Saturday, March 28, 2009

This article is being reposted with the author's permission--Emily Knudsen--from The Melon Online. Original article is located HERE.

Well, I have to admit it—the Obamas have surprised me. Late last week, Michelle Obama announced that she will begin converting and cultivating the White House lawn into a fruit and vegetable garden. And, according to her, the whole family is required to pitch in to keep it weed-free (with the exception, of course, of Grandma, who will do whatever she damn well pleases as the matriarch). A local elementary school will also be tending to the garden.

While I expected great things from our new president and his family, I wouldn’t expect such a bold move. Why do I consider this so bold you ask? First of all, the Obamas are planning on tearing out an 1,100-square-foot chunk of the iconic South Lawn. This area has largely been left untouched, but for the notable exception of Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden. When author Michael Pollan wrote an open letter to the future president in October, he suggested the idea of planting an edible garden. Yet, he also quickly conceded that the move would be controversial since the lawn (and lawns in general) has become something of an American symbol itself.

Secondly, this action sends a huge signal to the food industry. This move certainly seems to represent Ms. Obama’s discontent with the food industry’s offering of unhealthful, over-processed foods.

The importance of diet was first brought to her attention by her daughters’ pediatrician. Once she was aware of how the food she gave to her children was negatively impacting her girls’ health, she changed her ways. She realized the true importance of a home-cooked meal (with a substantial serving of vegetables)—nutrition. She suggests that those who can’t have their own garden can still beneficially modify their diet by purging their cabinets of processed foods. Since the food industry, as it stands, does not offer many healthful choices, she is simply striking out on her own to provide her family with nutritious meals. (Food harvested from the garden will also be donated to a soup kitchen.) She hopes that as her own children tend the garden, they will be less hesitant to eating their veggies. She further wishes to see the other schoolchildren go home to their families to teach them about the importance of a fresh, local diet.

Back in 1943, the USDA protested Eleanor Roosevelt’s gardening plans, thinking the food industry would take a hit from a proliferation of home gardening. Yet she continued with her effort and ended up inspiring 20 million households to plant their own victory gardens. If we are so fortunate to have the Obamas be equally or even more successful, it is quite possible the food industry will suffer the consequences.

But if you ask me, that’s precisely the point. As consumers, we need to demand better from those who provide us our meals; our health depends on it. And there is no better way of doing that than relying on our own soil and capability to provide ourselves with our own sustenance. So, the fact that Michelle Obama is thumbing her nose at the giant lobbying forces of the Monsantos and Cargills of the world for the well-being of her family and the nation is a daring move indeed. If the new White House garden catches on in suburbia and cities across the country, the following may be large enough to force change upon the food industry. Then we can declare our victory over the now destructive food industry.


Hot Belly Mama said...

If you get a chance - check out my blog today. I have questions about soil that I think you might be able to give advice on. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Hot Belly Mama!

A good resource for you would be the Pierce County Master Gardener's Association:

They are a professional organization with oversight from UWT-extension program!