Creating a Peony Farm in Alaska

Farm tractorBoreal Peonies is a 40 acre peony farm located 20 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska.  The property was a hay farm about 10-20 years ago.  The following video clip was taken in May of 2012, when representatives from Boreal Peonies first looked at the property as a potential peony farm.

initial BP farm video

A week later, Boreal Peonies LLC purchased the acreage and began the process of turning the old hay fields into peony fields.  This photo is of two of the three owners of Boreal Peonies, Jill and Dave Russell.

Farmers

Throughout that first summer, the hay/grass was mowed and many, many small trees were removed from the initial 10 acre area that would be planted with peonies in 2013

truckwithtreesOnce the trees were removed, the long process of breaking up the ground began.  Initially, we had to use a large root cutting plow, just to get through all of the tree roots and break through the hard packed soil.

rott cutting plow

It was a slow, arduous process.  This is what the field looked like after two full days of plowing with the root cutting plow.

2days disking

At the same time that the fields were being plowed, electricity was being put in at the farm, and a well was dug for irrigating the peonies.

electirical pole installation

Two months  during the summer of 2012 were spent plowing the 10 acres and preparing them for spring planting. Multiple soil samples were taken by the Fairbanks Soil and Conservation District and the soil analysis will help us determine the correct nutritional supplements to put into the soil when we plant the peonies in the fall.

Representatives from the Alaska Peony Growers Association (APGA) visited the farm and reviewed our practices and examined the soil in mid August 2012.  We were pleased to receive positive comments on their evaluation and were ready to move forward and order peony roots for 2013.

APGA visits farm 2012

By the end of the Summer of 2012, about 7 acres had been plowed.

End of Summer 2012 video

End of Summer 2012Over the winter of 2012/13, snow covered our plowed fields and nothing else was done to the fields until Spring.  Here is a photo taken in January at the APGA conference in Girdwood, AK to give you an idea of what Winter in Alaska looks like.  This was taken at 8am.

8amwalk

On Valentines Day 2013, we visited the farm to see how much snow was covering the fields and there was about 3 feet of snow.  Temp was about -11 F.

Paul Dave Farm Feb 2013

Spring came late in 2013.  On May 24,  “breakup” had occurred, and the snow had melted, but our plowed fields were still soaked in water and had clumps of ice.

farm may 24 2013

In fact, the fields were so wet, that we couldn’t get the tractor in to put in our flower beds for 3 weeks.

wet field

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