4.01.2009

The Local Food Report: a garden on the White House lawn

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote you a little p.s. about the news? Well I don't know if you paid it any mind or not, but there was a reason I was so excited. Michelle Obama planted a garden on the White House lawn, or broke ground at least, with the help of 30 fifth graders. That was cool.
But even more exciting was that I had just spoken with Roger Doiron, who's been heading up a campaign urging the new president to plant an organic kitchen garden on the White House lawn since February 2008. He called it "Eat the View."

I'd been following the idea forever, and just after we'd spoken—just after I'd finally gotten the chance to meet him, just like that—the garden became a reality. March 20th, that was the day. I thought it was a pretty exciting coincidence in this small world of ours. I got so into the idea, in fact, that not only did I put together a radio interview with him for you today, but I also drew you the map above.

I know it's hardly as good as the one on the New York Times website, but I tried to make it colorful. It's very heavy on the lettuce, and the spinach, and greens in general, but I'm glad to see they included a section for herbs. Oh! and rhubarb, that's very important—how else will the First Family keep themselves supplied with pie?

The garden isn't actually a very new idea; Roger Doiron will readily acknowledge that. John Adams had a garden on the White House lawn back in 1800, and at one point, President Wilson was even using the grass to graze sheep. (Actually, technically he was using the sheep to trim and fertilize the grass, as part of the war effort to conserve resources. Pretty smart, huh?)

photo courtesy of eattheview.org

Most recently it was Eleanor Roosevelt who planted the area with her Victory garden during World War II. That example proved pretty powerful—at the height of the movement, Americans were growing 40 percent of the country's produce in their backyards. Imagine that!

Doiron thinks this garden—and gardens in other high profile places—could have a similar effect. What with climate change and a healthcare crisis and the overseas wars we're in, some people don't see a garden as all that important, but he thinks it is. He thinks if we follow the First Lady's example it can help us save some money, and we'll be more physically fit, not to mention less dependent on foreign oil. They say the average bite of food in the U.S. travels 1500 miles from field to fork. That's a whole lot of gas we could save.

Whether or not you agree with the premise, it's worth checking out both the new White House garden and the campaign. Our First Lawn is a pretty fascinating place.

3 comments :

Anonymous said...

Great post, Elspeth! I too am really excited about this garden.

As Roger is quick to remind people, the White House lawn belongs to US, the American people, so it's appropriate for us to make our voices heard about how we'd like it used. What a great example this garden will be to others! ~A Maine Reader

Jill Erickson said...

Thought your readers/listeners would be interested in a program we are doing at the Falmouth Public Library on Earth Day. Ron Smolowitz of Coonamessett Farm, Carol McManus (Vineyard cookbook author), Karen Schwalbe (TomTen Farm), and Doug & Dianne Langeland (Edible Cape Cod)will all be at the library talking about the locavore movement. April 22nd at 7:00 p.m. Hope you and your listeners can stop by as well!

Jill Erickson, Head of Reference

Elspeth said...

My Maine Reader:

That is indeed a good reminder! I think the project will continue to gain momentum..who knows where a garden might pop up next.

Jill:

Thank so you much for letting us know about that. What a wonderful roster of speakers! I will be out of town but I hope everyone will come out in full force.

All the best,
Elspeth

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