Thursday, February 19, 2009

The People's Garden

The organic/sustainable agriculture communities were not pleased when President Obama appointed Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsak Secretary of Agriculture. His ties to agribusiness giant Monsanto and his support for bio-tech, bio-fuels and genetically engineered crops were the focus of their ire, and calls went out to block his appointment. Many felt author Michael Pollan, with his focus on food rather than production would have been a better choice. You can read more about their objections here and here.

However, it appears that he may not be the devil after all. In a recent speech to the National Association of Wheat Growers, he "called on farmers to accept the political reality that U.S. farm program direct payments are under fire both at home and abroad and therefore farmers should develop other sources of income. In his remarks to the groups he said he intends to promote a far more diversified income base for the farm sector, saying that windmills and biofuels should definitely be part of the income mix and that organic agriculture will also play an increasing role." (Farm Futures)

And on Lincoln's birthday, he "broke pavement" on a new project, the People's Garden, which removes 12,00+ feet of pavement from an area next to the USDA Farmer's market. The area, just across the street from the Washington Memorial on the National Mall, will be returned to native grasses, with demonstration areas for to help visitors understand how to apply conservation practices and attract pollinators. Read more about it here.

According to Vilsack's remarks at the pavement breaking ceremony (see parts of the ceremony below), waste from the cafeteria will be composted for use in the garden, which will be organic.
It's not a Victory Garden on the White House lawn, but it seems like a good beginning.

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