PALMER—?The iconic Alaska State Fair Cabbage Weigh-Off brings in passionate horticulturalists of all ages from across the state each year. Although the total number of entries was slightly lower this year, the enthusiasm and diverse talent was strong as ever, drawing a sizable crowd Friday night.
“Even the worst summers grows the best cabbage here [Alaska],” 2018 winner, Brian Shunskis said.
Shunskis took the blue this year with his 90-pound cabbage named “Success.” He said that this summer was his best harvest?in three years, in spite of the shoddy weather conditions, jumping from hot to cold and “shocking” the plants.
“There was too much shock going on,” Shunskis said.
He earned $1,000 for taking first place for the second time. Last year, his cabbage, “Stinky II” won at 81.35 pounds.
“I changed things around this year,” he said.
He said that one of the main changes he made this year was using more fertilizer. Shunskis said the fact that none of his cabbages died this year is what stands out most, which means a great deal to the Salcha based grower. He credits his home field, about 30 miles out of Fairbanks, as an advantage, with warmer summers and more sunlight.
?“It’s the best place to grow cabbage,” he said.
The constant rain and weather changes did not help anyone this year. Shunskis wants to go even bigger and better next year, hoping the weather will improve thus will his odds of yielding a more bountiful harvest. The world record for heaviest cabbage was set in 2012 at 138.25 pounds, and Shunskis said that his goal it to break it. He’s showing no signs of slowing down.
“This was a bad summer. I just need a good summer,” he said.
Shunskis took his precious crop 340 miles, losing precious ounces water weight by the hour. Thanks to the cabbage’s mostly water genetic makeup, time is of the essence when brining the gigantic yet fleeting crops to the big show. That’s why all of the contestants make sure to cut their cabbage out of the ground as close to the contest as possible.
It’s typical to lose several pounds before the final weighing so each farmer has developed their own set of practices and time management skills to save every second. Like most things, practice proves to be a time tested teacher for these fanatic growers.