Kenai Peninsula Peony industry a growing one

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Saturday, July 5, 2014 10:04pm
  • News

Peony growers on the Kenai Peninsula are preparing for a future of internationally competitive production and cultivating a new population of growers.

At the annual Central Peninsula Alaska Peony Growers Association Farm Tour June 28; 30 Alaskans made a circuit of central Kenai Peninsula farms involved in the statewide industry of peony growers.

Some came from as far north as Fairbanks, others from the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Homer and Cordova.

The tour included stops at Cook Inlet Gardens, Cool Cache Farms LLC and Echo Lake Peonies, all members of the newly formed Alaska Peony Market Cooperative.

The cooperative’s bylaws were ratified at the beginning of this year, said President Ben Carpenter and owner of Cook Inlet Gardens. The organization is made up of eight Kenai Peninsula peony farms in varying stages of development.

Members of the cooperative support each other financially and professionally, Carpenter said.

“Not only can the less experienced gain insight from long-time growers, but each farm requires similar products that can be resourced together to reduce expenses,” he said.

Marketing peonies is a time consuming and costly activity, Carpenter said. It makes sense to spend resources advertising and marketing flowers for the cooperative rather than each individual farm doing the same activities individually, he said.

Additionally, the cooperative makes the Kenai Peninsula market more viable, Carpenter said. While one farmer may not be able to grow enough flowers to supply to a major buyer, multiple farms working together can provide higher volumes of flowers.

Revenue for the cooperative is returned to each member on a “patronage basis,” Ben Carpenter said. Each member is in business to make a profit so the goal is to keep administrative costs low and return the highest amount of revenue back to the members, in proportion to how many flowers they produced.

“It is a long lasting product,” he said. “One plant can live up to 80 years, potentially outliving its cultivator.”

Cook Inlet Gardens currently has 240 1-year-old plants growing on an eight-acre plot of land, said Cook Inlet Gardens co-owner Ameye Carpenter said.

This season the couple will be planting another 5,000 plants on their property, Ameye Carpenter said. However it will take at least another two years for their current crop to reach maturity.

Once the buds are big enough for harvesting, the 240 plants alone will bring in $5,000 annual revenue, Ameye Carpenter said.

While the Carpenter’s business is in it’s beginning stages, other Alaska Peony Market Cooperative members have been improving production for years.

Richard Repper, owner of Echo Lake Peonies, has plants almost ripe for picking this season, he said.

Repper’s harvest includes stems grown from roots of 12,000 planted up to six years ago.

“In July, calls start coming in at 4 a.m.,” Repper said, referring to the floral orders coming from the Lower 48 for the product on his farm. “If you think about it that is 8 a.m. east coast time.”

Alaska is the only place in the world that can grow the delicate, bulbous flower July through September, he said.

Already Repper is receiving orders from Europe and Asia. Creating the cooperative has helped some with the larger orders, but it is still not enough.

“People need to get involved faster,” Repper said.

 

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Jordan Chilson votes in favor of an ordinance he sponsored seeking equitable access to baby changing tables during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs ordinance seeking to increase access to baby changing tables

The ordinance requires all newly constructed or renovated city-owned and operated facilities to include changing tables installed in both men’s and women’s restrooms

Joel Caldwell shows off the new Tecnam Traveller on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Aviation has since added two more Tecnam Travellers to its fleet. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Aviation adds 3rd plane to commuter service, readies for busy summer schedule

Kenai Aviation plans to increase its schedule to include 18 flights a day running seven days a week

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Kelley Cizek, right, speaks as Jason Tauriainen, Patti Truesdell and Penny Vadla listen during a special meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s school board in Soldotna on Monday.
‘They deserve better than this’

School board passes budget with broad swath of cuts, including pools, theaters and some support staff

The Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska House passes budget with roughly $2,275 payments to residents, bill goes to Senate

The bill also includes a roughly $175 million, one-time increase in aid to school districts that would be paid according to a funding formula

The Kenai River flows near Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. The Riverfront Redevelopment project will impact much of Soldotna’s riverside areas downstream to the bridge. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna riverfront redevelopment planning moves forward

Soldotna City Council on Monday unanimously approved the creation of a project manager to shepherd the Riverfront Redevelopment Project

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Corey Cannon, who plays baseball as part of Soldotna Little League, speaks to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna on Wednesday.
Soldotna Little League receives donation for facility repairs

The city owns the fields, but the Little League leases the land and is responsible for the maintenance of the facilities

Aleutian Airways logo. Photo courtesy of Aleutian Airways
Aleutian airways to halt Homer service during runway project

Service will be suspended beginning April 15

Most Read