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Award-Winning People's Garden Donates 889 Pounds of Produce to Seniors

Posted by FSA West Liberty Service Center in Food and Nutrition Initiatives
Sep 29, 2010

Cross posted from the FSA blog.

The senior citizen’s centers in seven Kentucky counties are benefitting from fresh produce grown as part of the West Liberty Service Center People’s Garden.

The vegetable garden — a .2 acre area behind the office — provided 889 pounds of food to Wolfe, Morgan, Magoffin, Johnson, Floyd, Martin and Pike counties.

“The plot of land was the former garden of an adjacent property owner,” said Barry Allen, county executive director.  “Permission was obtained to use the land and the landlord agreed to provide a tractor to till the ground.  A soil test was obtained and planting began on April 22, in honor of Earth Day.”

Sweet corn and green beans were the first plantings with radishes, onions, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, sweet potatoes, okra and cucumbers following.   By June 9, green onions, radishes and broccoli were harvested. From then until mid-August, the garden produced 50 pounds of cabbage; 35 pounds of sweet onions; 10 pounds of zucchini; 10 pounds of cucumbers; 21 pounds of bell peppers; 21 pounds of banana peppers; 12 pounds of summer squash; 8 pounds of radishes; 378 pounds of sweet corn; 120 pounds of tomatoes; 2 pounds of broccoli; 20 pounds of okra and 202 pounds of green beans, for a total of 889 pounds of fresh produce.

When Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the People’s Garden Initiative last year, employees felt the best way to accomplish the mission of helping the community and the environment was to start a community garden.

“The agencies in the West Liberty Service Center determined that a community vegetable garden would serve the purpose of helping to nurture, maintain and protect a healthy landscape, and support President Obama’s community service initiative ‘United We Stand.’”

The West Liberty Service Center houses the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Morgan County Conservation District, Division of Conservation, and Rural Development.  About 15 full-time employees and one NRCS student intern accepted the PGI challenge and began making plans. By March 2010 the soil was tilled and the West Liberty Service Center People’s Garden was launched.

But the garden became more than just a project. More than 360 ears of sweet corn and dozens of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers were delivered to seniors in Pikesville, Ky., whose homes, businesses and gardens were damaged due to flash flooding. “Many of the seniors lost their gardens to the flood and were very glad to receive fresh produce,” said Allen.

In addition to production, the Peoples Garden has been committed to being environmentally friendly by conserving use of plant residue into a compost pile and saving seeds for next year’s crop.

All of the hard work put into planting, weeding, feeding and watering paid off as the West Liberty Service Center People’s Garden won third place in the local Best Garden Contest sponsored by the local county extension office.

“In all, the People’s Garden has been a rewarding experience for those involved. Approximately ninety hours of volunteer time was contributed by sixteen people. It was a cooperative effort on the part of all agencies represented by the service center,” said Allen.  “The planning, the work and the feeling of helping others created a cooperative spirit which has vitalized the office and given us a shared goal. This spirit has improved our communications and relationships in all aspects of our work.”