I am elated to hear that the Obamas will be planting a vegetable garden at the White House.  The New York Times article echoes the announcement made from Michelle Obama’s office and explores the implications of the new organic garden.  Besides providing organic vegetables for the family and their distinguished guests, the garden’s mere existence is a clear message in support of local food.  It will be a great educational tool for getting children reconnected to the idea that food comes the soil and not out of factories.  I can already imagine heads of state bragging about their own gardens’ crops.  If we are to take patriotic pride in anything, how much more wholesome can it get than the produce of the White House garden?  I think it compares favorably to a pissing contest over military equipment.

I also hope that the First Family’s move to plant a vegetable patch will inspire many Americans to follow their lead.  Local communities benefit with increased camaraderie, families benefit with highly nutritious, low-cost food and the nation as a whole benefits from lower health-care costs.  All of which makes so much sense to me that I can’t believe it took 40 odd years to bring back the garden.  Yet, I realize that I am just fortunate to not be ignorant of the advantages of local food.  I have the advantage of living in an area with a forgiving growing climate and an already bountiful community of farmers. Not everyone is aware of where their food comes from and what that implies.

Spending time with my nephew this past week, I was shocked and saddened that his fingers were stained with flaming hot cheetos and his mind was set against drinking anything other than soda.  Earlier today, on a call-in radio show about bringing local food into Portland public schools, a listener actually questioned the need for locally sourced food.  His woefully ignorant comment was, “If we can make the food on machines that we import from China, why should we have to buy local produce?”  I think the stupidity of that remark speaks for itself, but it does illustrate the point that many people don’t even know what’s wrong with the system they are in.  From my perspective, eating tomatoes shipped halfway around the world seems, prima facie, a very dubious proposition.   I hope that the White House garden can serve as a springboard for these people to start questioning the provenance of their food and what exactly they are eating.

This all reminds me that I have some weeding and planting to do now that spring has sprung.  My new backyard has four raised beds that the previous tenant had chock full of goodies.  I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty taking care of what’s there and planting my own.