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The People's Garden Takes Root Across Nebraska

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s People's Garden Initiative is in its fourth year, and continues to grow. In Nebraska, there are several People’s Gardens planted at USDA Service Centers across the state, from Falls City to Scottsbluff

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack began the People's Garden Initiative - named in honor of President Lincoln's description of USDA as the "People's Department." The initiative was started in 2009 as an effort to challenge employees to create gardens at USDA facilities. It has since grown into a collaborative effort of over 700 local and national organizations all working together to establish community and school gardens across the country. The simple act of planting a garden can help unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire locally-led solutions to challenges facing our country - from hunger to the environment.

People's Gardens vary in size and type, but all are required to have three components in common. They must benefit the community, in some cases by creating recreational spaces and in others by providing a harvest for a local food bank or shelter. They must be collaborative - that is, the garden must be created and maintained by a partnership of local individuals, groups, or organizations. And third, they should incorporate sustainable practices. The gardens might use compost or mulch made by participants. They might contain native plants or encourage beneficial insects. They also might exemplify water conservation, for instance, capturing rain in a barrel to water the garden.

The People’s Garden planted at the Federal Building in Lincoln is located in the playground of the daycare facility. This garden teaches children about gardening and the importance of healthy eating.

These gardens have helped involve members of the community with growing a local source of healthy food for those in need. For example, the People’s Garden at the Grant, Neb., in southwest Nebraska is in its second year, and has become an important part of the community. The Grant United Methodist Church approached the USDA Service Center about helping establish a community garden.  USDA employees worked with the Pastor to create a layout for the garden expansion, which will incorporated three plots for families in need, three plots for the community, and four smaller plots for the Children’s Garden, planted in cooperation with a local daycare.  The produce will go to local needy families, the day care and the senior center.

Nebraska State Conservationist Craig Derickson said, “The People’s Garden is a great way to bring communities together to do something that positively impacts the environment, educates its citizens, and provides healthy food for those in need. NRCS is happy to be a part of this effort.”