Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Michelle Obama Will Publish Book About White House Kitchen Garden And Healthy Eating

First Lady adds another first to her list of historic White House food deal is with President Obama's publisher...
UPDATE, OCT. 24: EXCLUSIVE behind-the-scenes details about the book
First Lady Michelle Obama
re-planted the White House Kitchen Garden for Spring on Wednesday afternoon, joined by the White House chefs and two dozen fourth and fifth graders from DC's Bancroft and Harriet Tubman Elementary Schools. It was the third such event Mrs. Obama has hosted since first breaking ground for the now 1,500 square foot garden two years ago, on March 20, 2009. And Mrs. Obama had some very big, history-making news. (Above: Mrs. Obama, Kass, and kid helpers plant spinach)

Mrs. Obama, 47, will be publishing her very first book in April of 2012, and it will be a memoir of her experiences with the White House Kitchen Garden. Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, will release the as-yet-untitled book, which will be co-written with an unnamed ghost writer.

The book is intended to be "inspirational and instructive," and is designed to promote healthy eating and gardening, according to the press release from Crown. The story will be "told in Mrs. Obama's own words," and will include favorite First Family recipes, gardening tips, and a guide for readers on becoming school/community gardening advocates. Daughters Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, will be featured in the book, as the First Lady describes how they were the "catalysts for change in her own family's eating behavior," and part of the inspiration for the Let's Move! campaign.

Mrs. Obama said in an interview with AP that she hoped "it will be a beautiful book."

"Maybe if you're a local gardener yourself, you'll be drawn by the pictures of the garden in its various stages throughout the seasons," Mrs. Obama said. "If you're a kid, maybe you'll pick up the book and read along with your teachers, and look at how we've incorporated young people in our garden."

It has yet to be determined if the favorite First Family recipes that will be included in Mrs. Obama's book will be created by Mrs. Obama or by the White House chefs, according to an aide. Crown is providing a photographer to create images for the book, and photos from the White House photographers will not be used. AP hinted that President Obama could well be Ghostwriter in Chief.

The First Lady has accepted no advance for the book, and will donate her portion of the proceeds to an unnamed charity. Random House "will also make a donation to an appropriate charity to be named later," but the White House declined to specify what portion of Random House's profits will be donated. Random House stands to make a hefty profit from the tome, which is expected to be a bestseller. It will appear as a full-color hardback as well as an e book and an "enhanced" multimedia e book.

In the book, readers will be given "ideas and resources" on how they can "get involved in the movement to create community, school, and urban gardens, support local farmers’ markets, and make small lifestyle changes to achieve big health results." These are crucial platform planks in the Let's Move! campaign, which coordinates an Administration-wide push to combat childhood obesity. Twelve different federal agencies are involved.

Mrs. Obama is the only presidential spouse to ever have a "First Lady campaign" that includes gardening, healthy eating, and fitness. She's also the only First Lady to ever have a Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, Sam Kass, who is the architect of her food policy agenda. Kass worked with the Obama family in Chicago, before moving with them to the White House in 2009.

All in the (First) Family...
Crown is the publisher of President Obama’s two national bestselling memoirs, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Bob Barnett, of Williams & Connolly, is the high-powered Washington attorney who represents President Obama for his book deals, and he made the deal for Mrs. Obama, too. Barnett was at the Spring planting, standing on the sidelines with the First Lady's Communications Director, Kristina Schake, observing Mrs. Obama in action with the kids and the White House chefs.

Among other authors, Barnett has also represented Sarah Palin, President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, President George W. Bush and Karl Rove.

During her remarks at the Spring Planting, the First Lady didn't mention her book news to the visiting school kids, or to the dozens of journalists and photographers who were standing in the muddy grass on the sidelines of the Kitchen Garden, covering the event. Sometime before she came down to the bottom of the South Lawn for the 3:30 planting event, Mrs. Obama had a brief phone interview with the AP, and the big news went on the national news wire just as Mrs. Obama exited the Kitchen Garden after the planting. (Above: Mrs. Obama during her remarks, with Kass)

"We've gotten food out of the garden, and we can eat it and it's good," Mrs. Obama said. "So we wanted to share the story with the rest of the nation and perhaps with the rest of the world, because we get so many questions about the garden: How did we do it? Why did we do it? How do I do this in my own home or community?"

The cost of the Kitchen Garden...
According to the White House, the initial start-up costs for the Kitchen Garden were less than $200 in 2009. But on Wednesday, the Kitchen Garden had a major face lift. Each of the 34 different vegetable beds are now in new raised boxes, which are made from wood stained with an unspecified non-toxic dye. (Above: Kass oversees the White House chefs during the planting; Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford is in the front)

The seeds and starter plants for the Kitchen Garden come from what a White House aide joked is "a top secret" White House green house, in a "top secret" location. The National Park Service maintains the White House grounds, and the Kitchen Garden, too. The White House chefs--and a bevy of volunteers--help with the weeding and do the harvesting when the berries and vegetables are ready.

The start-up costs may have been $200 in 2009, but the Kitchen Garden--now a national and international icon, and the first on the White House grounds since World War II--has an investment of countless hours of tax-payer funded Park Service labor and materials. The White House chefs, too, are government employees.

"What I find internationally, and Barack says the same thing, whenever he meets with a world leader, one of the first things they ask him about is the garden because the issue of obesity is becoming an international issue," Mrs. Obama told reporters during a roundtable last month.

The Kitchen Garden has also received donations of heritage vegetables and seeds from Monticello, the preserved plantation home of President Thomas Jefferson in Albemarle County, Virginia, which has an historically accurate recreation of Jefferson's own vegetable garden. It's overseen by master horticulturalist Peter Hatch, who was at Wednesday's planting, and had brought some of Jefferson's favorite vegetables and seeds.

The Beehive that sits beside the Kitchen Garden is another first--there has never previously been a Beehive on the White House grounds. It is operated by Charlie Brandts, a White House carpenter who brought his home-beekeeping skills to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

More on the book deal...
Maya Mavjee, President & Publisher, Crown Publishing Group, acquired world, first and second serial, and e-book rights from Barnett. Tina Constable, Senior Vice President, Publisher, Crown Archetype, will oversee publication of the book, working in close collaboration with Lauren Shakely, Senior Vice President, Publisher, Clarkson Potter.

“We are honored to publish Mrs. Obama's book, which will empower and encourage all Americans to choose more nutritious, delicious, and locally grown items for their families and their communities,” said Mavjee.

Related: Senior East Wing staffers joined Mrs. Obama for the planting. A video and transcript of Mrs. Obama's remarks at the planting is here. Read about Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Gardening gear here.

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/