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Uprooting a fall harvest at the White House kitchen garden

First lady Michelle Obama and students from Bancroft Elementary School and Kimball Elementary School harvest vegetables in the garden on the South Lawn of the White House. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Robin Givhan
Rarely has a giant sweet potato, a muddy knee and a stubbornly rooted fennel plant caused such a stir. But when first lady Michelle Obama led groups of fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary and Kimball Elementary schools in the fall harvesting of the White House Kitchen Garden Thursday afternoon, much oohing, giggling, cuteness and shutter-clicking ensued.

The students, White House kitchen staff and representatives from Miriam's Kitchen -- which feeds the homeless and was the main beneficiary of the vegetable haul -- gathered on the South Lawn around picnic tables draped in red and white checked tablecloths and topped with baskets of apples. White House assistant chef Sam Kass -- he of the bald pate and the People magazine-worthy physique -- divided the kids into groups of three. A trio of girls from Bancroft were paired with the first lady, who initiated a contest to see which kids could dig up the largest sweet potato. Obama noted that she and her daughters had already harvested a particularly hefty one. "They're huge," she said, underscoring the size of the potatoes by holding her hands approximate 12" apart. "They're huge!"

The first lady -- dressed in a pair of lapis jeans, a purple cardigan and purple sneakers -- and her team of students -- dressed in yellow Bancroft T-shirts -- produced a basket filled with impressive tubers, which she presented to the assembled photographers and reporters for documentation.

Obama noted that already 740 pounds of food have been harvested from the garden, which cost less than $200 to plant.

For fall, in addition to the sweet potatoes, the children gathered wheel barrels full of carrots, lettuce and enormous fennel plants, one of which required the full weight of the first lady and her team members to extract from the ground. "You're going to eat your vegetables, right?" said Obama in that way parents have of turning a question into a decree.

After all their hard work and before settling in for an afternoon snack of apples and cider, the young farmers gathered for a group photograph, proudly posing with their vegetables, the first lady and her one very muddy knee.

By Web Politics Editor  |  October 29, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Washington Life , White House  
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I had a good harvest this year as well. Potatoes in the ground, carrots, lettuce, spinach and lots of herbs and container crops of tomatoes, cukes, peppers. I have more than enough to last me till this time next year. It really is amazing how much one human can eat. Lucky I'm a vegetarian, but I'll eat seafood when I can find it. Chicken eggs when the hens are laying, goat milk.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | October 31, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

After 8 years of Cheney-Bush malevolence and stupidity, the Obamas have finally made my giving up my beloved Canadian citizenship in 1964 worth it. I have stopped grieving and am celebrating the hope and the promise that this remarkable couple bring to the global stage. And, yes, I am finally proud to be an American.

Posted by: amma2 | October 30, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe the hatred that the Washington Post is allowing to be posted here. Why don't you, WP, follow your own guidelines and stop all this racist hatred?! Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney illegally killed our sons and daughters, black, white, hispanic and asian and wounded several thousand others in a misguided war and I NEVER saw any comments such as this. This is a vegetable garden that is mostly feeding the homeless: some of those people are war vets who could not get jobs, lost their homes and possessions; people who worked for years on bad jobs for little money and got kicked out when it was expedient for the corporate monsters receiving large bonuses. There but for the grace of GOD could be anyone of us. Be grateful for whatever the Obamas are doing to improve the economy and this country. If Mr. Bush had another 4 years, most of us would be dead by the end of them.

Posted by: whtlady849 | October 30, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Just about everyone CAN grow food. Growing a few vegetables does NOT require land. Ever heard of a window box? You think that only flowers can grow there? Potted plants on the patio, or just next to the window.

Kids in elementary school grow bean plants in paper cups on the window sill. No, it isn't going to solve world hunger, but it is important for kids to know where food comes from.

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 30, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse


When you can't argue the merits of the garden... you personally attack those who disagree with the policies of the Obamas.

I think it is great to have a garden and a good idea for the first family to participate... but to purposely attempt to deceive the country that they only spent $200 on the garden is utter nonsense. The entire project was not Michelle's idea but rather David Axelrod's precisely for the propaganda value that paints a picture of what Axelrod wants the public to think about the Obama's rather than the real picture of who and what they are.

They are the Marxist dirty Chicago political machine opportunists that are out for personal power and revenge for some imagined wrong done to their ancestors. They are emboldened and motivated but unfortunately it is the misguided Marxist Dreams of Obama's father that lead them and now our country down a dangerous path away from freedom.

You can have someone read and explain this to you no1buckigirl, I'm sure you will need some reading comprehension help.

Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | October 30, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The writer, Obama_Traitor_in_Chief, obviously doesn't have enough to do. He/she just sits around all day drooling venom all over a computer keyboard. If he/she finds a story about yams so disturbing, he/she must be afraid to leave the house! Although, more than likely this person is drooling over a keyboard owned by his/her employer, while he/she is supposed to be working. That's what fits ethically with all the meanness over a vegetable garden that benefits others.

Posted by: no1buckigirl | October 30, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse


Addendum: The comment below, "Bitter Harvest," would not post yesterday, eliciting a "held for blog owner" message that the author believes was a "spoofed" or faked page inserted into his data steam by a rogue warrantless surveillance program.

Those who see this: a secret multi-agency coordinated action program is torturing and physically and neurologically impairing Americans with microwave and laser directed energy weapons -- an infrastructure in place in every county in the U.S.

I fear this weaponry also may be directed against our nation's leaders.

Those who attempt to expose these covert crime against humanity are kept prisoner in their own homes -- their property and possession vandalized or otherwise disturbed when they leave the premises, their characters assassinated by powerful government agencies that should have better things to do with the taxpayer's money.

If you care about liberty and American values and the rule of law, please send these links to your congresspeople and to your local media -- because this is happening in every county in America: OR (if link is corrupted/disabled): RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | October 30, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

ATTENTION MRS. OBAMA: It's a bitter harvest for victims of a federally-enabled grassroots Gestapo that is TORTURING unjustly targeted Americans with classified microwave/laser weapons, as vigilante community-stalking vandals, protected by feds and police, keep them a prisoner in their own homes. The journalist who wrote the linked article below is one of them. No authorities will help. The rule of law has broken down in Bucks County, PA and elsewhere across the US. Please bring this to POTUS' immediate attention.


Posted by: scrivener50 | October 30, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I hope they grows a "pet" TickleMe Plant in the White house. The TickleMe Plant is the REAL house plant that MOVES when you Tickle it!
The leaves quickly fold and even the branches move when Tickled. It even produces pretty pink cotton candy like flowers. It would be cool if they can make the TickleMe Plant the white house mascot!
I found it on line at
Use coupon code HOLIDAY and they take off $2.00

Posted by: GoGreen3 | October 30, 2009 2:52 AM | Report abuse

A lot of people seem to be worried that the Whitehouse garden is part of the Obama plan to fleece America. Stop worrying already. There is nothing left to be fleeced. The hook 'em and crook 'em has already occurred. By the time the Obama's arrived we were well into the pull-the-wool-over-their-eyes phase of fleecing. The Obama's showed up to the party a day late and a dollar short. All that was left was a potload of debt and a huge mess. Sorry, you will just have to plant your own gardens now. Cheer up. The whole unprocessed foods from your gardens may clear up your minds enough to understand where the bonus checks actually went.

Posted by: cmscherb2 | October 30, 2009 2:27 AM | Report abuse

If the article came close to telling the truth about Michelle's garden... then we would see the real angry black woman that she is.

Michelle did not water every day. Michelle did not weed the garden weekly, Michelle did not keep the bugs out by spraying or finding other natural predators. All Michelle did is show up for a planting photo op and a harvesting photo op. You can look at her shoes and her pants and know whe hasn't done any of the work.

The so-called $200 spent doesn't count the thousands of dollars spent on White House gardeners, secret service etc.

The real question is... Did Michelle have this garden at home in Chicago?

and the answer is a resounding NO!

She did not need the photo op back then, or have White House gardeners

you Obama worshipers are such foolish simpletons

Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | October 30, 2009 12:11 AM

Good're just sick.

Posted by: dfc102 | October 30, 2009 2:19 AM | Report abuse

The downtrodden have such a long history of growing vegetables, it's obviously a subversive act. On other fronts, there's no such thing as a wheel barrel. It's a wheelbarrow.

Posted by: JustASong | October 30, 2009 1:41 AM | Report abuse

@ Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief

Your name says it all, your seem uninterested in debating anything on its merits.
If you are happy to be a troll and hate for the sake of it, so be it. But I feel sorry for you, it must be hard to hate that much.

Posted by: simplymortified | October 30, 2009 1:04 AM | Report abuse

If the article came close to telling the truth about Michelle's garden... then we would see the real angry black woman that she is.

Michelle did not water every day. Michelle did not weed the garden weekly, Michelle did not keep the bugs out by spraying or finding other natural predators. All Michelle did is show up for a planting photo op and a harvesting photo op. You can look at her shoes and her pants and know whe hasn't done any of the work.

The so-called $200 spent doesn't count the thousands of dollars spent on White House gardeners, secret service etc.

The real question is... Did Michelle have this garden at home in Chicago?

and the answer is a resounding NO!

She did not need the photo op back then, or have White House gardeners

you Obama worshipers are such foolish simpletons

Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | October 30, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

First thing, I'm not American, (I like to follow US news from here in Australia)so I don't really have a side or stake here in the Dem v GOP slanging match.

I really can't see the problem with this, please tell me what is wrong with this? Sure the garden is largely symbolic, but isn't that a good thing? shouldn't leaders act in ways to inspire? What is wrong with growing your own food, if you can? What is wrong with encouraging kids to eat fresh produce?

The other thing that I find disturbing is the level of Obama hatred, I thought Bush was a bit of a moron, but hate him? no way.

Seriously, as an outsider looking in I find US politics sometime quite noble, but other times (like this) it can be really childish.
It a veggie garden folks! not school prayer or birth control!


Posted by: simplymortified | October 29, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Some writers seem unable to be objective and recognize that the First Lady's garden project was a wonderful learning experience for inner-city kids and Michelle Obama was a super teacher. Gardening taught these kids how to plant and tend a garden, introduced them to healthy eating, promoted cooperation and follow-through on a long term goal AND gave them the satisfaction of giving time and the fruits of their labor to help others. Let us hope that those who have criticized the First Lady for this project will one day not object if a child in their life is given a similar opportunity. This has been a learning experience for many - but not for those with closed minds.

Posted by: nlersch | October 29, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

The help hired by the taxpayers did all he work... All she does is sight see an vacation.
What a dumb story?

Posted by: robinhood2 | October 29, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

What must gall the republicans more than anything is that Michelle Obama would surely be Phyllis Schlaffley's quintessential Republican Super Mom, if she just weren't so obviously a Democrat.

Could someone please get her to speak out and talk about 4H?

Posted by: ceflynline | October 29, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Ah, that is where all those green shoots are they were talking about.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | October 29, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Next the press will be invited into her powder room. She's the Martha Stewart of the white house. I can't believe she got her own fingers dirty.

Posted by: MOMLEE | October 29, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Right at this minute, Fox(no)news is running a special one hour program entitled, "Using gardening as a weapon to brainwash children:How Michelle Obama is using gardening to turn all children into Hitler lovers." With special guests: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Ann Coulter, and special commentary by the Cheney family and Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Posted by: kubrickstan | October 29, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Michelle is an inspiration and hopefully more of us will decide to plant gardens.

Posted by: angie12106 | October 29, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Seven hundred dollars harvested in the garden - $1M for a trip to NYC (5 helos!!)
How do they pay for that :-)
We better all find out how to garden - our taxes wil be so high we won't be able to buy our food!

Posted by: thornegp2626 | October 29, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Our first lady harvests vegetables in a White House garden.
Perfect opportunity for haters to vent hatred -- again.
Nothing is wholesome to these ugly whiners? They can find nothing positive in anything the Obamas touch?
How sick is that?

Posted by: jimsteinberg1 | October 29, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Photo op or not it is making a difference in one school that I personally know and I'm sure many other schools and homes. Many children will learn to like vegetables and gardening which will change their lives forever.

Horrible, horrible lesson. I just wanted to see if I could hate as much as some of the other posters -I can't it hurt just typing this.

Posted by: rlj1 | October 29, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Loving, positive and nurturing behavior.
Something we should all strive for.

Posted by: Gary12 | October 29, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

White House gardeners laugh collective butts off at these poseurs.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | October 29, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful story and a beautiful First Lady!

Posted by: nannye | October 29, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

How come you never see Caucasian children with Michelle Obama in one of her gardens? And don't tell me that DC schools are filled with Afro American children only....

Posted by: PittAlum | October 29, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Michelle is a *wonderful* first lady, and such a refreshing change from Laura "Stepford Wife" Bush. Seriously, how can you respect anyone who would live with George W. Bush??

Posted by: whirlwind81 | October 29, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

After reading some of the comments on here it is safe to assume that gardens aren't the only place vegetables grow.

Posted by: AverageJane | October 29, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

$200 to plant? Plus labor, plus the cost of having land to plant, taxes on the land, etc.

Gardening is something everyone should do if they can, but it wouldn't hurt to make note of the fact that it does require "land."

Not something every American has access to.

Posted by: MarkGisleson | October 29, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

dmm1, I am so with you on this! Those horrible Obamas! Teaching children the value of eating healthy and helping others! Letting them enjoy sunshine and fresh air when they could be indoors fomenting hatred against anyone not like them, like all good true Americans must do! (Thanks for the laugh)

Posted by: greyK | October 29, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

To sandynh, dmm1 and Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief:

I had to laugh when I read your comments. They are all so obsurd and are so filled with such obvious hatred that it takes my breath away. This is a fairly benign story and picture of the First Lady gardening with some DC public school kids. I think its great! I love seeing these pictures and reading these stories about the White House garden. I am a government employee and I wish Mrs. Obama would come visit my Federal Agency. She is such an inspiration. And she makes me want to garden too. You three are just plain crazy.

Posted by: sdposter | October 29, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Sandynh, would you like a taste of your own medicine? You're just asking for it.

Posted by: crzytwnman | October 29, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Those of you who are unable to see the value of 700 lbs of food for about $200 in expenses fail to understand the valuable lesson taught here. Would wager this spring there will be similar gardens planted in schools throughout the USA and in backyards.

People learn by example.

I just don't get you guys. We just went through 8 years of being led by a collective of garbage and you still are unable to discern the difference in substance between one and the other.

Posted by: jato11 | October 29, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

It is people like you that are left wing undercover racists that always complain and have nothing decent to say about the Obama's. I didn't see Ms Bush doing anything that was closely related to this. This is great. This is wonderful. This goes to show you that not only are we gracious in public but we can do really nice things with and for others. Quit hating and pull of your sheet so people can see the real you!!!!!!

Posted by: kklucas_98 | October 29, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

See, this is EXACTLY why I hate the Obamas! Look at the...uh...oh crud. Can I get some help here? We MUST be eternally divided on every little issue, or we're not true Americans! Would a Democrat please cooperate by posting a rant about how the yams would have been bigger if it hadn't been for Bush?

Posted by: dmm1 | October 29, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Nothing but a photo op!

Where is the photo of taxpayer paid Paris shopping spree?

Dinners in Chicago every Friday on taxpayer dime?

the Fleecing of America by Barry and Michelle.

Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | October 29, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

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