First Draft: White House “victory garden”
Spring blew into Washington this morning and the signs are everywhere: the cherry blossoms are starting to come out, magnolia trees are budding and at the White House, workers are digging up the lawn.
As it turns out, the Obamas are part of the local food movement and plan to grow veggies in a patch of lawn on the executive mansion grounds. This was front page news in The New York Times, and a big headline in The Washington Post’s well-read Style section.
Calling up memories of the “victory gardens” of World War II, when Americans were encouraged to grow their own produce to help the war effort, the White House garden is not a brand new idea. John Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt had gardens, while Woodrow Wilson had a flock of sheep and the Clintons grew some vegetables in pots on the White House roof.
The Obamas seem to be taking gardening to a whole new level. They’ll have some 55 varieties of produce, from a patch of mixed berries — blueberries, blackberries and strawberries — to hot peppers, kale, collards and spinach, according to the Times, which featured a garden layout in their coverage.
Roger Doiron, founder of the nonprofit Kitchen Gardeners International, was elated. “I’m thrilled for the Obama family and for all who will be inspired by their example to grow gardens of their own this year.”
Alice Waters, the chef at the celebrated Chez Panisse restaurant in California and a booster of local eating, probably isn’t surprised. Back in January, she told Reuters she was heartened by signs from Michelle Obama that the president was concerned about childhood obesity and sustainable farming. “I’ve spoken to him through his wife,” Waters said then. “I’m encouraged.”
For those not into gardening, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is set to speak at midday on a familiar topic to Washington-watchers: “Financial Crisis and Community Banking.”
Photo credit: Cherry blossoms near the Washington Monument on March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas