My wife and I moved back to North Carolina a few months ago and bought a house on a couple of acres of land. One of our goals was to work in the yard more than our place in Arizona had allowed us to. (Gardening is possible in Phoenix, but just barely.)
One of our goals was not to register our 120 square feet of Picasso corn and Rainbow Bell sweet pepper plants with the federal government.
That, however, seems to be where the U.S. Department of Agriculture is headed with The People’s Garden project.
It sounds like something from Red China circa 1965, but the project actually began where so many projects do — in the bureaucratic labyrinth that is Washington, D.C. — under former President Barack Obama’s secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, on Feb. 12, 2009 — Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.
(If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Vilsack is also the current secretary of agriculture, the only such to have served two nonconsecutive terms in the history of the country. Go forth to Trivia Night and conquer.)
The project’s name, according to the USDA, was “in honor of USDA’s founder, President Abraham Lincoln, who described USDA as ‘The People’s Department.'”
To be fair, there’s no reason — for now, at least — to worry that Big Brother is compiling a list of every backyard tomato plant in America. The voluntary program is currently encouraging only “collaborative efforts” that “incorporate conservation practices” — community gardens, urban farms, and the like — to sign their locations up online.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for community gardens. I don’t need the USDA listing their benefits — more nutritious food options, educational opportunities, natural beauty in urban spaces — to get me on board.
In fact, I learned from this website that the federal government does something I actually support: The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (which they insist on referring to as “SNAP” but which everyone else on the planet calls “food stamps”) allows beneficiaries to spend those welfare dollars on seeds, not just food.
I’m not a fan of government handouts in any form, since they’re nothing but wealth redistribution is disguise, but if SNAP required that a certain percentage of its dollars be spent on seeds, I’d probably support it even more.
After all, Lincoln himself said, “[T]he most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.” (I learned that on USDA’s website, too.)
One legitimate purpose of government is to “promote the general welfare,” and there’s no dearth of evidence regarding the benefits of eating fresh vegetables. And who among us couldn’t stand to get a little more fresh air, some soil under our fingernails? So, if the USDA wants to promote gardening and provide some educational materials about how to get started, well, I can think of many worse things it could be doing with our tax money.
It’s already doing many of those things, of course, but that’s not the point.
What I don’t see the benefit of is this registration system, even if it is completely voluntary (today). The question isn’t, What are the feds doing with this information? The question is, What could the feds do with this information? Imagine the worst-case scenario, and eventually, that’s what they’ll do; I guarantee it.
Nonetheless, if you’re interested in learning more, the USDA created a video just for people like you:
The tag line for the project appears to be “Join us!,” which comes across as more big-government creepiness in my opinion, but at least we’re not required to register our little vegetable garden with the federal government. Not yet, anyway.
And even if it goes that way eventually, I’m not sure the rabbits and deer are going to leave enough in my backyard to be worth reporting.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.