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USDA Announces ‘People’s Gardens’ in Alaska

Supports Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's Challenge to Build People's Gardens

Palmer, June 10, 2010 -  Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that "People's Gardens" now exist in all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and three foreign countries.  To date, there are over 400 'People's Gardens' across the country including seven gardens in various stages of growth in Alaska.  This is a significant milestone in 'The People's Garden' initiative since Secretary Vilsack broke ground one year ago at USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

The Alaska People's Gardens include one in Fairbanks near a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Office and bus stop, encouraging travelers to stop and enjoy a fresh snack, a garden at the USDA State Office in Palmer where the produce will go to local food banks, two gardens in Aniak, another two in Dillingham, and one more in Delta Junction.  There is talk of a People's Garden being planted in Fort Yukon, which will be the only People's Garden above the Arctic Circle. All of the gardens provide educational opportunities for children and adults about nutrition and sustainability as well as introduce younger generations to agriculture and fresh foods.

"Last year, I decided to visibly remind folks that gardening is at the front and center of what we do here at USDA," said Secretary Vilsack.   "To have a 'People's Garden' in every state is a tremendous achievement and just one example of the dedication and commitment of all USDA employees in collaboration with their communities. But the ideas behind the People's Garden were not born here in Washington - and we will continue to ensure that they are adopted and improved upon in communities across the country."  Last year, with only 124 'People's Gardens', USDA donated over 34,000 pounds of produce to local charities.

USDA agencies are involved in building these gardens, many of which are maintained through the collaboration of multiple agencies with their communities. The locations of these numerous 'People's Gardens' can be viewed on-line at www.pubinfo.usda.gov/garden via a map.

USDA is also collaborating with First Lady Michelle Obama to emphasize the link between gardening and healthy lifestyles, and a key component is educating our youth through the use of gardens. The White House Kitchen Garden and the 'People's Gardens' are an important tool for teaching our children about healthy eating and active lifestyles. These gardens also emphasize community service and civic involvement by donating fresh, healthy and locally grown vegetables to local food pantries.

People's Gardens vary in size and type, but all have a common purpose and must include the following three components:

1. Benefit your community: Gardens benefit communities in many different ways. They can create spaces for leisure or recreation that the public can use, provide a harvest to a local food bank or shelter, be a wildlife friendly landscape or be a rain garden to absorb storm water run-off and protect the soil from erosion.

2. Be collaborative: The garden must be a collaborative effort between volunteers, neighbors or organizations within a community. Local partnerships could carry out the mission of a People's Garden.

3. Incorporate sustainable practices: the garden should include gardening practices that nurture, maintain and protect the environment such as:
  • Capturing rainwater in rain barrels
  • Composting and mulching
  • Planting native species
  • Encouraging beneficial insects that feed on destructive pests
More information about 'The People's Garden' initiative can be found at www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden or follow the initiative for real-time updates at twitter.com/peoplesgarden.  Information also is available on the USDA Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USDA and photos are available at www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov.  Blogs from the gardeners involved in these "People's Gardens" are featured each Friday at www.usda.gov/blog/usda.

The Alaska NRCS office phone numbers are: Aniak (907) 675-4578, Copper Center (907) 822-4484, Delta Junction (907) 895-4241, Dillingham (907) 842-3240, Fairbanks (907) 479-3159, Homer (907) 235-8177, Juneau (907) 586-7220, Kenai (907) 283-8732, Kodiak (907) 486-5598, Nome (907) 443-6096, and Wasilla (907)373-6492.

Contact information for the offices in Alaska is also available at www.ak.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/fieldoffices.html.

Helping People Help the Land

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