A happy ending in South Dakota edible garden scuffle
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 the attached 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.
I just spoke with the property management company handling the 8-unit rental property where Rosie and Mary live and the property owner has agreed to build a new raised bed vegetable garden for them and the other tenants next spring. It's a small victory, but hopefully one that will motivate local and federal decision-makers to make sure that others living in subsidized housing can enjoy the benefits of home-grown foods too.
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