Food

Home-scale food production

There is no more local food than food grown at home! Wherever you live - be it an urban or rural setting with access to land for gardening, or in an apartment or flat - there are tremendous possibilities for provisioning some of your own food. In the US, grass monoculture lawns occupy nearly 2% of the total land area - three times as much space as corn - and in aggregate they use more chemicals, fuel and equipment than industrial agriculture. This destructive and irrational system could be radically transformed into a net social and ecological positive by converting lawns to organic food and native plant gardens, simultaneously reducing pollution and resource consumption, and strengthening local food sovereignty. In parts of the world where lawn culture has not (yet) taken root, and where hyper-local and diverse food production within and around one's dwelling is still the norm, the challenge is in defending and strengthening that culture and preventing its erosion by the import of the wasteful, cosmetic lawn industry.

Home-scale food production Actions
Learn how to grow organic food.
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Learn how to grow organic food.

One of the best ways to participate in the local food movement is to grow some of your own. Doing so will connect you more closely to the place you live – the soil, the seasons, the sun, the rain, and even the wildlife, from beneficial pollinators to garden pests.

Get started

Get inspired

  • Writer Fran Sorin's blog post gives you 13 Reasons Why Gardening is Good for Your Health. Among other effects, gardening reduces the likelihood you'll have a stroke, osteoporosis, and dementia. Sorin's focus is on growing ornamentals; growing food greatly expands the benefits of gardening.

Learn how to grow organic food.

One of the best ways to participate in the local food movement is to grow some of your own. Doing so will connect you more closely to the place you live – the soil, the seasons, the sun, the rain, and even the wildlife, from beneficial pollinators to garden pests.

Get started

Get inspired

  • Writer Fran Sorin's blog post gives you 13 Reasons Why Gardening is Good for Your Health. Among other effects, gardening reduces the likelihood you'll have a stroke, osteoporosis, and dementia. Sorin's focus is on growing ornamentals; growing food greatly expands the benefits of gardening.
Transform your lawn into a garden.
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Transform your lawn into a garden.

Lawns of grass are monocultures that consume tremendous quantities of water and energy (predominantly fossil fuel-powered equipment) to maintain, and are often treated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They diminish biodiversity and harm environmental health. If you have a lawn - no matter how small or how shady it is, or how busy you are - you can have a source of fresh, local food right in your backyard, and nurture biodiversity at the same time, by converting it to a food garden. Check out these resources to transform your lawn into a productive ecological haven and abundant source of hyper-local food.

Take action

Get inspired

  • At JWR Farm in Maryland in the US, Alan Black converted his 2-acre suburban lawn into a vegetable farm and community music venue with monthly gatherings.
  • At the Ron Finley Project in Los Angeles in the US, Ron Finley's movement for food sovereignty begins in his own lush urban backyard garden.
  • At New World Growers in Tampa in the US, Mike Chaney transformed his yard into a food forest and community space in just under a year.

Transform your lawn into a garden.

Lawns of grass are monocultures that consume tremendous quantities of water and energy (predominantly fossil fuel-powered equipment) to maintain, and are often treated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They diminish biodiversity and harm environmental health. If you have a lawn - no matter how small or how shady it is, or how busy you are - you can have a source of fresh, local food right in your backyard, and nurture biodiversity at the same time, by converting it to a food garden. Check out these resources to transform your lawn into a productive ecological haven and abundant source of hyper-local food.

Take action

Get inspired

  • At JWR Farm in Maryland in the US, Alan Black converted his 2-acre suburban lawn into a vegetable farm and community music venue with monthly gatherings.
  • At the Ron Finley Project in Los Angeles in the US, Ron Finley's movement for food sovereignty begins in his own lush urban backyard garden.
  • At New World Growers in Tampa in the US, Mike Chaney transformed his yard into a food forest and community space in just under a year.
Plant food to share.
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Plant food to share.

Planting food crops to share uses the privilege of land access to benefit the wider community. Creating a common resource is an act of resistance against cultures of privatized land and commodified food, and an act of renewal of gift economies that support abundance for all.

Take action

  • Plant a fruit tree or garden plot with food that you intend to share with others, or make available for others to harvest.
  • Connect with the Food is Free Project, a worldwide movement of people growing and sharing food freely, and check out their guide on how to start a project of your own.
  • Register fruit trees on your land with a local gleaning organization.
  • Donate excess produce from your garden to a local food bank.
  • Start an inexpensive nursery to grow seedlings for your community with Lobelia Commons' Decentralized Nursery How-To Thread.

Get inspired

  • Lobelia Commons' Front Yard Orchard program in New Orleans, US provides free fruit trees for people to plant in publicly accessible parts of their yards.
  • Homegardens are privately-held agroforestry plots common in tropical communities worldwide. In Java, Indonesia, homegardens are often considered semi-public community land, with harvests shared throughout the village: see The Javanese Homegarden for more details.

Plant food to share.

Planting food crops to share uses the privilege of land access to benefit the wider community. Creating a common resource is an act of resistance against cultures of privatized land and commodified food, and an act of renewal of gift economies that support abundance for all.

Take action

  • Plant a fruit tree or garden plot with food that you intend to share with others, or make available for others to harvest.
  • Connect with the Food is Free Project, a worldwide movement of people growing and sharing food freely, and check out their guide on how to start a project of your own.
  • Register fruit trees on your land with a local gleaning organization.
  • Donate excess produce from your garden to a local food bank.
  • Start an inexpensive nursery to grow seedlings for your community with Lobelia Commons' Decentralized Nursery How-To Thread.

Get inspired

  • Lobelia Commons' Front Yard Orchard program in New Orleans, US provides free fruit trees for people to plant in publicly accessible parts of their yards.
  • Homegardens are privately-held agroforestry plots common in tropical communities worldwide. In Java, Indonesia, homegardens are often considered semi-public community land, with harvests shared throughout the village: see The Javanese Homegarden for more details.
Learn how to grow and process local grains.
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Learn how to grow and process local grains.

Grains are an often-neglected component of the local food movement, even though they comprise such a significant proportion of most cultures' diets. This is changing, however, as a movement for revival, protection and promotion of local grain growing and processing is spreading. Get involved and inspired with some of the resources and initiatives below.

Take action

  • Take inspiration from the Heritage Grain Alliance’s Heritage Grain Trials Project, run from 2016 to 2021 to “rekindle a thriving, localized grain economy in the Rocky Mountain West." Learn techniques for growing, harvesting, processing and preparing grains through their Grain School. The Colorado Grain Chain also offered the Grain Home School in 2020 and 2021, with topics including Sourdough 101, Growing Grains, Using Whole Grains, and more. Find recordings from the school here.
  • In the UK, get involved in the local staple foods movement with the help of Filling the UK Food Gap: A Toolkit to Inspire Small-scale Production and Processing of Grains and Pulses, by Grown in Totnes.
  • In Scotland, get involved in Soil to Slice, a “network of community groups growing, harvesting, threshing, milling and baking” with local grains, providing access to seeds, small-scale equipment, training and co-learning and more, by Scotland the Bread. 

Get inspired

Learn how to grow and process local grains.

Grains are an often-neglected component of the local food movement, even though they comprise such a significant proportion of most cultures' diets. This is changing, however, as a movement for revival, protection and promotion of local grain growing and processing is spreading. Get involved and inspired with some of the resources and initiatives below.

Take action

  • Take inspiration from the Heritage Grain Alliance’s Heritage Grain Trials Project, run from 2016 to 2021 to “rekindle a thriving, localized grain economy in the Rocky Mountain West." Learn techniques for growing, harvesting, processing and preparing grains through their Grain School. The Colorado Grain Chain also offered the Grain Home School in 2020 and 2021, with topics including Sourdough 101, Growing Grains, Using Whole Grains, and more. Find recordings from the school here.
  • In the UK, get involved in the local staple foods movement with the help of Filling the UK Food Gap: A Toolkit to Inspire Small-scale Production and Processing of Grains and Pulses, by Grown in Totnes.
  • In Scotland, get involved in Soil to Slice, a “network of community groups growing, harvesting, threshing, milling and baking” with local grains, providing access to seeds, small-scale equipment, training and co-learning and more, by Scotland the Bread. 

Get inspired

Start a lawn sharing program.
Expand Action
Start a lawn sharing program.

Many people have a lawn and would love to see food grown on it, but don't have the time or expertise. Other people are itching to get their hands in the soil, but don't have or can't afford their own land. Enter yard sharing programs – connecting these two groups and enabling more food gardens to flourish.

Take action

  • If you have an unused lawn, invite neighbors without land to grow food on yours.
  • If you don't have land, offer to create and maintain a garden in a neighbor's yard.
  • Check out Shared Earth (US), an online platform that "connects people who have land, with people who want to garden or farm," as well as Farm My Yard (US) offering similar resources and ideas.
  • Build a lawn-sharing system for your whole community using Utah Yard Share's toolkit Share a Yard as a model.

Get inspired

  • Liberating Lawns in Toronto, Canada connects Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) young farmers with landowners.
  • Farm it Forward in Sydney, Australia connects urban and suburban landowners with young people interested in farming. The landowner gets a weekly box of fresh produce, and the young gardeners gain valuable growing experience and a stipend. All excess produce is sold locally, and all funds are dedicated to continue employing young people to grow food.
  • The nonprofit Fleet Farming, in Orlando, US converts the lawns of private homes into market gardens. Volunteers maintain the garden and share the harvest between homeowners and low-income farmers markets.
  • The Back-Farms program in Salt Lake City, US "connects volunteer Garden Apprentices with senior citizens to build, cultivate, and maintain organic gardens in their backyards, providing a hands-on educational experience, connections, and fresh, local produce to all participants."

Start a lawn sharing program.

Many people have a lawn and would love to see food grown on it, but don't have the time or expertise. Other people are itching to get their hands in the soil, but don't have or can't afford their own land. Enter yard sharing programs – connecting these two groups and enabling more food gardens to flourish.

Take action

  • If you have an unused lawn, invite neighbors without land to grow food on yours.
  • If you don't have land, offer to create and maintain a garden in a neighbor's yard.
  • Check out Shared Earth (US), an online platform that "connects people who have land, with people who want to garden or farm," as well as Farm My Yard (US) offering similar resources and ideas.
  • Build a lawn-sharing system for your whole community using Utah Yard Share's toolkit Share a Yard as a model.

Get inspired

  • Liberating Lawns in Toronto, Canada connects Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) young farmers with landowners.
  • Farm it Forward in Sydney, Australia connects urban and suburban landowners with young people interested in farming. The landowner gets a weekly box of fresh produce, and the young gardeners gain valuable growing experience and a stipend. All excess produce is sold locally, and all funds are dedicated to continue employing young people to grow food.
  • The nonprofit Fleet Farming, in Orlando, US converts the lawns of private homes into market gardens. Volunteers maintain the garden and share the harvest between homeowners and low-income farmers markets.
  • The Back-Farms program in Salt Lake City, US "connects volunteer Garden Apprentices with senior citizens to build, cultivate, and maintain organic gardens in their backyards, providing a hands-on educational experience, connections, and fresh, local produce to all participants."
Voices from the field

  • The instructional video series A Free Introduction to Permaculture features renowned permaculturist Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute.
  • The short film Permaculture for the People, by Movement Generation and Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, follows a two-week permaculture design course with community leaders in historically marginalized BIPOC communities in the US.
  • In the short video How to turn your lawn into a garden, food activist Rob Greenfield shares principles for growing an abundant garden on your land in any soil and climate.
Policy

Some cities still have outdated laws, codes and ordinances that either discourage or prohibit creating food gardens on land in front of residences, or that mandate turf grass lawns. Needless to say, in order to transcend the lawn culture and replace it with hyper-local, abundant food gardens, such regulatory priorities must be reversed, not only allowing but encouraging food gardens. The article Florida Lifts Ban on Front-Yard Vegetables Gardens, by Katherine Martinko, tells the story of a couple who helped change the law in Florida, US to allow front-yard vegetable gardens in that state.

Resources