty days from seed to maturity. It is not the intensity of the winter cold which governs their successful growth. The great point is the date at which the ground attains a sufficient warmth to cause the seed to germinate (42o for wheat) and a sufficient time thereafter to mature it. Most persons overlook that long winter hours involve long hours of daylight in summer—for all parts of the world receive the same total hours of daylight, though differently distributed in the course of the year. The rapid growth of grain applies also to grasses.
Eskimo Boy and Girl, Port Clarence, Alaska
Timothy springs up wherever imported hay has been fed to stock and also seems to be richest in nitrogen among its congeners. It grows everywhere but is said to rebel against annual cutting, so that cropping every other year is recommended.
Currants and Raspberries at Skagway, Alaska
Persons desiring detailed information on hay-making in South and Southeastern Alaska should consult Bulletin No. 3— Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations, entitled "Haymaking at Kenai Experimental Station, 1907, etc.
Vegetable Crops. It is possible to grow magnificent vegetables in all parts of Alaska except on the tundras and mountains. To Alaskans they are no novelty but to strangers unacquainted with the country they are a constant surprise. They include all the products of the temperate zone in America, and the bureau has in its exhibit potatoes, turnips, beets, rutabagas, sugar beets, carrots, parsnips, kohlrabi, celery, rhubarb, radishes, onions, cabbage, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, and in one or two very favored spots even melons have ripened. The samples both for size and quality will compare with the markets of New York.
Alaska Heather in Bed of Reindeer Moss
Dead Horse Gulch Near Summit of White Pass, Alaska
Twenty-seven varieties of potatoes were cultivated during the season of 1911, of which three were planted on June 1, nine on June 9, and the remainder on June 10. They matured between September 11 and 22, with a yield at a rate varying from 7,260 to 18,876 pounds per acre on the experimental plats. In the open field three varieties produced five tons per acre after sorting and grading on second year unfertilized ground.
Cabbages from department seed made heads weighing from eight to twelve pounds. Cauliflower was as fine as grown in any country.
Gratifying results have been obtained from experiments with sugar beets at Matanuska where tests showed beets containing from 14.6 to 16.9 per cent sugar.
Summing up the question, C. C. Georgeson, the best of all authorities, says: "Allthese vegetables can be grown and are grown as far up as the Arctic circle and beyond.
"This is not saying that they can be grown with equal success in all places and in all conditions, for on this point the elevation, rainfall, soil and local conditions as to climate are important factors. Nor do I say that there is not now and then, a cold summer, in which only the hardiest of these things make satisfactory growth. But under normal conditions and with good culture all of these vegetables are grown successfully even beyond the Arctic circle."
So much interest is expressed by visitors as to why it is possible to grow good vegetables so far north, when it cannot be done on the Atlantic shores in like latitudes.
Undoubtedly the first factor is the enormous volume of cold water brought down the Atlantic shores by the streams from Baffin's Bay and the coasts of Greenland and the presence of the Japan Current on the shores of the Pacific.
Except for these factors, all other conditions are equal as far as latitude or distance from the equator is concerned, as this affects only the length of the day. The local factors are the depth to which the ground is frozen, the annual precipitation of rain and snow, the number of days on which the sun shines, and the summer temperatures. These have a greater influence on vegetable growth than extreme cold in winter, as for instance, in the wheat fields of Canada the mercury may go to 50 degrees below zero without detriment to the yield.
In the Tanana Valley the ground is deeply frozen; the day is 22 hours long at mid-summer; the average number of days without rain to exceed one-hundredth of an inch is about 270, and the total annual. precipitation from 12 to 14 inches.
Administration Building, Dawson, Yukon Territory
But as the ground thaws out under the influence of the long days the tender roots of the seedlings follow the released moisture and are perpetually sub-irrigated. The frozen subsoil fakes the place of the ordinary underlying rock or gravel in more southern localities, and being impermeable, all the products of vegetable decay are retained in the surface stratum, producing a soil rich in "humus" or leaf mold and eminently adapted to the growth of plant life. This is suggested as a possible explanation.
Wild Fruits. Alaska is a land of berries, not only in the profusion of fruit, but in the great variety of species.
Currants, both red and black, abound in Southeastern Alaska, and in lesser degree elsewhere, and both are remarkable for the size of the fruit and the length of the bunches, rivaling, if not excelling, the best of the cultivated forms.
Strawberries, of good size and excellent flavor, abound in and on the coast belt from Yakutat to the Copper River delta, and have been crossed with cultivated varieties, producing plants of more luxuriant growth than either, of the parent forms both as to foliage and fruit. Some hundred varieties of these hybrids are under cultivation at the government experimental stations.
Raspberries are characteristic of the interior regions, especially of the Yukon and Tanana valleys.
Blueberries are universally distributed and fruit in profusion, the berries attaining a diameter of half an inch. So abundant are they that two ladies near Nome put up 119 gallons in one season.
Rufous Humming Birds, Alaska
Huckleberries abound through the Pacific Coast and interior regions, and form attractive pasturage for bears, both black and grizzlies.
Cranberries, both high and low bush, are characteristic of the interior plateau and Seward Peninsula.
Salmon berries grow luxuriantly in all the coast regions bordering on the Pacific Ocean.
The immense profusion of some of these berries in some localities suggests an opening for their use commercially as canned products and preserves, especially in the case of the blueberries, huckleberries, and currants, which for size and flavor are unsurpassed anywhere.
Cultivated Fruits. Nearly all the hardy fruit bushes do remarkably well in Southeastern Alaska, and the currant and raspberry also do well all over the interior. The same may be said of the strawberry in a more limited degree as to localities.
Gooseberries do well in the Pacific Coast belt, but it seems probable that blackberries, dewberries, loganberries, and grapes will not thrive in Alaska, for while experimental plants have lived for several years, they never fruited.
Experiments with apples, plums, and cherries have not been eminently successful up to this time, although there is a native crabapple growing extensively in some sections, especially the Susitna Valley. The Sitka experimental station reports a small degree of success with apples and cherries, but none with plums.
Baskets Made by Eskimos, Port Clarence, Alaska
Sunset on Muir Inlet. Glacier Bay, Alaska