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State begins selling land in agriculture project near Nenana

John Whipple
Alaska DNR/Agriculture Division
The state Agriculture Division's kiosk drew a lot interest during last year's Nenana Agriculture Day.

Ag Division chief: Sustainability, economic viability to guide Nenana-Totchaket Agriculture Project development

The state has begun selling land in an area near Nenana that it’s developing for agriculture. Alaskans interested in farming or ranching can find out more about the land sales Friday, during the annual Nenana Agricultural Day, and Saturday, when prospective buyers will be able to get out and take a firsthand look at the land.

KUAC file map
Alaska DNR/Division of Agriculture
The Nenana-Totchaket Agricultural Project is located just west of Nenana.

The state began accepting bids last week for the long-awaited first land sales in the Nenana-Totchaket Agriculture Project.

“We have 27 lots, ranging from around 21 acres to just a little over 300 acres, that are going to be available for sale,” says Agriculture Division Director Dave Schade.

Schade says about 2,000 acres are available in this long-awaited offering, with lots appraised at around $500 dollars per acre. He says it’s the first of many land sales that’ll take place in the 100,000-acre ag project over the next three decades. And Alaskans interested in this first sale have until Oct. 4 to submit bids.

“So people have a lot of time to look at it, look at the values for themselves and figure out how they want to submit a bid,” Schade said in an interview Wednesday.

They’ll get a great opportunity to do that on Saturday, when the Ag Division and other state agencies will hold an open house out on the Totchaket.

John Whipple
Alaska DNR/Division of Agriculture
Much of the arable land in the Nenana Totchaket Agricultural Project is fertile, underlain by permeable sandy soil.

“We’ll have people out there,” he said. “You can see the soil pits. You can actually look and talk to the soil scientists.”

Schade says the soil and drainage and relatively long growing season are some of the reasons that the Totchaket such an ideal place to develop the state’s next big agriculture project.

“This is really good topsoil -- got a sandy layer underneath it.”

Schade says preserving that topsoil is one of the environmental stewardship measures that the Ag Division will require of those who buy land in the Totchaket.

“We don’t have any pesticides, we don’t have that kind of stuff there,” he said. “We’re starting with raw land. But that means we’ve got to work to really make sure we don’t any invasives, and we don’t have things that come in that require the herbicides, the pestricides.”

Schade says the other concept on which the ag project is being developed is economic viability. That’s why there’s 30-year timeframe for land sales, and why they’ll offer different-sized parcels.

“If you’re doing something with greenhouses, 20 acres is plenty,” he said. “But if you’re doing a ranch, you’re going to need land for the cattle to graze, you’re going to need land for fields for raising the hay and the crops and the grain.”

Prospective farmers and ranchers can talk about all that with experts that’ll be available beginning Friday during Nenana Agriculture Education Day, to be held in town at the 10th Street boat launch parking area. Schade says having state and federal officials on hand will give the buyers a chance to talk directly to the experts.

“These people are usually spread around the state,” he said. “And when you can go and talk with one who can refer you to the other that’s literally two tables over, it is really going to help the farmers, the community, people that are interested in knowing what the opportunities and what the programs are right there.”

Editor's note: More information about the 2022 Alaska State Agricultural Land Offering by going to the Ag Division’s home page or its Facebook or Twitter feeds.

Tim Ellis has been working as a KUAC reporter/producer since 2010. He has more than 30 years experience in broadcast, print and online journalism.