Growing the First Garden

Daniel Simon knew he wasn’t speeding when the cop pulled up behind him in rural Virginia. It was impossible to go too fast. Turned out the officer was just curious—he’d never seen an upside-down school bus with a garden on top. “It gets better,” says Simon. “He was more than happy to sign our petition.”

Simon and his partner, Casey Gustowarow, are on a mobile campaign to get the First Family to grow veggies on the White House lawn. Says Gustowarow: “We are calling for our new President to be the healthiest, homegrown, leading-by-example eater he can possibly be!” Their WHOFarm campaign (a.k.a., The White House Organic Farm Project) is calling on President Obama to model organic, sustainable, low-carbon farming for the nation and the world.

Meanwhile, Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International, is doing the same thing, but on the information superhighway. His online “Eat the View” campaign is as lean as his frame, costing less than $5,000 since its kickoff a year ago. “I think it’s important that we walk the talk by showing that social change—and organic gardening and food—doesn’t have to be costly, for us or the planet,” he says. Between them, the two friendly competitors have gathered 10,000 signatures, reaching millions more, potentially, through publicity and online efforts.

Roger says the Obamas would only need to commit one acre of the First Lawn for a viable organic garden. “By our calculations, an acre garden would produce enough delicious, seasonal produce to meet the White House kitchen’s needs and then some,” he says. “Surplus from the new “First Garden” would go to supply local food pantries in the Washington, D.C., area.” WHOFarm would like to see public school kids and people with disabilities working on the farm crew. Eleanor Roosevelt was the last First Lady to grow her own vegetables at the White House—her WWII “victory garden” sparked a national gardening movement.

Daniel Simon, Chef Scott Peacock and Casey Gustowarow of the White House Organic Farm Project.