When first lady Michelle Obama held a groundbreaking for an organic vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House on the first day of spring, food activists rejoiced. Many have lobbied for a White House garden for more than a decade, and they see it as an endorsement by the Obama’s for fresh, wholesome food. Ms. Obama has talked about the importance of eating healthful foods and the challenges of persuading her children to eat fruits and vegetables. But she tends to avoid using words such as organic and sustainable, preferring words such as fresh and nutritious. The 1,100-square-foot garden will include 55 kinds of vegetables.

The White House appeared to be using the garden project as another strategy to encourage healthful eating, and the ever-present Secret Service, in charge of protecting the president and his family, probably paid little attention to the garden — until the idea of adding a beehive was introduced.

The bees, however, were not determined to be a threat to national security, and two hives were moved to the White House by an employee who is a beekeeper and lives nearby. Honey from the hives will also make its way onto the White House dinner table.

Although it may be the first to be described as “organic,” the Obama’s garden is not the first at the White House. Indeed, the first tenant in the White House, John Adams, planted a garden shortly after moving in to the quarters in 1800. Woodrow Wilson brought in sheep to mow and fertilize the White House lawn in 1918 in an effort to conserve resources during World War I. Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden in 1943 that inspired millions of Americans to grow their own food during World War II.

According to information released by the White House, the garden will use organic seedlings, organic fertilizer and organic insect repellents. The garden is near the tennis courts and is visible from the street. — Greg Henderson, Drovers editor.