Last week, we covered the results of the White House Redux competition. The competition asked what the White House might look like if it was designed today. This week, we are visiting with activists Daniel Bowman Simon and Casey Gustowarow who already know what should be done with the president’s residence: they hope to grow organic food on the lawn. And how are they sending their message? The duo have planted the “roof” of their flipped-up double-bus with a garden and are currently touring the country with it. It used to be called the Topsy-Turvy Bus: now it’s on a mission to get the 44th president to turn the country’s food system on its head. With a new name, The White House Organic Farm Project, and the elections around the corner, Daniel and Casey are hoping to get enough people to sign their petition as they tour the country.
The catalyst for the tour is a petition demanding that part of the White House grounds be turned into organic farmland. Each signatory becomes an official WHO Farmer. The envisioned White House Farm will be cultivated by schoolchildren and the disabled; will deliver its food via foot and bicycle; and will compost food scraps from all three branches of the federal government. The petition specifies further that the capitol farm provide food for the president, guests, and local public schools, grow local heirloom crops and cultivate prime topsoil.
It’s all in a Jeffersonian spirit, says Bowman. He is referring to the fact that our 3rd president was as much farmer as president: his Farm Book details his homestead as such, chronicling everything from crops and livestock to blankets distributed to slaves. The petition requests to grow heirloom crops from seeds passed down from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello farm.
Though the bus itself can’t drive upside-down, it garners a lot of attention, serving as a catalyst for debate. Its roof garden is planted with organic chard, kale, collard greens, rosemary and basil. Food scraps are composted in an on-board worm bin. The crew have traveled to farmers’ markets, farms and schools publicizing their petition and furthering the discourse on local food. They’ll be visiting the Southern Food Alliance Symposium this weekend in Oxford, Mississippi discussing food security in a celebration of southern food culture.