Meet Don Weber, research entomologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, longtime Arlington resident and über volunteer at the Central Library.
|Don shows Pink Lady Beetles to Mrs. Vilsak
and Library Director Diane Kresh
Last year, Don spearheaded the creation of a vegetable garden in a raised bed just outside the Library’s east entrance. The garden was a community effort with multiple partners (US Department of Agriculture, Arlington Food Assistance Center, Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Potomac Vegetable Farm, and Girl Scout Troop 1431), and began as a complement to the Library’s annual Arlington Reads program (which for 2010 had the theme of food sustainability).
The purpose of the garden was to demonstrate the feasibility of using urban spaces to produce food, but under Don’s leadership it accomplished much more, as a community-building and educational laboratory that unfolded before the eyes of the 2500-3000 people who visit Central Library daily. Don brought AFAC and its corps of enthusiastic volunteers into the project and suggested that the food grown be donated to that organization. He created a detailed design of what crops should be planted and where. He took the lead and participated with other AFAC and Library volunteers in removing masses of liriope and weeds to make room for the garden and created a handout to explain to people what was happening in that space. He donated seeds and seedlings from the USDA and helped coordinate the procurement of other plants.
Don is also responsible for the colorful banner above the garden, was instrumental in having the garden designated a USDA People’s Garden and then got Christie Vilsack (wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack) to attend our dedication, along with County Board member Walter Tejada. Being a bug guy, Don also contributed 1000 native lady beetles for release into the garden at the dedication.
Over the growing months, Don was often seen in the garden early in the morning on his way to work – weeding, watering, and dispersing beneficial insects to counteract the pesky ones. He initiated and designed a series of educational programs called Tuesdays in the Garden, created handouts for and taught 3 of the 4 sessions himself and coordinated with Master Gardeners to continue the educational sessions as Thursdays in the Garden for the following 4 weeks.
And late in the fall, Don and other volunteers planted some cold weather crops and a ground cover – a continuing project that will demonstrate the cycle of growth, dormancy and renewal throughout the year.
For staff who work at the Central Library as well as library patrons, this lush garden has been a patch of optimism and reassurance in a time of diminishing resources. It has served as tangible evidence that Arlington is a community that cares. Thank you, Don, for bringing the garden project to successful fruition and for continuing to brainstorm the many ways that this cooperative project can benefit us all!