First Lady Michelle Obama keeps a pretty busy schedule as First Lady, probably doing more before sunrise than most of us do in a whole day. But she’s managed to write a #1 New York Times bestseller, “American Grown: The Story of The White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America,” a gorgeously photographed coffee table book about the development of the White House garden and other gardens that have inspired her. She hopes that the book encourages others to start growing their own food, especially given the health benefits of doing so. Like other moms around the country, Mrs. Obama is planning to spend Mother’s Day having a quiet dinner at home with her mother, First Grandmother Marian Robinson, her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her husband, President Barack Obama. She told The Tom Joyner Morning Show that although the meal has not yet been planned, it will include vegetables, but for her mother, those vegetables won’t be on the table without some fried chicken. Here are more excerpts from Mrs. Obama’s conversation with the TJMS.
TOM JOYNER: Before I start, Happy Mother’s Day to you and Miss Robinson.
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much, Tom. Thank you so much. I will pass that along to Grandma.
Sybil: First Grandma.
Mrs. Obama: She is doing just fine. She is doing her thing. She is happy and healthy. She gets out. She has her little lunches. She has got a little crew of ladies here that she will meet with. So she is doing just fine.
Tom: She has got an old school jam session on Friday night?
Mrs. Obama: Absolutely. (Laughter.)
TJMS: The new book — “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America” — number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Congratulations.
Mrs. Obama: Thank you so much. It’s my very first book and I’m so proud of it. We decided to write the book to tell the story of the White House kitchen garden — how it got started, why we started it. It’s a book full of beautiful pictures, because my intent was that we would share the garden with the country and the world. There are many people who don’t get a chance to visit Washington, come to the White House. But this is a way for people who are unable to come and see it in person to get a taste of what it’s all about, to see the beauty of it — to get some candid shots.
TJMS: It is very beautiful.
Mrs. Obama: But it’s also — we tell the story of other community gardens as well, all across the country.
Tom: Now, in some of these shots I noticed that Bo is posing with you. And I was wondering if this was photoshopped, because if I remember that dog is kind of wild and I could just see a dog like Bo digging up all those rutabagas, the radishes. (Laughter.)
Mrs. Obama: Actually, I think you misunderstand Bo. He is actually a very calm, peaceful dog.
TJMS: He calmed down?
Mrs. Obama: Well, he is an adult dog now. When you first saw him, he was a puppy. And he is now four. So he is really good with the garden. He spends more time in the garden than me, because he actually goes out every day with the gardening team, the National Park Service people. He is out there every day at work like he is one of the boys.
Tom: Is that right?
Mrs. Obama: He actually will not speak to me when he is with his fellas. He kind of looks over like, yo, mom, I’m working. (Laughter.) So he is very used to being around the garden. And he is really good. He walks through the path. He doesn’t cut through the beds. He doesn’t dig up anything.
Tom: And your garden outfit is a little different from what I’m used to, but I’m from the country.
Mrs. Obama: But I am the First Lady. (Laughter.) I can’t just —
Tom: You can’t put on the flop hat with the little visor and the gloves? (Laughter.)
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?
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!