How About Some Yardlong Beans for That Yard?

White House Yard

White House Yard

It's not quite this green -- maybe it's even a bit white -- outside the White House right now. With a big icy storm keeping many people inside, maybe our First Family will gather around a cozy computer screen and order vegetable seeds and zone-appropriate fruit and nut trees to establish a fine new First Garden and Orchard later this year. If so, they will be following a long tradition of presidential gardens, and with good reason. I learned during a visit to "The Little White House" on Key West, beloved getaway of President Harry Truman, that all presidents through Truman paid the White House staff out of their own salaries and footed the bill for all food served at the White House, including state dinners, if I understood correctly. The story is that Truman was so broke as he left the White House that he had to borrow money to get home to Missouri.

No wonder presidents gardened, as described in a charming three-minute YouTube video, "The Garden of Eatin'." New York Times blogger Tara Parker Pope spells out some of that gardening history in an article for her blog, "Well," which is where I learned about the video.

Pope gives proper credit to Kitchen Gardeners International for their sustained "Eat the View" campaign, which KGI founder Roger Doiron developed (as far as I know.) You can still sign a petition asking the Obamas to plant a garden within their first 100 days at the White House. Recently Roger's one minute video promoting the idea of turning the White House lawn into lettuce and leek beds won an award from the Climate Matters Video Contest, sponsored by the video-share site Vimeo.

Michael Pollan championed a White House garden near the end of the 2008 election, calling on the candidates to commit to planting a vegetable garden at the White House if elected. We hope all these good efforts succeed, and our new role models at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue grown much of their own food on that historic lawn. Even if not, though, you and I can plant our gardens or our pots of herbs and tomatoes. We'll be following a presidential tradition of eating well and saving money.

Photo Credit: mrbfaust. Thank you!