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Published on March 18th, 2009 | by ebalkan

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White House to Plant Organic Vegetable Garden

white house organic garden lawn planted rows of vegetable green leafy plants Washington DC president front columns Pennsylvania avenue photo

ABC news’ Brian Hartman has reported what many have been wishfully waiting to hear for months: the Obamas will soon plant an organic vegetable garden on the White House South grounds.

Following a 60 Minutes interview with Chez Panisse chef, renowned slow foodist and activist for improved national eating habits in the US, Alice Waters, on Sunday March 15th, wherein she called with continued clarion for an organic garden at the White House, First lady Michelle Obama talked of her plans for the garden in an interview for Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine that will feature in its April issue.

Mrs. Obama spoke, also, about the importance of healthy eating in that article, and what she hopes the garden will do to send that message to the nation:

We want to use it as a point of education, to talk about health and how delicious it is to eat fresh food, and how you can take that food and make it part of a healthy diet. You know, the tomato that’s from your garden tastes very different from one that isn’t. And peas – what is it like to eat peas in seasons? So we want the White House to be a place of education and awareness. And hopefully kids will be interested because there are kids living here.

The expected garden represents a victory for sustainable food and agriculture activists, such as the White House Organic Farm Project (WHO Farm), which have campaigned publicly for this outcome for months. WHO Farm traveled across the country in a biofuel-powered school bus last fall to raise awareness of the cause and focus attention on their request to the White House. Looks like grass roots – or plant roots, in this case – activism still works.

The White House grounds have been decidedly less rustic since 1945, after Franklin D Roosevelt left office and the first lady’s “victory garden” was replaced with inedible plants. However, during Woodrow Wilson‘s term in office, during World War I, the South lawn looked like a scene from farms in the president’s home state of Virginia, with sheep brought in to freely graze as a gesture of support for the troops overseas. No animal husbandry activists have yet matched the garden campaign efforts by pushing the Obamas to bring back farm animals to the White House.

Editor’s note: Our own Robin Shreeves has more thoughts on the plans for a White House garden at MNN.com

Photo Credit: susty.com



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27 Responses to White House to Plant Organic Vegetable Garden

  1. Jan Larson says:

    I feel it necessary to point out that Alice Waters had absolutely nothing to do with the idea of planting a garden at the White House. She’s never even met the Obamas, and just because she gets a lot of press coverage, that doesn’t mean the idea was hers. Gourmet magazine and the New York Times devote tons of column inches to her, because the writers/editors are friends with her. Read this excellent post to get the full details on Alice:
    http://tinyurl.com/cfnlo3

    There are two gardening groups to thank for this. Kitchen Gardeners International has had their “Eat The View” project going on for months, as has The White House Organic Farm Project. Both of these groups gathered tens of thousands of petition signatures to encourage the Obamas to plant a garden. It’s fantastic that it will happen, but Alice Waters had nothing to do with it.

  2. Melonie K. says:

    I’m curious – will we see the Obama family out there actually planting and maintaining this organic garden or will it be White House staff doing the work after the initial groundbreaking for the plot?

    I like the idea either way, I just don’t envision the “First Family” actually out there doing this themselves.

  3. Melonie K. says:

    In case anyone else wants the answer without the digging I had to do, here’s a link that explains who will oversee/direct and who will do the actual work:

    http://obamafoodorama.blogspot.com/2009/03/ground-breaking-news-from-secret-white.html

    I’m still glad they are doing it, and I’m especially hopeful that Ms. Napolitano’s preparedness efforts will be mentioned on the matter as well. The “Victory” can come in many ways when we garden for ourselves.

  4. Pingback: Gardening With God the Master Gardener « Godspace

  5. I have nothing against vegetables, organic farming or the Slow Food movement, but holy jeez I want to throttle llice Waters. Trying to push organic gardening as anything other than an indulgence and a luxury is naive at best and insulting at worst.

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  7. Joy Ripple says:

    I have been into organic since 1973. I think this is great! I applaud this!

  8. Martin says:

    Why should organic gardening be considered indulgent and luxurious? I read that blog you linked, and agree much more with the comments than the blog itself. Gardening can be inexpensive if not free with some planning and willpower (neighbors gardening together to share tools, etc.), and in general can open the door to a whole new way of living within one’s means and living more healthfully — regardless of education, experience, or income. Just because yuppies buy OG at Whole Foods doesn’t make organic produce luxurious.

    That said, as much as I LOVE the idea of a garden on the White House lawn, I for one will feel fine if Mr. President never spends time in it and instead chooses to run the country.

  9. Woohoo! When the first family gets on board with something like this it is sure to spread farther. I really hope there is a huge push in the future for more people to have vegetable gardens instead of a massive lawn.

  10. Mary Kay says:

    Fabulous! I hope they go for some organic bags to carry the fruits of their labor in!

  11. Charles says:

    This is a great example by the Obama family and I’m hoping that the American people will follow their footsteps. More coverage needs to be dedicated to promoting and touting independent farms and organic farms. For a similar story check this video out:

    http://www.americasheartland.org/episodes/episode_115/organic.htm

  12. redrockraven says:

    This is setting a great example of family values. It is a sign that a family with children is living in the white house again. From the size of this garden, Michelle must be planning on lots of help from other family members.

    More people should plant gardens. There is always plenty of wildlife to see in a garden; from butterflies to dragonflies and hummingbirds. There is nothing better than fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach or chard. Leave some room for some cantaloupe and summer crook neck also. My family members have planted a garden every year since WWII. There is nothing more All-American than planting a Victory Garden.

    Approximately a third of the automobile pollution in this country is attributable to growing, preparing and transporting food to the kitchen table. It looks to me like if more people planted a garden and became a little more self-sufficient (the American Ideal), that this would be a great benefit to air our quality and save millions of barrels of oil each year. It is also very healthy to get exercise and sunshine while working in your garden and to eat the fresh fruits of your efforts.

  13. redrockraven says:

    This is setting a great example of family values. It is a sign that a family with children is living in the white house again. From the size of this garden, Michelle must be planning on lots of help from other family members.

    More people should plant gardens. There is always plenty of wildlife to see in a garden; from butterflies to dragonflies and hummingbirds. There is nothing better than fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach or chard. Leave some room for some cantaloupe and summer crook neck also. My family members have planted a garden every year since WWII. There is nothing more All-American than planting a Victory Garden.

    Eleanor Roosevelt spent lots of time working in her white house victory garden, as I suspect the new president’s family will also.

    I would much rather see the white house gardening staff taking care of a victory garden that actually produces healthy food than a white house lawn that produces nothing but grass to mow. Being a bit self sufficient is one of the most American of Ideals.

    Approximately a third of the automobile pollution in this country is attributable to growing, preparing and transporting food to the kitchen table. It looks to me like if more people planted a garden and became a little more self-sufficient (the American Ideal), that this would be a great benefit to our air quality and save millions of barrels of oil each year. It is also very healthy to get exercise and sunshine while working in your garden and to eat the fresh fruits of your efforts. From the overweight appearance of many in America, we could all learn to live healthier lives. Get outdoors and get some sunshine and fresh air.

    For more information on the inspiration for this garden, see the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKrrq0fXe-g

  14. Annie says:

    Someone needs to alert the First Lady before she wastes a lot of time on her home garden. Growing our own food may become illegal and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000,000 if HR 875 becomes reality. Bill HR 875, The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto. Not only would organic farms and home gardens become illegal but also fishing, hotdog and local vegetable stands and farmers markets will be federally regulated under the same draconian law. Under the deceitful guise of protection, the goal of this bill is crystal clear: to prevent us from locally growing our own food so multinational agribusiness can completely control the production and distribution of our food supply. I refer you to the usual suspects; Monsanto, ADM, Sodexho, Tyson, and Smithfield. Better wait Mrs. Obama until we see what the lobbyists who run America want.

  15. Ana says:

    I think it’s great that gardening education is finally getting some much needed attention…Let’s hope this will inspire more schools to start their own programs!

    There are quite a few in place already, for example, the ‘AINA In Schools program in Hawaii, put in place by the Kokua Hawai’i Foundation (founded by Jack Johnson).

    Find out more from this video on the foundation, from Explore.org: http://explore.org/explore/hawaii/films/151

  16. Great news, I love organic gardening because:
    1 it keeps me healthy due to the exercise I get
    2 it keeps me healthy due to the delicious food I grow
    3 it saves money

    So it’s great that the Obama’s are spreading this idea.

  17. Rick Brooks says:

    As is often the case, many people (tens of thousands this time) can claim some of the credit (if that’s important) for the White House Garden and related steps. For example: Check out White House Gardener on WYOU on YouTube.

    No point in fighting about how much attention Alice Waters get. Spend your energy on making sure there is enough clean water to go around, enough nature to have natural things. Those are much higher priorities for now and forever…

  18. Pingback: Learning Organics » Blog Archive » an Organic Garden in the White House

  19. Check out my story on the first planting of the White House kitchen garden on April 9 – it looks to me like several members of the White House kitchen staff as well as just plain old staff hope to tend the garden – which is very cool, I think.

    http://www.america.gov/st/peopleplace-english/2009/April/20090410152545bcreklaw0.3610803.html

  20. Pingback: Michelle Obama Organic Garden Supporters to Pesticide Lobby: “Bug Off” « New Energy and Environment Digest 新能源与环保参考

  21. Uncle B says:

    Growing a Victory garden is becoming an economic necessity, with GM and Chrysler shutting down, and even more manufacturing jobs going to Asia. America must adapt quickly and become third world society with grace and ease. We must get off of dope, booze and prescribed pills as fast as possible, We must get off of foreign oil as fast as possible. We must get off of nuclear power as fast as possible. We need Solar, Wind, Wave, Tidal, Hydro and Geothermal development posthaste. We will adapt to small gas/electric plastic cars, bullet train inter-city travel, ocean liner intercontinental travel, and dispense with gas guzzling cars, oil-intensive air travel, and power wasters of all sorts. Mrs. Obama’s call to a simpler. happier way of life has serious and severe undertones. Our current “American Dream” lifestyle is unsustainable, even with constant pillaging and war on other nations, and we are being called upon, by her, symbolically, and by the world in the economic fact of the matter. We are out of cash, living on money borrowed from communist Chinese, and Arab Monarchies, and Democracy in U.S. form, is the “poor boy” on the block! Hang onto your privates, we are about to go through paradigm shifts only a few will survive, and not the richest amoung us either!

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  23. Ann says:

    I think its awesome that Michelle Obama wants a garden and guess who planted that garden? Her and a lot of children. I think its wonderful that she is teaching them that. Growing your own food and knowing what goes in it, is a great thing in this time. My garden gets bigger and bigger each year.

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  27. I support local farmers, since it’s hard enough maintaining my plain-grass yard let alone a vegetable garden.

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