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The People’s Garden Already Rooted In Oklahoma

The People’s Garden Already Rooted In Oklahoma

Atoka Field Service Center Shows Off Their Garden

[People's] Garden lines sidewalk leading to USDA Service Center entrance.
The garden lines the sidewalk leading to the USDA Service Center.

The garden consists of vegetables, flowers and herbs.
The garden consists of vegetables, flowers and herbs.Each year something that hasn’t been tried before, is planted.
Each year something that hasn’t been tried before, is planted.

Produce from the USDA Service Center’s garden.
Produce from the USDA Service Center’s garden.

The concept of a People’s Garden wasn’t new to District Conservationist Stacey Mathis. “Our office has had a garden since 2005; glad to see it’s catching on!” joked Mathis.

The People's Garden was initiated February 12, 2009, during a ceremony on the grounds of the USDA Building, commemorating the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. It is the goal of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to create a community garden at each USDA facility worldwide. The gardens are 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 community garden project can include a wide variety of garden activities including window boxes, tree planting, and field office plots. The gardens will promote "going green" concepts, including landscaping and building design to retain water and reduce runoff; utilizing native plantings and using sound conservation practices.

At the Atoka NRCS Field Service Center, District Conservationist Stacey Mathis touts about the garden that wraps around their building, and how it was established in 2005.

“Right now we have squash, rosemary, flowers, tomatoes, bell pepper, watermelons, chives, mini pumpkin, alfalfa, and elephant ears. I dug the garlic at the end of May,” stated Mathis. Atoka County Conservation District Secretary Glenna Bradford and Mathis demonstrate what a great partnership can accomplish! “I do the planting and Glenna does the watering. We sometimes call our garden ‘the little red hen garden’, if you remember the story”, Mathis said.

Both claim that this garden project has been a very educational experience. They chuckle when ‘old timers’ see their garden and proceed to tell them what they need to do different. Or, visitors to the garden reminisce about when their grandparents planted this or that. Some can even tell you how many different things have been planted in the county.

Watering is done with a soaker hose to conserve water. Will all the plants make it to harvest? “Probably not” claims Mathis, “there is some kind of vicious wilt in the soil that is hard to control…but we just keep trying.”

Mathis says, “Each year, we try to plant things we have never tried before, like sugar beets and soybeans. The alfalfa was planted for a soil builder, and its’ flowers are pretty. We had lots of interest in the tobacco so we will probably try it again. It came back from the crown one year.”

To lean more about the USDA 'People's Garden' initiative, visit www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden.

Submitted by Stacey Mathis, district conservationist, Atoka Field Service Center
July 2009

Last Modified: 08/03/2009

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