Culture

Published on August 11th, 2009 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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Has Michelle Obama’s Garden Started a First Family Trend?

cranberry bog pennsylvania governor's residenceWhen Michelle Obama announced plans for a White House kitchen garden, local foodies, gardeners, and health advocates rejoiced: what better way to promote the value of home-grown food than get the first family involved. It turns out that the Obamas aren’t the only executive family growing vegetables on the grounds of the official residence: a number of governors and their spouses have taken up the cause of not just planting vegetables, but also implementing more sustainable landscaping practices at governors’ mansions and even state capitols.

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Green the Grounds is a website (and educational campaign) investigating the use of greener landscaping practices and food gardening at the state level. While most governors haven’t put this high on their priority list, a few stand out as models:

  • The grounds surrounding the governor of Pennsylvania’s residence may set the bar for green landscaping: the Philadelphia Inquirer recently profiled the efforts started there by Tom and Michele Ridge, and continued by the Rendells. Features include Penn’s Woods, “a shady enclave of native plants from woodlands and meadows put in by [the Ridges],” and a new organic herb and vegetable garden installed by the Rendells.

Read the rest of this post on executive organic gardens at SUNfiltered.

Image: Cranberry Bog on the Ohio Governor’s Residence grounds. Credit: Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Gardens



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • russ

    Hi Jeff – Not the first garden at the White House – there was one last year as well and the year before that and the year before that – on and on.

    This may be bigger and certainly has got a lot of publicity though – same with solar panels which have been in use since being put up during the GWB years.

    Spin is everything!

  • http://appliedmythology.blogspot.com Steve Savage

    I’m just guessing that the First Family won’t be very involved in the day to day management of this garden. A pity because that is how one gets an appreciation for the challenges that actual farmers face, particularly because they have chosen to be “Organic” and that means they will have some serious pest issues. Still, the more people that garden the better from my point of view.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    @russ — the information I saw noted there hadn’t been a kitchen garden at the White House in decades…

    @Steve — no doubt you’re right about the management. Pests can certainly be managed organically, primarily with other species (ladybugs, certain species of nematodes, etc.)

  • russ

    Hi Jeff,

    In an article the previous chef (forget his name) said there always had been gardens (probably smaller). The present White House staff hasn’t found it convenient to mention this point. If I can find the article I will forward it to you.

    It seems a bit silly the the First Lady takes any credit for the garden as I seriously doubt she has worked it except for photo ops. She does not start to have the time available to do so if she is inclined to do so.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Great, Russ. Ultimately, I don’t care who gets credit… I’m just glad the idea is out there, and other leaders are picking up on it…

  • http://www.eco-friendly-promos.com Brendan

    Yup the fact that we’re reading about it makes it important enough to warrant the coverage. I don’t really care if Michelle isn’t out there pulling the weeds. The garden, nonetheless, sends a positive message to Americans.

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