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USDA To Construct “The Peoples Garden”

March 16, 2009

Thanks to cityfarmer for posting about this: 

REMARKS BY AGRICULTURE SECRETARY TOM VILSACK “THE PEOPLES GARDEN” AT USDA HONORING LINCOLN’S 200TH BIRTHDAY “ASPHALT BREAKING”

 
  February 12, 2009
 
  Welcome to everyone.   

As the Nation celebrates the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, we have the privilege of standing here-working here-at the Department he created in 1862.

Two-and-a-half years after Lincoln established USDA, in what was to be his last annual message to Congress, he said:

“The Agricultural Department … is precisely the people’s Department, in which they feel more directly concerned than in any other.”

In that spirit, I’m very pleased to announce that we’re establishing a new garden-called “The People’s Garden”-at USDA in honor of President Lincoln.

“The People’s Garden” represents the many ways we can carry our mandate forward for the people of this century.

If President Lincoln were here today, he would take great pride in his Department and its role in providing a sustainable, safe, and nutritious food supply, and-even more importantly-to protect and preserve the landscape on which that food depends.

This garden will add 612 square feet of planted space to an existing garden traditionally planted to ornamentals, bringing the total size to more than 2,500 square feet.

“The People’s Garden” represents forward-thinking ideas and actions.

  • We’ll grow a large assortment of fruits and vegetables, symbolizing USDA’s commitment to promote healthful diets and fight childhood obesity.
  • We’ll demonstrate for landowners the kind of conservation practices our farmers use each and every day.
  • The garden will be tended by our local contractor “Melwood,” and by volunteer USDA employees on their own time.
  • It will be sustainable. As part of our research program, we’re composting waste from our own cafeterias and recycling it back for use in the garden.
  • The garden will serve our community. We’ll donate produce grown here to local food banks.
  • And it will be organic-not using any fertilizers or pesticides.

In just a few minutes, and with a little help, I’ll be taking the first chips out of 1,250 square feet of asphalt right over here.

You’ve heard of paving over our farmlands?

This morning we’re reclaiming this patch of earth with an “asphalt breaking.”

I’m declaring this strip of pavement permanently closed. As we move into the spring season, we’re returning this area to natural turf grasses.

This action will:

  • Reduce heat generation from the pavement.
  • Provide improved public space for visitors to enjoy.
  • Provide better storm water management by reducing asphalt surfaces-a clear benefit to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • And sequester greenhouse gasses.

In these ways, this small garden demonstrates how gardens absorb carbon dioxide and how communities nationwide can raise awareness about global warming.

(Some of you familiar with heavy equipment may be wondering why we’re using a jackhammer on asphalt. With the cooler temperatures, we felt the jackhammer was the right equipment. We also wanted to minimize the use of heavy machinery out here today.)

I’m proud that these efforts and maintenance of the garden will be “green jobs” and that USDA is moving forward in every way possible to mitigate climate change.

This garden also sends a message to our federal partners and other agencies in the Chesapeake Watershed that we can take immediate action to improve our own landscaping footprint.

In line with last year’s Farm Bill, USDA is investing about $90 million per year in voluntary conservation practices in the Watershed. That effort must start right here with good stewardship at the headquarters complex.

In fact, our actions today are just the start of a comprehensive landscaping sustainability project here at headquarters.

But stewardship must have a greater reach. Our goal is for USDA facilities worldwide to install community gardens in their local offices. These could be small-scale window boxes, rooftop gardens, or rain catchments.

Employees would install them voluntarily and on their own time.

Now, let me take a minute to mention this beautiful setting.

It’s fitting that “The People’s Garden” is across from the Nation’s “front yard”-the Smithsonian Mall-and next door to our own USDA Farmers’ Market. That market brings the people of the community together each week in warmer months. It gives city folks the chance to talk with farmers and buy fresh and nutritious produce.

Right now USDA is hosting these two “Cool Globes” to help raise awareness about global warming and inspire community leaders to take action. More than 2,000 seed packets make up the “Plant-It Globe,” sending a message about the benefits of home and community gardens.

My thanks for joining me here.

“The People’s Garden” is a fine tribute to our visionary founder.

It’s a showcase for fresh produce and the commitment of this Administration to healthful eating.

It’s a model for the connections we can make among conserving our land, fighting global warming, protecting our watershed, recycling our waste, and donating the fruits of the land to those in need.

Real and effective action starts small and it starts with our communities. Thanks very much.

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