Year two of Michelle Obama’s resoundingly successful White House garden is upon us and as most people are already aware, the first lady and her intrepid team of green thumbs are in the process of expanding their organic veggie bounty this season by 400 square feet. Initially launched in 2009 to help educate children on the important role that locally cultivated fresh produce should play in our diets, 23 area fifth graders were recruited to help assist the preparation of what was then a 1,100 square foot plot on the South Lawn, helping to lay the ground work for what ended up yielding 55 varieties of vegetables at a total financial investment of just $200.
With fresh new heirloom varieties to consider and bumper crops on her mind, just last week the first lady assembled the White House staff, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Human Services Secretary and 30 local school children so that a sophomore season of organic wisdom and veggie enthusiasm could be sown. The lucky kiddies were treated to the following hands-on lessons about the benefits of organic gardening:
- After noshing on freshly picked apples, Michelle Obama explained how the fruits of their labors not only help them to accomplish better health goals but also create a sense of fulfillment since they created the bounty with their own hard work.
- Engaging in a group cheering session about the joys of broccoli and other vegetables helped the children to realize that eating a healthy diet is good for the mind, body and spirit…plus it’s actually fun!
- Despite popular belief, ketchup does not count as a vegetable serving despite being made with real tomatoes! The children were assured that their school lunches would contain other veggies in addition to the popular condiment.
- While they got down and dirty using shovels to place bok choy and artichokes in raised planting beds, the children were continually engaged in conversations about how the sun and water work in tandem with soil and insects to create bountiful crops.
The overall hope is that this experience serves as the model for nationwide gardening education programs that help our children to draw a correlation between how working the soil yields wholesome, delicious tasting vegetables that protect their health. Our country will be in far better shape (literally and figuratively) when this type of training becomes the norm in our educational system rather than the novel exception.