Eco-Conscious, Plants and Gardening

Digging Up Dirt At the White House

I was really chuffed recently to read that there will be a vegetable garden at the White House this spring. The Obamas want to grow food for their kitchen and provide a good example, especially to kids. As a matter of fact, a nearby class will be participating in the project. Students from Bancroft Elementary School will be on hand today as the First Lady breaks ground for the garden on the south lawn of the White House grounds.

One person who is really excited about the garden is Alice Waters of Chez Panisse Restaurant in California, where she’s been serving and lobbying for local food for decades. As a matter of fact, she’s also been lobbying in Washington since 1992 for a White House garden with a series of fund raisers where local, organic and natural food was on the menu to showcase its benefits.

Ms. Waters also supports something that could change the educational system in this country: sustainable, edible schoolyards. Instead of the blacktop that surrounds so many schools, how about gardens where children – and teachers – can raise their own food instead of the current bland, processed institutional food cafeterias serve? It would also get kids out of the classroom and into the fresh air and sunshine, which would boost their moods and probably their test scores.

One other piece of news I read this week, although it’s old news, reinforces this idea of gardening in schoolyards and backyards. I came across something I had read a long time ago but forgotten. Soil contains beneficial bacteria that actually make you feel good when you get it on your skin. Yup. Far from being a bad thing, getting down and dirty in the garden raises your serotonin levels and gives you that “feel-good” feeling. Who knew?

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Well, to tell you the truth, I knew. Until I read about the bacteria, I didn’t know why gardening without gloves made me feel relaxed and happy, but I knew that I felt better, slept better and smiled more starting on the day I began to prepare my garden for spring planting.

So, let’s hope the Obamas and their children actually grub around in the dirt, rather than leaving the gardening to the White House groundkeepers. Along with eating the first tomato or radish, gardening’s bacterial benefits could go a long way toward counteracting the stress of the next four years for them.

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