First Lady plants wheat in White House garden

Farm Forum

First Lady Michelle Obama on April 4 planted wheat by hand in the White House kitchen garden and then watered it.

Crouching by signs reading “club wheat” and “bread wheat,” the first lady scratched rows in the dirt so she and the children could put the seeds in the ground. It is the first commodity to be grown in the White House garden.

As she planted, Sam Kass, the White House assistant chef and executive director of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign, noted that the bread wheat is red, but any further description of the variety was unavailable.

Kass later told reporters that he intends to use the wheat to make bread and cracked wheat risotto.

“I’ve got to see the wheat,” Kass said, adding that he would make final decisions on what he will make “when I get it.”

Justin de Jong, spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, added in an email that the White House wheat foods would almost certainly be whole grain, which would follow the recommended U.S. dietary guidelines and the school lunch program regulations under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Club wheat, a soft wheat variety that is grown most in the Pacific Northwest, is used mostly in baking.

“Of course we are thrilled the first lady and her staff decided to plant wheat in the White House garden,” said National Association of Wheat Growers President Bing Von Bergen, a wheat farmer from Montana.

“The choice makes perfect sense because wheat is the most widely cultivated crop in the world and truly the stuff of life for billions,” he said. “We wish the first family a bumper crop.”

The planting of wheat for the first time followed last year’s first planting of potatoes — an action that thrilled the potato industry, but dismayed some nutritionists worried about calories.

The children planted potatoes and sweet corn this year, along with other vegetables including arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, chervil, endive, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onion, shallots, spinach, Swiss chard and tatsoi.