Richard Link’s prize-winning Armenian cucumber is seen here at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Alaska, in August 2019. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Richard Link’s prize-winning Armenian cucumber is seen here at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Alaska, in August 2019. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Going the distance

Cucumber makes it past the Swan Lake Fire to break the Alaska State Fair record

This year’s grand prize cucumber at the Alaska State Fair shattered the state record for length, but it almost had to travel through fire to get there.

Richard Link of Soldotna knew that he had a record-breaker on his hand when he harvested his 14-pound, 37 3/8-inch (44 inches when measured by the curve) cucumber earlier this year.

A problem arose, however, when the Swan Lake Fire — which has been burning on the Kenai Peninsula since June 5 — jumped across the Sterling Highway two weeks ago and led to multiple road closures and delays. The Sterling Highway is part of the only road route to Palmer from Soldotna, so Link and his cucumber were essentially stranded on the Kenai Peninsula.

Even though Link had already looked up the previous record and knew that he had it beat, the road closures had him ready to throw in the towel. Luckily his wife, Ludy, was determined to get that cucumber to Palmer.

Ludy contacted her sister in Anchorage and made a plan to transport the gourd by plane from Kenai to Anchorage. Grant Aviation cut them a deal and agreed to fly the cucumber for just $30. So the Links dropped it off at the Kenai airport and Ludy’s sister picked it up when it landed in Anchorage.

From there, the Links’ daughter-in-law drove down from Eagle River to pick it up in Anchorage. To complete the family relay race, the Links’ daughter-in-law got it to the fair in Palmer by the time it was set to be judged on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 21.

This is his first year submitting a cucumber to judging at the State Fair, but Link has been growing cucumbers for the past five years or so. Each year he likes to try out a few different varieties to see how well they grow, and this year he just happened to pick a winner: the Armenian cucumber.

The Armenian variety is a lighter shade of green, has deeper ridges and tends to be longer and thinner than other varieties. Link said that he prefers growing the longer varieties and noted that the taste of his Armenian cucumbers was sweeter than most.

“It’s almost like a cross between a cucumber and a melon,” Link said.

Cucumbers are meant to grow in subtropical climates and are very susceptible to frost, so Link has to cultivate his in a high tunnel. This year’s winner spent about two and a half months growing in Link’s high tunnel, and Link said that he noticed early on it was going to be way bigger than he expected.

“At one point I had to make a sling for it so that it could hang horizontally and wouldn’t fall off the vine,” Link said.

When asked if he planned on entering the contest again next year, Link’s answer was a definite yes.

“I’m hooked now,” Link said.

Link said that this summer offered extraordinary yields with more than just his cucumbers. For example, Link has several beehives and said that this year he was able to collect 15 gallons of honey from each one. Normally he collects about 5 gallons. Link also entered a zucchini into the Kenai Peninsula Fair in Ninilchik this year which won best in show.

Link’s advice to would-be cucumber farmers is to persevere through any obstacles that may arise, whether it’s having to build a sling to support them or buying a plane ticket to fly them over a fire.

Soldotna, Alaska, resident Richard Link and his prize-winning Armenian cucumber are seen here in this August 2019 photo. The 14-pound, 37 3/8-inch cucumber took home grand prize at the 2019 Alaska State Fair. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Soldotna, Alaska, resident Richard Link and his prize-winning Armenian cucumber are seen here in this August 2019 photo. The 14-pound, 37 3/8-inch cucumber took home grand prize at the 2019 Alaska State Fair. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Richard Link’s prize-winning Armenian cucumber is seen with its ribbons in this August 2019 photo. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Richard Link’s prize-winning Armenian cucumber is seen with its ribbons in this August 2019 photo. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

More in News

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
Case count dips after 5 record days of positive cases

Alaska has had 1,338 cases of the disease since the state began tracking the pandemic in March.

Courtesy photo | Colleen Torrence
                                Marcella Livemond (left) and her niece, Colleen Torrence, pose in an undated photo.
‘A death that wasn’t theirs’: Local woman says Juneau COVID-19 death incorrectly counted

Deceased was listed as Juneau resident, her niece says she never lived here.

Homer Farmers Market: Options abound for fresh local food

July is upon us with all the regular harvest surprises. The Wednesday… Continue reading

A member of the Homer Senior Citizens Center float marches in the July Fourth parade on Thursday, July 4, 2019 on Pioneer Avenue in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Some July fourth events continue on southern peninsula

Amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic in Alaska, celebrating Independence Day is… Continue reading

Barbara Howard (top left), Matt Clarke (top right), Kate Finn (center left), Andrea Browning (center right) and Aaron Weisser (bottom left) listen to Homer city manager candidate Rob Dumouchel (bottom right) speak during an interview with the City Manager Hiring Committee on Monday, June 29, 2020 via Zoom in Homer, Alaska. (Screenshot by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Hiring committee recommends candidate for city manager

After hearing what he had to say, members of the City Manager… Continue reading

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a press conference on June 30, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Austin McDaniel/Governor’s Office)
‘Don’t get complacent,’ governor says of pandemic

As Alaska saw one of its highest single-day increases in new positive… Continue reading

Homer City Hall. (Homer News file photo)
Relief grants for small Homer businesses now available

Using a portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES)… Continue reading

Registered Nurse Cathy Davis (left) and Chief Nursing Officer Dawn Johnson (right) work at a table to get COVID-19 tests ready for the public Friday, May 29, 2020 at the Boat House Pavilion on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. South Peninsula Hospital is now offering free COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people with no appointments necessary at the Boat House Pavilion through June 6. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
3 cities, 3 testing strategies

Peninsula communities take different approaches to COVID-19 testing.

Most Read