Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 33

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 2 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE Your Farmer, Know Your Food.” You click on that, and then you can get a little video. So you go on and you get a map with a lot of geospatial information, a lot of data layers. This is sort of what was described under the first panel of what you can do here in Portland. The neat thing about that is you could do Oregon, and you could look and see all of the efforts that the Department of Agriculture has invested in, in the Beaver State over the last few years and be surprised at how broad those categories are. I’ll take you down here to the people’s garden initiative. My boss, the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, was governor of Iowa six plus years ago. He wasn’t a farmer himself, but he was a small-town lawyer to a bunch of farmers, including those who lost their farms in the debt crisis of the eighties, and then a mayor and then a state senator and then governor and now the thirtieth secretary of agriculture. Three weeks after he was sworn in, he was there on the national mall at USDA’s headquarters with a hardhat on and a jackhammer digging up some asphalt. And that spot became the first people’s garden wanting to reconnect with Abraham Lincoln’s vision. And now, as you can see, there are more than twenty-one hundred people’s gardens around the country and around the world as he challenged our USDA colleges to actually reconnect with the soil and plant a garden. And as we heard again on the first panel, a lot of that process is disconnected now. Not everybody has chickens in their backyards, and not everybody grows food. But, through these gardens, which could be at a downtown office center or could be in a rural strip mall where our service centers are . . . these gardens have been planted, and, lo and behold, we’ve got thirteen hundred partner organizations, almost a quarter-of-a-million volunteer hours, and almost four billion pounds of produce, grown and donated to the local food pantry, the church basement, and so on. So that too is a great, great resource. I’ll do two more and then shift into the next one. The StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity is the other one I have responsibility for, which is focused on providing intensive care in some of the poorest places in our country. Just over the last year, the investments that your taxpayer dollars and mine have gone into through the Department of Agriculture helped to create or retain more than five thousand jobs. In a small t own of about six hundred folks where I grew up, two or three jobs is a big deal. And it’s not in a metro area like this or Seattle. But in eastern Oregon, on the coast, something like that that creates a few jobs because they got a low interest loan is a really big deal. There are 125,000 folks who have a roof over their head thanks to low interest home loans in a rural area or rental assistance or otherwise; more than eight thousand farmers are getting loans. All of this is a direct result of providing intensive care in places that have higher than a 20 percent rate of poverty over a long period of time. There are three videos— about ten minutes each—that are worth taking a look at. And lastly, given the 30