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Photo Gallery | JA Fair students plant tomatoes for Earth Day

LITTLE ROCK, AR– Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Mike Sullivan toured J.A. Fair High School’s Environmental Science Program on April 27 and gave a presentation to students during an Earth Day program at the school.  This year, in addition to Earth Day, the presentation also honored the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

President Abraham Lincoln founded the USDA on May 15, 1862, referring to it as “The People’s Department.”  During the program, students planted ‘Abraham Lincoln’ heirloom tomato seedlings in a raised garden bed in their newly designated ‘People’s Garden’.  Fair recently became one of approximately 100 schools in the nation to join the USDA’s People’s Garden program.

"This program is an outstanding opportunity for students to gain a better understanding of how food is grown and produced," Sullivan said.  "It’s an opportunity to raise awareness about sustainable agriculture practices, connecting students with where their food comes from, and educating them on protecting our environment and conserving our natural resources.  It will also help them understand that agriculture is a unique, exciting, and challenging career path."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack launched the People's Garden initiative in February 2009 on the 200th anniversary of the birth of President Lincoln  The initiative aims to engage all USDA employees to create gardens that benefit their communities and highlight sustainable practices that protect the environment. To meet this goal, employees are partnering with hundreds of organizations to create a 'People's Garden' at their USDA office or in their local communities. 

“In addition to a two acre garden, our Environmental Science Program includes a pond, 1.2 mile nature trail, 40’ x 60’ greenhouse, 3000 square foot flower bed and a creek that runs through the campus,” said Dennis Troutman, lead environmental science teacher.  “All these areas are a part of our outdoor classroom experience for our students.  We’re honored that NRCS came here today and we’re honored to participate in this program.”

Today, over 1,200 People's Gardens across the country are demonstrating how connections are made between providing access to nutritious food, while protecting the landscape where that food is grown, serving communities and helping those in need.  These gardens provide educational opportunities for children and adults about nutrition and sustainability as well as introduce younger generations to agriculture and fresh foods.

More information about 'The People's Garden' initiative can be found at www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden.  For additional information about NRCS, visit http://www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov/.

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