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SURPRISE! The First Lady Visits Unsuspecting Local Gardeners

The First Lady has heard from people across the country and around the globe who have been motivated to grow their own gardens since she planted the White House Kitchen Garden seven years ago. As fruits and vegetables started to grow, so did interest – not only about the garden itself, but also about the food we eat and the health of our nation’s children and families. 

Inspired by all those who have joined her in supporting healthier kids and families through Let’s Move!, Mrs. Obama will be sharing the stories of gardens – be it in backyards, at schools, or in less conventional places – throughout the year. She kicked things off by surprising students who participate in gardening programs at Watkins Elementary School and John Burroughs Elementary School, and surprising Eriks Brolis and Linda Bilsens, along with their family, who have made gardening a community effort.

Enjoy these joyful moments brought to you by Let’s Move! 

The first stop was Watkins Elementary School. Watkins is home to a bountiful schoolyard garden that supports lessons across the curriculum. The students participate in FoodPrints, which is FRESHFARM's food education program that aims to make positive changes in what children and their families eat through highly engaging, hands-on experiences with growing, harvesting, cooking, and preparing nutritious, local foods in season. Watkins also has a demonstration kitchen where the students prepare meals and learn cooking skills.

The First Lady helped the students prepare Three Sisters tacos, making corn tortillas from scratch and including beans and squash. They also whipped up a side of kale salad using kale harvested from the school garden.

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students during a visit in support of her "Let's Move!" initiative to Watkins Elementary School in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Next up was John Burroughs Elementary School. The garden program at John Burroughs started in 2011 through a partnership with the Washington Youth Garden. It has continued to grow to include 10 raised beds for vegetable gardening, two in-ground beds for herbs and pollinator habitat, four courtyard garden beds for the Head Start scholars, as well as a newly planted fruit orchard. During the winter months, students start seeds and continue learning about healthy eating in an indoor garden classroom. Students have the benefit of learning from a FoodCorps service member who engages students in hands-on learning in the garden, increasing their knowledge of what healthy food is and where it comes from, and increasing access to fresh, whole food. As a STEM school, John Burroughs also uses the garden as a multi-faceted resource in all classrooms, helping students learn about science, engineering, math, personal health, and the environment as well as practicing their public speaking, analytic and leadership skills.

While the First Lady was at John Burroughs, she joined the students in helping to prepare for their spring garden by planting cabbage seeds to start growing indoors and separating worms from the compost.

First Lady Michelle Obama separates earthworms from compost with students during a visit in support of her "Let's Move!" initiative to Burroughs Elementary School in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

For her last stop, the First Lady visited Eriks Brolis and Linda Bilsens who reside in the Brookland neighborhood of DC. Eriks and Linda started their garden in 2013 because they wanted to demonstrate how to live a lifestyle that was sustainable through growing and eating nutritious and delicious food. The garden occupies the entire backyard in the adjacent lot in addition to their own backyard, and the couple and their family maintain and use the garden all year long, helping to feed their family, relatives, and neighbors. The family also uses a compost machine to avoid any waste and ensure healthy nutrients go back into the soil in their garden. Expanding the impact of their garden into the broader community, the family also welcomes community members to their garden, even hosting workshops on various gardening topics. The family gave Mrs. Obama a tour of their garden and showed her their homemade compost sifter in action.

First Lady Michelle Obama visits a garden in support of her "Let's Move!" initiative at the home of Eriks Brolis & Linda Bilsens in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2016.  (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Interested in starting your own backyard or community garden? Check out our Gardening Guide for tips and information to get you started. You can also follow along as the White House Kitchen Garden grows over the course of this year through our new Instagram account launched today: @WHKitchenGarden. We’ll be showcasing updates from planting and harvesting the garden and sharing stories of gardens across the country, so be sure to follow along!