Michelle Obama isn't the only "first gardener" out there…

Cranberry Bog, Ohio Governor’s Mansion

When Michelle Obama announced plans for a White House kitchen garden, local foodies, gardeners, and health advocates rejoiced: what better way to promote the value of home-grown food than get the first family involved. It turns out that the Obamas aren’t the only executive family growing vegetables on the grounds of the official residence: a number of governors and their spouses have taken up the cause of not just planting vegetables, but also implementing more sustainable landscaping practices at governors’ mansions and even state capitols.

Green the Grounds is a website (and educational campaign) investigating the use of greener landscaping practices and food gardening at the state level. While most governors haven’t put this high on their priority list, a few stand out as models:

  • The grounds surrounding the governor of Pennsylvania’s residence may set the bar for green landscaping: the Philadelphia Inquirer recently profiled the efforts started there by Tom and Michele Ridge, and continued by the Rendells. Features include Penn’s Woods, “a shady enclave of native plants from woodlands and meadows put in by [the Ridges],” and a new organic herb and vegetable garden installed by the Rendells.
  • In Ohio, the Ohio’s Heritage Garden (started by Hope Taft, and continued by Frances Strickland) contains multiple re-creations of ecosystems found in the state, including “…an Appalachian garden, a dune garden, woodland, bog, Pioneer Garden, a home for wildflowers rescued from developments, ponds with turtles and frogs, [and] examples of Ohio’s native geology.”
  • In California, Maria Shriver followed the Obama’s example and announced plans for a garden on the state capitol’s grounds (there is no official governor’s residence).
Vegetable plants at the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence

In states where gardening hasn’t caught on with the first families, activists are giving them a push: in Georgia, for instance, a blogger has started a campaign to get the Perdues gardening. According to a recent update on the blog Georgia’s Garden, the governor’s mansion has a garden that is “transitioning to organic,” but “no one I know involved in organics in Georgia has heard a word about it.”

Gardens on these public sites not only provide fresh food for residents, but also fantastic educational opportunities for citizens and residents. Know of a gardening or green landscaping project by your state’s government? Share it below…

Image credits: Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Gardens, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture