First Lady to Drop in on Gardens Across the Country by Susan Harris

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Posted on: April 2, 2017

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

First Lady to Drop in on Gardens Across the Country originally appeared on Garden Rant on March 11, 2016.

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