The Farmplate Blog

Winter at the White House Garden

FarmPlate Dec 22, 2009 News 0 comments

Nineteen inches of snow and the White House Kitchen Garden is still growing. Fresh off the success of the fall harvest, Michelle Obama's garden was prepped for the winter growing season with hoop houses just days before this weekend's record snowfall.

A hoop house is constructed using metal bars and then stretching fabric or plastic tightly around the outside of the structure, creating a temporary energy-efficient greenhouse. The sun warms the hoop house, and the structure protects and insulates crops from snow and frost. Hoop houses also improve soil and water quality.

Volunteers and USDA staff planted spinach, lettuce, carrots, mustard greens, chard and cabbage, as well as a crop of rye, which is used by farmers to balance soil and prevent erosion of topsoil during the winter. Assistant Chef and Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass announced the White House Winter Garden on a video posted to the White House blog.

On hand to help with the construction of hoop houses was USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, who announced a new USDA program that will help farmers finance hoop house construction to extend their growing season. Merrigan notes the value of producing year-round, explaining it's “important because that helps build local and regional food systems--something USDA wants to help you with.”

Financial assistance will be provided to fund hoop house construction on farms of various sizes in 38 states. The three-year project is part of the hoop houseUSDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative.

The timing for erecting the hoop houses at the White House Garden couldn’t have been better, considering the massive snowstorm that hit Washington last weekend. According to blogger Eddie Gehman Kohan, of the ObamaFoodOrama blog, the hoop houses were cleared of snow after the storm and the vegetables remain protected.

Kass has already been showing off the benefits of growing through the winter. D.C. elementary students toured the White House Garden with Kass as part of the Operation Frontline program, which focuses on nutrition and healthy eating habits for children. Kass captivated the students with the garden's cold weather spinach, which tastes sweet, and taught them about preparing healthy meals.

More National News

Dec. 18:  A new study shows local food businesses play a critical role in economic development. Business Week

Dec. 20: In Wisconsin, a man argues for his right to sell raw milk.  Chicago Tribune

Regional News

Dec. 15:  Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell will investigate the claims of alleged anticompetitive activity affecting dairy prices. Associated Press

Dec. 19: Vermont dairy farmers will receive emergency payment from the USDA to combat low milk prices. Associated Press

Dec. 20:  The Vermont Department of Heath has been granted $2.8 million to track environmental health hazards. Rutland Herald

Dec. 20:  The Maple View Café at Vermont’s Brattleboro Memorial Hospital is committed to serving healthy, locally sourced food. Brattleboro Reformer

Dec. 21:  Nearly $6 million has been authorized to encourage job growth in Vermont.  Burlington Free Press