Saturday, March 21, 2009

The First Lady digs for victory...

Michelle Obama digging for a new kitchen garden at the South Lawn. Photo APF.

Today, The New York Times run an article about Michelle Obama's new project - digging up a kitchen garden to grow food at the South Lawn of the White House. This the second time a vegetable garden has been planted at the White House; the first time was when Eleanor Roosevelt did so in 1943, encouraging people to return to the "victory gardens" that had been popular during the first world war, when this country experienced food shortages. Mrs Roosevelt's garden became hugely popular as an inspiration and some 20m Americans followed her lead, which meant that by the end of the war they grew 40% of the nation's vegetables.
KAn American Victory garden contest poster from the Second World War. What a healthy looking young lady, ready to hoe...!
I think it is extremely heartwarming to read about Mrs Obama's aspirations as a kitchen gardener. And truly, she could not have chosen a better time for her growing project. Not only the recession makes it worthwhile for people to try to save money by growing their own food, but there other considerations too; people are worried about the safety of their food, they want to eat more healthily, and are concerned about the climate change. Already, seed companies are experiencing substantial growth in sales; just a bit more than a week ago, Seattle Times reported how seed sales are up 20 to 30 percent at wholesalers because of the bad economy and worries about genetically modified crops. Burpee, the world's largest seed company, said in the same article that it is selling thousands of a $10 "Money Garden" package that it says will grow $650 worth of vegetables. Now, everything is relative and despite the tough economic times we certainly are not in a middle of a world war, but still, if Michelle Obama gets anything near as many followers as Mrs Roosevelt, this really could be a change to make a difference.

An English Victory garden poster, also from the Second World War. Gardening seems to be serious business, done by two middle aged men, no pretty ladies here...
Mrs Obama herself says in the interview, that besides providing food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, the organic garden's most important role will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern. Of course she won't be digging all by herself, but will have a full time gardener and help from her staff and also from local school classes (excellent initiative!), but she still promises that the first family will be hands-on gardeners weeding and cultivating the land themselves (and I can't wait for the photos of them, together weeding the highly visible plot on the South Lawn). So, while totally in tune with the tough economic times with a her "victory garden", Mrs Obama is in fact fighting a much larger and long-term war, which is one against the thoughtless junk food culture leading to ill health and environmental problems. I guess most of us garden people will make a "V" for Victory - for Michelle's new kitchen garden.

Happy weekend - and good gardening to you all!
For more, see the The New York Times article.


Anonymous said...

I have had a big smile on my face all day, thinking about this great thing they are doing. Did you see the garden's proposed layout? Such a great mix of veggies, edible flowers, herbs and berries. I think Michelle O is going to turn out to be as influential as Mrs. Roosevelt, or nearly so. Or maybe more! Smart gals with good ideals. Maybe she could be president next? :)

nilla|utanpunkt said...

I think it's agreat idea too. Mind you, with this last financial crisis, I feel like escaping to a secluded kitchen garden myself, staying out of the turmoil of the modern, money-made world.

Carol said...

Love your title and hope for the victory of getting the 20 m. Eleanor won over to digging in the dirt. It is so refreshing to hear a First Lady openly instruct for only organic food to be served in the White House and now to bring back a White House Veggie garden ... Well Done Michelle Obama! Well Done America for voting her first lady!

Lavender and Vanilla Friends of the Gardens said...

I agree with you a kitchen garden is very important for all the reasons you quoted. Here every suburban house had a small veggie garden and at least one lemon tree.
The new suburbs have plenty of beautiful trees and park like surroundings but vegetables and fruit trees are not grown any more on a grand scale actually not even on a small scale. I have grown up with a garden, gardened all my life, my girls are all "gardeners". Perhaps you have seen one of my posts, "a small walled garden where one of my daughters grows vegetables. An aerea where nobody thinks of even growing a fruit tree and veggies. There are all palms and ornamental gardens.Not even native, ornamental plants. My daughter has changed all that in her garden. I love it when people are very enthusiastic about growing food and other plants. Berries are wonderful too! I wish that the landscape designers would change their attitude a little and get mor individual in their plantings.

Nathan said...

Everyone should grow vegies, great blog

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

I was far too busy this weekend, so I didn't get to my blog to comment...

Karen, I'm sure Michelle would be as good as a president as her husband...!

Camellia, can I come too :-) ?

Carol, I just can't wait to see the results; and wouldn't it be fun if they added a greenhouse to extend the season? So many possibilities, this really might change lives here in the US.

Hello Titania, sounds just wonderful, the best way to learn to garden is really to get it from one's parents. I love berries too, I was so very lucky to have both wild raspberries, blueberries and strawberries in my garden in Sweden. Here I might have to get some large pots and plant them in them!

Hi Garden tips - thanks for visiting, I'll be checking your blog soon!

Tant Grön said...

Hi, I just discovered your blog-what a great place to get good news from your part of the world! And big cheers for Michelle O. from the Swedish west coast!
Intercontinental gardening can be quite frustrating-my children who live in 1.California, 2.England and 3.Spain keep asking me for advice on what to grow in their gardens. And I need to get so much more knowledge about what to grow in a warmer and better climate than my own. I think I will send them a link to your blog!