Well, it looks like all the environmentalists, locavorians, and food enthusiasts that have been clucking* for months about the potential for a garden at the White House have finally gotten what they asked for – the Obamas started digging their garden today on the South Lawn. While the Obamas and their guests will certainly benefit from the fresh organic produce, will the rest of America follow their example?
The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.
There’s something to be said for the Obamas setting an example – but, in reality, how much impact will this truly have on the rest of the country? I hate to be pessimistic but…not much, especially during a recession – organic foods sales are down right now and, if you don’t live in California, local produce can be hard to come by throughout the year. I doubt that the majority of Americans are going to suddenly be inspired to drop their Big Macs and plant some veggies, just because the Obamas are doing it. I am hopeful though that, over time (oh, say, 8 years?), the Obamas will be able to make enough changes in our food policy and agriculture industry that buying local, organic foods will become more feasible for most Americans, if cost is the main barrier. However, if mentality and culture are, at least partially, to blame for the soaring prevalence of obesity and diabetes – after all, we’re not being force-fed cheap, greasy fast food – then we’ve got our work cut out for us. Hopefully, that’s where the Obamas come in – helping promote the consumption of local, organic produce (and humanely-raised animals, I hope!) will trickle down to the masses, showing that we are responsible for our food choices and, in turn, that we have the power to improve our health and the environment if we make the right choices about what we eat.
And the best part of the garden? No beets! Sorry, Dwight Schrute, but beets are not for me – or the prez.
*More on this topic:
“An Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief” by Michael Pollan
The White House Organic Farm Project
Eat the View: The White House Organic Garden Campaign
Top photo courtesy of http://www.eattheview.orh; bottom photo courtesy of The New York Times.