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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 10:22 am 
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In today's New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/dining/20garden.html?ref=dining

Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets — the president does not like them — but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot, in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It is just below the Obama girls’ swing set.)

Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs. Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

Then, too, promoting healthful eating has become an important part of Mrs. Obama’s own agenda.

The first lady, who said that she had never had a vegetable garden, recalled that the idea for this one came from her experiences as a working mother trying to feed her daughters, Malia and Sasha, a good diet. Eating out three times a week, ordering a pizza, having a sandwich for dinner all took their toll in added weight on the girls, whose pediatrician told Mrs. Obama that she needed to be thinking about nutrition.

“He raised a flag for us,” she said, and within months the girls had lost weight.

Dan Barber, an owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, an organic restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., that grows many of its own ingredients, said: “The power of Michelle Obama and the garden can create a very powerful message about eating healthy and more delicious food. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it could translate into real change.”

While the Clintons grew some vegetables in pots on the White House roof, the Obamas’ garden will far transcend that, with 55 varieties of vegetables — from a wish list of the kitchen staff — grown from organic seedlings started at the Executive Mansion’s greenhouses.

The Obamas will feed their love of Mexican food with cilantro, tomatillos and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter, Charlie Brandts, who is a beekeeper, will tend two hives for honey.

The total cost of seeds, mulch and so forth is $200, said Sam Kass, an assistant White House chef, who prepared healthful meals for the Obama family in Chicago and is an advocate of local food. Mr. Kass will oversee the garden.

The plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs.

Cristeta Comerford, the White House’s executive chef, said she was eager to plan menus around the garden, and Bill Yosses, the pastry chef, said he was looking forward to berry season.

The White House grounds crew and the kitchen staff will do most of the work, but other White House staff members have volunteered.

So have the fifth graders from Bancroft. “There’s nothing really cooler,” Mrs. Obama said, “than coming to the White House and harvesting some of the vegetables and being in the kitchen with Cris and Sam and Bill, and cutting and cooking and actually experiencing the joys of your work.”

For children, she said, food is all about taste, and fresh and local food tastes better.

“A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” she said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things.

“I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House?”

For urban dwellers who have no backyards, the country’s one million community gardens can also play an important role, Mrs. Obama said.

But the first lady emphasized that she did not want people to feel guilty if they did not have the time for a garden: there are still many changes they can make.

“You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.”

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Last edited by northwesterner on Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 10:27 am 
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I set up a sort of blog here to report activities in my yard, and I'm not sure that this is the best category for this thread, but a separate blog-like thread for "the Nation's Yard" is what I had in mind.

I'd love to know that they're setting a great example for the nation and the world with good organic practices. I don't suppose there are any White House employees who are readers of the Dirt Doctor site who would chime in every so often to report on the garden's progress?

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2009 2:30 pm 
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I don't know how durable these links or photo URLs are, but the New York Times usually has things stick around for a long time. If you click on this link and it asks you to sign up, the online subscription is free.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/21/us/politics/21michelle.html?em

This is the groundbreaking work for that new garden, and it comes from that article I linked to:

Image

My gardening clothes aren't nearly so fashionable. :wink:

And from this Washington Post photo, you'll note that the kitchen staff are part of this gardening effort. In fact, in the earlier article they had quite a list of things they would love to see grown right there to use in the White House kitchen. I wonder if they'll put the garden on the tour?

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:26 pm 
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Wonder what this will do to HR 875 that Howard discussed on this weeks homepage? To quote Howard -
"H.R. 875 is called the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 and you can find the full text of the bill here:
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtex ... l=h111-875"

If she's doing all this gardening organically, we can hope she will be an effective lobbyist?


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2009 2:07 pm 
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I don't know how durable the link is, but there is an interesting bit of follow-up from a Kansas City Star writer. It came out on March 24, 2009.

http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/story/1104899.html

Quote:
A pesky problem for the White House vegetable garden
By MIKE HENDRICKS
The Kansas City Star

Foodies and the go-green movement are ecstatic about the Obamas’ [sic] foray into organic vegetable gardening.

Me, too. But as an avid gardener, I noticed one important detail was left out of all the news coverage concerning the new presidential pea patch. So I called the White House and spoke with Michelle Obama’s deputy press secretary, Semonti Mustaphi. That conversation ended something like this.

Me: I did have one more question.

Mustaphi: Ask it and I’d be happy to try and find the answer.

Me: Uh, gee, this might sound a bit odd, but I was wondering about the squirrels.

(Pause.)

Mustaphi: Squirrels?

Me: Yes, the squirrels that are so abundant in Washington, and does the first lady have a plan to deal with them?


I went on to explain that, by squirrels, I was not referring to the White House press corps or Congress. I was talking about the furry rodents that live in trees and scamper merrily to and fro waving their bushy tails in our nation’s capital.

They happen to be murder on vegetable gardens, I said, explaining that you can fence out the rabbits but there’s just no keeping the squirrels out of your garden once they’ve set their beady little eyes on it.

I've snipped the middle of this commentary, it does wander through political issues of how to get rid of animal pests without generating great political outrage from some group or other. The author notes that his approach is to live trap (peanut butter bait) and move squirrels before the tomatoes are ripe.

The answer from the White House regarding squirrels:

Quote:
“On background: We will be using natural pesticides — nothing synthetic. And we will use fine see-through netting for squirrels if needed.”

I don't know if we will hear any more about that. I'd like to know what "natural" pesticides they plan to use. If hope if they Google this subject they'll land on the Dirt Doctor site!

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:32 pm 
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A blogger at the Christian Science Monitor has written about another aspect of this White House garden--the ripple effect. What if other state houses did the same thing? "Today, a garden at the White House - tomorrow, at 50 statehouses?" ran on Thursday, April 23. http://tinyurl.com/c9xevh

Quote:
The campaign to have the Obamas plant a vegetable garden at the White House was such as success that now there’s another effort, GreentheGrounds.org, which wants to encourage not just kitchen gardens but sustainable landscaping around the governors’ mansions or statehouses of all 50 states.

The idea is to urge other states to follow the examples of Maryland (the grounds of its governor’s mansion have been certified by the Bay-Wise program), New York (where a “greening the mansion” program is under way), and Ohio (where a 3-1/2-acre “heritage garden” was created around the governor’s mansion).

California’s first lady, Maria Shriver, has also announced that a vegetable garden will be planted in Capitol Park in Sacramento next month.

One of the main ideas behind this campaign is that planting vegetables and using sustainable landscaping techniques (wise water use, natural lawn care, nature-friendly plant care, etc.) will set a good example for the residents of all states, show what can be done, and explain why it’s a good idea.

“Moving from the growing of food to ‘greening’ the whole grounds, there are even more
opportunities to show Americans how to use their yards in new ways that are better for the
environment, save money, and encourage families to be more active outdoors,” wrote Susan Harris in a proposal solicited by the White House.

So far, you may notice from the examples of what’s already been accomplished, it’s all first ladies doing the gardening. Maybe that’s the key. Do you think it’s likely this might happen in your state?


One website this article links to is Green The Grounds (http://www.greenthegrounds.org/). "Encouraging First Families to Practice Sustainable Landscaping." It is particuarly encouraging to follow the link on the left of this site under "Great Federal Examples" to learn that the GSA (General Services Administration) has stepped up the organic methods and as a result cut way back on the harmful chemicals. It's be great if they took the final step and eliminated them completely.

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PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 2:39 pm 
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Not a lot of follow-up on how this garden grows, but there was a later photo op apparently and the White House chef took time to show the kids how to plant.

Image

The higher resolution image is here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/hi_res/flotus_garden4909_hi-res.jpg

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 11:15 am 
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A Google search on this White House garden comes up with a great blog entry with some interesting followup:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/A-Healthy-Harvest/

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The blog reports that the produce from this garden was used in the White House and also donated to area soup kitchens.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 11:22 am 
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Here's a video from earlier in the season, Philadelphia Phillies player Ryan Howard visited and enjoyed the garden. I detect a role model situation!

From the White House site
http://www.whitehouse.gov/video/Ryan-Howard-Visits-the-White-House-Garden/

Or YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQoIGNEw1OM

They're also expecting to get about 100 pounds of honey from hives near the garden.

This is a nice view of the setup.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 6:47 am 
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There has been a little set back on the White House Garden.
Bio-solid compost and fertilizer was applied to the grounds during the Clinton administration. Do a search and you find all the details.
good reason to get your soil tested first. The White House garden has very high levels of lead and no telling what else!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 11:33 am 
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Since you know about this, why don't you post your sources, please? (And how can you tell WHAT administration put down what fertilizer?)

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:51 pm 
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Trop John, I think you're the victim of partisan politics. Someone opposed to the current administration might see this garden as a subversive effort to poison the nation. Too bad they need to spread misinformation and target the garden in such a way.

Visit this site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVpEr3kfWjc and view the video. Early on, you'll hear White House Chef Sam Kass say "We've gotten our soil tested, and it's in really good shape."

As of this July video, they had taken over 200 pounds of produce out of the garden.

Also, there was a New York Times blog, but it is a really good idea to read beyond the headlines. Because the one that says "Lead found in White House Garden" says in the second sentence "but not in levels that are dangerous" and in the third sentence says:

Quote:
Tests on the soil detected lead levels of 93 parts per million. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development advise (but do not require) remediation if lead levels in soil exceed 400 parts per million in children’s play areas and 1,200 p.p.m. elsewhere.


http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/lead-found-in-white-house-garden/

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:46 pm 
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I certainly did not mean to offend anybody. The national attention the White House garden attracts is awesome. This should be done in every state. I certainly applaud the Obamas for this undertaking, and I certainly applaud the Clintons for trying to "GREEN" up the White House. What a better place to start.

However, I am not a big fan of biosolid products. It is bad enough that we worry about GMO corn meal and corn gluten meals and the untested long term effects those might have. So correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I know there is no present testing for pharmacueticals that may be in bio-solids. Now do not get me wrong, I have no problem using them away from food crops, but as for my own food, they will not be in MY vegetable garden no matter what the soil test says, but that is just my own personal opinion.

I believe we all need to be sure and watch the sources of anything we use including manure procts considering the way corporate farms treat their animals.

Again, I give thanks to the First Lady for her noble effort!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:32 pm 
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Here is an article I found this evening, from the North East Biosolids & Residuals Association at http://www.nebiosolids.org

Quote:
The White House Garden & Biosolids
While the myths about lead (Pb) have been debunked, there remains misunderstanding about biosolids.

This story began almost six months ago: a single soil test at the exciting new home garden at the White House triggered an online and print discussion of lead in urban soils and its potential impacts. Without fact-checking, many of the writers who have taken the story "viral" on the internet have assumed that biosolids compost helped cause the somewhat elevated lead level. That's unlikely, as this Information Update* demonstrates.

The fact is, biosolids compost is a high-demand product used widely in agriculture, horticulture, and turf care. It is even used to reduce lead bioavailability at significantly contaminated sites.


*This is the link mentioned in the quote: http://www.nebiosolids.org/uploads/pdf/WhiteHouseGarden&BiosolidsAugust09final.pdf

If you scan that article, dated August 12, 2009, you'll find

Quote:
Did Use of Sewage Sludge Contribute to the Lead Concentration?
The material that was applied to the White House lawn was not untreated sewage sludge, but biosolids compost.


Further down, you'll find an explanation of what this is:

Quote:
The application of the biosolids compost was many years ago, and biosolids compost is just one of many soil amendments on the market that, once produced, does not need to be tracked. This makes it difficult to know for sure what its quality might have been (other than that it met regulatory standards). An August 12th New York Times story and the White House Garden blog say that there was only one application of biosolids compost – in 1985. There are records that indicate the compost came from the Montgomery County Biosolids Composting Facility, which, up until 1999, treated some of the sewage sludge generated at Washington’s Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant, as well as other facilities in the DC area. There is data available on the quality of this material, as well as the quality of the sludge from Blue Plains. This data is not necessarily for the exact material applied, but the quality of biosolids tends to be consistent. The quality information shows the Blue Plains sludge had a lead content averaging 43.9 ppm and the finished compost averaged 15.7 ppm.


FWIW, Ronald Reagan was president when this single application of compost was put on the White House grounds. What choices were you making 24 years ago, that you thought were a good idea at the time?

Since the White House is in the middle of a large urban area it is going to have an elevated lead level due to the human activity in the region. The lead level in the White House garden spot fits the situation any urban gardener is liable to encounter. The initial story that went "viral" is the from remarks made by Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center For Food Safety, an an article published on Huffington Post. Apparently it was the fact-checker's day off. A later Huffington Post article that debunks Mr. Kimbrell's remarks is The Only Thing Toxic About the White House Kitchen Garden is the Misinformation: Scientists Correct the Record on Contamination, by Eddie Gehman Kohan. In this piece, she states:

Quote:
I think it's irresponsible that Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center For Food Safety, who claims to be "one of the country's leading environmental attorneys and authors," is trying to use the White House Kitchen Garden as a symbol for environmental tragedy in America. In a sensationalistic piece right here on Huffington Post, Mr. Kimbrell claims that the White House Kitchen Garden is producing toxic crops, and cites the National Park Service's lead test result of 93 parts per million as evidence of "alarming contamination." But a lead reading of 93 ppm is "ridiculously low" for any urban garden, according to Dr. Gabriel Filippelli, chair of Geology at Indiana University, and associate chair of the Center for Environmental Health.


There are several hyperlinks embedded in the full story, found here: http://tinyurl.com/nhmmj7

The first source of information I selected, from several I viewed, is put out by the industry itself. It seems to have a good array of citations, and dovetails nicely with the http://www.huffingtonpost.com article.

Please give a moment's thought to what Michelle Obama is trying to accomplish with this garden. Testing and monitoring are a normal part of the process. National Park Service employees are seen in the background in a number of the photos and videos I've posted, and I know it's a good bet that they paid close attention to the soil quality before any garden was put in place. I worked for them for a number of years, and in several jobs had to monitor test site readings or test water in public spaces. Their unspoken motto, when it comes to public safely: Better safe than sorry.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 7:04 pm 
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An article that popped up on the Huffington Post today reveals that as they embark on the fall harvest of the White House garden that they have gotten a lot of bang for the buck.

Image
Thursday Michelle Obama hosted students to help her harvest the White House garden. The students were enthusiastic to help dig up some vegetables, and the First Lady charmed the them by telling them about the garden:

Quote:
So then the summer went by, and now it's fall, and there's a whole new crop of food here that's ready to be harvested. And actually we've done a little bit of that. My girls and I, we got a couple of the sweet potatoes, and we're going to do some of those -- these sweet potatoes are huge! They're huge. So hopefully you guys will be able to pull up some of these huge sweet potatoes.


The First Lady also asked the students how much they thought it cost to plant the garden. They guessed $300, $800, $1000 and $6000 as Michelle acted as auctioneer.

She then revealed the answer: "Over 740 pounds of food have come out of this little piece of land..... It [cost] about $180."

In addition to the White House kitchen preparing the vegetables, they are also being donated to Miriam's Kitchen, a soup kitchen in DC.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/29/michelle-obama-fall-harve_n_339172.html

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