White House Garden: Yay or Nay?

John Adams did it. So did Eleanor Roosevelt. I'm talking about gardening on the White House lawn. It's been a while -- since World World II -- since the idea has borne edible fruit; however, Chez Panisse and Edible Schoolyard founder Alice Waters has been pushing the idea of a White House vegetable garden since 2000, when Bill Clinton was in office.


The Whofarm guys: Daniel Bowman Simon and Casey Gustowarow. (Courtesy flickr/photo_nola)

Flash forward eight years, and Waters now has company, with Eat the View and The White House Organic Farm Project (aka The Who Farm), two separate efforts with a similar mission -- urging the next president to start growing his own food.

Eat the View is the brainchild of Roger Doiron, the force behind Kitchen Gardeners International, an online community for gardeners around the world. Doiron, who lives (and has a 1/3 acre-garden) in Scarborough, Maine, began pitching his idea -- Eat the View -- of a White House organic garden on On Day One, an online forum with user-generated politically-focused ideas and proposals. Now, Eat the View has its own Web site with an online petition to be presented to the next president-elect. You can also follow Doiron's efforts on Twitter.

Doiron has also produced a video explaining his cause:


Similar in mission but different in approach is how I'd describe The Whofarm Project, a collaboration of Daniel Bowman Simon and his best friend Casey Gustowarow, two twenty-something guys (and former Peace Corps buddies) who have taken their message on the road in their double-decker school bus. Simon and Gustowarow drove their bus (equipped with a roof-top garden) from New York City to San Francisco to make it in time for Slow Food Nation and spread word of their efforts. Like Doiron, the Whofarm guys have an online petition that they like the world to sign and put on the desk of the next commander in chief. For the return trip to New York, their plan is to drive at a more leisurely pace, making a case for presidential gardening.

What's your take? Should there be an edible garden at the White House? And which candidate, if any, would be the most likely to start digging in the dirt? Take the poll below and weigh in:



By Kim ODonnel |  September 4, 2008; 10:42 AM ET Eco-Bites
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fr the article:

>...Should there be an edible garden at the White House? And which candidate, if any, would be the most likely to start digging in the dirt?<

sounds good! I would think Senator Obama would be more inclined to garden, himself, whereas johnny and sarah would fawn the gardening duties off on a flunkie.

Posted by: Alex | September 4, 2008 3:14 PM

I think it's a great idea.

There's already a little space of edible garden between the Air & Space Museum and the Department of Education building. Very few people know about it, and I don't think it's educating people very well. Although one of the homeless guys who lives there praises the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes.

The beauty and practicality of edible gardens should be showcased whenever and wherever possible. Maybe the White House could feature heirloom or unusual vegetables and herbs from our history.

Posted by: Fabrisse | September 4, 2008 7:10 PM

Oh please Obama and his lovely wife are both lawyers and wouldnt know how to open a seed pack or turn over dirt.

Maybe Mccain can grow hops!!!

We all know that some poor enlisted schmoo would end up doing all the work and take the blame.

Another really ignorant idea from Kim and the far left Greenocrats.

Eat more meat. Livestock should fart more they enjoy it!

Doing my best to be carbon positive. Wait, wait wow that was a great fart!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2008 6:14 AM

Since you're on the West Coast now, and since you're not really writing about good food to eat anymore, maybe you should change the title of this thing. After all, "A Mighty Appetite" implies a gourmand's take on things. Remember the blog about the grilled cheese sandwich. That was great. There were so many participants, they seemed to be coming out of the woodwork. But now, eating with a social conscience, eating locally, ecoeating--I'm not seeing such a great response. Incessant preaching doesn't ruin my appetite, it just causes me to move to a less irritating venue. But hey, maybe you can turn it around. A Sysco rep once told me, if you antagonize a customer and they leave without saying anything, he/she will never return. But if the customer comes to you with a complaint, that means he/she want to come back, and he/she wants you to do better. Here are my suggestions for your new blog title: 1) How dare you eat that! 2) Surviving on Politically Correct Pablum 3) Eating Hypocritically. I do appreciate the Green Movement, and the idea of organics and eating locally is generally laudable; but to put these sermons under the title, "A Mighty Appetite" is inappropriate.

Posted by: Dave | September 5, 2008 7:58 AM

I agree with Dave. And lets get off the slow food thing. Only the upper middle class with no kids can afford to eat that way.

Its time for Kim to get the axe and bring in someone local to replace her and her extreme left wing views.

Kim refuses to give meateaters equal time and wont hold a meatarian chat. We demand equal time.

Now lets all fart and add to our carbon footprint and piss of the Nazi Greens

You know if global warming is as bad as you fools claim the intensity and number of hurricanes will decline because there will be less of a difference in water and air temps!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2008 8:25 AM

I guess some of the people who comment think their view is humerous.
A White House garden would be great and maybe inspire others to do the same.
The occupants of the WH probably would not do a lot of the work, some ceremonious planting possibly, but the symbolism would be there.

Posted by: Ohio | September 5, 2008 9:11 AM

This is an interesting footnote, but more recipes! Please!

Posted by: SSMD | September 5, 2008 11:37 AM

Kim, don't let those posters get you down...I'm a meat-eater but more importantly I like to EAT, and anything you post is interesting to me even if it doesn't particularly apply to my own situation. Just because I can't use something now doesn't mean I won't remember it down the road! Keep up the good work.

Posted by: daetara | September 5, 2008 12:21 PM

Well now, Anonymous is clearly just plain crazy, but to Dave I would like to say that talking and thinking about where our food comes from is a vital part of being a "gourmand". I would be pretty appalled if I went to a super fancy upscale restaurant in December and they were serving asparagus. In fact, the nicest restaurants in my city make a point of buying and serving local and organic produce and meat, and stating right on the menu where it all came from, so it is very much a part of the gourmet way of shopping, cooking and eating nowadays. Eating locally and seasonally is important and I don't think Kim is overdoing it or being preachy at all.

At any rate, I think a White House garden would be awesome. Although I have no illusions that either Obama or McCain would be doing the brunt of the work (and frankly, I wouldn't want them to - they have more important things to do), it would still be a great example to set.

Posted by: Phoebe | September 5, 2008 2:42 PM

You know, this resurrection of a White House vegetable garden makes me think of that scene from one of the "Godfather" movies, where Brando was out in the garden tending to his tomatoes. Sure, as a part of the story arc he promptly keeled over amongst the plants, but up to that point the scene was a lovely image of someone truly enjoying the rewards of raising and tending to a garden. Hey, it could be a great stress reliever for a future Commander in Chief if s/he kept a few flowering or fruit-bearing plants nearby. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Centre of Nowhere | September 7, 2008 12:12 AM

I love your column, Kim, and always have since I first came across it. You have a very fine writing style and come up with interesting takes on all sorts of food. I just ordered your cookbook last week from blurb.com. As to the idea of a vegetable garden at the White House, I think that would be great. And, of course, we know that the President would not be the one tending to it, but it still would be a good thing.

Posted by: aroc | September 9, 2008 9:52 AM

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