FLPCI Alum practices permaculture for food & justice.

Alumni Profiles: Anna McCown


Anna McCown was raised as a Southern Baptist in subtropical Alabama. Yet now we find her as a queer southerner surviving the cold winters of upstate New York learning how to appreciate the summertime while honing her permaculture organizing skills.

Anna McCown prepares a meal for hungry permaculture students

Anna has been insatiably curious about agriculture and food ways in cultures around the world. In 2009 Anna started volunteering at the West End Community Garden in Birmingham with some friends. While living and working in the neighborhood, the fires of justice were kindled in her heart and she began to understand the connection between social and ecological change. She and a friend created a short documentary about the garden. In 2009 and 2010 she spent the summers living and working with the indigenous people of the island of Nayau, Fiji as part of a National Science Foundation fellowship in cultural and archaeological anthropology. In 2011 she earned her Permaculture Design Certificate from the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute (FLPCI).

After her PDC course, Ms. McCown went back to Alabama and started Magic City Agriculture Project (MCAP) with friends from different neighborhoods all over Birmingham. Her time at the garden and with folks of different backgrounds inspired her decision to leverage her privileges and join with others who would struggle against white supremacy and other damaging hierarchies. Magic City Agriculture Project was created to change the conversation about food justice in the city of Birmingham to address the impact that race and class has on who can access clean food and urban farming opportunities. Working with groups all over the city, MCAP provides antiracism training to white folks in the food movement, provides political action and community organizing training to all folks, bolsters support for the Landbank Authority (which will give power over vacant lands to leaders in each neighborhood).

Anna has since joined the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute as a Project Leader in order to prepare for MCAP’s work of teaching others to teach. Anna strongly feels that in order to teach she must learn to produce food.  She moved to Ithaca in 2012 to carve out learning opportunities to explore the potential of permaculture practices to produce food on a large scale. During the last two years she has been cooking at FLPCI’s permaculture course and helping with our community trainings, learning carpentry and goat husbandry, and working at Krums Corners Bakery run by FLPCI alum Alice Heise. This year, Anna and her partner will live and work for Giving Ground Farm in Trumansburg. Giving Ground is evolving from vegetable production into a full diet farm where Anna will be experimenting with mushroom production, making cheese (if the cows are indeed pregnant) and building an aquaponics system.

NOTE: Giving Ground Farm is offering CSA shares that give back to the community, including us! For each half-share purchased from the farm, a $25 donation is sent to FLPCI to support our permaculture education efforts. If you live near Ithaca or Trumansburg, NY and want to enjoy and support a permaculture-inspired family farm, buy a share and mention the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute to help us out. Email Anna <anna@fingerlakespermaculture.org> for more information.

Anna’s goal is to one day farm collectively with her partner and friends and spend the bitterest bits of winter in the South–where the other half of her heart lives–with friends and teaching for MCAP. She believes with unwavering faith that another world is possible.