Michelle Obama plants last White House garden and invites old friends

The first lady made the garden in 2009 in a pushback against obesity and some of the students who took part in first planting return for annual event

There will be plenty of formal partings and grand eulogies. But what the Obamas may miss most when they leave the White House in January are the small, intimate moments such as the annual kitchen garden planting on the south lawn.

I want to take this time to thank all the children here and all the children around the country whove been a part of this garden, Michelle Obama said a little wistfully on Tuesday. This is my baby and hopefully this will not be the last planting. Hopefully there will be other administrations who come in and they take up such projects and continue to make this a part of the White House tradition.

The first lady made the garden eight years ago in a pushback against Americas scourge of obesity. Some of the children who took part in that first planting in 2009 returned to the White House on a bright but cold Tuesday to help her plant garlic, parsley, broccoli, chicory, spinach, rhubarb, turnip and other fruit, veggies, herbs and flowers.

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The first lady gives a thumbs up to the students. Photograph: Alex Wong/ Getty Images

You guys were in fifth grade and you are now in high school and you seem different! Obama said. You have grown up! I kind of recollect a couple of faces. You guys started with us and you ended with us. You guys are pros now. Weve arrive full circle.

Wearing a shiny green jacket, trousers and trainers, Obama put on green gloves and got to work on a bed of lettuce, chatting with the children about what they had seen in Washington, their favourite topics at school and what volumes “they il be” reading. So, are you into The Hunger Games, all that stuff? she asked one daughter. Harry Potter youve been through that?

It was the kind of informal scene where the first lady has always been at ease. Last week she joined Barack Obama at the annual Easter egg roll again for the last period. There will be a last Thanksgiving turkey pardoning, a last Christmas tree, a last parting from the White House and its staff. The Obamas are ticking themal off.

Healthy eating and lifestyles became a personal campaign for Michelle Obama and found expression in her Lets Move! initiative, which claims to have improved the school breakfasts and lunches of more than 30 million children. Food and beverage companies have cut 6.4 tn calories from their products.

Obama said: It was eight years ago that we cooked up this really interesting notion that we maybe we could dig up some clay on the south lawn maybe somebody would let us do that and we could plant a garden that would be a space for us to talk about the food we feed. It was always the idea that we would have children involved in everything we do.

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Michelle Obama plants Chinese cabbage on Tuesday. Photograph: Alex Wong/ Getty Images

Its been really a fun tradition for us here at the White House because I think weve truly been able to change the conversation about what you guys eat.

It has also encouraged an increase in community gardens in local neighbourhoods, she added. The first lady will now embark on a garden tour around the country highlighting school gardens.

Now spanning 1,700 square feet, hers is the first major vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelts Victory Garden in 1943 and has rendered nearly 500 pounds of produce for homeless people in the area. Obama pointed with some pride to a composting bin nearby.

Tuesdays planting included the same variety of lettuce that has been grown on the International Space Station and involved Nasa deputy administrator Dava Newman and astronaut Candy Coleman.

Impressed by the childrens handiwork, Obama exclaimed at one point: You guys are so diligent!

Turning to the press, she asked jokingly: Who wants a worm? She gathered for a group photo at the end and get everyone to shout: I love veggies!

A moment afterwards she asked: Now whos going to come back and help me harvest?

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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