Monday, October 07, 2013

Furloughed in the Garden!?!

DC-area gardeners, as well as gardeners throughout the country, are being directly impacted by the Federal Government Shutdown in several ways.

First, there are the gardeners who rent community garden plots on Federal land within Rock Creek Park. They are officially barred from accessing their plots and harvesting, planting, watering, etc. Can you imagine?!
   The nonprofit Neighborhood Farm Initiative's Kristin Brower says, "We cancelled our workday on Wednesday, but we need to go out! So since we have access (unlike the Washington Youth Garden) we are still planning to have a secret workday." Many gardeners share her sentiment that "I'm not going to have my garden shut-down just because of the shutdown!"
   The Washington Youth Garden on the grounds of the US National Arboretum (USNA) similarly cannot host volunteers or field trips in their garden. The Friends of the National Arboretum report that USNA collections are being watered as they are an "essential" activity, but all other access and activities at the USNA is at a standstill. Same thing goes for the US Botanic Gardens (USBG) on the National Mall. If you were signed up to take a class or go to an event at these public gardens, they are canceled for the time being. If you are a garden speaker, as I am, and you were set to speak to a class during this shutdown, you do not get paid.
   In addition, gardeners, visitors, and volunteers are prohibited from fully accessing the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens , Mt Vernon, and Claude Moore Colonial Farm. The latter two properties are privately funded and access was/is being blocked to their parking and roads, which may or may not technically by legal
   Gardener groups who hold their meetings and events at these public gardens have had to cancel them or scramble for alternatives. The National Capital Orchid Society (NCOS) has their big annual show and sale at the USNA each October and was fortunate to be able to move it to Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville, MD, this upcoming weekend. It will not be the same, but at least it will go on.

Second, gardeners are being cut off from vital information. The USDA plants database is down, as reported on GardenRant, and the National Agricultural Library is closed to the public. That means I'm also cut off from researching stories and accessing photo files. I cannot interview experts, nor even get official quotes for this blog post since all the press offices are closed.

Third, small gardening businesses are being severely hurt by the shutdown. Federal workers and contractors on furlough have told me in the last week that they have cut all purchasing to the bone. Which means, the plant sale at Green Spring Gardens last Saturday was not as well attended as in previous years, despite a perfect weather day and great selection of vendors.
   As fed workers and contractors are on furlough, landscape crews and landscape designers are having jobs canceled both due to the workers going the DIY route with the extra time of their hands and for the anticipated lack of pay once this is all over.
   For my own small, local business, I'm seeing that renewals and new subscriptions to Washington Gardener Magazine have slowed down to almost nothing this week as well. I also have single issue sales of our publication at the Arbor House store, which sits at the now-shuttered USNA property. This is directly impacting our bottomline.

I'm not reporting all of this for sympathy or to stir up political debate (plenty of other online venues for that!), just to relate that this shutdown has a far more reaching impact than the general media and our leaders acknowledge. Have you been directly affected by the shutdown?

Warning: Many of the links above do not work because of the shutdown -- try them again once it is over.


  1. Anonymous3:08 PM

    It also affects the volunteers at the People's Garden at the USDA headquarters, which is tended by volunteers, primarily USDA employees. We are not allowed to visit the site and work, even though it would be (as always) on our own time.

  2. Even more distressing -- many of those who are doing very important research on environmental topics have had to abandon their studies. (invasive species, Colony Collapse Disorder, crop disease, soil science, forest fire control, to name just a few that average gardeners might care about...) Once those field studies come to a halt the study is over, done -- sometimes the entire data set is then null and void. Check out these examples as noted on the Science Friday show last week:

  3. Great points, Anon and AG! The USDA People's Gardens had totally slipped my mind. Not just those in the DC-area, but across the country on USDA land are suffering and many of these donated fresh produce to local food banks -- a tough blow during harvest season.
    And the research projects interrupted and needing to be scrapped and re-done show just how absurd this whole things is! A true waste of govt funds, efforts, and manpower -- that could so easily have been avoided.

  4. Eddie Gehman Kolan has been tracking the White House's kitchen garden and the direct impact of the shutdown on it:


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