Three years ago this week, on February 12, 2009, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commemorated President Lincoln’s 200th birthday by creating the first USDA People’s Garden at the “People’s Department.” This People’s Garden at Department headquarters in Washington D.C., initially started as an opportunity to showcase what we do at USDA, and to unite communities, raise awareness about sustainable agriculture practices, connect people with where their food comes from, and educate on protecting our environment and conserving resources. It was USDA’s way of walking its talk by providing an example to the rest of the country. We’ve grown quite a bit in a short period of time. Thousands of USDA employees and over 700 local and national organizations are participating in over 1,500 gardens.
Last night, the People’s Garden along with Abraham Lincoln, in honor of our namesake and USDA’s 150th Anniversary, recognized employees, agencies and partners for their contributions to the Initiative at The People’s Garden ‘Golden Shovel’ Award Ceremony and Reception. And the categories are…
Golden Shovel Awards
Farm Service Agency received a ‘golden shovel’ in honor of their commitment to volunteerism. FSA employees are creating gardens as ways to connect with neighbors and local organizations in their communities. They have set the standard for innovative, collaborative work and volunteered a total of 1,791 hours of service in 2011.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was presented a ‘golden shovel’ for being the agency with the most number of People’s Gardens. NRCS has created 385 gardens over a three year period. These gardens range in type from growing healthy, nutritious food to conserving, restoring and protecting our nation’s natural resources.
Golden Garden Gnome Awards
Golden garden gnomes were presented to two ‘Top States’ – Iowa and Maryland. More People’s Gardens are growing in Iowa – 73 to be exact — than any other state. And People’s Gardens in Maryland donated more produce – over 700,000 lbs – during the 2011 growing season than any other state. In total, USDA donated 1.1 million pounds of fresh produce to local food banks and charities across the country through our ‘Share Your Harvest’ effort.
These gnomes will be a fun way for participants to share their passion and excitement about their projects with each other and the public. Each gnome will travel from People’s Garden to People’s Garden in Iowa and Maryland. We plan to track their journey with blog posts, photos on twitter and on our interactive map. Happy traveling!
Special Recognition Awards
Special recognition was given to organizations that have been supporters and partners of the People’s Garden from the start.
- DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) was recognized as the first partner of the People’s Garden and as a leader in using food as a tool to strengthen the community in the District. DCCK’s Truck Farm, a traveling, edible exhibit that teaches urban kids about healthy food sponsored by PG, accepted a certificate of appreciation as well.
- American Community Gardening Association was acknowledged for being a major supporter of community greening in urban and rural communities.
- Junior Master Gardener and FoodCorps were honored for teaching kids, building school gardens and igniting a passion for learning, success and service in youth.
- Keep America Beautiful was recognized for their dedication to growing healthy gardens in the communities of their affiliates.
- AmpleHarvest.org and SNAPGardens were congratulated for their continued efforts to connect Americans with the resources they need to feed others and themselves.
- A special thank you went to Pollinator Partnership for working with us on our yearly Pollinator Festival and for promoting public awareness about pollinators – birds, bees, bats, butterflies, beetles, and other pollinating animals – who are responsible for pollinating one-third of the nation’s food supply.
So many individuals and groups play a role in our success and we recognize that we couldn’t make an impact without this support. From our new and improved website, to the Native American garden planted last spring with the Office of Tribal Relations and Let’s Move, and many other successes, thank you for joining us! Thanks so much for your hard work and contributions.