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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.

1. From Lawn to Lunch

To convert your sunny lawn to a lunch box, remove turf in long, 18-inch strips. Cut the edges of each strip with a sharp-bladed edging tool. While one partner rolls up the grass like a jellyroll, another slices through grass roots with the edging tool. Remove about an inch of rooty soil with the top growth. When the roll gets heavy, slice it off and load it in a wheelbarrow.

To compost the strips, layer green sides together, then brown sides together, ending brown-side-up. Cover the stack with soil and mulch (straw, chopped leaves, or shredded bark) and let stand for 10-12 months.

Make beds 10 to 20 feet long and six to eight feet wide (so you can reach the center from each side). Mulch three to four-foot wide paths between beds (grass left in the path will infiltrate your beds) to accommodate a wheelbarrow. Now fork over the soil strips and remove as many roots as possible. Aerate beds with a garden fork, sinking it as evenly and deeply as possible.

Spread on two or three inches of compost, then set plants about six inches apart, in staggered rows. Top with a mulch containing corn gluten, a high-nitrogen protein that prevents weed seeds from germinating.

-- Ann Lovejoy is author of Ann Lovejoy's Organic Garden Design School (A Rodale Organic Gardening Book, 2004) and many other books.

Look who wants to TransFarm the White House lawn…

2. Eat Your Vegetables

Some 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by meat production. The USDA attributes 14 percent of all deaths in the U.S. to poor diets and/or sedentary lifestyles. You can improve your health and the health of the planet by following food columnist Michael Pollan's simple rule: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

3. Party with Your Preserves

Ten quarts of pumpkin puree in the pantry, and not a jar of tomato sauce left? Throw a canning swap party. Here are some tips and recommendations from foodroutes.org:

Plan ahead.
Gauge interest with your friends early on. Then remind them throughout the planting, growing, and harvesting season to set aside extras for canning and swapping.

Don't be afraid to grow a lot of something.
If you're a budding salsa artist, plant that extra row of tomatoes. Or if you see a good deal on a box of local pears -- get them.

Try new recipes on your swappers.
Bust out that crazy 5-alarm salsa verde recipe you've always been scared to try. Make sure to can extra so you can pop a jar open for samples.

Be aware of what constitutes a "fair" trade.
This is simple. You're all friends and canners who know how time-consuming canning can be. Be open and ask what your neighbor feels comfortable receiving in exchange for one jar of Grandma Edie's apricot chutney.

Think outside the Ball Jar.
Not everything at the canning swap party has to be pressure-canned or boiled in a hot water bath. Dried items, homemade baked goods, candies, and homebrewed beer are all eligible. You'll be amazed by what can be preserved from the season's bounty.

4. G lean Those Fields Clean

A lot of perfectly good food is left to rot in farm fields and under fruit and nut trees. With a bit of work, you can gather a group to "glean" this free food, providing fresh, nutritious food to your community.

To glean in your area, talk to farmers, gardeners, and orchard owners. Explain your purpose, share a copy of federal "Good Samaritan" law, which protects them from liability, and ask for written permission to glean.

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