Governors climbing on the veg-growing bandwagon. Is that all?


Here's what we know so far about governors' residences:

  • Funny story about Texas. An Eat the View enthusiast rallied some friends and created a website to petition Governor Perry to follow Michelle Obama's lead, only to discover that Texas has had a veg garden at the governor's mansion since the 1870s!  Nothing is known about landscape practices there.  (Hey, Texas gardenbloggers, how about finding out?)
  • Also predating the White House veg garden are those in Ohio, South CarolinOmalley-garden2(1)a and Arkansas.
  • 2009 additions to the veg-growing movement are governors in Maryland, Pennsylvania and California, with another one in the planning stage for Maine.  
  • Of those, governors in Ohio, Maryland and South Carolina have also updated their landscaping practices in some way, showing concern for issues like protecting the Chesapeake Bay, providing habitat, and reducing lawn.  (All 3 green-the-mansion guvs were Republicans, btw.)
  • New York has an plan for greening their mansion that includes "ecologically sound grounds maintenance".  We hope to see that single quote fleshed out with details, though.

Calls for more veg gardens:

  • One Georgia blogger, another Eat the View follower, is petitioning the governor to install a veg garden.
  • One North Carolina newspaper has called for their governor to do the same.
  • And there's quite a grassroots movement in Vermont calling for a vegetable garden on their capital grounds (possibly because there's no official governor's residence there?)

My Beef
Consider two recent examples. Sure, it's great that California First Lady Maria Shriver started a veg garden on the grounds of State Capital Park, but when her press secretary called to tell me and found himself being asked about all those other issues – water, pesticides, wildlife – he had no answers.  I was told that their horticulturist would call me but it's been a month now and it ain't happening.

Then last week Pennsylvania's Governor Rendell announced HIS veg garden in Harrisburg, touting how "green" he is – great!  But do you think there was any mention of how responsibly he's managing the rest of his official landscape?  Not a peep.  So why aren't reporters asking?  The good news here is that my own calls have yielded very promising answers, so stay tuned.

How about YOUR Governor?
I'm thinking that if someone, anyone, actually asked the governor's office about water conservation, water retention, lawn fertilizer, provision for wildlife and their use of pesticides, the result might be:

  • Finding out they're already doing fabulous things, like Maryland's last governor.  He had a cool horticulturist in charge, got the property Bay-Wise-Certified, photos were taken, and the guv looked like a big green hero!
  • OR these issues have never occurred to your governor or anyone on his or her staff – til you asked.  They say, "We'll get back to you," and lo and behold, there's a big eco-friendly plan announced!  Probably including a veg garden for good measure – even better!  They may even go the way of Ohio and use their grounds to demonstrate and honor the state's natural history, among many other fine objectives served by Ohio's Heritage Garden.

Whatever you may know or find out about your governor's mansion grounds, let me know!  And send them the Green the Grounds link. 

Photo:  Maryland's First Lady Katie O'Malley helps plant a veg garden on the governor's grounds.


  1. As for the veggie garden by Maria Shriver, it is my understanding that it IS very much organic and sustainable. She is working with Alice Waters to install it and you know how those issues are important to her.

    How unfortunate that her press secretary doesn’t have a clue about what people really want to know about it. I presume that the reason you did not get a call back is because the poor hort person had 100’s of calls to make due to the lack of knowledge by the press secretary. Very bad press – caused by a not-so-good press secretary.

    Maria Shriver has been instrumental in getting California schools to install educational gardens…ORGANIC educational gardens…through the “California School Garden Network”. Their goal is to have a garden in EVERY Calif. school. I hear that over 6,000 have been installed so far (including the one we did this year).

    It will be interesting to watch what she does with Alice Waters on this veggie garden.

  2. Just FYI – Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley – our First Lady, Judge Katherine O’Malley who is pictured in your wonderful story – is not a Republican. He is a proud Democrat.

    BTW, so is Gov. Strickland of Ohio who continued the fine work of his Republican predecessor and his First Lady.

  3. I’ve lived in Raleigh NC since 2000. The gov’s mansion has ALWAYS had a vegetable garden. If the reporter that wrote that article ever got out of his car and walked around the entire yard he would see that it takes up much of the back side, it’s seasonal, the compost bins are not hidden from view,, it all looks very organic to me. I’ve been told that the kitchen staff uses the produce to make the food served at the mansion and from the size of the space I believe they could do it. I also believe the reason that story didn’t get a response in print is because it was way off base.

  4. North Carolina has a wonderful vegetable garden at the governor’s mansion- I don’t think the newspaper columnist bothered to look through the wrought iron fence. Past governors have featured collards in one of the display gardens, and the current governor has tomatoes in planters beside the front gate. I’m very proud of the way my state represents our gardeners and farmers.

  5. Brains are funny. I was reading your post and when I came to the heading “Where’s the Beef?” my brain said the best solution to the Chesapeake Bay problem (problem = it’s dying) is to stop eating chickens. All of us, everywhere. All that damn chicken shit is bad, bad, bad. Then my old brain remembered that I read recently that one of the worst offenders in the pollution dept is the good old parking lot: full of heavy metals and other nasties dripping from cars. Then my brain jumped to Joni Mitchell:

    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    Hey farmer farmer
    Put away the D.D.T. now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But leave me the birds and the bees

    I applaud vigorously the idea of greening gov’s mansions. Every little bit helps. But a significant fix, in our lifetimes, will take staying off the roads as much as possible and forgoing those chicken McNuggets. As I’m fond of saying not bloody likely. (Yikes! where did that rant come from?)

  6. Great post!!

    Another example of symbolism over substance. In some respects a veg garden requires more care than the lawn patch it replaces.

    Another push for lawns I guess. Although my kids took over the front yard and planted beans, popcorn and tomatoes that I grew from seed.

    The TROLL

  7. See my subsequent post, in which I respond to some of your points here. Though I forgot to say: Symbolism matters.

  8. Figures. Michelle Obama does a veggie garden and everyone else jumps on the “me too!” bandwagon without thinking about anything beyond “oh, I’ll have a garden full of pretty veggies for the press to take pictures of!” No one thinks about wise water usage, fertilizers (organic or Miracle Grow?), pest management (Ortho or beneficial bugs?), or disease control (more Ortho products or a baking soda spray or watered down milk solution?).

    I’m starting up a school garden and I’ve already thought of these aspects and none of the parents have asked boo about these factors. People whose experience in gardening is only as extensive as watering a ficus. I’m not down on them for trying, but I do cast a skeptical eye when they talk about going organic and have no idea what it means.

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