On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the very few reporters on the scene at the groundbreaking of First Lady Michelle Obama’s new "victory garden." On site were 26 fifth graders from Washington's Bancroft Elementary who helped the First Lady dig up the L-shaped plot and prepare the soil for planting.
The garden, the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s during WWII, came partially in response to pleas that the White House promote locally grown food. Mrs. Obama said the project would give the First Family access to healthy fruits and vegetables and educate the students and the country on the importance of a healthy diet.
"What I found with my girls is that they like vegetables more if they taste good," Mrs. Obama says, according to pool reports. "Especially if they were involved in planting it and picking it, they were more curious about giving it a try."
The new garden is all organic and includes a variety of perennial herbs including sorrel, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram, chives, chamomile, garlic chives and anise hyssop with mint growing in a separate container. There are also a few annual herbs: dill, cilantro and parsley in addition to the many vegetables and even some edible flowers including nasturtium and marigolds, which help keep bugs away.
My source said that the plot is actually quite far from the house, nestled in the southeast corner of the South Lawn toward where the public might catch a glimpse through the gate on E Street. The L-shaped garden is approximately 1,100 square feet and the herb section was partly prepared by the First Lady herself for ten minutes before she said jokingly, ‘Are we done yet?’ The students will be back in a few weeks to begin planting.
On a side note, I think this is a really simple, yet effective way of personally inviting us to feel like a part of the First Family. This relatable, conversational style of government has translated well from the early days of Obama's campaign to his presidency.
When I got the chance to meet the now-president Obama when he first started campaigning, I was impressed by how down-to-earth and caring he really was, willing to address us individually and even pose for a picture. I'm glad to see this personable interaction has not been lost (so far) in translation - it demonstrates the kind of movement toward greener living and environmental-conciousness I'm proud to believe the United States is shifting toward. Hey, maybe I'll send them a gnome in honor of The Herb Companion!