Burpee Hails the New White House Vegetable Garden


WARMINSTER, PA--(Marketwire - March 24, 2009) - W. Atlee Burpee & Co., America's most trusted name in ornamental and edible gardening, responded today to the First Lady's plans for a new White House vegetable garden.


"Michelle Obama is setting a superb example for our country's citizens and particularly for America's children," says George Ball, Burpee's Chairman and CEO. Mr. Ball believes that Mrs. Obama will inspire an even greater surge in community gardens and home gardens across the country. Mr. Ball believes the First Family's example will engender widespread, positive change for Americans.


The White House announced plans on Friday to break ground on the first sizable vegetable garden since President Franklin Roosevelt was in office. The garden will provide food for the First Family's meals and formal dinners.


Mr. Ball says that the First Lady's desire to raise awareness about the benefits of homegrown food is exceptionally timely. He likens the initiative to President John F. Kennedy's physical fitness initiative. "It is the kind of program that should please people across the political spectrum. It is inexpensive to implement, and the return on investment is extraordinary."


"Gardens inspire the kind of optimism the American public is craving right now," says Ball. "Children growing up during this renaissance in vegetable gardening will learn valuable lessons about nutrition, nature, self-sufficiency and respecting the earth by gardening alongside their parents."


Mr. Ball has long been a proponent for community gardens. "Community gardens are marvelous for connecting communities in tangible, participatory and productive ways." He believes that gardening cooperatively through community gardens only amplifies the intrinsic rewards that come from cultivating homegrown produce.


"I think kids will be astonished by what they discover in the garden," says Mr. Ball. "After growing up with the Internet and video games, the garden will represent a new and exciting frontier." He speaks of the different dimension of time the garden offers, and the balance of intersecting elements -- sun, soil, water -- that allow plants to flourish. "It's a domain in which you can explore, experiment and marvel -- and with results that are tangible and delicious."


Burpee, who has supported community gardens for 133 years, has dramatically boosted its vegetable seed donations this year due to an unprecedented number of requests from non-profit groups. Since January 2009, Burpee has donated more that 5,000 vegetable seed kits to community gardens and charitable groups growing food for the poor, the hungry and local schools. That's an increase of 3,000 seed kit donations compared to the usual 2,000 kits allocated in previous years.


According to Ball, Burpee is aggressively exploring opportunities to expand their community garden support, calling it "a top priority" for both the long- and short-term.


The American Community Gardening Association estimates there are 18,000 community gardens nationwide. The ACGA reports that the benefits of these gardens include being a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, helping to preserve green spaces, lessening city heat from streets and parking lots and also reducing crime.


Ball sees the boom in vegetable gardening as less of a trend, and as more of a fundamental shift in the way Americans are choosing to live. "Most of us are just a few generations removed from our farming ancestors," Mr. Ball notes. "Green is in our blood."


"The state of the economy has certainly played a role in the increased interest in edible gardening, but folks are not going to let their vegetable plots go fallow when the economy heads north," says Mr. Ball. "People have an innate desire to take control our own destinies -- and vegetable gardening allows us to do this."


"It would be fascinating to connect gardening to kid's school studies. Gardening relates to science, math, literature and art: it engages you in all dimensions."


George Ball believes the White House vegetable garden symbolizes America's desire to respect the environment, acquire better physical and financial health and to exert more control over the process our food goes through from plot to plate. He expects the White House garden to be a huge success and looks forward to seeing its progress.



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