The First Garden

Just after the ground was broken on the White House's new, organic garden, the Washington Post quoted obama-gardenMichelle Obama as follows:

"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," Obama said before picking up a shovel and digging in. "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."

I've been thinking a lot about the new White House garden. Much has been written about it already, and in many ways it is clearly a publicity stunt. But oh, what a terrific stunt - the best possible kind. Because this is a "stunt" with the potential to teach us all so much about our food, and our land. It's a "stunt" that I can use to make connections between my backyard farm in Minneapolis - what we grow and eat at home - and what the First Family is doing in Washington DC. It's a stunt with the potential to remind each of us where our food comes from. Obama is a unique President for many reasons, clearly.

But this new garden drives home the point again in new and wonderful ways. Bill Clinton was "one of us" (as my Grandmother used to say, but not about Clinton) because he loved Big Macs and fries. George HW Bush was "one of us" because he (famously) hated broccoli. But Obama? He's the guy we want to turn into, the guy who can somehow make it not only acceptable, but - dare I say? - "cool" - to eat right and live long. Sometime it's the smallest things that make the biggest difference. Here's more from the Washington Post, recounting last week's event: obama-garden2

On the sunny but chilly first day of spring, [Michelle] Obama joined about 25 fifth-graders from Bancroft Elementary on the South Lawn at three picnic tables set with baskets of apples and thermoses of hot cider. The children, who also work in a garden at school, were given shovels, pitchforks and wheelbarrows to help prepare the garden, where as many as 55 fruits and vegetables will be grown year-round for use in the White House kitchen. The students will be invited back to the White House to plant seedlings, then again to harvest and learn how to cook with the fresh produce.

Is it conceivable that we can teach our kids to garden, to eat better, and to understand and value good food and gardening? Yes, we can.