U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman has named Atlantan Bobby Wilson as Georgia's Community Gardening Coordinator to provide advice on establishing and expanding community gardens in the state.
Wilson is the area Extension Service agent for Fulton and DeKalb counties, where he coordinates the urban gardening program. He is also the president of the American Community Gardening Association.
"Community gardens not only produce fresh fruits and vegetables, but can also help create more livable communities by replacing unused lots with productive green spaces," Glickman said in videotaped remarks prepared for the ACGA conference in Atlanta.
"These gardening projects can be vital for communities," he said. "So I have selected coordinators in each state to help faith-based organizations, nonprofit groups, state and local governments and individuals create or expand gardens in their neighborhoods."
Innovation and Success
"In light of the innovation and success Wilson has shown with the Atlanta urban gardening program, his new appointment certainly comes as no surprise," said Susan Harrell, district extension head in north Georgia .
"The urban gardening program is nationally known for creating the circle-gardening concept that reduces waste in the landfill, saves water and creates an environment for inner-city gardening," Harrell said.
"Wilson's leadership and entrepreneurial skills add an extra dimension that strengthens the urban gardening program he has in Atlanta," she said.
The newly named coordinators will offer information and technical help to nonprofit groups, native American tribes, school districts, private businesses, individuals and state, local, and federal governments as they start or expand local community gardens.
The coordinators will offer advice on site location and planning, what and when to plant, soil surveys, soil conservation, volunteer recruitment and links with government agencies. USDA has provided technical help, national publicity and limited seed money to local gardening projects. The agency also created a national gardening Web site, www.gardening.usda.gov.
All of the new coordinators are working with nonprofit groups and other partners to develop specific plans to help community gardening efforts in their states. These plans may include partnerships, technical assistance workshops and public events to encourage community gardening.
Bringing People Together
"Community gardens can bring people together, enhance communities and help fight hunger," Glickman said. "And by giving school children a chance to plant and care for community gardens, we offer them a healthy and productive way to have fun and improve their neighborhoods."
The new community gardening coordinators are already USDA employees, so no added funding is required. A state-by-state list of the coordinators is available at www.reeusda.gov/SCGC.
(Joel Berg is coordinator of community food security with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)