Students at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus (CHEC) will soon be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The District of Columbia Daughters of the American Revolution (D.C. DAR) partnered with USDA to bring a People’s Garden to this school in Washington, D.C.
Columbia Heights Educational Campus officially became one of the more than 100 schools in the nation to start a People’s Garden. A groundbreaking ceremony took place last week that included an appearance from the school’s color guard and a performance from its orchestra. Members of the school’s Green Team made the symbolic first dig, planting several berry bushes in a raised garden bed.
Funding support came from the D.C. Daughters of the American Revolution while gardening expertise came from People’s Garden volunteers at USDA. Students at the school will work with a USDA landscape architect to finalize the design for the garden, which will include gathering spaces, wildlife habitat garden and fruit and vegetable production area. The students will grow healthy fruits and vegetables that can be served in school or help nourish those in need.
For nearly a year, Executive Master Gardeners from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and other agencies within the department worked with the school’s Green Team, teaching them about gardening tools and techniques. The students benefited from first-hand gardening tips, including several visits to the USDA’s People’s Garden and rooftop garden. They learned how the department was able to manage its gardens in an urban setting. With these lessons in hand, the students are now equipped to pass this information along to their peers and others in their community.
The People’s Garden Initiative was launched by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2009, as an effort to challenge USDA employees to create gardens at USDA facilities. Since then, the concept has spread internationally, as nearly 800 local and national organizations are working to establish school or community gardens and small-scale agriculture projects in urban and rural areas.
The effort to bring a People’s Garden to Columbia Heights Educational Campus is part of a continued relationship between AMS and this nearby school. In the past, AMS employees have volunteered in the school’s mentoring program, helped students with their senior projects and participated in the school’s Career Day activities. AMS is proud to bring a garden to the school’s campus and hopes that it will help further student interest in the agricultural industry.
USDA encourages communities to follow Columbia Heights and other schools that have developed People’s Gardens on their campus. We encourage you to visit our site and join the movement by bringing a garden to your community.