First Lady's New Book Hopes to Inspire New Gardeners

First Lady's New Book Hopes to Inspire New Gardeners

Food & Drink

First Lady's New Book Hopes to Inspire New Gardeners


How’s your summer garden coming along? Got the tomatoes planted? How about zucchini? If you planted lettuce, it should be ready for harvest soon, if you haven’t already enjoyed a salad with it, fresh from your backyard plot.

One busy gardener has been cultivating her garden, with help from friends, for a few years now—and she’s written a book about the experience.

Michelle Obama’s much-publicized White House garden was something the First Lady took on shortly after moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She takes pride in it, but also worries over it.

“I was like any other hopeful gardener with a pot out on the windowsill or a small plot by the back door. I was nervously watching the sky. Would it freeze? Would it snow? Would it rain?” she writes in her first book, “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America” which hit bookstore shelves this week.

The first lady’s garden occupies 1,500 square feet of the South Lawn that was once patches of grass for White House luncheons, family meals and state dinners. The garden was planted with the help of 23 fifth-graders at Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C. Approximately one third of the produce is given to a local food bank. The garden is tended by White House horticulturists, chefs and employees who volunteer.

The garden ultimately led to Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign targeting childhood obesity.

“It is definitely a passion — getting our kids in this country eating healthy, helping families make good choices about how they eat and stay active — and this book is a way to talk about our journey but also talk about the challenges that we face as a nation around health,” Michelle Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America.”

The first lady admits in the book she’s a novice gardener, and says the idea for the garden came to her well before her husband’s first presidential campaign. She writes about a doctor’s appointment, and how the pediatrician suggested to her that she might want to watch what her girls were eating.

During interviews promoting the book, Mrs. Obama countered criticism that her “Let’s Move!” program is an example of the growing nanny state, with government telling people what they should eat or feed to their kids.

“One in three of our kids are overweight or obese,” she said on ABC. “But this isn’t about government telling people what to do. What we know we need to do is give parents, communities, families the tools and the information they need to make choices that are right for them, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.”

In addition to gardening tips and advice on seasonal growing, the book offers recipes from White House chefs, lots of family photos of Mrs. Obama with the children and family dog, and pictures of some of the prize veggies grown on the South Lawn plot.

The first lady did not accept an advance for her book, and its proceeds will go to the National Park Foundation for programs that promote healthy eating and gardening and for the continued care of the White House garden.

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