by Eric Steinman
Eleanor Roosevelt achieved the last vegetable garden planted at the White House back in the early 1940s. For approximately 65 years the White House lawn (which technically is considered a national park) was reserved for press conferences, Easter egg hunts, and photo ops. Nary a vegetable was grown for generations. First lady Michelle Obama sought to change all of that, while simultaneously addressing the nation’s need to rethink health and nutrition. So, she did the obvious thing and planted an organic garden (or more accurately, had it planted) on the White House lawn a few years back.
The yield was impressive, with tons of organic veggies, honey, etc, and the reception was largely positive (excepting a few naysayers who feel the First Lady is trying to impose a “nanny state” where nutrition is dictated from up high). Now, after two harvests comes the definitive, White House-approved book to go with the garden. The fittingly titled American Grown is a look at rebuilding the tradition of the White House garden, while taking a concerted look back at the history of the American garden (it wasn’t so long ago that nearly everyone that could, had their own backyard garden).
The First Lady has made some noise in the past, and ruffled some feathers, with her dedication to reframing how Americans, particularly American families, consider health and nutrition. For her, the journey seems like it was informed by personal experience, as she told NPR earlier this week:
“Obama says her path to becoming a health advocate was a personal journey. ‘Before coming to the White House, I was a busy working mother. My husband was a U.S. senator and was often not home. We found ourselves eating out more than we should, packing on the sugary drinks … the habits that you fall into just trying to get through the day. And our pediatrician kind of pulled me aside and said, ‘You might want to look at your children’s diet.’ ‘”
Are you inspired by the First Lady’s moves towards a new era in gardening, or do you see it as just a cynical undermining of personal choice? Do you have a garden and if so, has it changed the way you and your family eat? Whether or not you want to buy the book, is there any reason not to be in support of the mission of bringing backyard gardening back into the mainstream?