Many sustainable food advocates might not be sure what to make of the Obama Administration’s food and agriculture decisions and appointments, but some of the strategies underway are clearly focused on locally and organically grown produce and less focused on traditional, production agriculture.
For example, organic expert Kathleen Merrigan was appointed as USDA Deputy Secretary and created the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative.
Also, the USDA introduced more organic gardens through the People’s Garden initiative, an effort encouraging employees to establish People’s Gardens at USDA facilities worldwide.
Why the term People’s Garden? When Abraham Lincoln founded the USDA in 1862, he referred to it as “The People’s Department.” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack broke ground on the People’s Garden at USDA Headquarters on February 12, 2009, the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birthday as a way of demonstrating that the USDA still sees itself in that role.
Now, the USDA is hoping to expand this effort and is encouraging all Americans to join in the initiative, The People’s Garden: Growing Healthy Food, People and Communities, and plant a garden in their own community.
As the USDA points out, a People’s Garden benefits the community, is sustainable and is a community-based effort.
Growing a community garden promotes health and wellness, provides a place for leisure, provides food for those in need, creates wildlife habitats, storm water control or water quality improvement, and provides teaching opportunities.
The garden should incorporate sustainable practices that maintain and protect the environment. Ideally, it should include native plants, composting and mulching, a rainwater harvesting system, and beneficial insects.
Finally, a People’s Garden should be community based–a collaboration between volunteers, neighbors or organizations within your community. The initiative encourages gardens in any vacant lot, schools, churches and other community areas.
To find out more information on how to start a People’s Garden visit the web site www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden or follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/peoplesgarden, where they have been tweeting the past month about creating more People’s Gardens.