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People's Gardens, Farmers Markets & CSAs at USDA and Across Government

We celebrated a few “firsts” today when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opened the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market located outside USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Secretary announced the first-ever partnership between USDA, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to better support agencies and Federal employees who want to incorporate gardens, farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) into the Federal workplace.

OPM provides Government-wide guidance on health and wellness policies for Federal employees and GSA manages Federal property and offices.  By working together, we can more effectively exchange ideas about how to engage thousands of employees and improve employee health and wellness in the workplace.

Public Service Recognition Week: Thank You, AMS!

At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our 4,000 employees work hard every day to support the country’s diverse agricultural operations. Whether it’s individual farmers or international businesses, we have a long tradition of collaborating, innovating, and evolving to keep American agriculture competitive in the global marketplace.

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, I would like to introduce you to some of our employees and tell you about the remarkable work they do each and every day.

The Results Are In: Judging the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

This spring, kids from across the country honed their culinary and nutrition skills to participate in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, and the wait is over to find out who received the top spot from each of the 50 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The winners of the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge have been announced on Let’s Move’s! website. Find out who the top kid chef is from your area and the recipe that secured them a seat at the White House for the Kids’ State Dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama.

On May 15th, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion was pleased to take part in the judging of this year’s top two recipes from each area along with representatives from Let’s Move!, the Department of Education, Wholesome Wave Foundation, and most importantly – other kids, including previous winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and recent graduates from Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program. The judges met at the DC Convention Center to personally taste test each of the top dishes, 108 dishes in all! The dishes were prepared by DC Central Kitchen staff and were rated on a scale of 1-5 based on: nutritional value, taste, creativity, originality, affordability, and an essay accompanying the recipe. Kids were also encouraged to reference and incorporate foods from each of MyPlate’s five food groups in their entries.

Harvest Time in the People's Garden: A Labor of Love

All summer, visitors to the National Capitol Region have been seeing monuments, public buildings, works of art and experiencing music and theater; however, many were unexpectedly surprised by the brilliant hues of purple, red and green emanating from USDA’s People’s Garden.

But those colors didn’t just pop up on their own. USDA has a cadre of friendly and knowledgeable employee volunteers who plant, maintain and harvest as well as interact and answer questions from hundreds of people who stop by to admire the garden.

USDA Employee Volunteers Are Back in the Garden & Community

Every week USDA employee volunteers pick ripe herbs and vegetables from the Headquarters People’s Garden and deliver it to DC Central Kitchen, a local community kitchen. So far this growing season more than 1,000 pounds of fresh food has been donated from the garden. This week’s harvest weighed in at 175 pounds and included 84 pounds of bok choy.

Our volunteers wanted to know what becomes of the food they’ve worked so hard to grow, pick and donate – particularly all that bok choy. That’s why yesterday morning they rolled up their sleeves in the Kitchen to learn how the food donated from the garden each week is made into delicious and nutritious meals. USDA employees worked alongside DCCK cooks to prepare trays of bean burritos (with chopped bok choy inside) and Spanish rice that are being delivered to partner agencies in the Washington metropolitan area, including homeless shelters, rehabilitation clinics, and afterschool programs today.

Open for Business: USDA Farmers Market Kicks Off New Season with a Bang

As the USDA Farmers Market prepares to begin a new season, we invite everyone to come celebrate the richness and diversity of the market and the DC community that brings us all together. Whether you're a federal employee, a sight-seeing tourist, or a long-time resident, we are all a part of what makes DC unique. We all play a role in supporting the businesses and economy of the city and the region. You are guaranteed a fun time if you join us on June 7 for our market opening.

Life is a Truck Farm

DC Truck Farm is a collaborative effort between D.C. Central Kitchen (DCCK) and USDA’s People’s Garden Initiative. Now in its second year, this garden on wheels travels around the Nation’s Capital teaching urban youth about agriculture, soil science and nutrition education. It got moving thanks to the support of many partners in the DC metropolitan area.

We recently caught up with the District’s very own truck farmers at DCCK to capture their first planting of the season, to ask about lessons learned last year and to talk plans for 2012.

Second USDA Executive Master Gardener Class Blooms

A budding new crop of People’s Garden volunteers recently blossomed. Nearly 60 USDA employees received certificates at a ceremony, marking their completion of the department’s 2011 Executive Master Gardener (EMG) training program. Class of 2011 graduates were welcomed as “new-bees” during a sweet serenade sung by EMG alumni at the beginning of the certificate ceremony.

USDA’s 2011 Harvest Festival: Gather with Us to Celebrate!

Let’s get together to enjoy the fruits of our labor! USDA's People’s Garden is sponsoring a Harvest Festival on Friday, October 28 from 10 am to 2 pm at USDA Farmers Market, on the northeast lawn of Jamie L. Whitten Building and along 12th Street in-between Jefferson Drive and Independence Avenue, SW. The festival marks the culmination of a very productive growing season for the People's Garden at USDA Headquarters.

Let’s Move! in Action at the USDA Farmers Market and People’s Garden

Cross posted from the Let's Move! blog:

In his opening remarks at this season’s first Department of Agriculture Farmers Market, held adjacent to our headquarters on the National Mall, Secretary Vilsack spoke about the national movement to rebuild our rural economy and connect urban communities with America’s farmers. The market—a bustle of activity with a crowd of shoppers purchasing produce, homemade preserves, and artisanal bread—was a festive celebration of that movement, but not the only attraction of the day!