From windowsill herbs to urban farming, gardening provides an intimate connection to the source of our food.
1 Get Your Hands Dirty
“There are a few personal actions that each one of us can take to change the food system,” says Bryant Terry. “The first is growing our own food.” If you’ve never gardened before, start by growing something simple at home, such as a basil or rosemary plant. Then, try a small window box with lettuce seedlings. If you’re new to gardening, read up online, take a class, or ask a friend or neighbor if you can lend a hand in their garden.
2 Growing Power
Volunteer at an urban farm or community garden. You’ll get to know your neighbors, acquire new skills, and enjoy some fresh air and exercise. You can also volunteer at a local farm with a gleaning group or a “crop mob” (see Resources). You’ll learn about how food is grown and get first-hand experience harvesting it. Some farms even let volunteers take produce home with them in exchange for their labor.
3 Turn Green Waste into Black Gold
Every day the average American sends 1/2 pound of food to landfills, creating methane gas that contributes to global warming. Avoid sending food to the dump by learning how to compost. If your city has a composting program, get a green bin and recycle your food scraps. Start a backyard compost pile to convert your food waste into a nutrient-rich, organic plant fertilizer. If you don’t have a yard, indoor worm composting is a great alternative—and a fun and rewarding project for kids.
4 Grow Food, Not Lawns
Do you have a backyard or fire escape? Once you’ve gotten a little dirt under your fingernails, start your own garden in the ground, raised beds, or containers. Visit a gardening store and ask what vegetables and fruits are best suited to your location. No yard? Reserve a plot in a local community garden. Share your homegrown bounty with your family, friends, and neighbors.
5 Start a Community Garden
Whether it’s a neglected patch of grass or an unused rooftop, there are few limits to where you can grow food. Look for unused land in churches, community centers, and hospitals and approach the administration to start a garden. Talk with neighbors and local organizations to drum up support and assess how best to serve your community. Contact your city officials about any legal permits you might need.
6 Plant Seeds for the Future
If you’re a teacher, student, parent, or concerned citizen, work with your local school to start a school garden program. School gardens support K-12 curricula across the disciplines, including science, social studies, language arts, visual arts, and health. Volunteer as a garden educator to share your knowledge with the next generation. If you’re a student, join a group like 4-H or start a gardening club on your campus.
- National Gardening Association’s Kids Gardening: Resources for parents and teachers
- Crop Mob: Organize or find a crop mob in your area
- Introduction to Composting: How to build a compost pile
- American Community Garden Association: National database of gardens, plus tips for starting one up
- School Garden Wizard: Resources and steps for starting a school garden
- California School Garden Network: Handbooks, curricula, and more