Early Monday morning, I tramped through the “first garden”. No, not THE first garden – the one Adam and Eve were booted out of. I’m talking about the hallowed ground in Michelle Obama’s garden out back of the White House.
As part of a small band of North American Ag Journalists, I got a close-up look at what’s really going on with Michelle’s garden. Despite my arched eyebrows and squinty skeptical look – probably enough to have the Secret Service guys keep an eye on me, I was impressed by more than the raised beds.
Nearly a year ago today, I blogged – between uncontrollable snickers – about the 1,100-square-foot of White House turf that First Lady Michelle Obama spaded up for a veggie garden. I was right. Her aspirations were far bigger than the tilled plot.
As Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass explained, “It’s an effective platform for Michelle Obama’s personal campaign to stem childhood obesity.” Children from neighboring community schools come help plant and harvest foods. This year, the garden grew to 1,600 square feet.
“For kids, it’s a powerful educational moment,” added the bald, black-suited young chef in charge of the garden. “The food isn’t as important as where it comes from – out of the earth!”
What about those extraordinary yields, you wonder?
The first garden has drawn attention from all round the world, reported Kass. Having a huge Web site totally devoted to reporting daily going’s on and run, of course, by a fiercely devoted Democrat helps.
Because of that and extensive media coverage, governors of many states, foreign leaders, even embassies have picked up on the idea. Media coverage has given greater traction to home gardens and inner city food-raising projects.
But, what about the garden?
Except for two broccoli leaf holes, early-season crops were in picture perfect shape. Every Tuesday, about 15 volunteers (no Republicans) come in to weed and pick off insects. The first lady doesn’t “do” bug and worm picking.
Once these veggies pass their peak, they’re quickly replaced by another batch of picture-perfect plants. And so, the season will go.
You won’t find this rich black soil in the back yard of any other white house in this region. It’s carefully composed, blended and fertilized with natural products – not manure, he conceded.
Fruits of politico laborers weren’t quite as big as Mrs. Obama first predicted. Initially, she said her garden would yield “a ton of stuff. We can produce enough fruits and vegetables to feed us for years and years for just a couple hundred dollars.”
An unnamed inner-circle source divulged that about 1,000 pounds of produce were harvested last year. Much of it went to local soup kitchens and food pantries.
So what’s next for this global garden spot – pigs, chickens and cows? Chef Kass just smiled and shook his head – side to side.
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