by intern Emily Stephenson
First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Chef Sam Kass set a great example this spring when they planted their vegetable garden on the White House lawn. Without a doubt, the project is a success—the garden has taught D.C. kids where their food comes from, fed heads of state from around the world, and hosted last month’s Healthy Kid’s fair which featured delicious treats from the garden and Mrs. Obama hula-hooping. Most importantly, the garden has shown families across America that you can eat healthy, affordable, responsible food right out of your own backyard.
This winter, the First Lady can take it one step further. Eating from the garden doesn’t only have to be limited to March-October. Michelle Obama is in a perfect position to show us that local food is possible outside of the summer months, no matter where you live. She can bring the country’s attention to the creative ways that people like Eliot Coleman and Will Allen manage to grow food in all four seasons.
Washington D.C. is located in the USDA hardiness zone 7, which means that with the help of a few basic supplies, the White House garden could be producing food all year round. Putting up cold frames —a wooden frame covered with glass—brings the zone up 1.5. Putting up a hoop house—a simple plastic structure that uses passive solar energy (as opposed to a greenhouse, which is heated)—brings it up another 1.5, to a zone 10. To put it in perspective, that’s the equivalent of southern California or Florida! These affordable and efficient structures mean the Obamas (and Bancroft Elementary students) could be eating salads, greens, radishes, carrots, turnips and more throughout winter. Think of what a great example they could set for the whole country. And they would be doing themselves a favor, too: vegetables such as kale and carrots actually get tastier and sweeter when left in the cold soil.