Skip to main content

Farewell and Thanks to Jorge, Our Headquarters People’s Gardener

Posted by FPAC Strategic Communications Specialist Suzanne Pender in Conservation Farming
Oct 26, 2023
Jorge holding seed trays with Christie Vilsack, Master Gardener and wife of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

If you follow the #PeoplesGarden on social media, you’ve seen informative videos by Jorge Penso, the lead gardener at the national headquarters People’s Garden in Washington, D.C.

Jorge is moving to a new position at USDA’s new USDA Urban Service Centers | in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he’ll help urban farmers with Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation programs.

Before leaving, Jorge sat down with us to share some reflections on his time at the People’s Garden.

What Does the People’s Garden Mean to You?

Jorge: It’s a celebration of gardening, a place for gathering and education. In our case, it’s a place on the National Mall where you can have five minutes to yourself, a place where people can hang out and learn about gardening, a place to cultivate great ideas and get inspired. It’s a third space – not work or home, costs nothing, and is open to everyone.

After all the work we did in the beginning, it’s grown to be something for the community, by the community. Most of our volunteers are from the local neighborhood.

Jorge with his latest flush of shiitake mushrooms in the People’s Garden

What advice to you have for those starting a community garden?

Jorge: A garden is a constant experiment. You’re automatically a scientist and tinkerer, always trying something new. Be patient, have perseverance. Be open and flexible. If you’re starting something large in your community it can be a big undertaking with unexpected obstacles. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just try. A lot of people are intimidated and think everything has got to be perfect. With gardening you usually start by messing up. Lose your fear!

What are you looking forward to at the new USDA Urban Service Center in New Orleans?

Jorge: I’m looking forward to meeting a new community, learning what they need from us. I hope urban growers know the Service Center is a place where we can learn from each other. We’re not here to tell you what to do, but to enhance what you already have. We’ll always look for ways to help. It’s a welcoming, comfortable place just to come by and chat, a community space. Come see us!

Best of luck, and thank you for making the People’s Garden bloom, Jorge!

Jorge: I enjoyed my time here and hope the People’s Garden movement continues and thrives.

The People’s Garden movement is 1,500 gardens strong. Join, grow and teach with us!

Jorge with a garden spade
Category/Topic: Conservation Farming