At any given time, the State of Alaska has enough food in it’s borders to last it’s residents five to seven days.One week at the most. That’s not much. According to the Port of Anchorage Alaska’s website, “An estimated 90% of the merchandise goods for 85% of Alaska’s populated areas pass through our facilities. This includes gasoline, heating oil, diesel, cement, business supplies, and most of what you find in the grocery stores.” So when one of the usual barges that hauls this 90% into the Port doesn’t make it, Alaskans can tell the difference. Just another sign pointing at the importance of self-sufficiency in Alaska.
The North Star, one of TOTE Maritime’s cargo ships was supposed to arrive at the Port of Anchorage on January 17th. As of the 19th, it still had not left Tacoma, Washington, due to mechanical issues. By the 18th and 19th, Alaskan residents all over the State were starting to see the differences in their grocery stores. Lack of milk, fresh produce, and meat were just a few of the items down to bare bones, if not bare shelves.
Self-sufficiency has been one of the main goals of the hubby and I. It’s one of the main reasons we started on this homestead lifestyle. Alaska is so far removed from the Lower 48. Cargo ships usually take at least 72 hours to get here and it’s a three day trip through Canada by car. Railroad is possible, but not so common with perishable goods. Air shipments is obviously possible. Anchorage International Airport is one of the busiest shipping airports in the world, being a main hub to and from Asia.
But things happen. Mechanical or natural disaster. Back in 2009, Mt. Redoubt, a local volcano, spewed enough ash into the Anchorage skies that most aircraft were grounded for two weeks. Ash sucked into jet engines is a bad, bad thing. In 1964, the Port of Seward, a major shipping hub, was destroyed by a tsunami caused by the famous ’64 earthquake. Last week, mechanical issues stopped one of four weekly cargo ships from making it’s rounds. All too easily, Alaska could be cut off from it’s normal supply of food, clothing, gasoline, heating oil…. everything.
This brings us back to the importance of self-sufficiency in Alaska. It’s not easy, but it’s doable and worth it. Thanks to successful hunting and fishing, our freezers are still full. The pantry is full of staples and home canned goods. We know how to cook from scratch and don’t rely on boxed or pre-made meals. Our chickens keep us in a good supply of eggs. We still have a few of the meat chickens we grew and butchered ourselves in the freezer and are planning on raising more this summer. I have some basic foraging knowledge and am constantly learning more.
“But I live in an apartment. I can’t garden and raise animals.” Then find another source. You still don’t have to rely on the grocery stores. We bought a whole pig from a local farmer this fall and split it with my cousin and her husband. There’s a local dairy for milk. Many local stores carry local eggs and produce. The Monday Market is still open all year long at the Palmer Depot. Find your local farmer’s market. Bushes Bunches Produce Stand is still open on the weekends and has locally grown produce. Can’t grow it yourself? Find a local farmer’s market and support local grown no matter where you are.
Self-sufficiency is hard work. It’s not always “necessary.” But the peace of mind knowing you can feed and take care of your family no matter what happens makes it all worth it.