National Community Gardening Week Starts Today
August 23, 2009 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
On August 6, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack encouraged Americans to connect with the land, the food it grows and their local communities by proclaiming August 23-29, National Community Gardening Week.
A community garden is an opportunity to educate everyone about from where food comes, whether that is a Farmers Market or a garden, and is important to increasing generations of healthy eaters. Community gardens can be anywhere–in the country, a city, or a suburb. It can be one community plot or can be many individual plots.
“Community gardens provide numerous benefits including opportunities for local food production, resource conservation, and neighborhood beautification,” said Vilsack. “But they also promote family and community interaction and enhance opportunities to eat healthy, nutritious foods. Each of these benefits is something we can and should strive for.”
The American Community Gardening Association was presented with the official proclamation at the association’s 30th Annual Conference August 6 in Columbus, Ohio. USDA continues its work across the country to promote the value and importance of how people can benefit from healthy food in their communities. Resources available to community gardens through the USDA include grants, site technical assistance and informational materials on gardening and food production methods.
There are thousands of community gardens nationwide including ‘The People’s Garden’ at USDA Headquarters on the National Mall. (See our post about The People’s Garden.) Earlier this year, Vilsack broke ground on ‘The People’s Garden’ – a vegetable garden on USDA property that recently was expanded to include sustainable landscaping for the entire grounds. Since May 21, USDA has harvested and donated more than 170 pounds of produce to the DC Central Kitchen. The DC Central Kitchen offers job training in culinary and food service skills to DC’s homeless.
“The People’s Garden,” a USDA domestic and international initiative, will help illustrate the many ways USDA works to provide a sustainable, safe and nutritious food supply as well as protect and preserve the landscape where that food is produced. It is the Nation’s demonstration plot 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. “The People’s Garden” landscape demonstrates environmentally responsible practices and educates and engages the public via accessible exhibits. It also provides social benefits for employees and serves as a model for other public institutions in the region. USDA plans to reduce stormwater runoff with rain gardens, green roofs and bioretention practices. USDA also is reducing its impervious surfaces and enhancing the USDA’s Farmers Market.
The garden concepts that USDA is practicing serves as a living example of how to provide healthy food, air and water for people and communities as well as food and shelter for wildlife, while improving soil health and water quality. Information about “The People’s Garden” initiative is available at http://www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden or follow ‘The People’s Garden’ at http://www.twitter.com/peoplesgarden for the latest updates, harvests and events.
As the federal partner in the Cooperative Extension Service, USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service provides funding and national leadership to the Master Gardener program. The program, which began in 1972 in Washington, is another important example of how people can contribute to promoting healthier food and communities. Since its inception, the program has grown to 94,865 volunteers across the country who give horticulture information to the public through a variety of locally-based programs. Volunteers receive 40 to 80 hours of instruction and, in return, give an equal number of volunteer hours during the next year.