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|Charles Georgeson, father of agriculture in Alaska|
Upon arriving in Sitka in 1898, Charles Christian Georgeson, 47, plunged energetically into his assignment as Alaska's special agent in charge of establishing Alaska's U.S. Agricultural Experiment Stations. Through his subsequent work, as he studied everything from cows to grain and apples, he became the true father of Alaska agriculture.
Because Alaska's agricultural potential was unknown, Georgeson was limited only by budget and enthusiasm; he'd been instructed by the secretary of agriculture to "Act as if the country is your own and go ahead: Washington, D.C. is a long way from Alaska and all I want are results."
Georgeson opened his headquarters in Sitka, as well as a station at Kodiak. Experiment stations at Kenai, Rampart and Copper Center were established in rapid succession. The Fairbanks Station (1906) and the Matanuska Station (1915) showed that both the Tanana Valley and the Matanuska Valley were promising for crops.
Georgeson came from Denmark to the United States for schooling in 1873. After earning a master's degree in 1882, he worked in Kansas. By 1916, when he received a doctorate from Michigan State College, he had a reputation as an outstanding plant breeder and agronomist.
Georgeson hybridized the native crab apple with several early maturing apples from the continental states. At Sitka, lacking enough cleared land, he conducted experiments in back and front yards throughout the town. In response to some very skeptical Alaska miners, he spent seven years developing the large Sitka hybrid strawberry. When the successful development of grain cultivars made possible a dairy industry in the state, Alaskans had their strawberries and cream.
More information about Charles Georgeson and the history of the Georgeson Botanical Garden is available at www.uaf.edu/snras/gbg/information/history.html.
Georgeson photo and sidebar photos courtesy AFES