Michelle Obama signs book deal with Crown: White House garden story

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White House garden, Spring, 2011 planting on March 16. (photo by Marian Burros)

WASHINGTON–First Lady Michelle Obama planted her spring kitchen garden on Wednesday—the third year for the garden–as Crown announced that Mrs. Obama will author a book about her signature project. Mrs. Obama, who will have a ghostwriter help her, accepted no advance for the book and the proceeds will go to charity.

“In her book, Mrs. Obama will tell the story of the garden she has established on the South Lawn of the White House and explore how improved access to fresh, locally grown food can promote healthier eating habits for families and communities,” Crown said in a release.

Mrs. Obama, who has spoken extensively about the garden, will provide new material for the book, the Sun-Times has learned. The publisher will hire a photographer for most of the pictures to be used in the hardcover book. The book will also take a look at school, urban and community gardens across the country,

The book is scheduled for publication in April, 2012–during the Obama 2012 re-election campaign. The book so far has no title. The announcement of the book by Crown was made just after Mrs. Obama’s planting event, timed to maximize free publicity with pictures of children helping Mrs. Obama plant the garden.

Attorney Robert Barnett represented Mrs. Obama in the negotiation; he also negotiated book deals for President Obama, starting when he was a senator from Illinois. Crown is a division of Random House, Inc. and the company said a donation from the proceeds will be made to a charity, though the statement the company released did not say what percentage of profits would go to charity.

When Mrs. Obama broke ground for a kitchen garden on the White House south lawn in 2009, no one knew it would grow into her “Let’s Move” anti-obesity and healthy eating campaign. With help from youngsters from Washington schools, Mrs. Obama presided over the third Spring planting of the garden on Wednesday–a collection of vegetables, fruits and herbs.

The garden is actually a four-season enterprise with multiple plantings through the year and “hoop houses” erected in the winter to warm the soil and protect the plants from the weather. The produce of the garden–and a nearby beehive–is used in White House meals as well as donated to Miriam’s Kitchen, which is a Washington area social service agency providing meals to the homeless.

Key misconception: Mrs. Obama’s garden was never, ever an organic garden, as defined under federal guidelines.

Key quote from Mrs. Obama in June, 2009, at the first harvest: “The planting of this garden was one of the first things I wanted to do as First Lady here at the White House.”

Key dates in Mrs. Obama garden history:

March 20, 2009: Ground cleared and broken for the original 1,100 square-foot garden on the west side of the South Lawn.

April, 2009: First Spring planting

March 31, 2010, Second Spring planting

Sam Kass, White House food initiative coordinator and chef with First Lady Chief of Staff Tina Tchen at the planting. (photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan)

June 4, 2010, Harvest of second Spring planting

March 16, 2011, Third Spring planting

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