Image credit: Seansie & Linda N. @ Flickr
Dear Barack, Michelle, and Kids,
First of all, we are thrilled that you've decided to plant an organic garden on the White House lawn. (w00t!) Our mission at TreeHugger and Planet Green this year is really to move people from awareness to action—looks we can check you and the fam off our to-do list!
Photo credit: SuziJane @ Flickr
As you probably already know, we spend a good chunk of our day touting the hyper-local food movement, talking up farmers' markets and CSAs, and promoting the health and environmental virtues of edible landscapes and fresh, local food. We also believe that understanding the true cost of food (and anything else, for that matter) is measured not in the dollars and cents you hand over at the cash register, but by considering health costs and benefits, community welfare, and environmental impact. Sure, organic and local food may cost more upfront, but in the end healthier food means healthier people. Healthy people are more productive and have lower health care costs. Meanwhile, pesticides and fertilizers are contaminating ground water supply, and transporting food to market is using CO2-spewing fuel. So in the end, cheap food doesn't cost taxpayers or individuals less at all.
But, duh, why am I telling you this? The cost for your seeds, mulch, and other supplies was only $200. Using Roger Doiran's calculations, we figure your 1,100 square foot garden will produce roughly 573 pounds of chow, a value of about $1,375. Certainly proof to the contrary of this story I saw earlier today about a family in the U.K. who is too obese to work. Because of their fixed income, they claim "All that healthy food, like fruit and veg, is too expensive." The truth is, we can't afford for the people in our communities to *not* eat fresh healthy foods.
Anyway, I know this is Michelle's first veggie garden, so the rest of the staff and I came up a list of some tips, tools, and ideas that we thought would be helpful for you and the kids as you start to get growing. Personally, I'd start by expanding that berry patch. There's just nothing better than eating fresh blackberries right off the bush. You might also want to add a few more kid-friendly veggies for Malia and Sasha--looks like you're giving some majorly prime real estate to broccoli, spinach, and kale. Are they okay with that? Collin thinks you should also swap out some of the water-hogging lettuce for cabbage. (I think you'd be crazy to give up fresh summer lettuce for cabbage, but you be the judge.) Erin thinks you should ditch the cilantro in the herb garden (surprise, surprise), but the rest of us were impressed with that little plot. And, okay, so no beets, but you know us—we're in full support of the arugula snobbery! ;)
Image credit: inuyaki.com @ Flicr
Advice for the Obamas For Their First Organic Garden
1) You should totally hire Alice Waters to be your garden czar! Bet you wouldn't even need Congressional approval for that. Plus, I bet she and Van would get along great. (Just ping me if you want her email address.)
2) Re the note above, have you considered getting a permit for a farmers' market or at least a CSA pickup on the White House lawn? I bet your neighbors would totally dig that.
3) I'm a huge fan of Neptune's Harvest fertilizer. Get some. That stuff totally rocks.
4) Have you considered backyard chickens? Great for grub control and you'd save a bundle on the next WH Easter Egg hunt.
5) Word on the street is that D.C.'s soil may be a little heavy on the lead. Even though you're using raised beds, it wouldn't hurt to get your soil tested.
6) Some of my fave tools for the garden: Hunter Wellies (they last forever) or Keen clogs if it's not too wet, and West County garden gloves. (They're made from recycled bottles and you can toss 'em in the wash.) And here's some tips to make 'em last a long, long time.
8) Figured you might want some recipes, too, so we put a bunch together for you. Your berries will be great cancer-fighters, here's a delicious way to prepare kale, and you can't go wrong with carrots, no matter your variety of choice. Bon appetit!
9) When it comes time to plant next year's seeds, we recommend Seed Savers Exchange or another heirloom seed shop that keeps classic seed varieties around for all generations to enjoy.
Oh, last thing if you need help pulling the weeds, the Planet Green offices are just over in Silver Spring, MD. I'm sure the staff there would be happy to volunteer. Speaking of volunteering, we also just launched a volunteer database in conjunction with the Green Apple Festival, in case y'all are looking for something to do around Earth Day. There is tons happening in D.C. (Hint hint!)
Hope that helps and happy farming!
TreeHugger and Planet Green