The People’s Garden Initiative is an effort by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that challenges its employees to establish People's Gardens at USDA facilities worldwide or help communities create gardens. People's Gardens vary in size and type, but all have a common purpose - to help the community they're within and the environment.
Ames True Temper Community Garden
This year, the Ames True Temper Company Headquarters in Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania wanted to invest in a valuable local community project by building a 150-plot community garden site complete with a shed full of tools and water access, and offered it free to the local residents. The Ames True Temper Community Garden provides a place to grow and feed individuals and families through gardening and related education. The garden’s opening was May 2011 and their intent is to host the community garden site well into the future. The local garden club (Penn-Cumberland) manages and coordinates the garden project, and USDA People’s Garden is involved through a USDA/NRCS volunteer who planted a “Pizza Garden” there to teach kids and adults about companion planting. Over 40 hours of NRCS volunteer time have gone into this project so far this year.
Each week during the season, there are gardening experts and presenters that come to teach the plot owners about different aspects of agriculture including soil health, organic methods, Integrated Pest Management (IPM). In addition, many of the plots (including People’s Garden) are donating the produce from their garden to a local food bank, through the “Plant a Row for the Hungry” program coordinated by the Channels Food Rescue (http://channelsfoodrescue.com/).
The project’s stated goal is to grow the love of gardening through:
Preparing a place in our community where people of all ages can put down roots
Spreading the opportunity for people in our community to have a place to garden
Tending to the need for gardening education in our community
Harvesting a bounty of fresh, nutritious foods for individuals, families and organizations in the area
For more information and articles on the garden:
Garden of Youth Projects
As part of the Garden of Youth mentoring program, Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) helps students develop horticultural and agricultural projects for school beautification, agricultural edification, and environmental awareness. At each of two People’s Garden sites, Downey School in the Harrisburg School District and Steelton-Highspire Elementary, students are growing flowers to beautify their environment and vegetables to introduce concepts of good nutrition, health, cycles of life, and service among a myriad of related topics.
The students and volunteers built garden beds and filled them with soil this year, and vegetables are grown by ‘garden clubs’ of interested students or those recommended by staff as needing individual mentoring. Volunteers of all ages are welcome. The program is working with USDA/NRCS volunteers at the Pennsylvania state office, with over 12 hours committed this year so far to education, outreach and labor. The program is funded in part by the Mentoring Partnership of Central Pennsylvania of Messiah College's Harrisburg Institute. RSVP (http://rsvpcapreg.org/) partners with schools in the Capital Region to provide mentorship (developmental support) to elementary students. For more information please contact Rick Sayles, Project Coordinator at email@example.com.
USDA/NRCS Pollinator Garden
Here at the Pennsylvania state office, NRCS has also partnered with Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) and the Engenuity Energy, LLC site to install a pollinator garden next to the building on Cameron Street in Harrisburg. The garden was planted in June 2011, with 18 PA NRCS volunteers helping to start what we hope will be an educational opportunity for people to learn more about the importance of pollinators to our food supply.
Pollinator seed was donated by Ernst Seeds, Inc., Meadville, PA and 250 plants including 40 species were provided by the USDA/NRCS Big Flats Plant Materials Center. Additional plants were dug from the Ag Progress Days site near State College by District Conservationist Jim Gillis in Gettysburg. Identification signs with photos and common and scientific name were installed for educational purposes.
Through July 2011, over 60 hours of volunteer time have been donated. By the summer of 2012 the perennials will be well established and will be blooming to provide pollinator habitat. Future plans are to install interpretive signing.
Urban Terrace Project
The Jump Street Urban Terrace is an innovative gardening project with several overlapping layers, including the greening of a semi-public space, green technology, food access, and workforce development, all to be manifested at Linden Terrace apartments, at 1201 North Front Street in Harrisburg, PA. Because Linden Terrace has several elderly residents and also residents with low incomes, placing garden beds here expands access to gardening and fresh food. USDA/NRCS has been involved in this project from the start, by partnering with the local non-profit coordinating the project, Jump Street Inc. (http://jumpstreet.org/), as well as connecting them to the local RC&D Council (www.capitalrcd.org) for financial assistance. In addition, NRCS volunteers are helping to plan the project site, organizing workdays and assisting with labor to build stone garden beds (called “keyhole gardens” designed for handicap and child-accessibility), providing manure from a local farm as a soil amendment, as well arranging for a Korean translator to work with some of the residents who are presently gardening at the site. There is a real inter-generational gardening community here that will bring all of the diverse people in the housing complex together for a common purpose to grow fresh food and exchange friendship with each other. Some of the produce from the site will also be donated to one of the area's food banks, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
Read an article by Yuri Plowden, Asian American Pacific Islander Special Emphasis Program Manager and Resource Soil Scientist in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. NRCS Partners with Local Organizations on the Urban Terrace People’s Garden Project!
*For more information on the USDA People’s Garden, check out: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=PEOPLES_GARDEN.
People’s Garden Contact Information
To find out more or to volunteer locally for one of the important projects described above, please contact Susan Parry, PA NRCS People’s Garden contact, using the information below:
One Credit Union Place, Suite 340
Harrisburg, PA 17110-2993