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Through Partnership Healthier, Beautiful Communities Grow

Louisiana irises are North American native wildflowers that have the widest color range of all types of irises including blue, white, red and yellow forms. Photo: Keep Slidell Beautiful ©

Louisiana irises are North American native wildflowers that have the widest color range of all types of irises including blue, white, red and yellow forms. Photo: Keep Slidell Beautiful ©

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.

3 Responses to “Through Partnership Healthier, Beautiful Communities Grow”

  1. Ron Cook says:

    How do you start a People’s Garden? Is there any funding available for a start up?

  2. Rev. Johnson says:

    This is probably off subject, but I want to begin a Community Garden. I need assistance for the start-up and at harvest time. Please let me now…Its planting now..

  3. Rebecca [USDA Moderator] says:

    Hi Ron and Rev. Johnson –

    To learn more about the “how-to” for starting a new garden, the University of California Cooperative Extension’s Community Garden Start-Up Guide provides guidance on how to organize a sustainable garden site in your neighborhood. You can also contact Master Gardeners in your community who volunteer their time to help others plant, grow and harvest fresh produce from their gardens.

    Hope these resources help!

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