Miller Grove students inspecting the plants as they go into the soil. NRCS photo.
As teams of agriculturalists across America celebrated National Agricultural Day on March 18, a group of volunteers and professionals arrived at Miller Grove Middle School in Lithonia, Georgia. They were there to give a hands-on outdoor lesson on how to build, plant and maintain a school garden to a group of Atlanta metro-area students who have likely never experienced what it’s like to grow their own food.
On this made-to-order, cool and clear morning, just two days before the official start to spring, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Dr. Joe Leonard was the first to share remarks. He began by thanking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for his commitment to providing community gardens to underserved communities. “Miller Grove School is a perfect example of how partnerships between the federal government (USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Natural Resource Conservation Service), non-profit organizations (The Stewart Foundation and Two Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council) and the DeKalb County School District can work together on behalf of children.” Read more »
Millie Titla, NRCS district conservationist in San Carlos, Ariz., and her nephew Noah Titla work at the San Carlos 4-H Garden Club’s community garden.
An Apache youth, Noah Titla, 13, has chosen to follow in the footsteps of generations of San Carlos Apaches by growing and harvesting his own food. His passion for reconnecting growing food with tribal traditions has been a catalyst for increasing awareness of the benefits and availability of fresh food on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in southeastern Arizona.
Through his hard work at the San Carlos 4-H Garden Club’s community garden, Noah is making a difference in a state included in the USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity. The initiative addresses high-priority funding and technical assistance needs in rural communities in 16 states, including Arizona, with a special emphasis on historically underserved communities and producers in areas with persistent poverty, such as the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Read more »
There has been little in Ruben Herrera’s life of late to celebrate. The past few years have been marred by drugs, prison, and homelessness.
A military vet who was raised on a farm in Gilbert, Arizona, Ruben remembered the sweetness of his childhood rural lifestyle even as he struggled with the realities of life on the streets of America’s sixth largest city.
In October, Ruben’s Veterans Administration counselor directed him to the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix where he is now finding renewed hope and purpose.
The Human Services Campus houses several social service agencies—St. Vincent de Paul, Central Arizona Shelter Services, Lodestar, NOVA Safe Haven, Maricopa County Health Services and St. Joseph the Worker employment counseling. But for Ruben, the Community Garden, rooted out of a parking lot next to the campus, has become his sanctuary. Read more »
I get to learn about a lot of great local initiatives when I make visits around the country. On a recent trip to Dallas, I visited Metrocrest Social Services, a community resource agency in Farmers Branch, Texas, that provides services to families in crisis and helps them make plans for the future. The purpose of the visit was to learn how outreach workers from the North Texas Food Bank come to this office to assist clients submit applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Camilla Zimbal, social services director, gave me a tour of the agency, and showed me some of the other services available to clients. One of the highlights of this one-stop shop is a food pantry at which pantry clients may select groceries once a week. In addition to the canned and boxed food, they can also select fresh-from-the-garden fruit and vegetables. Read more »