DOVER, Del., May 20, 2010 – Last year in honor of Earth Day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared the entire grounds at the USDA Jamie L. Whitten Building in Washington, D.C. as 'The People's Garden' and unveiled plans to create a sustainable landscape on the grounds. In response to the overwhelming public support, Secretary Vilsack challenged USDA facilities around the country and the world to plant their own People's Garden. Today, the USDA State Office, located near College Road in the College Business Park, answered that call by holding a groundbreaking and ceremonial planting of their very own People's Garden.
"One of the most exciting outcomes of the People's Garden initiative is the tremendous number of successful partnerships it has generated," said USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White. "An example of that partnership is this wonderful garden we're breaking ground for here today in Delaware with federal agencies, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension, North Dover Elementary School, Ruth N. Dorsey Relief Shelter and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, among other partners."
The People's Garden project was established by Secretary Vilsack on February 12, 2009, in commemoration of the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln founded the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and referred to it as "The People's Department" in his last annual message to Congress. In Lincoln's day, 90 percent of the people were farmers who needed good seed and information to grow their crops. Today, USDA continues Lincoln's legacy by encouraging local production and local consumption through the People's Garden initiative.
"When Secretary Vilsack says USDA is an Every Day, Every Way Department, that includes helping farmers and ranchers, or in this case, local residents, move their harvest from the Earth to the table through production, marketing and distributing of local foods within their community," said USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook. "Establishing People's Gardens is one of USDA's ways to connect people where their food comes from and to educate young people on the value of hard work by producing their own food and encouraging more nutritious eaters."
The USDA office on College Road consists of approximately 80 employees representing the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and Information Technology Services. The employees will volunteer their time to help care for and harvest the garden. The garden's bounty will help needy families in the area and provide a hands-on learning experience for the 2nd graders at North Dover Elementary School.
"I'm proud to see USDA staff in my home state of Delaware contributing to this important nationwide initiative," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse. "People's Gardens are bringing communities together across our nation, reconnecting Americans with the land and giving them a highly educational look at the work our farmers do every day to provide us with food, fiber and fuel. This is an incredibly exciting project for the people of Dover."
Just last month, USDA announced that more than 300 gardens have been designated as The People's Garden across the country and urged employees to continue making plans to plant additional gardens.
"Greening our communities can demonstrate how easy it is to take better care of our natural resources like the Delaware Estuary and the Chesapeake Bay," said NRCS State Conservationist Russell Morgan. "About 100,000 streams and rivers thread through the Chesapeake's 64,000-square-mile watershed and by working with local communities it is a terrific opportunity to promote a healthy landscape and reconnect this country with its food supply."
One phase of the People's Garden at the USDA office in Dover is the expansion of a rain garden. Storm water runoff and flooding are top concerns in the Delaware Estuary because of the damage that can occur when large volumes of rainwater occur.
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