The White House Vegetable Garden Tradition

In honor of President’s Day, we’d like to share a little history about White House vegetable gardens.

Just over a week ago, First Lady Melania Trump announced her plans to keep the garden that Michelle Obama started as part of a campaign to encourage kids to eat vegetables.

Michelle Obama planted her victory garden on the South Lawn in 2009, and it became the foundation for her focus on nutrition policy, including “Let’s Move!,” her program to fight against childhood obesity by emphasizing good eating habits and exercise. Several times a year during her tenure as first lady, Michelle Obama ventured down to the garden to help with plantings and harvests.

The First Lady's Kitchen Garden, which includes an apiary and a pollinator garden for bees and other insects, produces hundreds of pounds of fruit and vegetables yearly. Some of the produce was used to feed the Obama family, as well as guests attending state dinners and other White House events, and some was donated to neighborhood food kitchens.

The garden has offered a varied menu that included ‘Churchill’ Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, lettuces, garlic and herbs like spearmint. But one vegetable that was missing from the Obama’s garden was beets. Even though they are veggie friendly, Michelle and Barack Obama have both said that they dislike the root vegetable.

Michelle Obama has said that the garden had exceeded expectations by sparking a national conversation about people's eating habits and stoking renewed interest in community gardening. Last fall, she dedicated an expanded and improved garden with hopes of cementing it as her legacy. The additions include a wooden arbor for an entrance, wider bluestone walkways, wooden tables and benches. An inscribed stone at the entrance says: "White House Kitchen Garden, established in 2009 by First Lady Michelle Obama with the hope of growing a healthier nation for our children." She also announced $2.5 million in private donations to maintain and preserve the garden.

Although the White House Kitchen Garden is a recent addition, there is a long tradition of produce-growing at the White House, according to the National Parks Service.

President John Adams planned the first vegetable garden on the White House grounds in 1797. Many presidents and first ladies continued the practice by planting fruit trees, orchards, and establishing greenhouses.

President Wilson and First Lady Edith Wilson planted a vegetable garden at the White House to set an example to the public during World War I. The Wilson family ate what they grew in the White House garden. They also brought in sheep to graze and fertilize the lawns.

During World War II, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden at the White House, encouraging all Americans to grow their own food to overcome supply shortages during the war."

Learn more about vegetable gardens at the White House at Wikipedia.