Gardening on the Planet

Why I can’t get too excited about the White House vegetable garden

A Lake Erie beach. It would be nice if someday people could swim here.

A Lake Erie beach. It would be nice if someday people could swim here.

Of course, it’s very good that the White House and the National Park Foundation have decided to maintain a food patch on the property. And let’s be clear on one thing right away: I am a big fan of both Obamas and would be happy to see them stay in the WH indefinitely. Kudos also to the Burpee Foundation for its recent $2.5 million gift to maintain the garden after the Obamas leave at the end of the year.

It is important to eat seasonally and locally, which I try to do, though without growing the food myself. But the WH garden never seemed like much more than a stunt to me, albeit a good one. Nobody really finds a vegetable garden all that revolutionary. It sets a good, sensible example, but there are other gardening examples that might be more startling—at least to many Americans. Like less lawn or lawn alternatives. Like more native plants. Like a meadow on the property. I’ve enjoyed the photo ops of kids harvesting in the garden, but I’d also love to see those kids running through a White House meadow.

The garden’s new inscription includes the words with the hope of growing a healthier nation, but if that’s really the hope, there are more important ways in which government should help maintain public health. One of the most essential is preserving our supply of clean water. According to a wide range of reports, the Clean Water Act is violated regularly. There are just too many ways for polluting industries of all types (including farming) to around it, by it, or under the radar of it. And like many, I am not convinced that fracking (supported by government for the most part) does not pose a threat to groundwater. I’m also concerned about the effect growing GMO crops (supported by the administration) has on the environment.

I don’t mean to quibble. There have been many environmental victories (in the face of formidable opposition) over the past eight years as well. There is no doubt that the current occupants of the WH understand the importance of healthy food, air, and water, for the most part. I hope future administrations will do half so well. And that they enjoy the garden.

Posted by on October 13, 2016 at 9:13 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.
Comments are off for this post

7 responses to “Why I can’t get too excited about the White House vegetable garden”

  1. Sandra Knauf says:

    Wow – much push back on this one? You’re supposed to say everything is amazing, Elizabeth! No ranting on Garden Rant! (It’s not polite.) Seems like the readers here are used to main stream media feeding them only the palatable (but not very nutritious) opinions regarding the Obamas and all that is growing in the USA.

    The 1,100 square foot garden is fabulous, and educational for local children, but oh, imagine, if they had really made the effort and taken the risks needed to make real change in our food system! But then that would have meant taking on Big Ag and losing donor dollars. . . drat! So we’re basically at the same place we were eight years ago (actually worse with The Dark Act, massive honeybee deaths, water pollution, fracking, etc., etc., etc.), but let’s not acknowledge that.

  2. John says:

    I am a staunch Republican, though I hesitate admitting such in today’s world. As such, I do not agree with many of the Obama’s initiatives over the last eight years. However, I think it is wonderful that Mrs. Obama has brought needed attention to home gardening, getting kids involved in positive outdoor activities, etc. I find it hard to fathom how a person so focused on gardening and nature could take issue with this or even suggest that the White House grounds should be converted to meadow. Did you consider the security implications when suggesting such?

    I find it hard to imagine either of our candidates being as open minded as the Obama’s, but admit that is the least of my fears.

  3. Donna says:

    Yard gardening is having a revolution so why not the White House kitchen? I am moving roses to use the raised garden for more vegetables. We are retired and I’ve made many delicious roasted cherry tomato dishes this summer from our garden and enjoyed the herbs. I’m glad to see the Obama’s join the movement.
    Why criticize something good that hurts no one?

  4. kathie daniels says:

    you sound like a crotchety person attempting to get attention for yourself. so you have my attention. happy? this post is all about you and your problem(s). it is certainly not a valid or useful critique of the white house garden and you should take it down at once.

  5. Carol O'Meara says:

    When I visited the WH garden, Sam Kass told me of the many activities that are held there for school groups. Planting days with discussions of cool season/warm season crop needs, garden to table cooking classes, apiculture, etc. That garden is actually a living classroom, used regularly. The photos you’ve described as photo ops – were you there when they were taken, to say that’s all they were – stunts? Plus what’s wrong with a bit of inspirational symbolism?

  6. Chris Coen says:

    What irony to find this post about why the White House vegetable garden is a big deal existing cheek-by-jowl with Allen Bush’s post about how to engage youngsters in the gardening pastime Garden Ranters all know and love! Why is the White House vegetable garden a big deal? For the same reasons that vegetable gardens at schools are a big deal – because there are lots of folks who have never seen anyone grow anything they could eat.

  7. Chris Coen says:

    I am struck by the irony of this post, which asks why the White House vegetable garden is such a big deal, existing cheek-by-jowl with Allen Bush’s post about how to involve the next generation in the gardening those who frequent Garden Rant love to indulge in. Why is the White House vegetable garden a big deal? For the same reason school vegetable gardens are – introducing food gardening to an audience who maybe never saw anyone grow anything they could eat.