February 19, 2009, 4:53 pm — Updated: 6:15 pm -->
First Lady at Agriculture Department
By Marian Burros
Susan Walsh/Associated Press The first lady, Michelle Obama, brought a seedling from the Jackson magnolia tree at the White House to Agriculture Department employees.
The first lady, Michelle Obama, continued her rounds of government agency visits today to say thank you to the employees and to get to know the District of Columbia better. This time, Mrs. Obama brought a gift.
Before cheering throng of Agriculture Department employees, including 18 long-time employees who were singled out for their service, Mrs. Obama presented a seedling from the Jackson magnolia, which has been growing on the west side of the south portico of the White House for 180 years.
Andrew Jackson planted the tree in memory of his wife, Rachel, who died before he entered the White House.
Last week, the Agriculture Department started its own garden, one that will include fruits and vegetables to be donated to the city’s soup kitchens. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack jackhammered a spot in the black asphalt outside the Whitten building to prepare the ground. It is part of an effort by the Obama administration to get people to grow some of their own food.
Mrs. Obama said she was particularly pleased that the department’s facilities all over the world would be planting gardens. “I’m a big believer in community gardens,” she said, “both because of their beauty and for providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables to so many communities across the nation and the world.”
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