Dear Kitchen Gardener,
(Begin pinching yourself now)
“Obamas to Plant White House Vegetable Garden”
On Friday, March 20th, 2009, 23 third graders will join First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the White House to break ground on an 1100 square foot kitchen garden that will provide food for family dinners and formal dinners.
According to the New York Times:The Obamas’ garden will have 55 varieties of vegetables grown from organic seedlings started at the executive mansion’s greenhouses.
And better still:
Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing.
Ok, you can stop pinching yourself: you aren’t dreaming this and an off batch of sauerkraut hasn’t caused a rare case of lacto-fermentation-hallucination.
THEY ARE REALLY GOING TO DIG THIS GARDEN!
AND WE HELPED MAKE THIS DAY POSSIBLE!
Those of you who have been part of the KGI community for a while know that this is a long-term project of ours, started in February 2008. It was back in the middle of the presidential primary season when 99.9999% of the population was focused on who the next president was going to be. We were the .0001% of the population that was thinking about what his or her family was going to eat and where it would be grown.
It’s been quite a ride for KGI as an organization and for me personally since then. For those of you who are new and weren’t with us for the trip, we had some fun along the way. We started following a hopeful little web project called OnDayOne.org in February 2008, read about ourselves in the New York Times in April, began putting our names on a White House Food Garden petition in June, hummed along to This Lawn is Your Lawn in July 2008, read about ourselves in the International Herald Tribune in July, placed bids on the White House Lawn which we had put up for sale on eBay in August, watched with wonder as two young guys inspired by our work set off in a funky bus to take the edible White House idea across the country and back, chuckled our way through September watching the Garden of Eatin’, read Michael Pollan’s “Farmer-in-Chief” article with great interest in October which also spoke of a new garden at the White House, voted “This Lawn is Your Lawn” onto national TV through the Climate Matters video contest in October, got swept up in the energy of the November elections, leafed our way through the Washington Post in January, pushed hard to get out the vote in the OnDayOne.org contest later that month (and won that too beating out 4000 other ideas), began inviting more people to sign our petition on our campaign site and on Facebook also in January, spoke with and e-mailed various members of Michelle Obama’s staff in February (me, in this case, but maybe you did too? They said they were hearing from a lot of people.), and here we are in March 2009 reading the headline above and vicariously walking our way through the delicious garden paths of the future South Lawn:
What more can I say besides thank you for all your support and patience with this project. Many individuals made this great day possible: – Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, John Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barack and Michelle Obama – but we can feel pride in being the community that pulled together and made a difference.
So let’s celebrate that. The seeding or the weeding can wait. Tomorrow’s about savoring a moment that was a long time in the making.
PS: Got any thoughts to share on this news or anything else? That’s what our forums are for.
PPS: If you are a media person, blogger, or know one, you can find our press release below.
For Immediate Release
phone: (207) 883-5341
cell: (207) 807-6364
100,000 Applaud Announcement of a New White House Food Garden
Environment, Nation’s Food System and People’s Health Stand to Benefit
(Scarborough, Maine) –100,000 people signed a petition asking the Obamas to replant a Victory Garden at the White House, and recent news reports indicate that they are about to reap what they sowed.
For advocates of sustainable and healthy foods, this harvest of good news was as welcome as the summer’s first red-ripe tomato. “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,” said Roger Doiron, founder of the nonprofit Kitchen Gardeners International and leader of the successful petition campaign, “Eat the View.”
Launched in February 2008, Eat the View proposed that the Obamas replant a White House Victory Garden while planting a few extra rows for the hungry. The campaign used viral videos and social networking technologies like Facebook to grow a large support base, attract international media attention and help inspire a larger grassroots effort. In January, 2009, Eat the View won the “On Day One” contest sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, beating out 4,000 other entries and resulting in thousands of messages being sent to the White House in support of its proposal.
Over the course of the past month, the Eat the View campaign has touted the economic benefits of home gardens as part of its pitch to White House staff members. As proof, Doiron and his wife spent nine months weighing and recording each vegetable they pulled from their 1,600-square-foot garden outside Portland, Maine. After counting the final winter leaves of salad, they found that they had saved about $2,150 by growing produce for their family of five instead of buying it. “If you consider that there are millions of American families who could be making similar, home-grown savings, those are no small potatoes,” Doiron said.
Although the White House garden campaign is now winding down, Doiron says the Eat the View campaign is just getting warmed up. “Now that the Obamas are on board, we’re going to be reaching out to other people and identifying other high-profile pieces of land that could be transformed into edible landscapes. Sprawling lawns around governors’ residences, schoolyards, vacant urban lots: those are all views that should be eaten.”
History of Harvest at the White House
While the Obamas’ garden and the online technologies that campaigned for it might be new, the idea of an edible landscape at the White House is not. Throughout its history, the White House has been home to food gardens of different shapes and sizes and even to a lawn-mowing herd of sheep in 1918. The appeal of the White House garden project, Doiron asserts, is that it serves as a bridge between the country’s past and its future. “The last time food was grown on the White House lawn was in 1943, when the country was at war, the economy was struggling and people were looking to the First Family for leadership. It made sense before and it makes sense again as we try to live within our own means and those of the planet.”
Eat the View campaign website:
History the White House as an edible landscape from 1800 to the present:
Eat the View artwork:
Testimonials on behalf of the Eat the View campaign from noted national and international figures:
Eat the View campaign videos:
Kitchen Gardeners International is a 501c3 nonprofit founded in Maine, USA with friends from around the world. Our mission is to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance through the promotion of kitchen gardening, home-cooking, and sustainable local food systems. Contact info: Kitchen Gardeners International, 3 Powderhorn Drive, Scarborough, ME 04074 phone (207) 883-5341, firstname.lastname@example.org