Behind the scenes with host Jason Shoultz during the filming of the PBS TV special; Video sneak peek
On July 13, America's Heartland host Jason Shoultz became the first journalist to film a tour of the White House Kitchen Garden that was personally given by First Lady Michelle Obama. It's the best piece of filmed media produced to date about the globally famous 1,500 foot vegetable plot, with stunning views of the garden in all its lush glory. And Shoultz gives an excellent overview of the Let's Move! campaign, as he queries Mrs. Obama about her signature initiative. The special episode of the popular KVIE Public Television show debuts tonight on PBS. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Shoultz in the garden)
Shoultz told Obama Foodorama that he was excited just to be able to film the garden, but Mrs. Obama's presence, discussing her food initiatives, was a complete thrill.
"She's so passionate about the garden, and warm and genuine," Shoultz said of Mrs. Obama. "She was wonderfully gracious."
During their stroll through the crop rows, which includes shots of the first corn grown at the White House, Mrs. Obama told Shoultz about the origins of the Kitchen Garden, and how it became ground zero for the Let's Move! campaign. Shoultz also interviewed Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, First Beekeeper Charlie Brandts, and chief horticulturalist Jim Adams, who oversees the Kitchen Garden.
"The conversation about planting a garden began before we even got in office. It was sort of the beginnings of a dream of 'what if,'" Mrs. Obama said. "'What if Barack wins? We could plant a garden on the South Lawn!' It was a simple and naive idea. So when we got here, we investigated the idea."
The simple idea grew into Mrs. Obama's national campaign to end childhood obesity in a generation, she said.
"Ultimately the garden is a way to elevate the conversation about our childrens' health and hopefully putting an important focus on the epidemic of childhood obesity," Mrs. Obama said. "One in three kids in this country are overweight or obese...so this garden is a way to engage children in this whole notion of eating well...growing their own food, and making friends with vegetables."
Shoultz said he believes the President and First Lady's daughters, Sasha and Malia, make child nutrition issues "go right to the First Lady's heart."
"She cares about it so much," Shoultz said.
The filming was not without some drama, however.
Shoultz grew up in Iowa and is now based with his show in Northern California. And despite being a political reporter earlier in his career, and interviewing Presidents Bush and Clinton, it was his first time at the White House...and Mrs. Obama is the first First Lady he's interviewed.
"I was nervous. It is the First Lady," Shoultz said, but added that Mrs. Obama was "down to earth," and put him at ease.
More drama: Washington, DC, had a very wet summer, and rain threatened as Shoultz and his two-man crew prepared to film.
"I was in my hotel room the night before, I couldn't sleep, I was so worried about the rain," Shoultz said. He arrived at the White House at 8:00 AM in order to catch Yosses and garden volunteers in action in the garden, and thunderheads were gathering in the sky. But thankfully, the weather held.
"It started to rain pretty much the minute Mrs. Obama left the garden," Shoultz laughed.
By that time, he'd been at the White House for three hours. And Shoultz even got a taste of the very first 2010 honey crop to come from the White House beehive, during his chat with Brandts. (Above: Mrs. Obama speaks with Schoultz as his crew films)
"Very, very tasty," Shoultz said.
America's heartland is sponsored by seed giant Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Monsanto, a global corporation based in America, produces chemical fertilizer and genetically modified seeds, and often seems to promote agricultural practices that are the opposite of those practiced in the Kitchen Garden, which is planted with heirloom and heritage seeds, and uses no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. But Shoultz said Monsanto has nothing to do with the content he covers on America's Heartland.
"Our sponsors don't have any editorial role in the program," Shoultz said. "We're free to explore what we want on the show." Later in America's Heartland season, Shoultz will do an episode on school lunches.
*Check the America's Heartland website for broadcast times, or your local listings.
Related: Mrs. Obama hosted the second Fall Harvest of the Kitchen Garden on October 20, 2010. Roland Martin's one-hour TV special, Let's Move With First Lady Michelle Obama, premiered last week.
*White House photos by Chuck Kennedy; video from America's Heartland