A partnership between USDA’s People’s Garden Initiative and Keep America Beautiful (KAB) was a natural fit. KAB, the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action network, has been engaging individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their communities for over 50 years, through a grassroots network of nearly 1,000 local affiliates across the country. The People’s Garden Initiative – established in 2009 by Secretary Vilsack – challenges USDA employees to create sustainable gardens that benefit their communities through collaborative efforts.
So when USDA asked KAB to join the People’s Garden movement, they responded to the call for action by creating 670 People’s Gardens. Last week, each affiliate that created a People’s Garden was sent a certificate, from the Secretary and KAB President, in recognition of their efforts and acknowledged at the Keep America Beautiful 57th Annual National Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Thanks to this partnership the number of People’s Gardens has doubled. There are now 1,239 People’s Gardens throughout the country. And each has a story.
Keep Slidell Beautiful (KSB), a Slidell City Government organization, became an official KAB affiliate in March 2007. Located just 30 minutes from New Orleans, their programs have far exceeded expectations and were instrumental in helping their community recover from Hurricane Katrina faster than some of their neighbors.
KSB was recognized for the development of the Heritage Park Iris Garden as a People’s Garden. This 180-by-40-foot garden of irises was made possible through the support of the New Orleans Botanical Gardens and the Greater New Orleans Iris Society. More than 2,000 donated irises were dug-up and later planted along a canal by 43 volunteers. In addition to creating a beautiful public site, the plants protect the environment by keeping the soil from being washed away.
Heritage Park Iris Garden is just one example of how the ideas behind the People’s Garden are being adopted and improved upon in communities across the country.
Do you want to give back to your community? Consider starting a People’s Garden in your neighborhood or find a People’s Garden that’s already growing and lend a hand. You can also volunteer at your nearest KAB affiliate and support local efforts to keep your community cleaner, greener, and more livable.