ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: The first sign of spring is Washington is usually the burst of color from the city’s famous cherry blossoms, but First Lady Michelle Obama is instituting a new rite of spring right in her own backyard. Mrs. Obama kicked off spring by getting down and dirty in her White House fruit and vegetable garden this afternoon with the help of some local school students. With the sun shining on the South Lawn, the First Lady told about 40 elementary school students that through their work in the White House garden, they have helped “start a national and international conversation” on healthy eating.
“There’s nothing like watching tiny seeds grow into something amazing. But the garden was about more than just planning healthy food,” Mrs. Obama said. “We also began a conversation about getting kids and parents and teachers all across the country thinking about living healthy.” The First Lady commended the students for the key role that they have played in the planting, tending and harvesting of the famous White House garden. “You guys did it. Everybody is talking about that garden, not just here in Washington, not just here in the United States, but all over the world,” she told the students from Bancroft Elementary School and Hollins Meadow Elementary School. “You guys have been helpful in getting your families to think more healthy about what they eat, getting your communities to make different decisions. We’ve also even started talking to schools about how do we make your school lunches even more healthy, right?” Mrs. Obama greeted the students with an enthusiastic question: “Are you ready to work?” The 3rd-6th graders certainly were, getting down and dirty planting seeds for peas, broccoli, rhubarb, bok choy, white cauliflower and other vegetables and herbs. “It’s good digging in the dirt, getting a little dirty, getting dirt under your nails,” she told the students. Mrs. Obama focused her planting efforts on broccoli and rhubarb. After planting a box of rhubarb, she asked a few of the students to join her in a little chant to get the plant growing. “Grow rhubarb grow,” she and the students said as they waved their hands over the soil box. They all then walked in circles around the box, which she called their “rhubarb dance.” This is the second year that Mrs. Obama has worked with local students to plant the White House garden. Last spring she was joined by students from Bancroft Elementary School who later came back for the fall harvesting. She said today that the garden produced 55 different kinds of fruits and vegetables that added up to 1000 lbs of food. “One thousand pounds of food. Can you imagine that? That’s pretty amazing,” the First Lady said. This year the garden has expanded by 400 square feet and is now a total of 1500 sq feet. New vegetables this season include bok choy, white cauliflower, artichokes and mustard greens. Mrs. Obama was joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who spoke to the children about health eating and the importance of vegetables. Secretary Vilsack led the students in some cheers for vegetables: “Yay tomatoes!” they all shouted. FLOTUS Fashion Watch: The First Lady went casual, sporting black pants, a loose black t-shirt with a black cardigan and sneakers.