As I type up this post, I imagine Roger Doiron, a man I've only met once or twice in person (we've exchanged quite a few emails), is just walking out onto the White House lawn. Roger's been invited to tour the White House garden today, which is auspicious, because it's also his birthday. But he's the one coming bearing gifts.
Let me back up. Last fall, just after President Obama took the election, I published a blog post entitled "Now, Vote for Veggies," in support of Roger Doiron's Eat the View campaign, which encouraged the Obamas to revive the tradition of an edible garden on the White House lawn. Doiron's campaign, which consisted entirely of online promotion (first in the form of the winning "idea" at ondayone.com, followed by several smart videos and some brilliant Photoshop endeavors), was one that tens of thousands got behind, and the planting of the garden this spring may be one of the most unequivocally supported actions that the administration has taken (unless one counts the consternation voiced by the CropLife Association, who took issue with the fact that the garden, though not certified organic, doesn't make use of chemical pesticides, and let their opinion be known. As "Daily Show" enthusiasts may recall, hilarity ensued).
Back to the gift. Today, Roger plans to present a compost-able list of signatures -- some 110,000 -- from people who supported his campaign and/or wanted to thank the first family for their efforts. Doiron, who was also the mastermind behind the Food Independence Day campaign and heads up Kitchen Gardeners International, is also an IATP Food & Society Fellow. While he may have brought the most to bear in terms of encouraging the first family to break ground, his fellow fellows are doing amazing work too, and as such, they'll serve as his entourage during his moment in the sun.
While breaking ground on the White House lawn may not have seemed too groundbreaking to some, for the rest of us, it signaled a larger shift in consciousness, and demonstrated Michelle Obama's willingness to lead the way toward a tastier, healthier future. And since then, it's gotten even better.
Rumors began swirling recently that the Obamas might go one step further, when the president made some off-the-cuff remarks about a farmers' market outside the White House. These rumors gained traction when White House chef Sam Kass made an appearance at a community meeting to support the efforts of Fresh Farm Markets, a DC-area nonprofit group that was seeking to open a market in the vicinity of the White House. Then, earlier this week, Fresh Farm Market, now officially supported by the First Lady's Office, applied for a permit to close Vermont Ave. between H and I streets on Thursday afternoons to make space for the market.
These events bring hope even to Tom Philpott, another food activist I've had the pleasure of meeting a time or two, and one whom I imagine is perching behind a laptop on his North Carolina farm right now. Tom's posts often tend toward the macabre, so when he blogged last week about the hopeful nature of the White House garden, it meant something.
Here's hoping it all means a lot for the future of our food system and by extension, our health, because as Michael Pollan pointed out today (it's kind of crazy that this needed pointing out), the two are connected.
In terms of hopefulness, though, Philpott's got nothing on Doiron, who had this to say about today's garden party:
To borrow a line from the Obama campaign last year, I am "pumped up and ready to go" to the White House to visit the garden that the good food movement helped dig. To be able to see it at all is a dream come true, but to be able to see it on my birthday with some of my favorite people from the movement is beyond words. I have profound gratitude for what First Lady Obama and Chef Sam Kass have done and are doing. They haven't simply planted a garden, but have added some rich and timely compost to the home-grown revival taking root in our country and around the world.
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