Gardens to Sustain People and Pollinators
August 23, 2011
Asheville, NC — The USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station's (SRS) People's Garden welcomes hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and Job Corps students Wesley McCormick and Joseph Mack who are working to sustain and expand the garden. McCormick and Mack were selected for summer internships at the SRS.
The station's garden was designed with pollinators in mind, and created in summer 2010 as part of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's People's Garden Initiative, which encourages USDA employees to create gardens that demonstrate the department's mission and provide an example of a sustainable landscape.
The garden effort was coordinated by Stephanie Worley Firley, a biological science information specialist. Master gardener and beekeeper Diane Almond volunteered her time to oversee development of the natural area, and station employees donated plants.
Featuring mostly native flowers and shrubs, the garden provides sources of nectar and pollen to bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators, honoring their critical role in natural ecosystems and in fruit and vegetable production. This summer, it's also offered McCormick and Mack a way to build on skills and interests.
"I like being outside and working with my hands," says McCormick, who hopes to go back to school, possibly studying law enforcement or forestry. Mack has also considered a career in law enforcement, but after completing the Job Corps program, intends to "go back home, live with my family and child, and be successful." Mack is from Florida, but has spent the last 10 months at Job Corps locations in North Carolina, obtaining his G.E.D., and gaining job skills.
Job Corps is an education and training program offered by the U.S. Department of Labor, and free to eligible young people. The 124 Job Corps centers across the country provide career and life skills training, healthcare, housing, academic support and help finding jobs or college after completing the program. The Forest Service has been a major operator of Job Corps for over 45 years and now manages all the civilian conservation centers, including the Schenk Job Corps center near Brevard, NC, which offers advanced training programs in Wildland Fire and Natural Resources Program.
The Forest Service's relationship with Job Corp is a boon to both agencies, as the natural resource conservation projects and other programs offered by Job Corps prepare a diverse workforce for careers in the Forest Service, ensuring that disadvantaged young people are not left behind, but are included in the Forest Service's mission of "Caring for the Land and Serving the People."
Mack has seen the program in action; "my fiancé, cousin and many of my friends have been through the Job Corps programs," he says, "And they went on to good jobs."
This year, McCormick and Mack have been busy around the station, maintaining and improving the grounds including the garden, which is expanding. "We've added blueberries, sunflower and summer wine ninebark shrubs," says Mike Ward, master gardener and SRS engineering employee. "Everything we add is native to western North Carolina." Organizers chose combinations of plants to provide continuous blooms from early spring through late fall. In addition to food for pollinators, the garden also provides water, logs and stumps for shelter, and the minerals and mud used by many bees and butterflies.