Announcing: the Real White House Kitchen Gardener


Remember last winter when there was much speculation over who would be the Obamas’ kitchen gardener, and even a website appearing to be taking job applications?  (And it was taken very seriously.) I joined in just enough to lobby for someone local, but then hailed the apparent choice of Chicagoan Sam Kass as the White House kitchen gardener.  His actual title was Food Initiative Coordinator, a PR and organizing job he’s doing a bang-up job at, but he sure seemed to be in charge of the garden, too. 

But it can now be revealed that they hired someone local for the job after all – actually, the job of top Park Service horticulturist for the entire 18 acres.  He’s DC-area horticulturist Jim Adams, and we know he’s the kitchen gardener because the First Lady said so at their fun harvest event last month, reported here by the blogger Obama Foodorama:

Mrs. Obama introduced everyone
to Jim Adams, the chief horticulturalist at the White House, and explained his job.  “He [Jim] really was responsible for how productive this garden was,”
Mrs. Obama said. “Because y’know, we sort of knew a little bit about
how to garden…But how do you know what to plant where, and what’s gonna
grow well in this soil…Well, Jim helped us figure out how to get the
right kind of fruit to grow at what season. So thanks to Jim we have a
very productive garden.” Mrs. Obama led the kids in a round of applause
for Adams.

Jim appears (always in the background) in some of the photos on that blog post wearing a green shirt.  The official version of Mrs. Obama’s remarks are here on the White House website.  

Adams giving a tour of the British Embassy gardens

But more about Jim.  Above you see one of my photos of him from his last gig before being tapped by the White House – in charge of the gardens of the British Embassy, where he was adored by the many Master Gardeners who volunteered there just for the chance to learn from Jim.

Before working at the Embassy, Jim curated the popular Herb Garden at the National  Arboretum and there, too, was admired by all (as far as I can tell). I first became a fan when he lectured my Master Gardener class about herbs and incited in me a surprising lust to grow the stuff.   

Many here in DC and horticulturists up and down the Eastern Seaboard heard last spring that Jim had been named to the top hort job at the White House, but he urged everyone not to write about – not yet or ever wasn’t clear.  So we didn’t mention it and watched for an announcement and it finally happened at the harvest celebration.  Now we can all brag about one of DC’s Finest Horties.

Now, do any of Jim’s former volunteers have a better photo of him?  Coz on the entire Internet, he’s pretty much absent.  This miracle worker of the garden stays modestly behind the scenes.

UPDATE: Photos just in from photographer/blogger Eddie Gehman Kohan. 


  1. Now this could be a fantastic opportunity for the White House toreally help the garden biz and people in general.

    Mrs. O I am sure does not get out and pull weeds in the garden. But with an official kitchen gardener in the house let’s hope they make it real!

    Good luck to the new gardener!

    The TROLL

  2. I logged in to Facebook to see who posted those good wishes and somehow FB failed me. (Or I failed it?) But I think it was Bill Thomas, horticulturist at Chanticleer. He’s an old friend of Jim’s and I sent him the link.

  3. Jim gave one of the keynote lectures at the Herb Society of America conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan last June. I sometimes get bored with lectures, but with Jim it was different. He is so in love with the earth and the critters in a garden that he gives me great hope. I am so happy for him and proud of what he is doing. HURRAH JIM! and thanks for mentioning him.

    Thanksgiving blessings, Sharon Lovejoy

  4. Oh yay. James has the gardening chops to make the WH kitchen garden an incredible learning space. He’s funny, inventive, engaging, and he is DE-VOTED to gardening.

    His career has been great to watch, and I’m very happy to see him doing this great, and important work. He’ll do it with flair!


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