The Daily Green's senior editor Dan Shapley asked Roger Doiron, a 2009 Heart of Green Award winner, and founder of Kitchen Gardeners International (newly redesigned check it out!) 13 questions about gardening for beginners and gardening for politicians. Doiron and Kitchen Gardeners International were a big part of the movement that convinced Michelle Obama to plant that organic garden at the White House. It was Kitchen Gardeners International that launched the Facebook petition drive you probably remember joining. So he knows a thing or two about not only gardening, but also politics and inspiration.
Here's what he had to say:
Michelle Obama planted the White House garden, as you and KGI had pushed for. What do you think the biggest successes have been to come out of that project?
I am very impressed with how the First Lady and Chef Sam Kass have used the garden as a platform for creating a national dialogue about food, health and the well-being of our children and the planet we all call home. The White House garden has been the backdrop for prime-time TV shows like the Biggest Loser and Iron Chef America and is apparently the first thing world leaders ask the First Lady about which speaks to its international reach.
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I haven't been disappointed. On the contrary, I think they've managed to do a lot in year one and I'm eager to see what's next for the garden. As a garden educator, I'd love to see them use the garden as a sort-of virtual classroom for the many people, especially parents, who'd like to know more about how they can feed their families, healthy home-grown foods. The Obama administration has been very effective in using new media to get its messages out and I'm sure that a few blog posts or garden videos with an educational flavor could easily reach and teach millions of people. And as a garden cook, I'd love to know some of Sam Kass' go-to recipes when the garden is going full tilt. That would be a great public service to gardeners and eaters worldwide.
You got the Obamas into organic gardening. Is there any bigger fish to fry here? What's more powerful than the president of the U.S., or higher profile than the White House? The Vatican? The asphalt in front of the Goldman Sachs building?
While I don't think there's a higher impact landscape than the White House or higher-profile family than the Obamas, I feel strongly that we need to continue pushing for other gardens and gardeners in high places to raise the stature of gardening. It would be great if more stars from the worlds of entertainment, sports, and politics could use their celebrity to encourage people to garden. We really need to reframe gardening as being central to a healthy and sustainable society.
You joke about Goldman Sachs, but I'd like to see companies planting gardens, not for greenwashing purposes, but because it's the right thing to do for their employees and communities. Companies often own land around their buildings and they could be making it available to employees to grow healthy food for themselves with overflow going to community food pantries. It might sound far-fetched but companies are already investing in the health of their own employees through health insurance (which, as most people know, is really "sickness insurance'), so why not shift some of that investment into simple activities and lifestyle changes that could prevent people from getting sick in the first place?
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What are the biggest successes of the White House garden Michelle Obama planted?
Have there any disappointments in the White House garden project?
What's next after the White House? The Vatican? Goldman Sachs?
Is the kitchen garden trend taking hold?
What about the grow-your-own food movement do you find most exciting?
What's Kitchen Gardener International's next big project?
What one Earth Day tip would you want everyone to do?
Photo of Roger Doiron at the 2009 Heart of Green Awards: Doug Goodman
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