The photo session with Michelle Obama was a bit contrived, but the important thing is that finally a President has listened to the calls for a White House vegetable garden. I can only imagine how many emails and letters the White House must have received on this topic over the years. Many, like the one I sent during the Clinton administration, asked for the 1st family to show how important and beneficial it is to have your own plot of ground, managed sustainably and organically, to provide food and flowers for family and friends.
However difficult, getting children interested in knowing where their food comes from is an important endeavor. I know I was unusual in that I have been growing vegetables since I was 6 or 7 years old. Some of us just seem to have the “growing gene” turned on inside our bodies. I don’t think there has been a single year since grade school that I have not grown some of my own food. My first year of college, I lived in a dorm and did not have my own space for a garden. Fortunately the married students had a community plot in their housing section of campus and I was able to help plant in the spring and help with the harvest the following September and October. When I moved off campus my junior year, I went right back to growing lots of vegetables in the back yard of our rental. When I then moved to San Francisco after college, I had a small, intensive, raised bed garden behind the Victorian apartment building we lived in. Now we live more rurally, and there is really only the limit of time that determine how much I can grow. I always have a large surplus to barter with at local farm stands to get things I don’t grow like organic peaches and plums.
I hope that the Michelle Obama gets out there working on a regular basis although as important as gardening is for your health and your soul, I think Barack Obama has better things to do. Much is being made of getting their girls and other kids involved, but I know how difficult it can be to interest children in gardening. Just having the garden and setting the example of how important this approach to our food supply is can set the table for a child’s future interest in growing their own food. My oldest daughter never really had much of an interest in my gardening while at home although she did love eating much of what I grew. But, I just received an email from her this week, saying out of the blue:
“Today I went to the Community Gardening Center in Fremantle. It was like 5 minutes away. I was there from 9am-12pm. I really liked it a lot and am planning to go every Sunday. It’s just people who are into sustainability and planting. All the water used there is recycled. There’s also a market that goes on right next to it with a lot of food that is grown there. I am going to plant some basil so that I can make pesto! The stuff at the store here is soooo gross. I can’t believe they call it pesto 🙁 ugh! Please send me your recipe for it so I can make it just like you do 🙂 “
So I send a big “Thank You” to the Obama’s for setting this great example. There are also many others behind the scenes that deserve kudos for making this happen. Alice Waters is the first that comes to mind, although there are surely many others. Maybe someone at the White House will set up a garden blog so we can all follow the progress over the summer. One thing is for certain… Bugs, soil health, weeds, and all the other great things that come with a garden, do not bow to celebrity. To have a successful, organic, sustainable garden will require time spent in the dirt. And anyone who spends time in the garden will have a better body and mind for their efforts!