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Tom Vilsack Plants a Garden

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Feb 12, 2009 at 16:10:26 PM PST


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Well, well, well. Tom "Alice Waters" Vilsack planted a garden. "The People's Garden" is located at the USDA in DC and Vilsack announced a goal of planting community gardens at each USDA facility worldwide. The People's Garden??? Dude, that name totally makes Vilsack sound like a hippie if he picked it out.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today "broke pavement" on the inaugural USDA The People's Garden during a ceremony on the grounds of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commemorating the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. The Secretary declared the stretch of pavement permanently closed and returned back to green, and encouraged other Administration officials and the general public to join in to protect the Chesapeake watershed.

More news about this below...

Jill Richardson :: Tom Vilsack Plants a Garden
Vilsack's statement at the event was:

"It is essential for the federal government to lead the way in enhancing and conserving our land and water resources," said Vilsack. "President Obama has expressed his commitment to responsible stewardship of our land, water and other natural resources, and one way of restoring the land to its natural condition is what we are doing here today - "breaking pavement" for The People's Garden."

I didn't see pictures but I expect he was smoking a joint and had flowers in his hair. Oh wait - I guess I had missed the next paragraph of the news release. The garden was planted on Lincoln's 200th birthday, and Lincoln founded the USDA and named it "The People's Department." Damn, so it's just a historical reference, and not necessarily a nod to the hippies of this country that we might be seeing the change we need at USDA any time this century.

Here are the rest of the pertinent details... all good ones.

The gardens will be designed to promote "going green" concepts, including landscaping and building design to retain water and reduce runoff; roof gardens for energy efficiency; utilizing native plantings and using sound conservation practices.

The USDA People's Garden announced today will eliminate 1,250 square feet of unnecessary paved surface at the USDA headquarters and return the landscape to grass. The changes signal a removal of impervious surfaces and improvement in water management that is needed throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The new garden will add 612 square feet of planted space to an existing garden traditionally planted with ornamentals. The garden will showcase conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces. As a component of the garden, pollinator-friendly plantings will not only provide important habitat for bees and butterflies, but can serve as an educational opportunity to help people understand the vital role pollinators play in our food, forage and all agriculture. The garden plot is adjacent to the site of the USDA Farmer's Market.

Even if Vilsack won't be present at the next anti-war protest wearing beads and John Lennon glasses, he's still making at least a symbolic effort to changing the department in all of the right ways. And from some poking around on the USDA site, it appears like Vilsack's new garden is more than just symbolic. The link in the last sentence goes to a press release announcing a program to address one of my pet issues. Currently, farmers are not allowed to plant so-called "specialty crops" (what normal people refer to as fruits and vegetables) on "base acreage" (i.e. land where commodities like corn, soy, wheat, and hay) are grown. The press release announces a pilot program allowing farmers in several midwestern states to plant fruits and veggies on a certain amount of "base acres." Hooray! About f*ing time! Let's hope this pilot program leads to something bigger later.

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The People's Republic of Southeast Portland approves! (4.00 / 4)
Or at least, I just clapped a few times in my apartment.  Heh...

Any reason why the PTPP acreages are so (relatively) high in Minnesota and so low in Iowa?


I dunno (4.00 / 2)
Good question. Wonder if there's any connection to the fact that Collin Peterson lives in MN and Harkin and Vilsack are from Iowa?

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Good point about MN... (4.00 / 2)
Peterson slipped my mind there.  The Iowa connection stuck out like a sore thumb, though...

[ Parent ]
dude check this out from the USDA site (4.00 / 2)
Eligible participants must agree to produce one of the approved crops for processing and to provide the county FSA office with a copy of the contract between the producer and processing plant. Participants must agree to produce the crop as part of a program of crop rotation on the farm to achieve agronomic, pest and disease management benefits, and to provide disposition evidence of the crop. Participants must complete form CCC-749 (available at http://www.fsa.usda.gov) and file it with their county FSA office. [emphasis mine]

OK so this program isn't authorizing any new CSA programs here...

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman


[ Parent ]
Yeah, caught that... (4.00 / 2)
The part about 'for processing'...

So basically, it's like trading a few acres of soy for a few acres of ketchup?


[ Parent ]
well what else would you put on your burger (4.00 / 2)
made with the beef that the soy fed.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Not to rain on anyone's parade (4.00 / 4)
Of the things that Vilsack could do to "make change", planting a garden is probably the easiest and least likely to produce change. Call me a skeptic, but we should say something like "great. now do something that's politically hard to do and not a photo op."

The press release doesn't even mention that the garden might have food in it. From the release:

The gardens will be designed to promote "going green" concepts, including landscaping and building
design to retain water and reduce runoff; roof gardens for energy efficiency; utilizing native plantings and using sound conservation practices.


good call (4.00 / 3)
I did notice in the press release that they are planting a whole bunch of extra grass. Any environmentalist worth his or her Birkenstocks can tell you that more lawns might be better than more pavement but it's STILL not what we need. Not a great way to show you are "going green." More of a way to show you are paying lip service to going green.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
What have you got against hippies ;.) (4.00 / 5)
We the bloggers are the new hippies...and btw, I was some kind of hippie back in the sixties....we cared, we marched, we did open up some avenues, and yes we had long hair and attitude...and we did some strange things....now, well most kids have X boxes.

Sic Transit Gloria Locavore!



me? I like hippies (4.00 / 3)
but I do find it funny to think that Vilsack is putting himself in our category by naming his new garden The People's Garden... I'm very sad that it's actually just a reference to Lincoln and not a sign that he's one of us.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
When Vilsack was Governor (3.67 / 3)
He lived at the Terrace Hill governor's mansion, an estate with acres of meticulously manicured rambling lawns. I never saw that place tilled up for garden, just lots of folks driving large loud grass clipping machines around.

I really doubt if he's got religion all of a sudden. I mean, he's just your regular run of the mill liberal Democrat, let's face it, Hank Wallace he ain't.


he was never "liberal" (4.00 / 1)
Vilsack is a centrist Democrat through and through.

[ Parent ]
No opinion (4.00 / 2)
'cause I'm not well enough informed.

That thing about fruit trees, though, reminded me of something:

Did you know that some of the old-timers who moved from Italy to Brooklyn grew fig trees in their backyards?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06...

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/f...

And that it is actually possible to grow olive trees? (although not as easily as figs):

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/f...

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found. -- Calvin Trillin


Do folks use xmas lights on trees in NYC? (4.00 / 2)
I know we've seen lots of great winter-survival results for trees here in Texas that get the warmth from being wrapped up in little lights.

Maybe that could help ye olde figs?


[ Parent ]
Not that I know of. (4.00 / 1)
At least, yes, there are Christmas lights but I don't think that's how the figs were able to thrive.

I think they tended to plant the trees in sheltered areas where they wouldn't get hit by the worst winter winds.

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found. -- Calvin Trillin


[ Parent ]
Have you seen Obama Foodorama's mini-exposé on this? (0.00 / 0)
I'm not quite sure how to take it; worth a read though:
http://obamafoodorama.blogspot...

Obama Foodorama investigates how Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's asphalt-bustin' publicity stunt for Lincoln's Birthday Bicentennial morphs from jackhammering pavement to a global veggie garden extravaganza, complete with ropin' the First Lady in, a fake picture on USDA's website, a fake composting program, fake plans for the garden, fake plans to donate vegetables to DC foodbanks, and new, fake comments about the project posted on USDA's website. It's The People's Gardengate! Read on for all the details of Vilsack's masterful spin campaign....


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