Green Day: Michelle Obama’s “American Grown” Celebrates Gardens

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Mrs. Obama: I’ve got to be me. The truth is I dressed up a little bit for the photos. But in some of those, we’re harvesting with the kids you’ll see I’m wearing my jeans — my pants are rolled up, because I’m actually — when we plant, we plant.  We really do it. We’ve got kids who are really involved. They help us every planting season. We bring in kids from not just schools in the area, but we fly kids in from across the country who are doing great community gardens in their schools. Kids help us harvest, so every season when we harvest we bring a group of kids and we cook outside.

Tom:  What about your kids?

Mrs. Obama: My kids are just like any kids. Anything their parents are doing is completely uncool and uninteresting. (Laughter.) Now, there are millions of kids around the country who would love to spend time with me in the garden.  (Laughter.) Sasha and Malia are not among those children.

Sybil: Did you have a garden as a kid, growing up in Chicago?

Mrs. Obama: When I grew up, we lived in an apartment over my great aunt’s house, and she was a gardener. She didn’t grow vegetables, but she planted beautiful flowers every season. And it was our responsibility as the children in the house, we had to go out there and plant and weed and water the lawn. My brother mowed.

Tom: Gardening is hard work.  I don’t care if it’s vegetables, flowers.

Mrs. Obama: It takes patience and focus. And one of the things we do in the book is that we offer some tips for people who want to start their own garden.  The truth is I have a huge staff of people that help maintain this garden.  There is no way that I could individually do this.But we have stories of people who have planted container gardens on their back porches. They use raised beds on concrete in the schoolyards and they manage to make small plots.  And they can really get a lot of produce.  And that’s really ultimately what we’re trying — the story we’re trying to tell.  We’re trying to remind people of our history of gardening, particularly in our communities.

Mrs. Obama: Have you gardened, Tom?  Have you, Sybil?  Have you guys done any gardening?  Do you know that tradition?  Have you experienced that?

Sybil: I was telling Tom that growing up in Chicago, my dad had a vegetable garden in our backyard.

Tom: And where was he from?

Sybil: Arkansas.

Mrs. Obama: Well, everybody black in Chicago is from the south. That’s where our summer vacations were.  People on the east coast, they’re going up north. We went south. Everybody was like Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina — that’s our heritage.

Sybil: All of us have that — absolutely right.

Mrs. Obama: And we need to get back to those roots, because that’s part of the challenge of our health. We’re getting away from fresh fruits and vegetables. We’re not incorporating that stuff in our meals. When we do, it’s not the freshest that it can be.  It costs too much. That’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing such high rates of childhood obesity.  And we need to reconnect ourselves, our kids and our communities to this whole gardening tradition. And it would go a long way to improving the health of our kids and our communities.

Sybil: This is going to be a great legacy you’re leaving behind.

Tom: Congratulations — “American Grown.”

Mrs. Obama: A great Mother’s Day gift!

Sybil: I was going to say that, absolutely.  (Laughter.)

Mrs. Obama: And 100 percent of the proceeds go to the National Park Foundation, to help support community gardens and to help maintain the legacy of the White House Garden.  So it’s a part of the White House forever, which is my hope.

Tom: Bless your gardenin’ heart.  (Laughter.)

Mrs. Obama: Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

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