Michelle Obama’s White House garden has attracted some
attention, as noted on La Vida Locavore:
Did you hear the news? The White House is planning to
have an “organic” garden on the grounds to provide fresh fruits and
vegetables for the Obama’s and their guests. While a garden
is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun,
CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder. As a result,
we sent a letter encouraging them to consider using crop protection
products and to recognize the importance of agriculture to the entire
U.S. economy. [emphasis added]
This was from an internal communication within the Mid America CropLife Association.
They sent a letter to Ms. Obama, expressing their concerns. The
text of the letter is at La Vida Locavore. It goes on at great
length about the benefits of what they call “conventional”
What they do not do, however, is show how any of that has anything to
do with the White House garden.
First of all, it is her garden. She can do what she wants.
Criticizing it is akin to criticizing someone else’s blog. If you
don’t like it, start your own. Sure, us bloggers snipe at each
other every now and then, but it generally is done with the
understanding that people do what they want with their own space…
What is more important, though, is that their missive shows a
fundamental misunderstanding about food. They imply that it
simple is not possible for people with individual gardens to make a
serious contribution to the food supply. This is demonstrably
false. Victory gardens supplied something like 40% of the
vegetables in the USA during World War II. Granted, the
population is much higher, is on average less agriculturally literate,
and probably the average yard is smaller. More people have no
yards at all. But it is clear that people can grow a lot of food
if they want to.
They also claim that people don’t have time to garden.
Hmmm. we have 8.5% headline unemployment. Every week,
something like 20,000 people lose their jobs. Long-term
unemployment is increasing. A staggering number of persons are
not officially counted as unemployed, but are working part-time because
they can’t find a full-time job. Some think that the broad
measure of unemployment is approaching 20%.
Plus, “conventional” farming is heavily dependent upon cheap oil.
That may last for a while, but then again, it might not.
This brings to mind the debate that raged in the 1970’s about the
future of computing. Some insisted that the future was gong to be
with desktop computing. Others insisted that the computing world
would be dominated by centralized servers. Now, we see that both
play an important role. Neither is going to fully displace the
The same argument plays out in other fields: centralized versus
distributed power generation, home video versus blockbuster
productions, state’s rights versus federal domination, nuclear versus
extended families. And so forth. But the outcome always is
the same: it is not either-or; it is both-and.
Should we shudder at the notion of an individual choosing to grow a
garden without pesticides? No. We should put efforts into
learning how to optimize the big ones AND the little ones.