Should the First Family Dig a Veggie Garden?

Should the First Family Dig a Veggie Garden?

Food & Drink

Should the First Family Dig a Veggie Garden?

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By Cari Martens

With the arrival of the Obama administration, interest groups of all sorts are pressing the new president on a variety of agendas. In a move that’s a bit outside of the usual Beltway politics, some food activists are now calling for the new president and his family to install a vegetable garden on the White House grounds. They see it as an action with benefits both symbolic and real.

Sure, right now President Obama is up to his elbows in the dirty business of trying to get legislation through Congress, but why not get his hands dirty tilling some bona fide American soil?

That’s the thinking of many people in the local-food movement, according to a recent story by Adrian Higgins in the Washington Post. Slow Food proponents say these difficult economic times call for this type of roll-up-your-sleeves actions, just as World War II inspired the victory gardens of the 1940’s.

It’s argued that if Americans grew such gardens, it would help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and feed our families with cheaper, more nutritious food and help stem the tide of obesity and disease. The First Family could lead by example.

Always Plenty of Fertilizer Around in Washington

Roger Doiron, an organic gardener and food activist from Scarborough, Maine, started a campaign in 2008 to press the next president to grow vegetables at the White House. His petition drive is called Eat the View.

Writer and Slow Food advocate Michael Pollan has suggested a five-acre plot for the White House, which may be overreaching a bit. A single acre is more like it, says Doiron. But, as noted in the Post article, President Woodrow Wilson once had sheep grazing on the South Lawn during the
First World War (picture, below).


p(left caption). Photo: White House Historical Assn.

The executive chef at the White House has harvested veggies from a small rooftop garden since the Clinton administration. The local food activists simply want to see this carried out on a larger scale, with enough produce grown to help supply the local food banks in Washington D.C.

Obviously President Obama has his hands full right now. But maybe he can get his wife Michelle to put the victory garden on her agenda come spring. Perhaps that could get Americans digging gardens in backyards from coast to coast.

Talk about a shovel-ready project.

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