Michelle Obama's White House garden is a growing success
The first lady's popular garden on the White House lawn attracts attention from international leaders and everyday Americans, who are following her example.
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She talks often about her experience as a busy, working mother trying to feed daughters Malia and Sasha but relying too much on processed, fast food or takeout meals like pizza, not realizing the toll it was taking on the girls' health — and weight — until their pediatrician spoke up.Skip to next paragraph
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The entire family began to feel better, she says, after she started serving more fresh fruit and vegetables, eliminated processed foods, and cut back on sugary drinks. Her children were like sponges, she says, and soaked up the information about foods.
They even police her diet, too.
"They started schooling me and lecturing me about what I should be eating, and what a carrot does, and what broccoli does. And sometimes they look at my plate in disgust now," the first lady says.
Statistics show that two out of three Americans are either overweight or obese, and childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. Mrs. Obama aims to pay more attention to childhood obesity this year in hopes that America's children will do like her daughters and help their families clean up their diets, too.
Another benefit of gardening is cost. Mrs. Obama says it cost less than $200 to start the garden, which already has yielded a positive return on the investment. It's also boosting interest in gardening nationwide.
"That's the first word out of people's mouths when we talk about gardens," says David Ellis, spokesman for the American Horticultural Society. Mrs. Obama's garden has "just made an incredible influence on people who haven't gardened before."
The National Gardening Association predicted a 19 percent increase last year in the number of home-based fruit and vegetable gardens, compared with 2008.
W. Atlee Burpee & Co., a large seed company in Warminster, Pa., saw a 30 percent increase in vegetable seed sales alone in 2009, compared with the year before, according to spokeswoman Kristin Grilli.
The garden is popular at the White House, too.
Assistant chef Sam Kass, who cooked for the Obamas in Chicago and does the same at the White House, oversees the garden. But other chefs and staffers from throughout the White House office complex jockey to help care for it.
Chefs love having fresh ingredients handy.
White House pastry chef Bill Yosses spices up dessert with fresh herbs. Maricel Presilla, an authority on Latin American cuisine who cooked for a Latin music festival at the White House, says she was "absolutely flabbergasted" to find tomatillos in the garden.
Editor’s note: For more on gardening, see the Monitor’s main gardening page, which offers articles on many gardening topics. Also, check out our blog archive and our RSS feed. You may want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our contests.