In Tough Times, Scripps Women Cultivate a Better World

On March 20, First Lady Michelle Obama and 23 fifth graders broke ground on a 1,100 square-foot garden on the White House lawn that will soon grow the freshest of local produce including cilantro, tomatillos, hot peppers, arugula (of course), various lettuces, spinach, chard, collards, black kale, berries, anise hyssop, Thai basil and even a few bee hives, according to the New York Times.With spring planting season in full swing, a national enthusiasm for gardening seems to have taken root. Here at Scripps, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, garlic, onions, mint, beets (reviled by President Obama, but much loved by yours truly), newly planted tomatoes, cucumber, squash, basil, strawberries, carrots and eggplant cover the Scripps Student Garden behind Browning Residence Hall. Currently managed by Scripps Institute for Sustainable Living, students convene most Friday afternoons to communally tend to the enclosed garden, which students started in 2002. The urge to plant has grown in Claremont over the past decade. This year, Hannah Segal ('09), the 5C Criminal Justice Network and many volunteers have initiated a garden project at the Chino Women's Prison to provide fresh produce for inmates. Both Pitzer Garden and Pomona Farm boast thriving gardens complete with compost operations and a beehive at the 2.5 acre farm. In the Claremont community, an active Food Not Lawns organization flourishes. The White House garden comes after years of activism from celebrity locavore chef Alice Waters, other foodies like journalist Michael Pollan and a successful "Eat the View Campaign," which circulated a petition this year to install a White House garden and attracted over 100,000 signatures. The "Eat the View Campaign" points out that the idea of a White House Garden is by no means new. It's only new to our generation. Michelle Obama's new project is the only vegetable garden on the White House lawn since Eleanor Roosevelt's World War II Victory Garden.  In those times of economic hardship and war, much like today, the First Lady inspired countless gardens across the nation to reduce stress on the food supply and reduce fuel consumption. Here at Scripps, students from the WWII era had their own Victory Garden.  Photos from the Scripps Archive show students tending to a bounteous array of produce in the Cutting Garden, which was where the Humanities Building is today. Traditionally, Victory Gardens have been planted to bolster the war effort by reducing the strain on the food supply, much needed by troops overseas. Today a new trend of Victory Gardens supports national—and global—interests by reducing fuel consumption and providing nutrition to our increasingly junk-food-dependent society. As in demanding decades past, the First Lady and Scripps women are taking up the trowel to combat the issues of our time.  To get involved with the Scripps Garden, contact For more information on the Prison Garden Project, contact Hannah Segal at Students can combat America's petroleum-and-french-fry addiction—one cabbage at a time.