Excerpt: 'American Grown' by First Lady Michelle Obama

So in 2009, on a chilly and windy, but thankfully sunny, first day of spring, I joined twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C., with shovels, rakes, pitchforks, and a few wheelbarrows to break ground for the White House Kitchen Garden. Twenty days later, we were ready to plant. We put in lettuce and peas, spinach and broccoli, kale and collard greens. And for days after that, I would look at the freshly turned soil and wonder to myself, is anything growing?

How Our Gardens Can Help

Some of the changes we've seen in kids' lives over the years are inevitable. Times change, and we can't turn back the clock to the days when the vegetable truck rolled down the street (although there are some twenty-first century vegetable trucks on a few of our city streets today). But regardless of how the world may change around us, we still have the power to make good choices about what we feed our families. And gardens across the country are playing a vital role in that process.

So I had high hopes for those tiny seeds and seedlings going into the grounds of the White House on that spring morning back in 2009. I knew that growing a garden wouldn't be easy. As farmers can tell you, too much or too little rain, a bad freeze, or a storm at just the wrong time can ruin a crop in a few hours or even a few minutes. Some things that get planted just won't grow, and others grow far too well, taking over the garden. But whatever detours or bumps in the road we would face, I was determined that this garden would succeed.

Fortunately, it did. The seeds took root; the plants grew and produced all kinds of fruits and vegetables; and each new season in our garden brought new gifts and lessons. Spring was a time for new beginnings, when we would plant the seeds of what we hoped to harvest for the rest of the year. Summer was a season of rapid, often breathtaking growth, with plants shooting up and new fruits and vegetables ripening every day. The bounty of fall taught us how, by investing ourselves—our time, energy, and love—we were able to fulfill the promise of spring and share our harvest with others. During the winter, we learned that with a little imagination and a lot of hard work, we could extend the life of our garden beyond what we ever thought possible.

And over the past three years, our White House Kitchen Garden has bloomed into so much more. It's helped us start a new conversation about the food we eat and how it affects our children's health. It's helped us raise awareness about our crisis of childhood obesity and the threat it poses to our children's future. And it led to the creation of Let's Move!, a nationwide initiative to solve this problem so our children can grow up healthy.

This book tells that story. In it you'll learn about how we designed and planted our garden and all the children, volunteers, and staff members who plant, tend, and harvest it. We also provide tips on how to start your own garden and how to prepare and store the fruits and vegetables you grow and buy. And we include original recipes from the White House chefs to help you put them to good use preparing fresh, delicious meals and snacks for yourself and your family.

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