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From Washington DC to Brentwood-Darlington...an official comes to take a look

DAVID F. ASHTON - In the Multnomah County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, USDA Acting Undersecretary Dr. Ann Bartuska examines some of the tomatoes growing there. The Learning Garden Laboratory in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood was the destination for Washington DC based USDA Acting Undersecretary Dr. Ann Bartuska, on Thursday morning, August 10.

"Her visit is important to us because it will highlight all of the cool programming around urban agriculture that we're doing here," smiled Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service Community Horticulturist Weston Miller, while awaiting Bartuska's arrival.

Bartuska, upon arriving, told reporters at an impromptu press conference at the Garden that she's joining with the faculty of the OSU Extension Service to engage with other program partners in a "Beginning Urban Farmers Apprentice (BUFA)" program in Portland.

"I'm actually visiting Portland this week as part of an Ecological Society of America meeting," Bartuska revealed.

Responding to a question asked by THE BEE, Bartuska said, "I'm looking forward to seeing what's happening in the Learning Garden Lab, including the learning tools, and how the community is coming together. The thing about urban farming that's really powerful for me is how it brings communities into the practice of farming. It really starts in the community, brings people together, and then, the food comes from that.

"This is my first opportunity to see urban farming here in Inner Southeast Portland, and I'm glad to learn about the high value that people here place on fresh, local food," Bartuska added.

Observing that Lane Middle School is just across the street, Bartuska remarked that urban farming programs provide STEM science learning activities for kids.

"80% of the American public lives in urban areas," Bartuska went on. "The increasing interest in fresh local foods, the fact we want to connect food to people, and get high-quality nutritious food available as quickly as possible – has really created an interest in urban farming."

Bartuska told us that she was also promoting the "USDA Urban Agriculture Tool Kit", a PDF document found online – www.usda.gov

Her first stop on the tour was visiting the Multnomah County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at Learning Garden Lab, before visiting other areas at the site.

"I can see that the BUFA program in Portland not only holds promise for Oregon, but can serve as an example for other cities," Bartuska beamed.

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