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People's Garden

At the Intersection of Agriculture and the U.S. Military

Red, white, and blue balloons soared high above the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and vendors at the opening of the 19th season of the USDA Farmers Market.  With echoes of the Star Spangled Banner played by the “President’s Own” Marine Band, we celebrated the service of our men and women in uniform, reaffirming USDA’s commitment to supporting veterans and active-duty service members.  We also celebrated several points of intersection between American agriculture and the military community.

From our partners and stakeholders who joined us for the event, we saw amazing generosity and dedication to improving the lives of military families.  Burpee Seed Company handed out thousands of Welcome Home Garden Project seed packets, bringing the healing gift of gardening to thousands of heroes.  With over 165,000 families participating and over 1.8 million seed packets distributed over the last two years, their efforts to provide healing, comfort and homegrown foods are truly inspiring.

USDA Farmers Market Opens with a Recipe to Honor Our Veterans

I love farmers markets. The vibrant colors, enticing smells, and vivacious people make me feel so very alive and happy. Local markets also work to bring communities together.  I have been to a number of farmers markets across the U.S., but my favorite one is located right here in Washington, DC—in fact, it’s right here at USDA.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud to host the USDA Farmers Market each week, building connections to the vendors, customers, and surrounding community.  Tomorrow, June 6, the USDA Farmers Market opens a new season with a salute to our military, veterans and American agriculture.   We will not only celebrate the bounty of the market, but will also thank our military for serving with valor, courage, and distinction.

Secretary's Column: Protecting Our Pollinators

This week, USDA and its partners released the results of the eight annual national survey of honey bee losses. The survey shows good news—fewer honey bee colonies were lost this winter than in previous years. According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide.

That figure is a significant improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported last winter, but it is still higher than the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent and still far above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability.

While we're pleased to see improvement this year, these losses are still too high.

See Honeybees at Work: USDA Launches BeeWatch

At the ribbon cutting of the USDA Headquarters People’s Garden in April 2010 plans were already in place to install a beehive on the roof of the Whitten Building as well as a "bee-cam" so anyone anywhere could learn about bee activity. USDA’s newest ‘buzzing’ residents were welcomed on Earth Day but the bee cam was put on hold. 18 gallons of honey later, that idea has finally come to bee. You can now #USDABeeWatch 24/7 at https://peoplesgarden.usda.gov/content/bee-watch.

So what will you see on our bee cam? This time of year, the camera - placed several feet from the entrance of the hive – shows female worker bees entering and exiting the hive gathering nectar and pollen (both collected from flowers) to convert into honey. Be on the lookout for bees carrying a load of pollen on their hind legs. As bees groom, they’ll move the pollen onto their back legs creating a pellet of pollen. A small amount of nectar is used to stick the dry pollen together.

Let's Move! Gives Two Green Thumbs Up for Gardening!

It may still be cold outside, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking about your spring garden. Whether you’re planning a school garden or have the perfect plot of land in your backyard, Let’s Move! has all the tools you need to get started! Gardening not only stocks your kitchen with all-natural fruits and veggies rich with nutrients, it can be a great way to give your kids a hands-on lesson in healthy eating.

Join Us at the USDA Harvest Festival

You’re invited to the USDA Harvest Festival on Friday, November 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come celebrate the end of the growing season in the People’s Garden and at the USDA Farmers Market. Take advantage of the last opportunity of the year to shop the outdoor USDA Farmers Market located along 12th Street, SW in between Jefferson Drive and Independence Avenue in Washington, DC.

The day will be filled with fun activities and educational demonstrations that are free and fun for the whole family. Here’s a list of the planned events:

RISE Volunteers Mentor Young Gardeners

In 2011, Washington State University won a USDA People’s Garden School Pilot Project grant. The University used the funds to start the “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” project, a multi-year research project that engages elementary students in creating edible gardens in schools across the country.  School gardens are an effective way to introduce kids to healthy foods and create a passion for agriculture and Washington State is helping lead the way.  We’re excited to provide an update on how the project is going. The following post was written by Brad Gaolach, the Project Director for the program.

Guest post by Brad Gaolach, Project Director, Washington State University Extension

Grandview Elementary School in Monsey, NY is one of 50 schools across the U.S. taking part in USDA’s People’s Garden School Pilot Project – “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” (HGHY). This research and education project aims to understand the impact of school gardens on fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, science and math learning, and other outcomes.

Grandview Elementary also enjoys a unique partnership with another research project: “Retirees in Service to the Environment,” or RISE. Created by Cornell’s Institute for Translational Research on Aging, RISE provides opportunities for older adults to become involved in local environmental projects.  Research has shown there are greater mental and physical health benefits from environmental volunteering compared to other types of service. As environmental stewards, older adults not only gain from being engaged in civic issues, they also contribute their knowledge and passion to sustaining the environment for future generations.

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.

USDA is Composting, You Can Too!

As part of the Food Waste Challenge USDA employees are working together to reduce the amount of food waste at our Headquarters office in Washington, DC. Currently 2,400 pounds of food and paper waste is recycled from our cafeteria each week. Our goal is to increase that by 5% to at least 2,520 pounds of waste by the end of Fiscal Year 2014.

Food is the single largest component of municipal solid waste going to landfills, accounting for over 20% by weight. USDA headquarters employees are reducing food waste every time they eat in the cafeteria. Many of the items they use, such as plates, bowls, trays, paper cups, napkins, utensils and clamshells, are compostable.  The headquarters cafeteria and hallways are equipped with compost bins that are specially designed for all food waste, including meat and dairy products. The bins are emptied several times each day and the waste is transported to a waste pulping system in the basement.

Ready, Set, Learn: USDA Lessons for Our Nation’s Next Generation

It’s that time of year! Back to school season is upon us and agencies across the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working to ensure a stronger and healthier future for our nation’s next generation of leaders. That means providing a happy and healthy learning environment for our kids, and helping them grow up with the tools they need to succeed.