USDA People’s Garden Initiative: Farming Government Land

Posted: February 18th, 2010 | Author:

It’s not just the Obamas at the White House who have planted a vegetable garden.  On February 12, 2009, the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack broke ground on the “People’s Garden” at the USDA’s Whitten Building in Washington, DC.

The name “People’s Garden” harks back to when President Abraham Lincoln founded the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1862, calling it “The People’s Department.” Back then, most Americans farmed and lived on farms. Now, most live in cities.

According to USDA: “The People’s Garden is designed to provide a sampling of USDA’s efforts throughout the world as well as teach others how to nurture, maintain and protect a healthy landscape.”

Over the Summer, the USDA began a related project called “The People’s Garden Initiative” which challenges its employees to establish People’s Gardens at USDA facilities worldwide or help communities create gardens.  Each “People’s Garden” must have three components: provide a benefit the community, incorporate sustainable practices and represent a community-based effort.  One of the benefits sought by  The People’s Garden Initiative is providing food for those in need.

As of November 23, 2009, Secretary Vilsack announced that “there are 124 USDA People’s Gardens around the United States and 1 in Seoul, South Korea. And USDA employees are planting new People’s Gardens all the time.”

Secretary Vilsack went on to say that everyone should “get involved to create a People’s Garden in your community.”  To help broaden the impact, USDA has organized Partners of the People’s Garden Initiative, which now include 31 national organizations representing over a thousand local groups, including NYC Community Garden Coalition.

The People’s Garden Initiative represents a simple, inexpensive government program that can open up the imaginative possibilities of producing food in an unusual places, demonstrating that sustainable food can connect people at a community level.

For more information about how you can start a People’s Garden (or transform your community garden or urban farm into People’s Garden), you can contact Livia Marques.

Filed under: Urban Agriculture | No Comments »

Saving Community Gardens in NYC

Posted: February 5th, 2010 | Author:


Do you ever feel like you have to fight just to stand still?

You may be surprised that the lovely community gardens in your area are not permanent parkland.  Rather, the legal agreement that protected most community gardens from new development in 2002 is scheduled to expire in September 2010.

On February 6, 2010, is hosting a at the New School aimed at organizing action to preserve gardens in a more lasting manner.

Community Gardens provide much-needed and all-too-scarce open green space for the City. And a great potential site for growing food. In New York City, most community gardens were planted as a solution to the problem of widespread owner abandonment of vacant lots in the 1970s.  The vacant lots were eyesores and nuisances, attracting illegal activity and collecting trash.

During the Giuliani mayoralty, the real estate around these gardens started to boom, making the gardens valuable property for development.  Many community gardens were sold to private owners or slated for development by the City. In response, a grassroots movement of community gardeners and their supporters pushed back and succeeded in obtaining an agreement with New York City to preserve the community gardens.  New York City Community Gardens Coalition was founded in 1998 to promote the preservation, creation and empowerment of community gardens.  For more background information, Neighborhood Open Space Coalition has written a short and interesting history of community gardens.

Now, once again, it is time to mobilize in support of preserving community gardens permanently.

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