The Bipartisan Garden

Robbin Gourley is a children and adult book author and illustrator whose work is fixated on food. Most of her books of stories and recipes are rooted in her Southern past, but her recent book looks at the present—indeed a present from Mrs. Michelle Obama. First Garden: The White House Garden And How it Grew written and illustrated by Gourley with a foreword by Alice Waters (Clarion Books), is a romp through the soil and mulch of the First Lady’s garden at home in Washington D.C.

This First Garden is the first to be planted since Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II “Victory” garden. Here’s what The New York Times wrote when Mrs. O started digging and planting in Spring 2009:

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Good deeds don’t always go unpunished. And even an innocent cultivated plot of land is not considered innocent when the First Family plans it (let’s make sure they using pure American soil! None of this foreign dirt, of course!). Here’s an item from Slate.

Not all sectors of the food and agriculture industry specialize in organic or local foods. “There’s a lot of push back we’re hearing, a lot of whining out of that community about the first lady doing her garden,” says Larry Mitchell of the American Corn Growers Association, which represents both organic and conventional farmers. “They’re getting awful squeamish on this thing.”

Read more here. But if you want an unbiased, and bipartisan, rooting around, Gourley’s First Garden not only sheds light on Mrs. Obama’s green thumb, but those of First Ladies Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Pat Nixon, too. Seems that children, regardless of political leaning, should enjoy this book.

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