I am spending the weekend with family and friends in New York on Lake Ontario. I am loving the crisp evenings and especially the chilly mornings with a cup of coffee and a blanket on the porch overlooking the water. Today we went up to Niagara Falls. Simply amazing!
As a Hunger Advocate and supporter of Feeding America, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about why hunger is such an important cause to me personally. Fortunately, I have never been hungry…not truly hunger with no options for food. But hunger is what made me decide to go into horticulture. After a B.A. and a M.S. in Biology, both focused on botany, I felt a need to do something more, something bigger. i wanted to FEED PEOPLE! So I decided to change my course and study horticulture. Please consider contributing with your time, money, and resources to fight hunger!
September is Hunger Action Month. All month long, Feeding America is helping people raise awareness of hunger in America. In this land of plenty, 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger. Today, I’m dedicating my status to help Speak Out Against Hunger™. For more information about Feeding America or Hunger Action month—and for ways you can help fight hunger in your community—visit http://www.hungeractionmonth.org.
Another great school I have the pleasure of working with is Woolmarket Elementary in Biloxi. Their garden was highlighted recently on the school’s website.
Shirley Hardman and her class learn responsibility and teamwork while enjoying planting a garden. The gardening project provided a wealth of opportunities for the students to get their hands dirty while learning lessons in many different areas of curriculum. The fundamental rule of gardening is that it takes responsibility and teamwork. If plants are not watered they will die, if weeds aren’t pulled it gets more difficult to weed the garden. Students learned how to be responsible by taking care of something and seeing the consequences when they didn’t do the work. They learned to work together to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water the plants and stay on top of the weeding. Learning to appreciate the wonder and power of nature is the core of an environmental education. By tending the garden and taking care of their environment, they see that they are helping nature make the magic happen.
When horticulturist Christine Coker first learned of the People’s Garden Initiative, she searched for a registered garden in her coastal Mississippi community.
Secretary Vilsack began the People’s Garden Initiative—the name references President Lincoln’s description of USDA as the “People’s Department”—in 2009 as an effort to challenge employees to create gardens at USDA facilities. It has since grown into a collaborative effort of over 700 local and national organizations all working together to establish community and school gardens across the country.
Coker, a Mississippi State University (MSU) urban horticulture professor, found that none of the state’s coastal counties were host to a People’s Garden, and decided to change that. As an Earth Team volunteer with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Coker has already nurtured five gardens in Harrison and Jackson counties, and she promises more will sprout in the future.
Coker’s day job is managing the Beaumont Horticultural Unit, which is part of the MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center, but in her spare time, she networks with communities and schools to find more locations to sow the seeds of new People’s Gardens. Places where she can educate people about gardening are a priority.
Schools are a great place for community gardens, Coker says. So far she has two schools gardening and hopes to enlist more. Woolmarket Elementary School affectionately calls its People’s Garden “Toad Hollow” because of the shady location sandwiched between classrooms.
A rain barrel provides water for the garden, which boasts vegetables and ornamental plants, and theHarrison County Soil and Water Conservation District purchased the school a greenhouse in which the children germinate seeds. Throughout the year, food from the garden was sent home on the weekends with students of low-income families as part of the “food backpack” program.
While most of Coker’s People’s Gardens consist of fruits and veggies, the one at the Armed Forces Retirement Home is a bit unique. When Coker discovered that the green roof on top of the retirement home was not getting the best attention, she established a People’s Garden on the roof. The garden provides the perfect habitat for pollinators, boasting a carpet of sedums, bulbines and other green roof species. She is also using the garden as a research site.
Luckily, Coker happens to be one of two Certified Green Roof Professionals in Mississippi. (The other is Dr. Gary Bachman, also based at the MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center.)
Coker says the People’s Garden Initiative provides a educational and fun framework to introduce people—from youngsters to retirees—to gardening. With Coker’s energy, it won’t be long until Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is home to more gardens.
Find out how to become an Earth Team volunteer in your community.
Follow NRCS on Twitter.
Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog.
I just created a little book of some pictures I have taken during my travels.
To view the photos, simply go to the address below.
I hope you enjoy the book!
I just want to share some important dates for upcoming field days and meetings.
Ornamental Horticulture Research Center Field Day
Auburn University Ornamental Research Center, Mobile, AL
7:30 – noon
Ornamental Field Day
South Mississippi Branch Station, Poplarville, MS
October 5 and 6
Fall Flower and Garden Fest
Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station
9 – 2
Horticulture Field Day
Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
Conference and Trade Show