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Earth Day, USDA, and NRCS: A Winning Combination for the Environment

Local children planting pollinator plants.

Local children planting pollinator plants.

Who would have thought when we celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970 that we would still be celebrating it 42 years later? Earth Day is a great time to highlight what the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is doing to benefit the soil, water, air, plants and wildlife for productive lands and healthy ecosystems.

On April 19, NRCS employees in Florida hosted their third annual Earth Day celebration at the NRCS Brooksville Plant Materials Center (PMC) in Brooksville, Florida. Children planted a pollinator garden with Florida wildflowers supplied by the PMC.

Partner organizations hosted fun and educational exhibits and hands-on demonstrations for school children and members of the public.  Organizations present included the Hernando County Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program, Chinsegut Conservation Center, Florida A&M University and many others.

“Celebrating Earth Day reminds us that we all have a common interest in conservation,” said NRCS Florida state conservationist Carlos Suarez, in his opening remarks. “In 1960, one farmer fed only 25 people; today, one farmer can produce enough food to feed 129 people. We have come a long way, but there is much more to do and it’s going to be up to us to help preserve our land, air and water for future generations.”

The NRCS PMC’s opening program for Earth Day featuring NRCS employees (from left to right) Greg Hendricks, state resource conservationist and PMC program manager; Mimi Williams, plant materials specialist; and Carlos Suarez, Florida state conservationist.

The NRCS PMC’s opening program for Earth Day featuring NRCS employees (from left to right) Greg Hendricks, state resource conservationist and PMC program manager; Mimi Williams, plant materials specialist; and Carlos Suarez, Florida state conservationist.

The NRCS soils division demonstrated the NRCS Web Soil Survey and helped local school children make a soil profile card to educate them on the different soil types in Florida. NRCS employees also worked with children to harvest vegetables grown in the office’s People’s Garden. All food harvested from the garden was donated to The Way Family Farm in Brooksville.

This year, in addition to Earth Day, the gathering honored the 150th Anniversary of USDA. Abraham Lincoln founded the U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 15, 1862, referring to it as “The People’s Department.”

To highlight the anniversary, PMC staff distributed ‘Abraham Lincoln’ tomato seedlings, grown in the PMC greenhouse. This heirloom variety, introduced in 1923, has proven itself to be one of the great tomato classics, with a large, flavorful red fruit and good pest and disease resistance.

Local children planting pollinator plants.

Local children planting pollinator plants.

The PMC’s Earth Day event ended with the dedication of a sabal palm (Sabal palmetto), the Florida State Tree.

“We dedicate this tree in tribute to the 150th anniversary of the creation of the USDA—and honor the hard work of all the dedicated USDA agency personnel,” Suarez said.

It was a fitting end to the day of environmental and conservation education. As Hugh Hammond Bennett, the first director of our agency said, “Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.”  Earth Day, USDA, and NRCS go hand in hand to help take care of the land.

Find out how to become an Earth Team volunteer in your community.

Follow NRCS on Twitter.

Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog.

Tomato seeds of the ‘Abraham Lincoln’ heirloom variety were used by the PMC to germinate plants given away at the event.

Tomato seeds of the ‘Abraham Lincoln’ heirloom variety were used by the PMC to germinate plants given away at the event.

5 Responses to “Earth Day, USDA, and NRCS: A Winning Combination for the Environment”

  1. JC says:

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency.” UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    Why would someone choose to be vegan? To slow global warming for one! Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org

  2. Jen says:

    I like that local school children became part of the NRCS project in Florida. I think that that education is the best way to raise awareness about environmental issues. That’s why I appreciate the initiative launched by the authorities of my native Toronto who decided to organize a number of biodiversity workshops and other attractions so all of us could learn a little bit more about the protection and conservation of biodiversity in our province.

  3. Joe Eitel says:

    I think Earth Day is one of the most important days of the year. We only have one Earth to live in, so it’s critically important to protect it.

    This initiative in Florida is a great example of how small contributions can eventually have a huge impact on the environment and our health. It doesn’t take much to make your life a bit more eco-friendly; we just all need to make that change.
    http://www.hometowndumpsterrental.com/

  4. Joe Dumpster says:

    We must preserve our earth and the NRCS has really done positive things by attending to the soil, water, air, plants and wildlife for productive lands and healthy ecosystems. From planting to recycling to disposal, we all must do our part.

  5. Ed Nyberg says:

    Earth Day is such an important day and happy to see it is getting more and more attention. Here is a nice infographic that details what can be composted and what shouldn’t be composted – Composting 101…I thought it might be a useful resource. http://www.hometowndumpsterrental.com/blog/composting-101-whats-in-whats-out-infographic

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