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Release No. 0064.12
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USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

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The People's Garden Bears More Fruit through USDA and Old State Capitol Partnership

Join the movement and grow your own vine-ripened 'Abraham Lincoln' Heirloom Tomatoes

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 10, 2012 – Abraham Lincoln's legacy is ripe for the picking – as the result of a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Old State Capitol State Historic Site. This partnership started when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the site in November as part of the USDA's 150th anniversary.

"Establishing a People's Garden at the Old State Capitol State Historic Site that will inspire and educate thousands of visitors unites us with the vision of USDA's founder, Abraham Lincoln," said Vilsack. "USDA created the People's Garden Initiative 3 years ago today and it has since grown into a collaborative effort of over 700 local and national organizations all working together to establish community and school gardens across the country. The simple act of planting a garden can help unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire locally-led solutions to challenges facing our country - from hunger to the environment."

To mark President Lincoln's birthday on February 12 and the 3rd anniversary of USDA's People's Garden Initiative, the Old State Capitol has committed to establishing a People's Garden on its grounds. Four plots will be planted with historically significant crops and one plot designated solely for an heirloom variety of tomato named in honor of Illinois' Greatest Son – Abraham Lincoln. The garden will be utilized along with their educational programming series History Comes Alive this summer. For example, staff and volunteers will interpret the role that tomatoes played in the health of soldiers in the field, and that women used the Old Capitol as a collection point for nutritious vegetables for the war effort.

USDA has provided seeds for the 'Abraham Lincoln' Tomato, an heirloom variety that dates to the 1920s and was introduced by the H.W. Buckbee seed company in Rockford, Illinois. Seed packets will be distributed to guests who visit the Old State Capitol between Lincoln's birthday and President's Day, on February 12 and February 14-18. The seeds also will be presented to guests at the annual Abraham Lincoln Association Banquet on February 12.

The People's Garden Initiative was launched by Secretary Vilsack on February 12, 2009, as an effort to challenge USDA employees to create gardens at USDA facilities. An idea that started with one garden to commemorate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth has grown into an international movement. It is a collaborative effort of over 700 local and national organizations all working together to establish school gardens, community gardens and small-scale agriculture projects in urban and rural areas, collectively referred to as community-based agriculture.

USDA encourages communities to start a People's Garden, challenges them to grow an 'Abraham Lincoln' tomato and invites people to share their harvest with those in need. Through the Initiative's 'Share Your Harvest' campaign, over 1 million pounds of fresh produce has been donated to neighborhood food pantries, kitchens and shelters – which help improve access to healthy, affordable food at a local level. All produce grown at a People's Garden on USDA owned or leased property is donated to the community. Each garden demonstrates the connections we can make between fighting malnutrition, conserving our land and protecting our natural resources while serving our communities and helping those in need.

The Old State Capitol State Historic Site, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, was the seat of Illinois government from 1839 to 1876 and was the center of the state's Civil War recruiting efforts. A virtual who's who of famous 19th century Illinoisans, including Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Stephen A. Douglas, worked in and frequently visited the building. It is located in downtown Springfield and is open for free public tours.

Visit the Old State Capitol Building to learn more about this fruitful partnership. More gardening resources are available on the People's Garden website at www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden and send pictures of your 'Abraham Lincoln' tomato from seed to harvest via Twitter @ peoplesgardenThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. #LincolnTomato.

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