What is all the buzz about? Visitors were able to experience the important roles played by bees and other pollinators to put food on our tables. They met with USDA honeybee researchers and learned how they could help promote local pollinators. The USDA Agricultural Research Service has five laboratories across the United States that work to improve pollinator health and insure pollination availability, focusing on such varied projects as disease management, non-honeybee pollinators, Africanized bees, nutrition, and breeding a better bee. Visitors learned why honeybees are so important in agriculture and how other pollinators play vital roles in the natural ecosystem. They discovered some amazing facts about the ancient history of humans and honeybees, and learned the terrible reality of Colony Collapse Disorder, which began plaguing bees only recently. They also discovered how different flowers produce distinctive tasting honeys. Find out what you can do to help save the bees!
The People’s Garden Initiative
The People’s Garden Initiative is one of the USDA’s projects that are “reinventing agriculture” in communities across the country.
This Initiative began in 2009 when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack challenged employees to create gardens at USDA worldwide. It quickly blossomed into a community movement with more and more people working together to build school gardens, community gardens, and small-scale agriculture projects in urban and rural communities across the country. Today, this project involves more than 750 partner organizations and more than 1,700 “People’s Gardens” located in all 50 states and overseas. Every People’s Garden must benefit the community. They must be collaborative and involve local individuals, groups, or organizations in creating and maintaining the gardens. These projects must also incorporate sustainable practices. People’s Gardens are located at faith-based centers, on federal leased or owned property, at schools including several land-grant universities, and at other community locations.
Visitors were able to talk gardening with USDA employees who are certified Executive Master Gardeners. USDA established the Executive Master Gardener Program in 2009 in order to train individuals interested in volunteering with the People’s Garden at USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. More than 150 USDA employees have become certified after successfully completing the training program. The Executive Master Gardener Program is patterned as an abbreviated version of the localized Extension Master Gardener Program. Extension Master Gardeners undergo more extensive training and volunteer commitments, up to seventy-five hours each, in some states.
Visitors explored this living exhibit to see the different types of gardens—all access, pollinator-friendly, edible, green roof, and container—that qualify as People’s Gardens. Visitors also learned about simple environmentally friendly practices that can be incorporated into community gardens like composting, mulching, gardening with native plants, setting up a rain barrel, using reclaimed wood, and installing a green roof.