On July 30, 2009, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan cut the ribbon to open the first roof-top “People’s Garden” garden atop the offices of the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) in Washington, DC. The energy-efficient garden will use native plants and sound conservation practices to engage public about sustainability
The project is part of the USDA’s “People’s Garden” initiative, launched earlier this year, which aims to create a community garden at USDA facilities across the country and worldwide to set an example of environmentally friendly, sustainable landscapes.
“People’s Gardens can take many forms and, with this new garden, USDA continues to lead by example and to engage the public about the importance of conserving our land and water resources,” said Merrigan. “Urban roof-top gardens, whether they contain vegetables, flowers, or other decorative plants, can create habitat for pollinators and provide precious green space in areas where green is scarce.”
A “People’s Garden” now occupies the entire grounds of USDA’s headquarters building—the Jamie L. Whitten Building—and is designed to serve as the nation’s demonstration plot, showing that small steps can generate important gains in mitigating global warming and producing a safe, sustainable and nutritious food supply.
The ERS garden, dubbed GardenERS and located off the main USDA complex, is the first “People’s Garden” to be planted on the roof-top of a non-USDA building. The garden will be maintained with environmentally sensitive, organic practices.
GardenERS will feature native perennial plants that flower in spring and summer and that require no fertilizer. In addition, the GardenERS project will “adopt” a nearby pocket park, with volunteer ERS staff working with the National Park Service twice a month to help maintain the park. Plans also include an interior container garden of edible plants to demonstrate that vegetables can grow in small spaces and with sustainable practices.
The overall USDA “People’s Garden” initiative has multiple goals. The garden at the USDA headquarters demonstrates a variety of sustainable garden concepts to a visiting public—such as landscaping to retain water and reduce runoff. In addition to demonstrating environmentally friendly food production, the garden includes former impervious surface that was returned to valuable green space. The USDA is also conducting public workshops in healthy gardening techniques each Friday through late September at the headquarters People’s Garden.