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The Coastal Gardener:

First Lady plants vegetable garden

March 27, 2009|By RON VANDERHOFF

Let’s be sure — this is a gardening column, not a political column.

But, whatever your politics, gardeners across the country are celebrating last Friday’s groundbreaking of an organic vegetable garden at the White House.

On the first day of spring, First Lady Michelle Obama put her shovel into the ground and removed a small piece of lawn. The White House vegetable garden was begun.

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With the help of about 25 fifth-graders from a local elementary school, a portion of the south lawn of the White House was removed.

She started the new garden as part of her agenda to promote better eating habits for American families, to show the importance of locally grown fruits and vegetables and to help Americans better understand where their food comes from.

The Obamas plan to utilize the vegetables harvested as a main source of produce for their meals.

Even the White House chefs were involved in the selection of the vegetables to be grown.

Proving that a small kitchen garden can easily provide delicious, organic, locally grown produce should inspire others to take up the task as well.

Certainly, right here in Orange County, edible gardening has become one of the fastest-growing activities for the home gardener.

The White House garden is modest in size. At 1,100 square feet it is comparable to what some homeowners may be able to replicate at their own house.

The new garden will be visible from the street, where it’s rumored that even the president himself will occasionally do a little weeding and watering.

The tradition of a White House vegetable garden dates back to almost 1800 when President John Adams planted the first garden.

But, for many years, the idea of growing vegetables at the White House had fallen out of favor, the last installation being Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden during World War II.

Advocates of the White House garden apparently have found an ally in First Lady Michelle Obama.

One of her early official appearances was at the Department of Agriculture, where she told staff she was a “big believer” in community gardens.

With urging from the food community, including chef and locally-grown food activist Alice Waters and author Michael Pollan, and circulation of a petition signed by more than 100,000 people worldwide, the administration announced its plans for the new White House garden.

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