even look at: eggplant, green and red peppers, onions, squashes. The kids had worked
in the garden; they had pulled a lot of the
stuff that we were eating. And every single
one of them dove into those pizzas because it
was their work.
That’s something we try to share through
Let’s Move!, particularly with parents and
schoolteachers. There’s an important way to
introduce healthy foods into the lives of kids;
they have to feel like they’re a part of it. And
we’ve learned that through our garden.
CC: How often do you eat something
from your garden?
MO: I’m sure that 95 percent of the time
the food is coming from the garden when it’s
there. If we have a state dinner or a large
important dinner, we incorporate something
from the garden on the menu.
CC: That’s great, and it gets back to fostering that sense of community.
MO: Absolutely. [In the book, White
House executive chef] Cristeta Comerford
tells how they’re now developing their menus
around what is seasonal and fresh in the garden. As she says, it’s the vegetable that dictates the meal, rather than the protein or the
side. When you have the power of growing
some of the tastiest vegetables, you want that
to be the highlight of the meal rather than
First Lady sows passion for gardening
By Stephanie E. Ponder
WHEN FIRST LADY Michelle Obama
started the White House kitchen garden in
spring 2009, she had no idea of the seeds she
was planting. Not only has the garden
expanded to roughly 1,500 square feet and
come to include a beehive on the South Lawn,
but gardening in general has become a passion for the first lady. She chronicles her journey in American Grown.
More than just a history of the White
House garden, the book highlights community garden projects in cities such as
Milwaukee, Houston and Seattle. Obama
also provides tips and addresses how engaging children in the process of growing and
harvesting fresh foods complements her Let’s
Move! program to address childhood obesity.
The Connection recently spoke by phone
with Mrs. Obama about the White House
garden, the book and, of course, children.
As I talk about in the book … it has become
a community space in so many ways.
CC: The notion of community is a strong
thread throughout the book, whether it’s supporting a local farmers market or sharing the
bounty of your garden. Can you speak to that?
MO: My main focus was to have this garden begin a conversation about the health of
our nation and in particular our children.
And [I wanted] to make the garden a space
for young people to learn where their food
comes from and gain a better appreciation for
how different foods impact their health. A lot
of this other wonderful discovery that we’ve
made—how gardens become part of a community and bring people together—was a
happy by-product of this garden, but it wasn’t
something that I was expecting to happen.
CC: Not everybody has access to a farmers
market or a garden, but you point out that
even a pot on the fire escape is a small change
most people can make.
MO: When most people think of a garden they’re thinking about acres of land, tractors, weeds, overalls and the whole nine yards.
The truth is gardening can be as simple as a
pot in the backyard or the fire escape.
There are no boundaries to making these
kinds of changes in our communities. All you
need is some decent soil and some good sunlight. Hopefully people … will be inspired to
try to do the same thing in their communities
or in their schools.
The book is bigger than just the White
House garden, as it should be, because the
conversation is bigger than anything that I’m
doing. I’m new to the game. People have been
doing this for generations.
There’s no reason why every community
can’t have something [similar], which is why
the stories are so diverse. We want it to feel
real for people so that they can explore the
possibilities in their own lives. C
Costco Connection: Who is involved
in making the decisions on what is grown in
Michelle Obama: We have a good team
of people that includes our chefs—they really
play the largest role in determining what
we’re going to grow because they’re the ones
who go down to the garden almost daily and
pick from it. We also work with the National
Park Service people who help to maintain it.
CC: A farmer once told me that once kids
see where their food comes from, reluctant eaters are suddenly willing to eat their vegetables.
MO: We see that at harvest time every season, because the kids who come to plant are
the kids who come for the harvest. We’ve made
eating our harvest an important part of it.
Last year we made veggie pizzas. We
grilled the whole-wheat flatbread, we put
fresh tomato sauce on it and carved up
roasted vegetables that normally kids wouldn’t
JUNE 2012 ;e Costco Connection 71
Connection American Grown is available in most Costco warehouses. All proceeds go to the National Park Foundation.