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Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP.
Gardening gurus Jim and Cindy Kaufmann met when they both worked at the National Gallery. Today they work in separate government jobs to brighten Washington, DC, with 300 acres of landscaping and flowers.

Have you ever thought about how the beautiful flowers appear in public places like the US capital — and what it takes to keep them beautiful, even in a pandemic?

Cari Shane reports at the Washington Post reports about a married couple who are responsible for more than 300 acres of the the Washington, DC, landscape.

“Cindy Kaufmann, 56, is chief of horticulture services at the National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden. Her husband, Jim Kaufmann, 48, is the director of the Capitol grounds and arboretum for the Architect of the Capitol, which maintains the buildings, monuments and gardens on the U.S. Capitol campus. He also chooses the National Christmas Tree. …

“They call themselves ‘garden geeks’: Jim is ‘a tree guy,’ he says. (His favorite is the white oak.) Cindy loves pink flowering plants the most. ‘But it’s like having children,’ she says. ‘You really just love them all.’

Cindy grew up in Rockville, Md., where she spent hours in the garden, ‘growing flowers and vegetables just to see how they would look,’ she says.

“After studying horticulture at the University of Maryland, she started at the National Gallery right out of college. Jim grew up in Philadelphia, helping his parents take care of their vegetable garden. He attended a public vocational-technical high school that specialized in agriculture, then graduated from Temple University with a degree in horticulture. They met when they both worked at the National Gallery. …

“Cindy’s pre-pandemic life meant arriving at the office at 6 a.m. and ‘walking five miles every day, visiting the campus and directing the wide variety of areas we support from the Sculpture Garden — the greenhouses, the garden courts, terraces and every exhibit and interior space,’ she says.

“Now, like for many of us, her work is done mostly over Zoom. The National Gallery closed and reopened a few times over the past year; each time, Cindy had to be ready, constantly ‘planning for normal.’ The museum’s March anniversary is celebrated annually with a rotating display of 250 azaleas in the Rotunda, and Cindy and her staff spent the winter preparing the plants to transfer from greenhouses in Frederick, Md., but the museum didn’t reopen after all. (The Sculpture Garden reopened in February.)

“For Jim, the pandemic and the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol — which was followed by the erecting of non-scalable fencing — meant some pivoting, too.

“He and his team continue to care for more than 4,500 trees and all the flowering plants on 274 acres of Capitol landscape. …

“Like Cindy, Jim’s days this past year have been less hands-on, which he misses. ‘Nothing ever replaces the ability or the experience to walk the grounds, feel the landscape and talk to people,’ he says.

“But the pandemic has allowed the Kaufmanns to spend more time in their own garden in Silver Spring, Md. Last summer, tending it was their ‘pandemic therapy,’ says Cindy. It reflects their different horticultural styles, and over the years, the yard has naturally divided into ‘Cindy’ and ‘Jim’ sections.’ “

More at the Washington Post, here.

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070120alaska_women_farmers

Photo: Thomas Newman
Jennifer Sharrock, left, is a beginning farmer in Palmer, Alaska. When she needed land to expand, she was matched with land owner Jan Newman through the Alaska Farmland Trust.

I’ve posted a few times about beginning farmers and, in particular, Letterbox Farm in rural Hudson, New York (here). Sandra’s niece and her partners at Letterbox Farm are perfect examples of a hopeful trend in farming: young people getting serious about agriculture and bringing in new and sustainable approaches. It’s incredibly hard work, but they love it.

Today’s post is also about young people getting into farming and is part of a Christian Science Monitor series on the topic. Reporter Sarah Matusek addresses young farmers’ need for land and creative ways older farmers can provide it.

“Jan Newman became an accidental alpaca farmer. She took up knitting in the 1990s at home in Palmer, Alaska, to supply her first child with natural-fiber clothing, and one thing led to another. She innovated again in 2013 when she founded Grow Palmer, a public food program that plants edible gardens around town. These days, Ms. Newman is pondering retirement. …

“Jennifer T. Sharrock is just starting out. She left an insurance career this year to pursue market farming and permaculture full time through her Seeds and Soil Farm. The beginning farmer began teaching permaculture design three years ago, but her popular classes quickly outgrew her space. Buying more land wasn’t financially feasible.

“So she placed an ad in Alaska Farmland Trust’s FarmLink program, a kind of ‘dating service’ for land seekers and owners. When Ms. Sharrock received an answer to her ad, her heart skipped a beat. She saw it was from Ms. Newman, whom she’d met through Grow Palmer. They also turned out to be neighbors.

“ ‘It’s a match made in heaven,’ said Ms. Sharrock, who has started on four acres of Ms. Newman’s property.”

The two women’s agreement is unlike other FarmLink arrangements.

” ‘There’s actually no money changing hands,’ says Ms. Newman, who calls the younger farmer’s regenerative agriculture plan ‘the best stewardship possible.’ …

“Land-link pairings like the one in Palmer represent one possible step toward solving a nationwide puzzle – how to help experienced farmers exit out of agriculture while building an on-ramp for new producers.

” ‘I get a sense there are more young people who don’t necessarily have farm backgrounds, who are taking agriculture entrepreneur courses, and they are starting to jump into farming,’ says Jim MacDonald, an economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Along with access to capital, access to land is one of the greatest hurdles faced by beginning producers in the United States. One sign of the barriers to entry: The average U.S. farmer’s age has taken a long-term climb over the past several decades, now reaching 57.5, according to the USDA’s latest census figures. While there has been some increase in the number of producers under age 35 – partly due to how the census now defines them – this group remains vastly outnumbered. …

” ‘As someone retires, that’s an opportunity for two or three other young people. There’s no shortage of people that want to farm,’ says Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University in Indiana. …

“In Alaska, 46% of the state’s producers are beginners – the largest share of any state. Amy Pettit, executive director of Alaska Farmland Trust, says the demand for more locally grown food is one of the factors pulling new farmers north. …

“But buying land for many new farmers remains out of reach. … Land availability is another concern. ..

“ ‘There is a sense of urgency,’ says Tim Biello, who coordinates the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network in New York. ‘The history of our use of agricultural lands suggests that we’re not getting more.’ …

“Launched by the American Farmland Trust, Hudson Valley Farmlink Network is among the most active, with 175 matches since 2014. Mr. Biello, the network’s coordinator, attributes the success to individual attention and relying on the localized expertise of 17 partner organizations. …

“Mr. Biello says that matches shouldn’t be the only metric for measuring a land-link program’s impact. He points instead to the trainings, events, and one-on-one assistance that have reached more than 10,000 farmers and farmland owners. …

“Ms. Newman hopes the new farmer will remain on the land long term.

“ ‘I just can’t wait to see this evolve,’ says Ms. Newman. ‘It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened on the property since our alpacas left.’ ”

More here.

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