USDA Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency employees delivered a bounty of fresh vegetables to Manna Ministries in Bangor on September 10. It marked the eleventh delivery of garden vegetables this summer. The heaps of fresh tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers and other offerings were from the recent harvest of The People’s Garden, a collaborative effort of the three USDA agencies. In addition, donations from staff members' own gardens were also accepted.
Manna Ministries Executive Director Bill Rae was pleased to accept the healthful contribution to Manna's Soup Kitchen, which is a haven for homeless individuals, families, the working poor, and those on a fixed income. "This donation will help us not only put food on their plates, but ensure that the meal is nutritious, fresh, and local. We are thankful to the USDA for their kind donations,” said Rae.
Through the USDA's F5 Initiative (which stands for Feds, Farmers, and Friends Feed Families) the agencies were able to provide Manna with a total of 1,112 pounds of food. This included 572 pounds of food donated by staff, including non-perishable items and produce from their home gardens, as well as an impressive 540 pounds of fresh vegetables grown by staff in their People’s Garden.
The People’s Garden plot at the State Office was a 400 square ft plot, but its yield was impressive. Staff has already begun to prepare the ground for next year by "turning" the earth, and planting oats as a cover crop, which will help to capture the nitrogen in the garden.
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, "The Peoples Garden showed the excellent teamwork by staff of all three agencies, and the end result is very rewarding - an abundance of ripe, delicious, and healthy vegetables to help those in need."
USDA Rural Development staff member and garden volunteer Dianne Everett said, "I enjoyed working in the garden, which produced big time. It was a great experience!"
People’s Gardens now exist in all 50 states, helping to promote health and wellness as well as awareness about where our food comes from.