Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been recognizing small-scale agricultural projects that benefit their communities as “People’s Gardens.” These gardens serve as a model of what local gardens can do to build community, grow local and nutritious food, and educate the community on sustainable local food production. One important aspect of these gardens is that they incorporate good conservation practices, a goal the Xerces Society has supported for a number of projects.
Recently, this included working with Our Village Gardens, an organization dedicated to providing space for community gardens and healthy food for the neighborhoods in North Portland. Residents of this neighborhood include communities of color, refugees and immigrants impacted by food insecurity and inequity. Our Village Gardens’ programs include running the Seeds of Harmony community garden and Fruits of Diversity community orchard. They also established The Village Market, Portland's first non-profit grocery store, which distributes healthy vegetables and fruit from in the gardens.
This past summer, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oregon recognized Our Village Gardens Seeds of Harmony community garden as their choice for the People’s Garden location of Portland, as part of their new Urban Agriculture initiative. In celebration of the new designation, the Xerces Society and NRCS partnered with Our Village Gardens to establish pollinator and beneficial insect habitat around the garden and orchard. A community work party drew members of the local community, Xerces and volunteers from the University of Portland to install native pollinator plants.
Together, we planted a 50-foot long hedgerow, 135-foot long insectary strip and an additional 225 square feet of native pollinator habitat. The habitat was designed by Xerces to include plants that bloom throughout the growing season and provide stem-nesting habitat and overwintering habitat that is important for pollinator survival in the urban environment. Several weeks later we shared the new planting with the greater community at the NRCS ribbon cutting ceremony for unveiling of the official Portland People’s Garden at Our Village Gardens!
As USDA continues their urban agricultural initiative and Xerces expands to new states and cities, we look forward to the new opportunities ahead to work with urban gardens to bring pollinator habitat to cities across America.