US Senator Jack Reed visited the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown today to praise the organization’s efforts to engage local communities in nature preservation and celebrate the recent grant award from the US Department of Agriculture’s People’s Garden Initiative. The initiative aims to promote the growth of healthy food and support resilient, local food systems while teaching people to garden using conservation practices, nurturing habitats for pollinators and wildlife, and creating green spaces for neighbors.
Reed was joined by representatives from the Rhode Island State Conservation Committee and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, who provided funding for the People’s Garden grant awarded to Norman Bird Sanctuary. The grant will support the development of a food forest, an expansion of the organization’s award-winning Good Gardens, which donates all its produce to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center’s Food Pantry in Newport. The new Food Forest will integrate a multistoried garden featuring large fruit and nut trees with a diverse understory of food-producing species below the canopy.
During the visit, Senator Reed helped plant a Montmorency Cherry tree to mark the beginning of the new Food Forest. The funding from the People’s Garden Initiative can be spent on various items such as tools, soil, seed, fertilizer, irrigation materials, garden materials, lumber, high tunnels, and pollinator plants.
Norman Bird Sanctuary’s Executive Director, Kaity Ryan, praised the 300 acres of the sanctuary as a critical component of the open space and habitat in the southeast corner of Aquidneck Island known as Paradise Valley.
“The 300 acres that make up the Norman Bird Sanctuary are a critical component of the open space and habitat on the southeast corner of Aquidneck Island known as Paradise Valley. We would not be able to maintain our gardens, habitat areas and seven miles of trails without volunteer support,” said Kaity Ryan, Executive Director of Norman Bird Sanctuary.
Ryan also encouraged community members to volunteer for the Conservation Crew projects such as gardens, trails, invasive species, stone wall, and bird nest monitoring.
Volunteers are encouraged to contact Norman Bird Sanctuary at 401-846-2577 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An application and additional information about volunteering for the Conservation Crew projects such as gardens, trails, invasive species, stone wall, and bird nest monitoring can be found here.
Senator Reed, who is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and sits on the Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the US Department of Agriculture, applauded the grant award and commended the organization for its outstanding work.
The People’s Garden Initiative was named after President Abraham Lincoln, who described the USDA as “The People’s Department,” and since its inception in 2009, more than 500 gardens have signed up to be designated as People’s Gardens, from nearly every state in the US. In 2023, the USDA made available up to $7.5 million for grants through its Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to support the development of urban agriculture and innovative production projects.