The Edible White House Lawn
by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
During the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, First Lady Edith Wilson grazed her sheep on the White House lawn. This made eminently good sense for several reasons. If you’ve never raised sheep, let me count the ways.
Sheep keep the lawn neat. Nature’s lawnmowers, they eat the grass down to a uniform level, not high enough to make it look unkempt, nor low enough for it to burn. Unlike some other grazing animals I could mention, sheep don’t dig up the turf. Their manure, the inevitable byproduct of grazing, doesn’t burn the grass and is an immediate source of nutrients. So grazing sheep enhance the area, they don’t harm it. And you can walk where sheep graze without keeping your eyes on the ground. If you step on something untoward, it will be a cluster of tiny pellets. You won’t sink in up to your ankles, and you’re likely to walk the stuff off your shoe soles in the next few steps you take.
Since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden, as far as I know the White House grounds have been off-limits to agriculture. (I’ll be grateful if you know otherwise. Facts and sources are welcome in the Comments below.) Now a group of garden enthusiasts is trying to change that. Eat the View, a project of Kitchen Gardeners International, wants people to turn unproductive lawns into vegetable gardens – starting with the White House.
“Eat the View” is a campaign to plant healthy, edible landscapes in high-impact, high visibility places, whether it’s the “First Lawn” or the lawn in front of your child’s school.
After you watch the video
sign the petition, addressed to 2008’s presidential candidates, urging that an organic vegetable garden be planted on the White House lawn. The idea is that part of the produce be used for meals prepared by the White House kitchen, and the rest donated to a local food pantry. The petition declares
The White House is “America’s House” and should set a positive example for the country and the world. The new President would not be breaking with tradition, but returning to it (the White House has had vegetable gardens before) and showing how we can meet global challenges such as climate change, food security, and fossil fuel dependence.
Is this a neat idea, or what? It reminds me of my family’s victory garden when I was growing up during World War II. I’ll tell you more about that some day. Just as a tease, I’ll tell you now that I’m still growing the kind of tomatoes we grew then – Brandywines. Luscious, prolific heirloom tomatoes. You can save seeds from year to year and they’ll grow just fine. (No, I’m not growing our tomatoes from seeds descended from the World War II crop. That would make a great story, but this isn’t the place where I write fiction.)
Posted on July 31st, 2008 by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Filed under: Uncategorized