Homer, City of Peonies
Homer, City of Peonies
According to Pat Holloway, a horticulture professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, commercial production began in 2004 with small test plots in Fairbanks, Kenai and Homer.
Dr. Holloway discovered Alaska peonies are in season when they are not available anywhere else in the world. By 2012, more than 100,000 roots had been planted by 38 growers. The projected statewide harvest by 2015 is over 1 million peony stems.
Today over 25 farms are in the Homer area successfully selling their peony stems at Farmers Markets, to all 50 states and overseas. Farms range in size from small, 250 plants, to larger over 10,000 plants. The growing conditions in the area are perfect for the lovely peony and overnight shipping service is excellent. Within Alaska 9.5 hours, 90% of the world can have access to perfect peonies. Today there are opportunities to the farmer to sell to a local distributor, participate in a co-op or establish their own markets.
Number One Flower for Brides
Peonies are the number one flower for brides and special events, and second only to roses in the world market. Alaska having the exclusive market during July, August and September has attracted the interest of folks with little or no agriculture experience to long time farmers. From Homer to the North Pole, there are over 100 peony farms today.
Peonies on Pioneer Avenue, Homer
In 2016 a revitalization of Pioneer Avenue was born and a continuation of a 2013 project planting Peonies on Pioneer became a major campaign. Visitors enjoy strolling along the Avenue enjoying the beautiful flower gardens. Peonies are also celebrated during the 4th of July Parade as growers adorn floats and handout Peonies.
Farming peonies in Alaska sounds a bit romantic, but in reality it is a challenge. With unpredictable weather, the high costs of fertilizers and other supplies due to shipping expenses, hiring challenges competing with the lucrative fishing and oil jobs, establishing a market not in existence in the past are all obstacles not easily overcome. With 13 Reality TV Shows about Alaska currently running, it was only a matter of time before growing peonies in Alaska attracted the attention of the media. TV news stations continue to broadcast segments about the challenges of growing peonies, many Agriculture related magazines have featured articles and most recently Sunset Magazine contributed a large section of their June 2016 issue to growing peonies in Homer. Even the President of the United States enjoyed a Homer peony bouquet in his hotel room while visiting Alaska.
Written by Rita Jo Shoultz, Alaska Perfect Peonies
The Shoultz family has lived in Homer for 50 years and has championed the development and promotion of the peony projects.