March 20, 2009
Michelle Obama broke ground for the first organic garden at the White House today, on the first day of spring. A proponent of healthy eating, she wants to encourage Americans — who are obese in epidemic proportions — to eat more healthfully. The initiative is also intended to help Americans understand food sources (farms? sorry, couldn’t resist!).
Fifth-grade students from Bancroft Elementary, who work a garden at the Washington, DC school, tackled the First Lady’s project with pitchforks, shovels and wheelbarrows to help prepare the new 1,100-square-foot garden, which will be located on the South Lawn and visible from the street. The 25 students in attendance today will return periodically to plant seedlings, harvest crops and learn how to prepare the produce. Up to 55 fruits and vegetables will be grown year-round.
Mrs. Obama said: “I’ve been able to have my kids eat so many different things that they would have never touched if we bought it at a store…Because they met the farmer that grew it or they saw how it was grown, they were curious about it and they tried it. And usually they liked it and they’d eat more and more of it.”
Chefs such as Alice Waters in California and farmers have long wanted to see a vegetable garden at the White House; in one of her early official appearances, the First Lady told Department of Agriculture officials that she’s a “big believer” in community gardens. The last garden of this type at the White House was Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II victory garden. Victory Gardens had their roots in World War I Liberty Gardens. In both wars, they were a patriotic response to food shortages and rationing. It’s estimated that 40 percent of all produce consumed in U.S. during WWII was grown in Victory Gardens. The new White House garden will contain dozens of berry species, herbs and vegetables including cucumbers, fennel, rhubarb, squash and peppers, both sweet and hot. Produce not used in White House meal preparation will be donated to Miriam’s Kitchen, a nearby soup kitchen. Beehives will be near the garden.
While White House grounds superintendent Dale Haney and assistant White House chef Sam Kass (who worked as a personal chef for the Obamas in Chicago) will oversee the garden, it’s expected that the First Family, executive staff and White House kitchen staff will help tend the garden. Kass said: “This sends a message that food is really important. Taking a real look at what we’re eating is critical, particularly in the health crisis that we’re in. We have to take a bigger role in our lives. And this is a first step along that road.”
Meanwhile, here in Tiny Town, Wrinkled Randy has planted green onion sets, radishes, spinach and snow peas, created more herb beds, started basil seeds in flats and hauled in 20 landscaping ties in an attempt to control our exuberant perennials. You can also watch his new blog grow, at WrinkledRandy.com, or read more about him here.
Photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters
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