Five fourth-graders from Kemper Elementary helped first lady Michelle Obama plant her White House garden on Tuesday.
Students Miles Frost, Gael Garcia, Christian Rebaza, Cecelia Thom and Trenity Tillahash spent 45 minutes planting cabbage, lettuce, turnips and other vegetables on the South Lawn of the White House. The produce be used for meals in the White House kitchen. The White House broadcast the planting live at whitehouse.gov.
Christian said it was really fun to go to the White House and work with the first lady.
“I got to meet (Obama) and talk to her,” he said in a phone interview. “We talked about what kind of plants we have and how fun it’s been planting. She’s really nice.”
The Kemper students traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of the Montezuma School to Farm Project, a program of the Mancos Conservation District. The U.S. Department of Agriculture regional director identified the project to White House officials right away as a school gardening program that stood out in a multistate region, Sarah Syverson, the program’s former director, said.
Obama started planting the garden in 2009 to raise awareness about health and wellbeing. In 2010, she started the “Let’s Move!” initiative to address American childhood obesity.
About 40 kids from school programs in Louisiana, Wisconsin, Georgia and New Jersey were invited to plant the garden along with the Kemper students. NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and other NASA officials helped Obama plant the same variety of lettuce that has been grown on the International Space Station.
Though it was the final time Obama will plant the garden as first lady, she said she hoped the tradition would continue.
“This is my baby,” she said Tuesday. “Hopefully this won’t be the last planting.”
Obama also said she would soon start a tour of “surprise visits” to school garden programs across the nation.
The Kemper students left Cortez early Monday morning with their chaperones, Kemper school garden coordinator Danyel Mezzanatto and AmeriCorps member Patrick Alford. Many of the children had never flown on a plane before the trip. The group heads back to Colorado on Wednesday, and the students will be back at school on Thursday.
Gael said he helped plant carrots, brussels sprouts and lettuce. He said the trip was a lot of fun.
“We’ve all been walking around and going to places we can’t normally go,” he said. “We’re all having a great time.”
Miles knelt by Obama at the same garden bed for several minutes, helping her plant cabbage, lettuce and turnips. He talked with Obama as they worked with their garden tools.
“We talked about where I was from and how we like to garden,” Miles said.
Trenity said she helped plant lettuce and cabbage. The group got to meet and pet the presidential dogs, Bo and Sunny, she said.
“It was fun and exciting,” she added.
Cecelia said it was fun to go to the White House and meet a NASA astronaut. She said she planted cauliflower and collard greens in the garden. She enjoyed getting to meet Bo and Sunny, too, she said.
“We got to go inside the White House and see the rooms,” she said.
Christian said the food in Washington, D.C., was amazing. He said they ate pizza with melted mozzarella cheese and tomato paste. His favorite dish, though, was a “crab tower” that had crab and avocado with pieces of bread.
Miles said the group has been having a fun time exploring the nation’s capital.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s really big and green here.”