Roger Doiron, Director of Kitchen Gardeners International, has just provided an update on the situation in South Dakota where a 4 year old girl’s garden is threatened with removal by a property management company under contract from the USDA. The child and her single, disabled mother live in a government subsidized housing development. Read about their predicament here.
Below is the text of Mr. Doiron’s response. While the 10,000+ people who have signed the petition and the hundreds who wrote emails have definitely gotten the USDA’s attention, the future of Rosie’s garden still remains uncertain. The picture above shows the current location of Rosie’s garden – it has been moved from it’s original location outside the back door of her mother’s unit to a place where it is not easy to water and in the direct sun where it is not likely to thrive, unfortunately. There are not yet any plans to move it back after necessary work is done around the buildings.
I thank Mr. Doiron for providing this thorough update on this heartbreaking situation. Even though the original post on this blog on Rosie and Mary’s predicament was appropriately and accurately updated as more details emerged from the USDA’s email response, the article was picked up by numerous other sites and bloggers who conveyed their own opinions about the story as they saw fit and which is certainly their right and privilege.
From Roger Doiron:
I want to provide you with an update on Rosie’s garden in South Dakota and also set the record straight on one point. This matter has moved a lot over the past three days. Over 10,000 people signed our petition asking the USDA’s Director of Rural Development in South Dakota to help 4 year old Rosie, her mother Mary and other people living in subsidized housing to be able to grow some of their own food. And hundreds of you wrote respectful emails delivering the same message.
Thank you for doing that as you have really gotten the USDA’s attention about the need to think about how food gardens can be made more accessible to people living in subsidized housing.
Despite our best efforts, though, the future of Rosie’s garden remains very uncertain. Since writing to you last, the garden (consisting mostly of tender greens) has already been removed from its very close and convenient location to one where it’s not likely to thrive: to a large concrete slab out in direct sun and out of easy watering range (see photo). The garden was moved in order to carry out landscaping work around the building with no plan to move it back. At this point, it is unclear what the final solution will be but the campaign has motivated the property management company and the USDA to find one with the property owner. As an act of our good faith and as a way of recognizing theirs, we’re retiring our petition to give them an opportunity to focus on finding a better long-term solution for Rosie, Mary and the other tenants in their building wishing to grow a garden.
In a perfect world, we would have been able to announce a quick and complete victory in this case but the real world is messier and more complicated than that. On that point, our campaign may have created some unintended messiness of its own in that some bloggers twisted the facts of the case to try to serve a different, non-gardening agenda about the USDA and the role of government in general. While the USDA has not been as responsive and proactive as we would have liked in this case, it is patently untrue to say that it or its employees are “anti-gardens” or “anti-children” as some bloggers have outrageously reported. Although the property management company claimed that the garden needed to be removed per USDA instructions, the USDA has clarified that it has neither a policy against gardens at subsidized housing buildings nor an explicit policy for them either. Hopefully, our little effort will have encouraged them to consider the latter in a more urgent and energetic way.
Thanks again for tuning into this issue and for raising your voice on Rosie and Mary’s behalf. Mary REALLY appreciates it and wanted me to convey her gratitude. You can count on me to be back in touch with any new developments as they happen.
PS: A number of you have written to me to inquire about donating garden supplies to Mary and Rosie. Thank you. Let’s hold that good thought for now until we hear if they have a suitable gardening space to call their own.
UPDATE 8/27/2013: According to KGI, the property management company handling the 8-unit rental property where Rosie and Mary live and the property owner have mutually agreed to build the family a new raised bed vegetable garden for them and the other tenants next spring. Unfortunately, it seems the USDA is a no show in the resolution process and has yet to respond to inquiries as to whether it will establish a policy to prevent this sort of subsidized housing harassment in the future.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Source: Kitchen Gardeners International
“To learn more visit the KYF Compass map and search projects for “garden.” ”
I am sure the little girl and her disabled Mother are made healthier and happier just reading all the things the USDA are doing that are so passionately “green”. (That was sarcasm)
How can real people look at this situation and somehow believe landscaping is a priority over the healthy food and the healthy activity of growing that food. Such a small important gift to give this family and all these powerful people have their all-important hands tied. Are we so far gone?
This reminds me of the movie “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. The USDA most definitely reminds me of the dangerously bureaucratic Vogons, the alien race that is about to blow up Earth because to make a super highway. Remember the dolphins in the movie that sing “So Long and Thanks for the Fish”, before they beam elsewhere to escape?
“So long, and thanks for all the fish
So sad that it should come to this
We tried to warn you all, but, oh, dear
You may not share out intellect
Which might explain your disrespect
For all the natural wonders that grow around you
So long, so long, and thanks for all the fish!
The world’s about to be destroyed
There’s no point getting all annoyed
Lie back and let the planet dissolve around you”
It goes on… So when the world’s a super highway with nice landscaping, remember Rosie.
This is a great example of a serious problem within American government and society. We have a foundational philosophy of government, a shared understanding and consent to be governed and yet we have corrupted our own way of government. We all learned or should have learned what the three branches of government are, where their power derives from and what their specific purposes are as well as how they are meant to balance and hold one another in check. How does the USDA fit into this picture? If you say they are legislative, then your answer shows your clear understanding of their attempts to make laws to govern us but is still completely fallacious. The USDA operates as an extension of he executive branch. It’s job, legally, cannot include making laws which our elected legislators have never voted on. We need to stop viewing the USDA. And other executive branch bureaucracies as having the authority that most people believe they have and start holding them and the president responsible for the level of corruption inherent on their current operations.
Just what kind of landscaping efforts are that important? The picture above gives me the impression that this is truly a rural area, not urban or suburban where people (wrong or right) care too much about lawns and live in close quarters to each other. It convinced me even more than I was before that the small garden was doing no harm. Did anyone pause to consider the actual people that would be harmed, i.e. the little girl and her mother? Because it just doesn’t make sense to me that grass or some little shrubs or something can be so important. Our landscapers are constantly planting and killing shrubs with their inept pruning efforts and having to replace them. So we live here half the year with dead or dying shrubs. I am in the process of moving somewhere where I can have a garden. Some people are not in that position. I’m sure Rosie’s mother would move her somewhere else if she could. I could go on but what’s the point. In five years government employees and their endless red tape will probably outnumber the rest of us.
SD USDA Rural Development
The Department of Agriculture would like to correct misinformation that has appeared in the media under the headline, “Government officials shut down 4-year-old’s vegetable garden.”
This story is not accurate.
Last week, confusion between a management company and tenants in a multi-housing complex in South Dakota over a landscaping project resulted in the company assisting the tenant and moving the garden while the grounds of the complex were renovated. The garden was not removed.
USDA’s Rural Development mission area does not have rules that forbid gardens — as most of the stories said. USDA Rural Development did not require the relocation of this garden.
USDA strongly supports local food production, including personal and community gardens, as a strategy to increase healthy food access. Through our People’s Garden initiative, we have partnered with nearly 1,300 organizations nationwide to encourage garden development. There are now nearly 2,000 People’s Gardens around the country, many of them on USDA property.
USDA coordinates support for local food production through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. From school gardens used as part of a garden-based education program, to community gardens and training programs to help residents grow their own food, USDA encourages communities and families to take advantage of our resources for garden development. To learn more visit the KYF Compass map and search projects for “garden.”
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
The fact is that the garden WAS relocated (see picture above) and there are no plans to move it back to where it was. In its new location, the garden will likely fail. The fact that the USDA did nothing to stop the relocation and hasn’t insisted that the garden be moved back to where it was makes the USDA complicit in this cruel act against this vulnerable family. The USDA can’t just wash its hands of what its subcontractors do and claim innocence.
Does this statement mean that the USDA will enact a policy to stop its property management subcontractors from stopping residents in subsidized housing from growing their own food? Or is this simply bureaucratic-speak to stop the bad emails/phone calls to your office as a result of the massive negative publicity from this story and then back to business as usual next week?
I must be missing something here…
“…This new garden was planted in the Spring of 2009 with the help of local elementary school children and has yielded a constant supply fresh produce for the First Family and White House events. August 8, 2009 (Public Domain)”
One of the first things Michelle Obama did as first lady was to dig up part of the beautifully manicured South Lawn of the White House and plant a vegetable garden. The garden was just one of Obama’s many efforts to encourage Americans to eat nutritious food and live healthier lives. Her latest project, a book called American Grown, is a diary of that garden through the seasons and a portrait of gardening in America, past and present.
@Kelly Smith…Yes! Let’s take an example from Michelle Obama and grow our own, grow local! Maybe Michelle can help this little girl keep her garden. I do understand about condo rules but really! Food first, it’s not harming anyone by growing vegetables.
In the war against poverty, in the war against nutritional deficiencies in school lunch programs, in the war against commercial giant processed foods and gmos… is this not a Victory Garden much like that in the President’s front yard? I’m disgusted.
Russia? Ukraine? Who cares, this is America, where can I send a check to this little one?
You know that empty lot looks just perfect for starting a community garden in. Raised bed style, like Lasagna Gardening, or Square Foot Gardening. Run a water line to it for better access and map out Lots for people… community could use one corner for mulch and lawn clippings, and Hey, you just started a community Green Project… aren’t there funding options for stuff like that some where????
But when it comes to Jobs, Economy, Small Business.. Basically Real Issues, not a response one.
Layoff / Closing List – http://www.dailyjobcuts.com