We hope you enjoy these recorded presentations! The first is from the 2020 Alaska Food Policy Conference and features Cindee Karns and Theresa Brown. It is about one hour long and the title of the presentation is Anchor Gardens: a grassroots effort building community and food security in Anchorage

Want just the quick and dirty? This 4-minute Get Involved with Anchor Gardens presentation by Cindee Karns for the Alaska Common Ground’s Food System’s Roundtable, part of an ongoing series on Anchorage’s Climate Action Plan, was held in March 2021



Thinking in Systems – Cultivating Durable Networks for Lasting Food Security

When you join Anchor Gardens, you will be asked to complete a short survey and contribute to a network map by identifying existing connections within the group. This is voluntary and data will not be shared beyond the group. We are attempting to sketch out connections and relationships so that we can see where our strengths lie and also see where and how best to channel resources today and tomorrow.

The run on grocery staples in Anchorage in March and April of 2020 was a blunt reminder that Alaska is at the end of a long supply chain. For some who grew up in Alaska before the pipeline, it felt like a return to the pre-pipeline days. For many others, the small inconvenience of not having flour or yeast for a few months actually shocked us into believing we should do something. It would be a shame not to harness this long overdue momentum around improving local food security to build durable change. One way we are doing this is through a dynamic network map. We hope you will contribute and welcome additional collaborations and improvements.

Permaculture Designers are trained to think in Systems; to ask how can we improve the system; to ponder where are the system’s shortcomings.  Most designers start with FOOD:  growing your food close to home just strengthens your system.  If you add chickens or goats, it strengthens your system more.  If you learn to build your own house out of materials only from Alaska, your system is really secure.  And most importantly, if you build a strong community with people you trust, you can survive.  Permaculture Designers have tried going it alone in the Alaskan wilds.  They have come back to report that they can’t do it alone.  It needs to be done together, destroying the myth of Alaskan Rugged Individualism.  We have a strong network so we can call on people we know to teach us the next thing, or to share bounty with.  That network became visible in Anchorage this spring with the arrival of the pandemic and launching of this Anchor Gardens project. It is now spreading farther and becoming more diverse and resilient by the day.

We want to keep this network visible, especially as it does continue to grow and diversify. We want to see how interconnected and interdependent we are, because that brings strength to us.  We want to honor local businesses, because it brings strength to us.  We want to share our bounty, because it brings strength to us.  We want to care for people who have lost jobs or homes, because it brings strength to us.  Who knows what outcomes will come from this, but we are bound by our strength. We need to embrace what emerges so that we can learn our way into the future—TOGETHER. 

We wonder, what would happen if there were a directory of anyone in the municipality wanting to help Anchorage become more food secure?  What would happen if anyone in the network, could look up who in town is willing to share goat poop?  Or seedlings, or labor, or mulch?  What would happen to Anchorage’s food security? 

“The most successful networks and movements are defined not by their strategies for action, but by a common purpose informed by shared values and principles.”  – Lindley Mease & David Ehrlichman

Please join our network and add your strength to ours. 


Our Beginnings – How it all started

Anchor Gardens was launched in March 2020 as an antidote to fear, isolation and food insecurity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The run on grocery staples in March and April of 2020 was a blunt reminder (and for some, a realization) that less than a week’s supply of food is readily available on grocery store shelves, even in the best of times. Alaska is at the end of a long supply chain, which depends on critical logistics and infrastructure that are not shock-proof.

A group of friends — mostly students and faculty from the Alaska Cold Climate Permaculture Institute — got talking and brainstorming about our city’s dependence on imported food and products. As hunkered down home gardeners,  we started planting seeds, physically in greenhouses and under grow lights; and also within our networks and communities.  Expert gardeners stepped forward and volunteered to mentor their neighbors and others interested in learning to grow food.

We set a goal for ourselves to establish five (5) new home gardens in every community council area in Anchorage (for a total of 180). From our network, we reached out to each community council area to have a coach step forward and volunteer to teach/coach/organize new gardeners in their area. 

Volunteers stepped up to create Facebook groups for each community council area. Volunteers started gathering materials to build gardens—things to keep out of the waste stream like bagged leaves, horse manure, cardboard, pallets. Volunteers were going to the valley to support our last dairy at Havermeister’s to get compost and bring it in to Anchorage folks who didn’t have the means to go get it.  Volunteers started asking for donations to help get more garden supplies. 

People outside of our network started jumping on board too. We connected with Yarducopia, who offered any extra supplies they had to support new gardeners. We connected with Seeds of Change, who offered to grow seedlings for those who needed them.  We connected with pot growers who also volunteered to grow seedlings.  The Cooperative Gardens Commission sent us seeds to plant with and we began distributing them through smaller geographic areas based on the community council boundaries.  

“If you know something, teach someone” became our mantra and we are all learning and teaching each other at once. Soon people were offering land to garden on for a demonstration garden.  We connected to other food security organizations in town and new connections now happen almost daily.