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8 Ways to Join the Local Food Movement

How to turn a lawn into lunch, swap preserves, glean, boost your food security and live the good life.

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Recruit gleaners. Family, friends, students, and members of your faith community are potential volunteers. You can also put a notice on craigslist, bulletin boards, at farmers markets, or in the local paper.

Contact food banks, shelters, and other facilities to check on their needs, and to arrange delivery times.

On gleaning day, bring collection baskets and buckets, snacks, water, and other necessities that will ensure a successful expedition.

As the day ends, gather your freshly harvested food, thank the landowner, distribute something to each gleaner, and leave the land in better condition than you found it.

-- Kim Nochi

Source: University of Maine Cooperative Extension

5. Shop Outside of Supermarkets

It's easy to see, taste, and feel the benefit of locally produced food, but for many of us it's a hassle to locate alternative food sources. Local foods are not nearly as well-advertised or visible as chain supermarket foods, so even those who want to give locally harvested food a try may not know where to get it. Here are some ways you can find local food sources in your area.

Get the lay of the land; consider what types of agriculture are natural to your environment. Does your area have a history of blueberry farming or cod fishing? Are there traditional foods that have been neglected in the fast-food age?

Talk to old timers, ask around at farmers markets, look for road-side food stands and U-pick places. Watch for hand-painted signs. You may find a wide variety of freshly harvested foods and get to know new communities and regional traditions at the same time.

Visit localharvest.org, sustainabletable.org, and eatwellguide.org to find sources of affordable and environmentally friendly food.

-- Heather Purser

6. S tart a Community Garden

Start by calling a meeting (or better yet, a potluck) to decide what kind of garden you want, what locations might work, and how to manage plots.

Identify possible sites. Look for land that gets plenty of sunlight, has a water source, is convenient to get to, and is free of soil contamination. You could consider combining back yards if several neighbors are involved.

Identify the owner of the land and negotiate a lease long enough to make it worth building the soil and the community involvement. Invite immediate neighbors to join.

Test the soil for nutrient levels and contaminants. Clean the site, mark plots with gardeners' names, and, if possible, include on-site storage for tools and equipment. Also designate a spot for compost.

When the first planting season comes around, consider hiring someone to turn the earth, or throw a work party to build raised beds.

Meet now and then with your fellow gardeners to swap seeds and seedlings, advice, and produce, and to resolve any difficulties. Have potlucks to enjoy the harvest.

For more ideas, including sample bylaws and insurance policies, go to communitygarden.org

7. Plant a Row for the Hungry

As unemployment rises, more people are wondering how they will put food on their table. How can you boost food security at home …

  • Skip the so-called convenience foods; processed foods almost always cost more for what you get.
  • Form a buying club to get healthy food in bulk at discount prices.
  • Grow your own -- start a community garden, or transform your lawn or parking strip (see #1 and #6).
  • Buy in season, or harvest and preserve it yourself.
  • Study (and/or teach) the art of cooking and preserving tasty, nutritious food on a budget.

… and in your community:

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