Lucas Praises America’s Farmers on Earth Day

Apr 22, 2009

Tamara Hinton (202) 225-0184

WASHINGTON – Today, Ranking Member Frank Lucas issued the following statement praising American farmers and ranchers as being the first and best stewards of our land:

“While posters, politicians, and Hollywood-types are encouraging urban and suburban Americans to make every day Earth Day, it’s more than a catchy slogan for American farmers and ranchers. It is a way of life that’s been passed down from generation to generation.

“The rest of America is focusing on what farmers and ranchers already know: there is no more important resource than our natural resources. Our producers’ legacy and livelihood depend on fertile soils, clean water, and fresh air. They have spent generations protecting millions of acres and miles of river fronts so that they can continue to produce the safest, most abundant, most wholesome, and most affordable food supply this world has ever known.

“While farmers and ranchers mark the day by continuing to do what they do best, Secretary Vilsack marks the day by expanding “The People’s Garden” around the USDA headquarters. In a press release today, Secretary Vilsack said “this garden will help illustrate the many ways USDA works to provide a sustainable, safe and nutritious food supply as well as protect and preserve the landscape where that food is produced.”

“I commend Secretary Vilsack for his efforts in highlighting the hard work it takes to create a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply, but it is the farmers and ranchers of America that accomplish this, not USDA. In fact, as best I know, planting The People’s Garden is the first working of the land that USDA has done.

“Earth Day is a fitting time to praise our farmers and ranchers, who are natural stewards of the earth, for the work they do to preserve our natural resources and to feed an ever growing world population. Earth Day is also a fitting time to remind us all that agriculture production does not come with a high rate of return and that these are difficult and uncertain times for our producers all across rural America,” said Ranking Member Frank Lucas.

The full press release from Secretary Vilsack is below:


WASHINGTON, April 22, 2009 - In honor of Earth Day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared the entire grounds at the USDA Jamie L. Whitten Building as 'The People's Garden' and unveiled plans to create a sustainable landscape on the grounds.

"USDA is an every day every way kind of department and this garden will help illustrate the many ways USDA works to provide a sustainable, safe and nutritious food supply as well as protect and preserve the landscape where that food is produced," said Vilsack. "The garden will help explain to the public how small things they can do at home, at their business or on their farm or ranch, can promote sustainability, conserve the nation's natural resources, and make America a leader in combating climate change."

The People's Garden is designed to provide a sampling of USDA's efforts throughout the world as well as teach others how to nurture, maintain and protect a healthy landscape. If practiced, these garden concepts can be the general public's, government's, or business' contribution to providing healthy food, air, and water for people and communities.

In response to the overwhelming public support and hundreds of letters the 'People's Garden' concept has received, Secretary Vilsack challenged USDA facilities around the world to plant their own 'People's Gardens.'

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan officially kicked off the Earth Day event at the Whitten Building with Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Brings Plenty who performed a traditional song and planted seeds at a ceremonial Three Sisters Garden to celebrate American Indians' contribution to American agriculture. Merrigan led volunteers and USDA staffers in planting vegetables, herbs and flowers to complete the first phase of The People's Garden. Eventually, the garden will include organic raised vegetable beds, organic transition plots, an organic urban container garden, an organic kitchen pollinator garden, rain gardens and a bat house.

A Three Sisters Garden is a traditional garden consisting of corn, beans and squash that has been planted by American Indians for centuries. Stories of the Three Sisters refers to a tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mound. It is a sophisticated, sustainable planting system that has provided long term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations of American Indians.

The People's Garden is not confined to USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. Secretary Vilsack has challenged all USDA facilities-across the country and around the world-to create similar gardens and create healthier landscapes.

The garden at the Whitten Building was first dedicated on Feb. 12, 2009, to commemorate the 200th birthday of President Lincoln. USDA is planning to have the garden fully certified organic within three years. USDA's vegetable garden will provide a great variety and amount of organic produce, which will be donated to a local food bank.

To expand the People's Garden, USDA partnered with 75 representatives from other federal and state agencies, universities, non-governmental and non-profit organizations to redesign an innovative and sustainable landscape for USDA's headquarters. This landscape will demonstrate environmentally responsible practices and will educates and engages the public through accessible exhibits.

Information about The People's Garden Initiative is available at