BREAKING NEWS

My grandma would have laughed opening up the newspaper and seeing an article about our community garden.

Growing vegetables would hardly be news to her. She grew up surrounded by farms and knew more secrets to successful gardening than I will ever know.

She was on my mind last week when a reporter and photographer from the local press talked to us novice growers and wrote about our plans to produce food.

“It must be a slow news day,” I heard my grandma say many times when I was growing up. It was her way of announcing that the printed “news” wasn’t news to her.

But my grandma, who passed away several years ago, would have read every word of our interview, even though it was about the mundane task of growing vegetables.

I only wish that I had paid attention during my childhood summers when a patch in her backyard was overflowing with beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, and she invited my family over to pick.

I wanted to help my mother as she squatted in the morning humidity with her bowl or basket looking for ripe vegetables and leaving the others to mature.

But I had too many fears – bugs, worms, snakes, getting my hands dirty. Gardening was not for me.

I suppose that’s part of what makes my involvement in the community gardens news. If this granddaughter is growing a garden, it warrants a front page headline.

Our story ran on page 2.

Other gardens make the news. First Lady Michelle Obama wrote “American Grown,” a book about the White House garden.

Her idea to create a patch for growing vegetables originated with some of the same ideas we four families who are sharing the community garden plot are trying to accomplish. We all want to educate ourselves and teach kids about healthy choices and how to grow their own meal ingredients.

I’m sure the presidential garden has luxuries we don’t.

Somehow I can’t imagine a snake, worm or bug getting past the Secret Service. And the White House chef probably doesn’t get permission to fry bacon and pick lettuce and tomatoes to make BLT sandwiches for the first family’s lunch because he can’t find anything to cook in mansion’s pantry, refrigerator or freezer.

When the First Lady’s daughters say, “Mom, there’s nothing to eat.”

She probably doesn’t say, “Check the garden,” which is going to be my response this summer.

Also unlike us community gardeners, Mrs. Obama looks lovely in all of her pictures as she tours the White House garden with her dog Bo or works alongside local school children planting mustard greens.

My friends and I always come out of the garden looking red in the face and sweaty. We wouldn’t think of walking through our dirt rows while wearing white pants, like Mrs. Obama. And my friends probably wouldn’t bring their dogs to see our project either. It’s a small space for heavy-footed, curious pets.

One of the outcomes I fear about our garden is producing too much of one vegetable.

The White House probably serves hundreds of meals a day, so if the staff gathers huge crops of lettuce, the leafy greens won’t go to waste. At our house with only two lettuce eaters, we might have to eat salad morning, noon and night trying to gobble up an abundant harvest before it wilts.

I remember one summer my mother’s tomato plant was so prolific that the red fruit covered her kitchen counter space.

We didn’t need to ask, “What’s for lunch?”

We knew the answer, “A soggy tomato sandwich.”

A platter of tomatoes accompanied supper, too. And if she could find a way to feed us tomatoes at breakfast or snack, she did.

But that’s what us community garden moms and the First Lady are striving for – more fruits and vegetables on everyone’s plate.

As far as I can tell, none of my neighbors are growing a garden this summer. The convenience of the supermarket, farm stands and take-out restaurants trumps the hassles that come with digging, planting, weeding, fertilizing, watering and harvesting.

Most Americans don’t have to grow gardens, but some are doing it anyway — in the cities, in the suburbs and at the White House. And fresh vegetables will be served on a few more plates this summer because of the extra effort.

That probably is news.

–c

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