Dianna Atterbury is purposely smothering her once lush green lawn with cardboard and mulch.

On top of the grass is a layer of wood chips and two four-by-eight-foot raised beds. The Monroe woman will water her future garden with rain gathered in three 50-gallon buckets installed beside her front porch.

A Veterans Conservation Corps crew for the Snohomish Conservation District’s Lawns to Lettuce project transformed her front yard this year. The program helps homeowners build an “edible food oasis” on their property.

“I plan to be in it for good,” Atterbury said. “I want to grow my own food. I will definitely be giving away the abundance.”

Last fall the conservation district partnered with Housing Hope to connect low-income families with skills and resources, so they can get fresh fruits and vegetables right at home. Housing Hope is a Snohomish County nonprofit that provides supports for struggling populations.

Atterbury hosted a showcase of the Lawns to Lettuce project at her home on Saturday. Visitors toured her new yard, watched demonstrations, ate hotdogs and gathered information.

Community Engagement Program manager Kate Riley said she calls the conservation district a “best-kept secret.” Staff at the resource management agency want to change that.

Project lead Cameron Coronado said education and building awareness is one of the conservation district’s biggest missions.

Chris Rodriguez, who headed the Veterans Conservation Corps group that carried out this year’s Lawns to Lettuce project in Monroe, said he and his colleagues knocked on 50-100 front doors. They were looking to contact people whose homes were built through a Housing Hope program. They spoke with about 30 homeowners, and a small percentage immediately signed on.

“Through that is how we drummed up the six homes,” Coronado said.

Some people think the help the conservation district has to offer, turning yards into urban, small-scale agriculture operations, is too good to be true, Coronado said. Anyone is capable of doing it. They just need a little more knowledge, or to be shown what’s possible, he said.

Coronado said the conservation district works with other partners in the Monroe area for farming and conservation efforts. This year’s was the first Lawns to Lettuce project they have participated in though.

To fund the work, Coronado said the agency had to secure a National Association of Conservation Districts Urban Agriculture grant. The $50,000 covers one year. He said other Lawns to Lettuce projects have also been completed around Snohomish County.

Monroe was also targeted because is categorized as a food desert, Coronado said. That means it is difficult for people to access fresh produce, he said.

Coronado said projects like Lawns to Lettuce reduce the number of lawns, which are unsustainable, in a community. And they make connections between organizations working to end hunger, and those who are hungry, he said.

Redmond’s Holy Cross Episcopal Church Rev. Jim Eichner, who is also director of Maltby-based Food Bank Farm, grew a percentage of the hundreds of free vegetable starts visitors were offered at Saturday’s event, Coronado said. He worked in the Monroe High School Future Farmers of America greenhouses, along with the students, who produced the rest of the starts.

The remaining starts will be donated to local organizations and families.

This is Rodriguez’s fourth season working with the conservation district. He and his peers are hired on and paid a monthly stipend from March through November. They are assigned to anything from habitat restoration to educational programs.

Rodriguez and his colleagues pursued the position for different reasons. Some are trying to transition into a career in conservation, supplementing schoolwork, or networking.

More importantly, many are just interested in projects they are passionate about, Rodriguez said. He and Coronado said being outside can be a form of therapy for veterans.

Rodriguez, who is a disabled veteran, said the simple act of growing a garden, nourishing delicate plants, has helped him figure out what his own needs are, and to advocate for them. The job has helped him transition into a more balanced lifestyle, he said, especially after being in such a fast-paced environment as the military.

“A part of you starts to recognize that you yourself need that,” he said.

At times Rodriguez finds he doesn’t even feel disabled.

Riley said anyone interested in getting help with similar projects can contact the conservation district. Depending on people’s preferences and goals, they can transform a yard for next to nothing, Coronado said.