The new garden book “American Grown” seems little different from all the other veggie-centric titles that crowd the shelves of horticultural titles these days.
The glossy pages track a newbie gardener’s efforts to grow her own food in the city and, true to form, the cover shows the author-gardener beaming radiantly and holding a basket heavy with produce.
But there, the similarity ends. The gardener is Michelle Obama, the home is the White House and the vegetable garden on the South Lawn has become so much more than just another city slicker’s gee-whiz carrot patch.
Four growing seasons after the Obamas carved out the beds in a corner of the greensward, the White House vegetable garden has developed as the symbolic crossroads of a range of contemporary societal issues, some connected, others less so.
Sustainable local agriculture, national farm policy, school gardens and, most of all, childhood nutrition and health have all found common ground in the garden. The book, written with Washington journalist Lyric Winik and others, and published in May by Crown Publishing, is full of photos and descriptions of the seasonal joy and delight of raising fruit and vegetables. But, on another plane, it reads as Michelle Obama’s personal manifesto.