A downtown Anchorage church is converting its front lawn into a huge vegetable and herb garden.
A few blocks away at a municipal park, residents and city employees have planted clusters of fruit trees and berry bushes.
These are just two examples of a new trend in urban gardens: edible landscaping. The idea is to create an attractive public space that also provides free food to the community.
“We have planted apple trees, raspberry and currant bushes, blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb,” said Catherine Kemp, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the Municipality of Anchorage.
The Fairview Community Council and the Anchorage Community Land Trust received funding from the Cities of Service, as well as donated fruit trees from the State of Alaska Division of Forestry, to create this edible landscaping at Fairview Park.
“We will have signs identifying the plants, explaining how they are traditionally used, and encouraging people to pick them,” said Kemp.
Kemp said food security is a priority for Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, and he hopes many in the area will benefit from the edible additions.
“Both local residents and any homeless people in the area will be encouraged to pick and eat the fruit growing here,” said Kemp.
Kemp also has plans to use the garden to teach the children at Fairview Elementary School about food issues.
“I am going to do some education sessions about the importance of growing our own food and how the food system works,” she said.
Just a few blocks away, volunteers from Central Lutheran Church are planting a large vegetable and herb garden in front of their building.
“We hope to have raised vegetable garden beds built this summer,” said Barbara Baker, a church member who is working on the garden project.
When the garden is ready for harvest, Baker said its bounty will be open to church members, residents of a nearby transitional housing shelter, and children attending the closest Camp Fire Alaska Before and After School Program.
Photograph courtesy of Laura Vachula with the Anchorage Park Foundation