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Category: People’s Garden

Secretary’s Column: Celebrating Our Nation’s Agricultural Abundance this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and the abundance of food we are able to share with our friends and family. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to thank the farmers and ranchers who make our nation’s agricultural abundance possible. Without them, the safe, abundant and affordable food we’ll put on our tables at Thanksgiving would not be possible.

At the same time, this Thanksgiving, it is important to remember those less fortunate. Many people will donate time, food or other resources to a food bank to brighten the holiday for families in their communities, and I am proud to say that many USDA employees are among them. I am also proud that through our People’s Garden Initiative, we’ve been able to donate 3.9 million pounds of fresh produce to food banks across the country over the last few years. Read more »

Giving Thanks to Local Farmers

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to say thank you to your local farmer and to showcase local ingredients in your holiday favorites.  Photo courtesy Diane Cordell

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to say thank you to your local farmer and to showcase local ingredients in your holiday favorites. Photo courtesy Diane Cordell

An array of colors is on display at local farmers markets with products like stunning purple Graffiti cauliflower. New varieties can add a new—and local—twist to traditional dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Dan Bruell

An array of colors is on display at local farmers markets with products like stunning purple Graffiti cauliflower. New varieties can add a new—and local—twist to traditional dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Dan Bruell

On Thanksgiving, friends, families and communities come together across America to give thanks and celebrate the autumn harvest.  I love the opportunity to reflect on all that I am grateful for, including the  hard-working farmers and ranchers who provide the delicious and nutritious food for the Thanksgiving table.  I also enjoy making my favorite traditional dishes with fresh, local ingredients that support the farmers and ranchers in my own community.

Secretary Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of four pillars of USDA’s work to help revitalize the rural economy, create jobs and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans.   Buying local supports the farmers and small businesses in your community, making it the perfect way to say thank you. Read more »

Harvest Time in the People’s Garden: A Labor of Love

Executive Master Gardeners Tanya Brown USDA-FSA (right) and Lee Cliburn USDA-AMS pick okra from the USDA People’s Garden on the corner of Jefferson Drive and 12th Street, SW. Photo by Annie Ceccarini, USDA.

Executive Master Gardeners Tanya Brown USDA-FSA (right) and Lee Cliburn USDA-AMS pick okra from the USDA People’s Garden on the corner of Jefferson Drive and 12th Street, SW. Photo by Annie Ceccarini, USDA.

All summer, visitors to the National Capitol Region have been seeing monuments, public buildings, works of art and experiencing music and theater; however, many were unexpectedly surprised by the brilliant hues of purple, red and green emanating from USDA’s People’s Garden.

But those colors didn’t just pop up on their own. USDA has a cadre of friendly and knowledgeable employee volunteers who plant, maintain and harvest as well as interact and answer questions from hundreds of people who stop by to admire the garden. Read more »

Back to School Gardening

The students will plant the raised beds over the next few weeks with easy to grow cool season crops like radishes and lettuce. To get the garden growing, Washington Capitals forwards Chris Brown (right with ball cap) and Stanislav Galiev planted one of the raised beds with kid-friendly herbs that are fun to touch, taste and smell like lavender, chocolate mint, German chamomile, rosemary, parsley, lemon thyme, wild watermelon salvia, and chives. Photo by Annie Ceccarini, USDA.

The students will plant the raised beds over the next few weeks with easy to grow cool season crops like radishes and lettuce. To get the garden growing, Washington Capitals forwards Chris Brown (right with ball cap) and Stanislav Galiev planted one of the raised beds with kid-friendly herbs that are fun to touch, taste and smell like lavender, chocolate mint, German chamomile, rosemary, parsley, lemon thyme, wild watermelon salvia, and chives. Photo by Annie Ceccarini, USDA.

46,000 young people were welcomed back to DC Public Schools this morning for the 2014-2015 school year. And 168 students at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School have a brand new school garden to get excited about! USDA’s People’s Garden team assisted Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, which supports the charitable efforts of the Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards, with laying the groundwork for this project.

More than 100 volunteers painted, cleaned and gardened at Drew ES for DC Public Schools Beautification Day. The Red Rockers and Wizard Girls cheered on 30 USDA Executive Master Gardeners and a dozen Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards fans as they built a brand new school garden in the rain. The rainy weather did not dampen their commitment to help produce Washington’s healthiest next generation and in less than 3 hours the school garden was complete. Read more »

World’s Best Soil Judgers Visit Washington, Meet Secretary Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to winners of the 1st International Soil Judging Contest during their visit to USDA on Aug. 18. American college students took the top two places in the first ever international competition.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to winners of the 1st International Soil Judging Contest during their visit to USDA on Aug. 18. American college students took the top two places in the first ever international competition.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted the world’s eight best soil judges last week after they earned the top spots at the 1st International Soil Judging Contest in Jeju, South Korea, in June.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Science Division was actively involved in organizing the event and mentoring the winners. The first and second place teams, both from the U.S., along with their coaches, participated in a roundtable discussion with Secretary Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller to talk about soil judging, the importance of soil health, and careers in soil science. In addition, NRCS’ Landscape Architect, Bob Snieckus, led the students and coaches on a tour of USDA’s green projects, including the rooftop garden and The People’s Garden.

It was the first international soil judging contest, but soil judging in the United States dates back to at least 1960. The events involve the description, classification and interpretation of soil, with the main purpose of helping students recognize important soil and landscape properties and to consider these characteristics when deciding how to use soils. A contest involves “judgers,” or students interested in soil science, entering a soil pit to examine the profile. The judgers then determine where the different horizons are and describe each one, looking at factors such as soil type, color, depth, consistency, shape, structure and other features. The soil is classified, and site and soil interpretations are performed. Read more »

Puerto Rico’s First Lady Promotes Community Gardens, Starting with Her Backyard

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez and others plant seeds in People’s Garden.

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez and others plant seeds in People’s Garden.

Puerto Rico’s First Lady is a big fan of the home garden, and actually, the garden at the governor’s mansion, called La Fortaleza, is part of USDA’s national garden movement.

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez’s garden was the first People’s Garden at a Puerto Rico state government facility and the third on the island.

The garden joins more than 2,000 across the nation as part of the People’s Garden Initiative, started in 2009 by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read more »