SWIMMING DOWNSTREAM: Alaskan Farmer Makes Waves of Change in E.C. Food Scene
Denali Farms incorporates zero-waste farming methods
Four years ago, Alaskan Sara Matthieu bought 43 acres of land on the outskirts of Eau Claire. Today, she’s a seafood-distributing, poultry-raising, beekeeping, goat-mothering, community-focused farmer with grand plans for 2022.
As the child of a U.S. Marine Corps family, Matthieu lived everywhere from Hawaii to the East Coast, including Alaska – the latter of which she considers “home-home.”
While she reveled in the 10-minute drive to the mountains and the mouthwatering Moose’s Tooth Pizza, Matthieu felt she was far from the rest of her family in the Midwest, ultimately leading to her cross-country move to Eau Claire’s farmlands.
If an animal has to sacrifice its life so we can eat, we should be using every part of the animal possible.
“When I walked outside,” Matthieu said, “I looked at all this open farmland and thought, I have to do something with it, something that’s meaningful in this community.”
There was the option, of course, to throw some cash crops on there, but Mattieu knew she didn’t want to grow corn for the rest of her life. For her, it was a no-brainer what she’d sell: Alaskan seafood.
“I wanted my community here to be able to eat the same salmon I grew up eating,” Mattieu said.
From her years in the Last Frontier, Matthieu got to know family-owned fisheries on a personal level. A few phone calls and a liaison license later, Matthieu was ordering salmon and halibut from the Cook Inlet, ready to pass it onto Eau Clairians.
Right out of the gate, it was a hit.
In light of this success, Matthieu looked into other ways to use her land. In the blink of an eye, she was raising poultry, had more than six beehives, and had successfully adapted zero-waste farming methods. The wax from her hives goes toward her candles and chapstick, the fat from the animals toward her soap.
“If an animal has to sacrifice its life so we can eat,” Matthieu said, “we should be using every part of the animal possible.”
Mattieu is big on ethical sourcing. Her poultry is raised on pasture, able to roam through fields of grass and scratch to their little chicken hearts’ content – and she’s noticed a discernible difference in the quality as a result.
Ultimately, Mattieu thinks we can do better in the local food scene – and it’s easier than we think. Mattieu noticed the ever-increasing gap between affordable and healthy food and is looking to make quality food accessible to all Eau Clairians.
“We don’t have control over a lot,” Mattieu said, “but we have control over what we eat.”
Check out Denali Farms LLC on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok at @denalifarmsllc for fun farm content. If you’re interested in purchasing Mattieu’s products, reach out through any of the sites above or order directly through her website, Denali Farms LLC.