The USDA Service Center in American Falls is now home to a People’s Garden!
By: Idaho NRCS Staff
The American Falls Back Yard Botanicals 4-H Club started the garden’s progress in late August 2022. Students in the club cleared brush and took soil samples under the direction of Deej Brown, Urban and Small Acreage Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Idaho. To prepare for the upcoming 2023 growing season, members of the club hauled in mulch and planted plenty of vegetables.
In August 2023, the garden was submitted to USDA’s People’s Garden Initiative and was promptly accepted. The USDA’s People's Garden Initiative empowers communities to grow healthy food in a sustainable way and teach about the benefits of local, resilient food systems. People’s Gardens foster community collaboration, create jobs and green spaces, provide access to nutritious food, and benefit the environment.
The American Falls community got involved with the project early on: a local landowner made space available for the garden; a local co-op donated plants, fencing and a sprinkler; The Power County Soil and Water Conservation District donated $200 to assist in getting the garden established; Cal Ranch donated seeds for the garden and Idaho State University is a partner through the local 4-H program.
The garden’s first season was productive. Vegetables grown in 2023 have been distributed to the local retirement home, the City of American Falls and to producers from the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation. To date, the garden has produced about 25 pounds of vegetables, including peaches from an existing peach tree on the property.
In addition, the 4-Hers entered vegetables they cared for from the garden into the Power County Fair, where all the Back Yard Botanical club’s entrants took first place. One student, who had written a resource plan for the garden, presented the plan at the Power County Fair and received first place. He will present his project at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in September. As a result of the students’ success in the Power County Fair, the City of American Falls has asked to be involved as the garden progresses in the future.
The plan is to expand the .01-acre garden, adding another .01 acre for a root vegetable garden area and a pollinator area with a seed mix recommended by the NRCS Plant Materials Center. This will help control weeds that are growing there currently as well as beautify the area.
For more information about the People's Garden Initiative, visit The People's Garden | USDA
Contributions to this story were made by: Deej Brown, Mindi Rambo and Carly Whitmore