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First Lady Grows a Book

First Lady Grows a Book

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?

Read more: Blogs, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Family, Following Food, Green, Lawns & Gardens, Nature, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

48 comments

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11:48PM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

Good on her. Bring back backyard gardening!

6:01AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Michelle Obama is an inspiration in so many ways! I hate to be critical but I wish that she and the President would stop supporting Monsanto...The massive company that is taking over agriculture and trying to make all crops GMO....It seems a bit hypocritical to support organic gardens and at the same time support Monsanto which is the biggest enemy of healthy agriculture. Unfortunately all high level politicians support Monsanto because of all the money Monsanto contributes to their campaigns. Obama is no different in that aspect. It is SO disappointing!

6:00AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Michelle Obama is an inspiration in so many ways! I hate to be critical but I wish that she and the President would stop supporting Monsanto...The massive company that is taking over agriculture and trying to make all crops GMO....It seems a bit hypocritical to support organic gardens and at the same time support Monsanto which is the biggest enemy of healthy agriculture. Unfortunately all high level politicians support Monsanto because of all the money Monsanto contributes to their campaigns. Obama is no different in that aspect. It is SO disappointing!

3:45AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Thanks

8:05PM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

I am so proud that we have such an intelligent and compassionate First Lady. Every one of us can have an impact, a HUGE impact, and when someone so much in the public eye breaks ground, even better.
And.... Hey, NPR - it is not "Obama says her path...." It is "Mrs. Obama says her path...." or "First Lady Michelle Obama says...." Show some respect, NPR!

10:20AM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

thanks!

4:43PM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

thanks

10:09AM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

all first ladies have to have a cause...
growing vegetables is not a bad thing...

7:43AM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

Good for her!

7:12AM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

cut - backs in The White House they have to grow their own veg. but to be fair,teaching Chrildren how to grow vegetables,,good..

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