Guest Author - Susan Gaissert
Can a vegetable garden be a political statement? Absolutely. Soon after moving into the White House, Michelle Obama, her daughters, and a group of local schoolchildren were photographed planting a garden on the White House lawn. It is the first vegetable garden planted there since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden, which was also a political statement. Let's take a look at what this new garden has to say.
By growing their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, the First Family is setting an example of self-sufficiency and thriftiness. The White House garden says people should try to limit their dependence on consumerism and focus on what they can do for themselves. When a man grows his own lettuce with a twenty-cent packet of seeds and then sees lettuce selling for three dollars a bag at the grocery store, he feels good about not having to buy that lettuce. He feels powerful because he took charge of something that used to be beyond his control. He may even start to think about other ways to get what he needs without relying on gigantic corporations.
Gardens need tending, so the White House garden is also saying that Americans should slow down a little, and make time to kneel in the rich soil and pull weeds or prune stalks, smell the dirt and feel the warm sun. Gardening is a humble activity; it brings you closer to nature. And anyone of any age can learn how to participate.
Since the White House garden is designed to grow vegetables, not flowers, it also makes the statement that we need to eat more fresh food. In a society where ultra-busy people buy pre-cut, ready-made cookie dough and pre-cooked frozen one-dish meals that come in plastic bags ready to drop in boiling water, the person who pulls a tomato from her own vine, walks into the house with it, cuts it with a knife, and watches the juices flow, is definitely making a political statement.
Last but not least, the White House Garden is organic. No chemicals are being used to make things greener or bigger. That may be the greatest statement of all. While society is trying to convince us hourly, through print and television and radio advertisements, that we cannot accomplish anything successfully without adding a chemical enhancement to the process, the vegetables produced by an organic garden are boldly saying, "Oh, yeah? Take a bite of this, and try to tell me it needs chemicals."
So, take it from the First Family: eat fresh, grow your own, save money, get out in the sunshine, reconnect with real food, and just say no to chemicals. The sense of power and accomplishment are just as good for your health as the vegetables.