PALMER — For the fifth consecutive year, a parade of heavy agriculture equipment rumbled down the streets of Palmer for Drive Your Tractor to Work Day. A total of 33 tractors departed from the Alaska State Fairgrounds past Palmer Junior Middle School into downtown Palmer to celebrate the start of the growing season and promote locally grown produce.
“So many of us now are removed from a farm one generation, two generations but we all have a farm story. We all can think of that time we got to visit grandpa’s farm or we got to help drive a tractor with someone and it just stirs up this emotional response form everybody, like tractors make you feel good,” said Alaska Farmland Trust Executive Director Amy Pettit. “I just hope that when people see a tractor drive by it does make them stop and think man, where does my food come from? When was the last time I bought something local.”
Local farmer and former director of the state Division of Agriculture Arthur Keyes led the parade route that brought traffic to a crawl along the parade route, as well as smiles to hundreds of Palmer Junior Middle School students who watched from the windows and came out to the sidewalk to wave at the nearly three dozen tractors driving by on Chugach Street.
“The opportunity to connect with those kids, even momentarily to drive by and let them know we’re here, agriculture is here, it’s part of their heritage really feels good to me,” said Keyes.
Keyes had five of his own tractors driven in the parade. The majority of the heavy equipment used for farming around the Valley that was on display were John Deere tractors, but the Antique Power Club also provided historic farming equipment as well. The fifth annual Drive Your Tractor to Work Day is a celebration of not only the past history of farming in the Valley, but a call to local residents to support locally grown produce.
“Nothing makes a difference more than people buying locally grown products,” said Keyes. “I think there’s no greater important investment that a person can make than in the local food choices that they make because that is supporting that ground which will feed the future generations.”
After parading past the middle school and parking near the pavilion in downtown Palmer, the collection of farmers gathered for fellowship and to gaze at the impressive equipment on display. Numerous farmers brought their children with them on their tractors. David Edgerton drove a John Deere 6430 and brought his children Lane and Lyla with him in the cab.
“It’s just a nice way to start off the spring and get ready for the year and they both enjoy being on the tractor so they had a fun time riding along this year,” said Edgerton.
Other farmers had grandchildren waving from the sidewalk as they drove by. Mat-Su Borough Mayor drove a John Deere 3020 near the front of the 33 tractors on Monday.
The Alaska Farmland Trust began in 2005 and has since protected over 370 acres of agriculture land to be dedicated as Farmland forever. During 2020, 43 percent of the houses that were built in Alaska were built in the Mat-Su, as well as over half of the state’s agriculture production.
“Preserving the farmland right now I think is one of the biggest issues facing the Mat-Su and probably even the state of Alaska in this area because it’s really valuable, so that effort Farmland Trust in preserving as much ag land as we can, I think is probably one of the most important issues facing us right now and it’s going to go on for years. The thing about this area is it is so beautiful, it is so nice to live in and of course that’s what’s going to eat up some of the farm land is what I’m worried about in the future,” said Halter.