What’s the number one outdoor activity in America? Not baseball, soccer, jogging or golf. Instead, it’s gardening!
I happen to be part of this happy activity. Maintaining a small organic garden in my yard lets me dig in compost, rejoice at ripening tomatoes, clip fresh herbs – and devour the luscious results. So, when Michelle Obama recently planted an organic garden on the White House lawn, I joined gardeners and organic food advocates all across the country in applauding this symbolic stand for good food, the environment, and common sense.
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Not everyone joined in the joy, however. An outfit called the Mid American Croplife Association (MACA) was in a full-tilt snit over this “First Garden.” MACA is the lobbying front for such pesticide purveyors as Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont – not a bunch that’s simpatico with the organic movement. Indeed, MACA executives zipped out an alarmist notice to their members: “Did you hear the news,” they asked? “The White House is planning to have an ‘organic’ garden… The thought of it being organic made [us] shudder.”
Well, they’d better get used to shuddering, for political leaders from coast to coast are getting on board with the good food movement. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, for example, is putting an organic garden on the National Mall to encourage visitors to plant their own back home. Also, governors and mayors – from Annapolis to Sacramento – are vying with each other to put in the biggest and best organic gardens. In Baltimore, Mayor Sheila Dixon notes that her plot in front of City Hall is nearly twice as big as the White House garden.
Yes, these are symbolic gestures, but symbolism is a powerful tool for educating the public and affirming the virtues of local, sustainable, non-chemical food production. Spread the word.
“Farms Race: The Obama’s White House Garden Has Given Fire to an International Movement,” www.alternet.org, May 1, 2009.
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