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People’s Garden Partnership Grows to New Heights in Delaware

Entire group of participants weeds and removes leaves from the adjacent rain garden.

Entire group of participants weeds and removes leaves from the adjacent rain garden.

Vegetables aren’t the only thing you’ll see growing at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) People’s Garden in Delaware – partnerships are growing too. To commemorate Earth Day, students from Minorities in Agriculture and Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) at Delaware State University (DSU), and a representative from the Partnership for Delaware Estuary joined NRCS employees in a clean-up and planting day aimed at restoring this NRCS People’s Garden for the upcoming 2011 growing season.

Less than a year ago, the future garden site at the USDA State Office in Delaware was a barren plot suitable for only grass and weeds until NRCS employees decided to turn it into the first People’s Garden in the state. They worked with USDA employees from the Farm Service Agency and Rural Development, together with representatives from the Partnership for Delaware Estuary and a second grade class from North Dover Elementary School to create a dynamic garden that produced 900 pounds of food last summer. The donated food, consisting of green beans, squash, corn, beets, tomatoes and more, was donated to the local People’s Place and Shepherd’s Place shelters.

NRCS employee Clarissa Blackiston works with MANRRS student Ian Silva to plant Brussels sprouts in one of the raised beds of the People’s Garden.

NRCS employee Clarissa Blackiston works with MANRRS student Ian Silva to plant Brussels sprouts in one of the raised beds of the People’s Garden.

This year, NRCS employees and others rolled up their sleeves on April 20 to revitalize the sleeping garden. USDA employees started off the day roto-tilling, pulling weeds, mulching and cleaning up trash. On break from class, eight MANRRS students joined in to plant strawberries, potatoes, sweet corn, onions, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes in the hoop house, which is used to extend the growing season. The day ended with everyone weeding and cleaning out the adjacent rain garden.

Before the planting had begun, one section of the garden was already abundant with produce. Last September, NRCS employees had planted a plot of turnips that has since produced 10 pounds of turnip greens and turnips for community shelters.

Future plans include working with a nutritionist in DSU’s College of Agriculture and Related Sciences to teach the kitchen staff of shelters and others in the community how to prepare vegetables and incorporate healthy foods into everyday meals.

You can locate the NRCS People’s Garden in Delaware and other People’s Garden throughout the country on this interactive map.  The People’s Garden Initiative establishes community and school gardens across the nation to unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire simple solutions to challenges facing our country – from hunger to the environment.

For more information on the People’s Garden Initiative, visit www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden.

Check out more conservation stories on the USDA blog.

Follow NRCS on Twitter.

NRCS employees, MANRRS students and Laura Whalen with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary show off their “muscles” after a busy day of clean-up and planting.

NRCS employees, MANRRS students and Laura Whalen with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary show off their “muscles” after a busy day of clean-up and planting.

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