A Scarborough gardener's proposal to create an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn is leading one online contest and in the top 15 of a second as Barack Obama's Inauguration Day approaches.
Roger Doiron, founder and director of Kitchen Gardens International, initiated the campaign to urge the new president to create a Victory Garden at the White House in February 2008. He named the campaign Eat the View.
"I like to think of the White House as America's house," Doiron said in a telephone interview Wednesday, "and I think it should have a vegetable garden. ... One of the first things John Adams, the first president to live in the White House, did was to plant a vegetable garden."
The most recent vegetable garden at the White House was created by Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II.
Thursday afternoon, Eat the View was leading the On Day One contest with 3,318 votes. In second was a proposal to create a Department of Peace, with 1,195 votes.
Doiron said the On Day One organizers already consider him a winner because about 5,000 proposals were entered into the contest, and it is now down to nine finalists. The winner - votes are tallied Monday - will be taken to Washington for the inauguration in addition to having the proposal submitted to the Obama administration.
In the Change.org contest Thursday, Eat the View had 1,431 votes while the leader, free single-pay health care, had 6,040 votes.
Doiron conceded that even if he wins the contest, there is no assurance that the White House lawn would get a vegetable garden and that if one were to be built, the Obamas likely would spend no time working on it.
"The real goal of this campaign was to promote, in a fun way, to promote the multiple benefits of growing your own food," Doiron said. "There are the culinary benefits and the bigger picture of climate change and health."
Doiron's campaign has been funded by donations from people to Kitchen Gardens International, including a Kellogg Foundation grant.
Lucinda Brockway, a historic gardener in Kennebunk, said that if Obama wants to make the political statement of putting a vegetable garden at the White House, he should have no problem even though the house and grounds are protected as historic landmarks.
"If ever there was a historic landscape that has been changed - with every president - it has been the White House grounds," she said. And planting vegetables instead of something else would not be a major change, she said.
Russell Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, is highly supportive of Doiron's efforts, but said under federal guidelines the garden could not be declared organic until three years after the last commercial fertilizers and pesticides had been placed on the lawn.
"I think it is a symbolic piece in that it shows what it takes to take a piece of land and turn it into an organic garden," he said. "The educational value of the change is almost more important than the end result. And it puts out the message that if it is all right for the White House to grow their own food, anyone else can do it, too."