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Big gardening news – our best advocate, with a bigger microphone and better media coverage than Martha Stewart ever had, will be dropping in on gardens, in a very public way, all year.  From People Magazine:

To celebrate her last season with the White House Kitchen Garden she installed on the South Lawn in her first year, Mrs. Obama is visiting Washington, D.C.-area gardens and surprising fellow planters with backyard-worthy swag. Inspired by all those who have joined her in supporting healthier kids and families through Let’s Move!, Mrs. Obama will be sharing the stories of gardens – be it in backyards, at schools, or in less conventional places – throughout the year.

The campaign was also announced on the Today Show, where it’ll appear regularly.

That video of her first three garden stops is filled with fun stuff, like seeing the kids react to Obama’s surprise arrival. My favorite lines include:

Obama to kids:” I do know who Joe Biden is.”

A student talking about her school garden: “We’re keeping earthworms and we’re composting.”

Next, Obama saying: “It’s really me.  I can’t believe I’m sitting here digging out worms with you guys.” And holding up the cup: “This is my cup of worms.”

Another stop was the back yard of two gardening activists who started their garden in order to “demonstrate how to live a lifestyle that was sustainable through growing and eating nutritious and delicious food,” according to Let’s Move. “The family also welcomes community members to their garden, even hosting workshops on various gardening topics.”

So what was it like for Eriks Brolis and Linda Bilsens, who thought they were just being filmed for HGTV? Washingtonian Magazine tells the story and it’s a hoot.

“We got a call from a Home and Garden TV producer, and then last week I met her, and she brought a few people with her,” recalls Brolis. “Then the next day, she brought more people. Each time, more and more people are showing up at my house—finally it was 9, 10 people. Nobody identified themselves as Secret Service or Michelle Obama’s staff. The day of the shoot arrives, and those 9, 10 people turn into 12 then 15 then 20 people. They’re setting up four, five cameras, and still photographers. I really at this point was asking, ‘Who are you?’ I was asking each person to identify their position. And they’d say, ‘Uh, producer.’ ”

First Lady Causes

Obama’s publicity-rich campaign for growing food got me Googling “First Lady causes,” where I read about such causes as the welfare of Civil War soldiers (Lincoln), the Girl Scouts (Hoover), and in my lifetime, awareness of alcoholism and breast cancer (Ford), just saying no to drugs (Reagan), and health care (Clinton).

First Ladies have no doubt done good things that aren’t well known, but public awareness campaigns can be judged by their success at getting attention, and gardening couldn’t have a better attention-getter than Obama.

And on a local note, I’m impressed that her team researched and found the schools and gardening activists most deserving of recognition. So if she comes to your town, expect to discover some awesome people and projects.

Readers in Texas are probably annoyed by now but don’t worry – I’m getting to Lady Bird! She was our first First Lady to promote the growing of plants and did a bang-up job bringing attention to the many benefits of beautification and the unknown cause (at that time) of native plants. If you weren’t born yet, read the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center‘s excellent summary of her environmental legacy.

Posted by

Susan Harris
on March 11, 2016 at 8:34 am, in the category What’s Happening.

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6 Comments

  1. Laura Bell

    1st January 1970 at 4:00 am

    Oh, wow! Would love to meet her if she gets out this way (Sacramento), but I’m not dialed into the gardening community enough. I do hope she gives recognition to some of the awesome community gardening efforts put forth by locals. There are so many that deserve it.

  2. Brooke

    28th March 1972 at 3:12 pm

    Susan, great post. Did not know Michelle was doing this. As former Director of The Native Plant Center in Valhalla, NY — first affiliate of The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center — I’m a big fan of Lady Bird, who dedicated our first garden in 1999. Thanks for including that link. She was so beneficial to the native plant movement. First Ladies can make a difference!

  3. admin

    28th January 1990 at 11:25 pm

    Yes, indeed Brooke. I remember her visiting WWC Native Plant garden with daughter Lynda. Who would have thought what a huge difference would come out of her activism, or how far the Native Plant movement would come. Wildflowers along highways all over the country, just for a start.

  4. Linda Lehmusvirta

    26th November 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Wonderful news all around! Lady Bird’s mission carried on for generations and I know that Michelle Obama’s will, too. Thank you for recognizing her work.

  5. admin

    14th December 2015 at 6:08 am

    May this great PR spark a nationwide Gardening Revival!

  6. admin

    12th May 2016 at 2:54 pm

    I extend an open invitation for her to visit my garden. Then I can ask her how the government has managed to screw things up so badly that school gardens are NOT allowed to feed the vegetables they raised to the kids that grew them. That is one heck of a lesson!

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