The White House South 40th

Sunday, March 22, 2009

DURING WORLD War II, American children were put to the enjoyable task of pounding tin cans flat for the war effort and the less enjoyable chore of helping out with family "victory gardens," the backyard plots that provided a sizable amount of the nation's food supply. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt joined in the effort, planting a garden on the White House lawn.

Since then the White House grounds have lain fallow, but many millions of Americans all over the country have continued the centuries-old tradition of raising at least some vegetables on their own bits of land. Moreover, in recent years, a sizable number of people have taken to advocating a return to locally grown and raised food as being more healthful and beneficial to the environment. They have been urging that President Obama and his family do something to advance the cause.

First lady Michelle Obama has decided to revive vegetable gardening at the White House by setting aside 1,100 square feet -- about one-fortieth of an acre -- for growing several dozen kinds of vegetables as well as berries and herbs -- but no beets, because her husband doesn't like them. Local schoolchildren will bust the sod and help with the gardening. The organically grown produce will be consumed by inhabitants and guests of the White House, and also, no doubt, by an army of insects and whatever rabbits and other herbivores can get past White House security.

Ms. Obama, having no need to defeat the Axis and showing no inclination to get involved in the politics of food, did not set forth any goals for the new garden aside from the hope it might help educate children about healthy eating. Maybe she also thought it would be nice to have kids digging in the backyard, creatures chirping and buzzing in the greenery, and a tangle of vines, leaves and stalks providing some needed disorderly contrast to the decorous federal landscaping. If so, we support her initiative all the way and urge her to inform the president that beets are good for him.

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