U.S. sees no need to teach people to grow food


by Susan
You’ve probably never heard of the U.S. Agricultural Research Service but it’s high time we all paid someColeman

attention to it.  That’s because its
funding is slated for BIG cuts, and 11 research centers around the country face closure.  In her column this week Barbara Damrosch blasted the $3 million cut in store for the premier agricultural library in the world – in Beltsville, MD, an address that’s revered by hort folks around the world.  The plan for saving that pittance is to stop sending printed food-growing information to people who need it, one of whom for the last 30 years has been Damrosch’s famous food-growing husband, Eliot Coleman.  So starting next year, the resources will only be available in person and a global resource will become merely local.  Poor farmers in developing countries without access to the Internet will be the hardest hit, according to Damrosch.  Here’s the story.

Sure, with food shortages, concerns about food safety, a growing interest in local food and finally some growth in gardening in America – of edibles – what better time to stop helping people learn to grow food?  Makes sense to me!

Another venerable institution slated for crippling budget slashing is the National Arboretum, whose plant collections and breeding programs are a global resource.  So, collections will be abandoned, public programming canceled, and so on ad nauseum. Adrian Higgins recently reported this depressing news and the Washington Post ran the story on page 1 above the fold.  (So I take heart that somebody in the mainstream media thinks it’s more significant than the latest bloviation from Jeremiah Wright.)

While you still can, take a virtual tour of the collections and gardens.  The lower photo is from the Gotelli Collection slide show.


  1. Some days I want to hide my head under the covers and not come out. Illinois awarded a million and a half dollars to beautify a short section of 79th street this past year (grass, flowers hanging baskets etc…) . And yet this year funding has been with held for the agricultural extention service including 4-h programs and funding for Extension programs
    such as Master Gardeners,
    Master School Gardeners,
    Master Composters
    and Master Food Preservers that
    donate thousands of hours directing educational projects.

  2. The US Agriculture Department’s budget rose from 10.2 billion dollars to 11.2 billion dollars from 2007 to 2008. We continue to subsidize growers of corn to be burned as fuel when farmers are experiencing record windfalls in profits. Biofuels have increased fuel costs, increased pollution and raised the cost of food for all and devistate people of lower incomes.

    If agricultural education is suffering it is not because of lack of funding, it is because of out of control spending on politically profitable pork projects. Spending is the problem.

  3. Well, for goodness sake. In this day and age we all should know how to grow food. With world shortages of foods. Geez. What is this government coming to??

  4. Actually, this kind of thing could be exactly what is needed to make people *want* that kind of resourse more.

    If not, there’s still a lot of information available: Gardening neighbors, libraries, local nurseries/gardening clubs, etc. Personally I use the backs of the packets of seeds when I am trying something new to me.

  5. It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? With the price of gas and milk and fruit and vegetables skyrocketing, crippling the budgets of hard-working Americans, now would be the perfect time to INCREASE funding to agricultural educational programs. Do you know how much money I saved last year by growing tomatoes, etc? And programs like 4H teach people how to conserve and do for themselves rather than buy. As a master gardener, I certainly appreciate the value of extension services across the country. They should be on the upswing now, not the decline.

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