An effort to educate consumers on how the American farmer feeds the world is underway on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Launched in late July, just across the street from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers Market is a new exhibit featuring small plots of conventionally grown crops, including alfalfa, corn and soybeans. Also featured are specialty crops plots and a pollinator garden.
This initiative is a partnership between USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and the Farm Journal Foundation, along with support from a plethora of agriculture organization donors.
“Agriculture has played a foundational role in building the United States’ leadership position in the world and it provides a critical element of our national security today and in the future,” said Farm Journal Foundation CEO Tricia Beal. “We are proud to partner without colleagues at USDA, as well as farmers, ranchers and valued partners across the nation, to bring this story to life through an immersive educational experience.”
Obama administration Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack established this mostly organic plot, formerly known as “the People’s Garden.” First Lady Michelle Obama also had a similar “kitchen garden” on the White House lawn, which she claimed was organic but was never USDA-certified organic.
Donning a new name and not-so-new growing techniques, the same plot of land beside the USDA Whitten Building is now known as “Voice of the Farmer Garden.”
According to the Hagstrom Report, the Voice of the Farmer Garden “does not officially endorse conventional, large-scale agriculture over organics or local production, but it is clear that the exhibit is designed to counter conventional agriculture’s declining reputation with consumers.”
The unveiling of the green space on the National Mall was celebrated with remarks from USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach and Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey, along with a group of agriculture leaders.
Ibach said the Voice of the Farmer Garden is “about using the voice of farmers and ranchers across our great nation to tell their story to consumers about what they do every day with their family to produce food for America’s families.”
The garden plot includes a dozen smaller plots to represent various crops and farming practices, including herbicide use, irrigation, genetically modified crops and the ag buzzword of the decade—soil health.
The garden and kiosks will be on display for roughly two years, through October 2020.
The public can interact with the exhibit in one of three ways—a mobile app guide, video kiosks and onsite farmer “ambassadors” who will be there on Fridays when the USDA Farmers Market is open for business in May through October. The app and kiosks feature the stories of real-life farmers and ranchers from across the country.
It is estimated that 24 million tourists visit the area annually. That’s a pretty good reach, huh?
Hopefully the garden will continue past 2020 to continue educating consumers visiting Washington, D.C.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.