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Archive for the ‘The People’s Garden Initiative’ Category

We are very pleased to announce that for the second time this summer Hardacre Community Garden is gaining national exposure.

A few weeks back, representatives from the USDA contacted Mike Boyle stating that they were impressed with Tipton’s contributions to their Feds Feed Families program, and asked for more information on our local work. Apparently, they were pleased with what they learned, and responded with this little write up on their blog.

http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/08/09/title-it-takes-a-county-%E2%80%A6-to-help-feed-families/#more-41847

 

It’s pretty cool to think that our local community garden has not once, but twice this season turned heads in Washington. It seems we must be doing something right (although we don’t need them to tell us that!)

Stay tuned in the coming weeks, because some of our regional media has caught wind as well…

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To begin with this evening, let’s take a look at some photos from not so long ago…

 

These were some of the first pictures taken of the garden this spring. The time was early April. Our young onions were just beginning to sprout, and with shorter days we worked through the hours of dusk to get all those potatoes in the ground.

 

A few weeks later, on May 15, this was the scene at the Cedar County Historical Society’s Prairie Village…

 

In a demonstration of historical technique and an exercise honoring our agricultural heritage, volunteers and historical society members gathered to plant sweet corn the old-fashioned way, with draft horses and an antique planter.

 

Now let’s fast forward a few months (or several decades, depending on how you look at it) for some of our more recent images.

 

These shots were taken last Saturday morning, July 21, as a group of local volunteers delivered potatoes and onions harvested from Hardacre Community Garden, and sweet corn picked from CCHS Prairie Village to the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Tipton. The produce will be donated to needy families throughout our area, providing them with nutritious locally grown food while alleviating some financial strain and allowing them to further stretch their budgets.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, just a portion of the total offerings that will be made available to our neighbors this year. It’s sometimes hard to believe what a garden can produce in the span of just a few short months. Rest assured, a lot of hard work has gone into reaching this point; much commitment and dedication was needed to get us from then to now. However, the point of this reflection is to consider how those efforts started- with the care and compassion of volunteers who had the vision to put a few seeds in the ground.

Now the actions of those few will have a significant impact on the lives of many.

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

 

July 21 Volunteers Pictured, bottom photo (from left): Mike Boyle, Mike Bixler, Trent Pelzer, Cindy Pelzer, Ken Reichert, Matt Pelzer, Scott Pelzer, Sandy Harmel.

 

Draft Horse Photos compliments of Mike Boyle… July 21 Bread of Life Photos compliments of Kris Clark.

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This past Tuesday, May 15, marked the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln signing the Department of Agriculture act into law. Lincoln would soon after refer to the USDA as “The People’s Department,” recognizing the importance of providing a solid agricultural foundation for our quickly developing country. Now, a century and a half later as the USDA celebrates this significant milestone year, Lincoln himself is being recognized for his contributions and vision in creating such an agency.

This spring, the USDA gifted special seed packets to all member projects of their People’s Garden Initiative (named for the Lincoln’s description of the Department.) Each packet contained 10 heirloom “Abraham Lincoln” tomato seeds, with the idea of paying homage to the strong history of community gardening in America while offering tribute to this influential leader. Each of the 1,630 registered People’s Gardens across the nation and around the world have been asked to plant these tomatoes, then track and share their progress using social media throughout the growing season. This will not only provide a connection to our agricultural heritage, but foster a sense of unity in the common mission shared throughout the entire People’s Garden network.

Abraham Lincoln tomatoes are a fascinating strain. Developed and first introduced in 1923 by W.H. Buckbee Seed Company of Rockford, Illinois, the fruit was named for that state’s greatest son. Marketed as “The Giant of All Tomatoes,”  Abraham Lincoln’s were touted as “beautiful dark red attractive fruits, heavy, sweet, solid and meaty…” It was boasted that mature tomatoes averaged a pound in weight, though three-pound whoppers were not uncommon. Despite their size, the tomatoes were said to be “remarkably smooth and free from cracks and seams.” Seeds were sold in packets of 100 with a  catalog price listed at twenty cents a pack.

Though Abraham Lincoln tomatoes entered the gardening world with limited acclaim, the variety quietly gained a reputation as a dependable favorite, even surviving the shift to hybrid strains that became prevalent in the 1940’s. Now, nearly 90 years after it was first introduced, Abraham Lincoln tomatoes are a true garden classic with strong roots anchored deep in our horticultural past.

At Hardacre Community Garden, we’re very excited to join in this global celebration and to be growing Abraham Lincoln heirloom tomatoes this summer. Our seeds were started by local students in the Tipton High School grow chamber, and a few plants were put in the ground last week by volunteers Mike Boyle and Josh Meier in celebration of the USDA’s 150th anniversary.

In conjunction with this commemoration, we will have signs posted in the garden marking our special Abraham Lincoln plants. We eagerly invite all of our friends to seek them out when visiting the site, and to check and see how the plants are progressing. We will also be taking part in the USDA based online campaign, sharing photos and updates of our tomato growing efforts with fellow gardeners near and far. Facebook, Twitter, and this blog will be our primary means of purveying this information, and you can find links to our social media accounts in the column to the right.

 The USDA People’s Garden website can be viewed by clicking  HERE,  and contains further details on both the initiative and Abraham Lincoln Tomatoes.

Of course the greatest reward of this special project, like everything we do, is knowing that the work put into growing these tomatoes will eventually pay off in providing healthy, local food for neighbors in our community. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to share in such blessings, and we’re always happy to accept an extra hand from those willing to help. If you live in the Tipton area and would like to get involved, please feel free to stop out at the garden on any weekday evening, when you can generally find someone playing in the dirt. Otherwise, contact Josh by leaving a message in the comment section below, or on our Hardacre Community Garden Facebook page at  www.facebook.com/hardacregarden for further information.

Thanks for your support, and for your ongoing interest in Hardacre Community Garden. We’d love to see you out at the farm- and we’re fairly certain  that Honest Abe would approve as well!

 

Above: Hardacre Community Garden volunteers Mike Boyle and Josh Meier plant tomatoes in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the USDA. May 15, 2012.

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On May 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress establishing the United States Department of Agriculture. Lincoln would later refer to the USDA as “The People’s Department,” acknowledging the important role farming played in the lives of all American’s. At the time, half of the population lived outside of cities, and agriculture held a prominent position in the conscience of our developing nation.

A lot has changed in the one hundred and fifty years that have since passed. Today, only about two percent of American’s live on farms; and in our fast paced, narrowly focused culture many have developed a disconnect when it comes to understanding the origin of their food. Even though agriculture continues to impact each of us daily, most fail to recognize its importance. It could be questioned what this says, or what perils exist, for a society that neglects due vigilance toward such a basic need.

In light of these concerns, the Local Food Movement has gained momentum in recent years. Drawing from the philosophy that locally grown foods are healthier for both people and the environment, the movement has brought increased awareness of agricultural production and a push to return to more traditional practices. In 2009 the USDA recognized the importance of this growing trend and created “The People’s Garden” initiative. This program seeks to promote responsible food systems by encouraging the practice of community gardening across the nation.

Through this initiative, the USDA recognizes community garden projects as “People’s Gardens” if they fulfill three criteria. First of all, the project must consist of a collaborative effort between local individuals, groups, or organizations. The garden must also incorporate sustainable, ecologically sound practices. And finally, the garden must be purposed for the benefit of a community.

Tipton’s Hardacre Community Garden is recognized as a People’s Garden, and has enjoyed this status since the projects inception in 2009. In qualifying for this label, the garden is entirely volunteer driven and work is done through a combined effort of neighbors from the area. We strive to be responsible land stewards through sustainable practices such as abstaining from pesticide use, planting organic and heirloom variety seed, and reclaiming waste material for construction and other projects. And of course, the fundamental ambition of our work at Hardacre Community Garden is for the benefit of our neighbors in Cedar County and surrounding areas. While anyone is welcome and encouraged to share produce from the garden, the majority of our harvest is donated to area food pantries, care facilities, churches and other neighbors in need. In 2011, nearly five and a half tons of healthy, homegrown vegetables were distributed throughout the community (and we’re pushing to top this in 2012!) We also provide communal benefit by offering our garden as an educational resource and maintaining close ties to our horticultural heritage and local history. Through these efforts, Hardacre Community Garden exemplifies the People’s Garden initiative, and we carry that banner as one of seventy three such projects in Iowa- boasting more USDA People’s Gardens than any other state.

(Note: Our relationship with the USDA is through this recognition/honor. While we are proud to represent Tipton as a member of this initiative and do access resources available through the USDA, we are our own separate entity and not a division of or funded by the agency.)

This year, in celebration of its sesquicentennial and as a tribute to its founding father, the USDA is working with People’s Gardens to honor the past while moving forward into the future. The Department has given each People’s Garden packets of seed containing “Abraham Lincoln” Tomatoes, an heirloom variety developed in 1923 by H.W. Buckbee of Rockford, Illinois. By planting these, gardeners will essentially be growing a piece of history, as this particular seed has been collected and passed across seasons for nearly ninety years. However, in a modern day twist growers have been asked to track progress of their Abraham Lincoln tomatoes and share photos via social media with the greater People’s Garden community. This offers local food enthusiasts everywhere the opportunity to join in unison and commemorate the USDA’s contribution and advocacy of the community gardening cause.

At Hardacre Community Garden, we are also honoring our agricultural heritage with an eye to the future. In addition to taking part in the Abraham Lincoln Tomato project, we are attempting to increase community awareness of our work by developing an online presence. A facebook page was created earlier this spring to be used as a forum in sharing photos and spreading garden information. (www.facebook.com/hardacregarden) And now, 150 years to the day after Honest Abe signed off on the USDA, we are pleased to announce the launch of this, our new Hardacre Community Garden blog.

Through these media we will be able to share stories and images from our garden with friends from down the street and around the globe. It is our hope that through this campaign we will increase our network of support and further our mission of not only providing a source of healthy, locally grown food but also of being an educational asset to the community.

Through this process, we would love to engage with each of you. Please feel free to leave questions or comments on this blog or on our facebook page at anytime. Check back often for updated posts (or sign up for the email notification to the right) and by all means, please help us spread the word and reach a wider audience by sharing this page with your friends.

Thank you for your interest and ongoing support of Hardacre Community Garden. Here’s to a great 2012 season, in both our physical and virtual realms!

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