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  6.  | Petersburg Veggie Growers Honored as 2023 Farm Family of the Year

Petersburg Veggie Growers Honored as 2023 Farm Family of the Year

Aug 16, 2023 | Agriculture, Government, News

Freshly harvested carrots in organic vegetable garden.

Chernikovatv | Envato

Alaska’s 2023 Farm Family of the Year title goes to Marja Smets and Bo Varsano of Petersburg, who own and operate Farragut Farm.

Veggies by Catamaran

Farragut Farm is located on Farragut Bay, approximately 35 miles north of Petersburg by boat. There are no roads or other development on this land, so Smets and Varsano use a 27-foot catamaran to bring their produce to market with a four-to-five-hour boat trip. They sell from their farmstand in Petersburg to local customers as well as wholesale to schools, grocery stores, and value-added food producers in Petersburg, Juneau, and Wrangell.

“We love providing locally grown vegetables to Southeast Alaska residents because there are not that many farms in our location, so the fresh produce is much appreciated,” says Smets, who grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Alaska in 2000. “That’s one of the reasons we founded the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit and continue to help with planning and execution of the biennial agricultural event.”

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Smets and Varsano co-manage the organic farm together, doing most of the work themselves. Smets is responsible for crop planning, marketing, and accounting, while Varsano takes care of repairs, maintenance, tool building/creation, and efficiency enhancement projects. They farm on just a bit more than one acre of land using hand tools and building their farm’s soils by sourcing local amendments such as seaweed, compost, and fish scraps.

“I love farming in Alaska because we can spend our days outdoors in such a beautiful part of the world,” says Varsano, who was raised in Massachusetts and has lived in Alaska for thirty years. “We enjoy the freedom to set the rhythm and flow of our days, make a living from home and the creative problem-solving of challenges inherent in farming.”

Smets and Varsano hope to continue to provide healthy, fresh vegetables to their customers and are currently focusing on expanding their garlic and carrot crops.

“Bo and Marja being recognized with this award is especially impressive when you consider that they’re first generation famers who only started Farragut Farm in 2010,” says Bryan Scoresby, director of the Division of Agriculture. “I’m personally inspired by Bo and Marja’s future goal of providing fresh carrots to all the school districts in Southeast Alaska!”

The Alaska Division of Agriculture and the Alaska State Fair created the Farm Family of the Year award in 2000 to recognize Alaska farm families that epitomize the spirit of the industry and to show appreciation for hard-working Alaskans committed to agriculture.

Alaska Business April 2024 cover
In This Issue
The 2024 Corporate 100
April 2024

In their company kitchens, the Corporate 100 blend wholesome ingredients with exquisite utensils to create the scrumptious ambrosia that keeps employees gratified and contented. Meet the top Alaska employers ranked by number of Alaskans on their payroll, and learn the recipe for success. This issue also includes a focus on economic development initiatives in Anchorage and Kodiak.

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