Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Put a garden on the White House lawn

Recently I've gotten more interested in the idea of a kitchen garden and the locavore movement. A locavore, as defined by the Wiktionary, is someone who tries to eat only locally-grown foods. Locavores don't necessarily grown their own food, but I'm sure lots of them do.

Every time this subject comes up in a news article or on a blog, I read it--it's fascinating, and kind of exciting, too. Some locavores are hard-core, eating only food grown within, say, 100 miles of their homes. I think that would be extremely difficult (olive oil, anyone? chocolate? coffee??) but the basic idea is fab. You can find much more detailed arguments on the Web for locavorism, but here are some in a nutshell:
--much of our food travels thousands and thousands of miles to get to our grocery stores, using tons of fuel and high-emission transport to get it there, harming the environment
--food is becoming more expensive
--chemical pesticides can be scary
--outside food has the potential to get tainted (tomatoes, anyone?)
--supporting local growers is good for our local economies and helps out our neighbors

I'm not approaching this as a raving, plant-hugging liberal, but as a right-leaning moderate who's finally (if slowly) coming to realize how much of an impact her choices have on the environment and her neighbors. Eating locally and/or planting a kitchen garden makes sense. And sounds fun.

JB and I go to our local farmer's market, which offers produce grown locally and also some harder-to-find-in-our-area produce that's grown regionally. We live in Alabama. Why get Washington apples at the grocery store when you can get Georgia apples at the farmer's market? Don't get me wrong; I still love my Publix as much as anyone. But visiting the farmer's market on Saturday mornings before our Sunday-evening grocery store runs is an easy way to buy local.

As an experiment, I tried growing herbs in a small section of our back yard this year. I raised most of them from seeds, and they promptly died soon after hitting the soil. Bummer. A big chunk of the problem are the gloriously huge trees that surround our house; it's shady all year long (which saves on heating/cooling bills!) but makes our yard not so garden-friendly. The other part of the problem is that I am bad at gardening.

Last weekend I salvaged what was left--two rosemary plants and a struggling bell pepper plant (bought on a whim to see if it would produce anything)--replanted them in pots and moved them to the sunnier front yard. I added two pots of basil bought at the nursery down the road. So we'll see how this goes. I probably won't be able to do a proper kitchen garden until we move into another house a few years from now. Double bummer.

An article on today's op-ed page of my local paper talked about a guy from Maine named Roger Doiron, who is trying to get the next president of the United States to dedicate a section of White House lawn to a kitchen garden.

It's a cool idea and it's not a new concept; presidents like John Adams and Franklin D. Roosevelt had White House lawn kitchen gardens. I signed the petition that'll get sent to the next president. If you want to sign, head on over to

I want to do some research to see just what's growing where I live. I know there's a semi-famous goat cheese maker in our part of the state. It's called Belle Chevre and it's supposed to be fabulous--these cheeses are sold across the country. (And it's here! In Alabama!) It even gets its goat milk from a goat farm just a few miles from its cheese-making buildings.

I have a feeling this kind of stuff is fashionable in other parts of the country. Eco-chic is big right now, and locavorism is the perfect one-upmanship opportunity. But trends are slower to reach my part of the country, and anyway locavorism just makes sense, fashionable or not. Plus it sounds exciting. And healthy. And fun. So sign me up.


shannon said...

I think the Slow Food movement is cool too, definitely along the same lines.
There was a study abroad trip you could do through my program in school based on slow food where you basically lived in a big house in Italy, grew and cooked all your own food, and the whole point was to focus your daily lives around eating..I could do that. I just suck at growing things in real life.

Becky said...

I definitely don't have a green thumb, but I really recommend reading "McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container" for ideas on container gardening for edibles. This book is awesome (especially for the newbies like me) and shows you how (and when) to plant all kinds of edibles without dealing with a huge garden plot.

I definitely recommend it!
:) Becky

p.s. thanks for the happy birthday!!