1. Start a community garden.
Gather a group of friends or like-minded enthusiasts of local food with the goal of creating a community garden. Together your group can begin the planning and eventual execution of a community garden. First select a series of potential sites. Consider petitioning your local government for space. Next, develop your application, rules and regulations and bylaws – those documents that will protect and govern your garden. Will you require adherence to sustainable growing practices? Read more from the American Community Gardening Association.
2. Offer to coordinate a CSA.
Consider working with a local grower to start a CSA. CSAs, short for community supported agriculture, provide solid support to growers by connecting them directly with their customer base. Customers pay growers in advance for a share of the harvest which helps farmers to cover initial costs associated with planting that they incur prior to harvest. Customers, in exchange, receive a box of fresh fruit and vegetables each week. Consider gathering a group of friends and approaching a local grower about starting a CSA. Once you’ve coordinated with a local grower, advertise for other participants by sending printing flyers or sending a press release to local media. Read more about starting and running CSAs.
3. Volunteer at your farmers market.
Offer to volunteer at your local farmers market by distributing flyers, posting weekly signs, manning the information booth, assisting vendors with set-up and break-down or even conducting special events and children’s activities. A successful farmers market requires a lot of work and community support, so volunteering provides an excellent way to interface directly with both growers and the community. Find a farmers market near you.
4. Investigate farm-to-school programs.
Over thirty million children eat school lunch every single day they’re in school, yet school lunch programs fail to adequately nourish these children when they need nourishment the most. Moreover, school lunch programs often rely on substandard meat which puts the immediate health of children at risk. Of course, many schools don’t even have full commercial kitchens anymore making the actual cooking and preparation of food nearly impossible. Not-for-profit groups like Farm to School are championing the cause.
5. Teach a cooking class.
If you love to cook or have a good feel for the seasonally available produce local to your region, consider offering a cooking class in your home or in a community center. By coordinating a cooking class, you can provide resources to students and better connect growers directly with their customer base. Moreover, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to share the beauty of locally available produce.
6. Participate in a dining cooperative.
Dining cooperatives are fastly becoming popular community events. Gather a group of friends or local food advocates together and coordinate with local farms to find and prepare real food. Once a month, get together and celebrate the bounty of your region. Advertise the cooperative or dinner club, coordinate volunteers who will gather, prepare, cook and clean-up real food and you might even consider including guest speakers – a dairy farmer, a food educator or a local chef – to provide information to and spur active discussion among community members and diners.
7. Coordinate a delivery service.
If you have the time or wish to invest in a business actively focused on real food, consider starting a delivery service for real food. Contact and coordinate with local farmers, offering to pick up fresh vegetables from the farm and deliver them directly to local food enthusiasts in your community. Indeed software programs like those provided by LocallyGrown.net make connecting farmers directly to consumers that much easier. All you have to do is make the pick ups and deliveries.
8. Petition your local government for real-food-friendly ordinances.
Investigate local, municipal laws governing just how residents in your community can use their properties to maximize local food consumption. If your municipal government disallows the keeping of chickens for eggs or bees for honey, consider petitioning them to change local laws in favor of sustainability and local, small-scale food production. Investigate the efficacy of laws in sister communities that do allow for limited, small-scale production in residential neighborhoods. Once you’ve done your research and gathered support, you’ll be able to present a strong case to your elected officials.
9. Contribute to your local food bank.
Food banks, like schools, struggle to provide wholesome, nourishing foods to their benefit recipients. Indeed, much of the food is of dismal quality – largely processed and almost always canned or boxed. Consider setting aside a portion of your food budget to purchase local, fresh fruits and vegetables for direct contribution to your local food bank. You might even be able to gather friends or family together to visit a local farm post-harvest to glean the fields, and contribute the harvested fruits or vegetables to a food charity in your community.
10. Shop local and shop real.
Lastly, keep your money local. It’s simple – buy food from farm-direct sources which will keep money in your community and your family well-supplied with wholesome, nourishing local foods.