The Sitka Local Foods Network’s St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has been admitted to the USDA People’s Garden Initiative, which recently was rekindled after going dormant during the Trump Administration. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm held People’s Garden status in the original program, which launched in 2009.
When the USDA relaunched the program this spring, it initially included the garden at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and 17 other gardens in major cities around the country. In September, the USDA opened the program to other gardens around the country, and organizations could apply for the program by going to the People’s Garden website and applying.
According to the USDA, school gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and small-scale agriculture projects in rural and urban areas can be recognized as a “People’s Garden” if they:
- Benefit the community by providing food, green space, wildlife habitat, education space.
- Are a collaborative effort. This can include groups working together with USDA agencies, food banks, Girl Scouts, Master Gardeners, conservation districts, etc.
- Incorporate conservation management practices, such as using native plant species, rain barrels, integrated pest management, xeriscaping.
- Educate the public about sustainable gardening practices and the importance of local, diverse and resilient food systems providing healthy food for the community.
“St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has been a tremendous resource for getting local produce into the hands of Sitka residents,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “We started the communal garden after the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, and we’ve been building on it ever since. It’s where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows most of the produce it sells at the Sitka Farmers Market each summer. In 2020 and 2021 we added two high tunnels, which allowed us to extend our growing season and reduced the impact of recent cold, wet summer weather.”
Laura Schmidt has been the lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm for a dozen years. In 2019, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm earned a Certified Naturally Grown designation, meaning it follows sustainable gardening principles, such as not using chemical fertilizers or GMOs. The People’s Garden website currently shows five gardens in Alaska with the designation.