I recently returned from a family trip to Michigan and was regaled with stories of my uncle’s garden in which he has planted squash (32 plants!), pumpkins, corn, lettuce, beans, grapes, and all sorts of other goodies that the local deer insist upon stealing.
Michigan is farmland as far as the eye can see, and it made me think fondly of Michelle Obama’s new book American Grown which is the story of the White House Kitchen Garden and gardens across America.
I am very fond of Obama’s initiatives to encourage healthy living for children, including lessons in how to grow a garden. I wanted to share this short excerpt with you, and give you a chance to win a copy of American Grown (below!).
Every week, I get letters from kids and from schools asking about our garden and telling us about their own gardens and their own efforts to eat healthily. It makes me especially happy to receive letters like the one I received from the Avoyelles Public Charter School, which read, “We are inspired by your examples of planting a garden at the White House and encouraging children to eat healthy and exercise. Here in Mansura, Louisiana—against all odds with no budget—we started an Edible Schoolyard.” Enclosed were pictures of the kids, one with a handwritten caption that read, “It all starts with a seed.”
That, more than anything, is the message I hope to convey with this book. So often, gardens start with so little—a few neighbors who want to reclaim an empty plot, a family that wants to put healthier meals on the table, a school that wants to teach kids how their food is grown. But the impact our gardens have on our lives—and the life of our nation—is anything but small. Whether it’s a few plants in the backyard or on the windowsill, a small garden near the town center, or a vast tract of land with crops as far as the eye can see, year after year, season after season, gardens bring individuals and communities together. They provide fresh, nutritious food for our families.
They inspire and engage our children, teaching them the value of hard work and teamwork and showing them just how delicious food can taste when it’s fresh from the vine.
For me, planting a garden was a way to help start a national conversation about the health of our children, an issue I care deeply about, not just as First Lady but as a mother. It’s an issue I often think about as my family sits down for dinner. Barack, Malia, Sasha, and I eat together pretty much every night at 6:30 p.m.; even if Barack is traveling, he always tries to make it back home in time for dinner. We start our meal by saying grace—and our grace always ends with “We hope we live long and strong”—and we talk with our daughters about what’s going on in their lives, and in ours. Some nights, we discuss issues they’ve heard about in the news. Other nights, we talk through situations they’ve encountered in the classroom or on the playground, and we strategize about how to navigate the complicated world of elementary and middle school friendships. Many nights, as I look at my children, I think of my hopes for them—and for all our children: that they grow up healthy; that they have the energy, strength, and stamina to build families and careers of their own; that they can pursue every last one of their dreams and fulfill every last bit of their potential.
Whether it’s sitting down for that family dinner, growing a tomato out on the stoop, or just taking our kids for a walk in the park, we all have a role to play in building this future for our children.
Each of us has the opportunity—and the responsibility—to begin planting those seeds in our families and communities.
And on behalf of our children, I hope that each of us, in our own way, will take up this charge.
– Michelle Obama
Copyright © 2012 by the National Park Foundation.
Photograph copyright © 2012 by Quentin Bacon Photography
American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama
Contest is open to Canadian residents, excluding Quebec. Prize value is $35.00. Contest opens at 12:01 am July 19, 2012 and closes at 12:01 am on July 24, 2012.