Heidi Strawn
July 6, 2010

USDA People's Garden

Courtesy USDA

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The People’s Garden at Yreka High School in Yreka, Calif., is used to enhance the school’s agriculture and natural resource program.

People’s Gardens now exist in all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and three foreign countries, with more than 400 People’s Gardens across the country, according to the USDA.

Last year, the People’s Garden initiative was unveiled in Washington and opened to the public as a living exhibit of what the USDA does every day. Today, People’s Gardens around the country are used by the USDA to demonstrate the connections among providing access to nutritious food, protecting the landscape where food is grown, serving communities and helping those in need.

“Last year, I decided to visibly remind folks that gardening is at the front and center of what we do here at USDA,” said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. “But the ideas behind the People’s Garden were not born here in Washington—and we will continue to ensure that they are adopted and improved upon in communities across the country.” 

To meet this goal, Vilsack challenged all USDA employees to create a People’s Garden at their USDA office or in their local communities. USDA agencies are involved in building these gardens, many of which are maintained through the collaboration of multiple agencies with their communities.

Hundreds of organizations contribute to the People’s Gardens at the local level, and most of these partners are recipients of the food grown in the gardens. Last year, with only 124 People’s Gardens, the USDA donated more than 34,000 pounds of produce to local charities. (View a map of People’s Garden locations. Click on the red dots on the map to get garden information.)

The USDA is also collaborating with First Lady Michelle Obama to emphasize the link between gardening and healthy lifestyles. A key component is educating youth through the use of gardens.

Each People’s Garden can vary in size and type, but must include the following components:

1. A People’s Garden must benefit a local community.

Gardens can create spaces for leisure or recreation that the public can use, provide a harvest to a local food bank or shelter, be a wildlife friendly landscape, or be a rain garden to absorb storm water run-off and protect the soil from erosion.

2. A People’s Garden must be collaborative.

The garden must be a collaborative effort among volunteers, neighbors or organizations within the local community. Local partnerships could carry out the mission of a People’s Garden.

3. A People’s Garden must incorporate sustainable practices

The garden should include gardening practices that nurture, maintain and protect the environment such as capturing rainwater in rain barrelscomposting and mulching, planting native species, and encouraging beneficial insects that feed on destructive pests.

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