Hudson Valley Farm to School founder’s entry chosen from thousands

“Congratulations! You’ve been selected to attend the White House Social Fall Garden Tour on Oct. 19.”

Sandy McKelvey, Hudson Valley Farm to School founder, won a visit to the White House Fall Garden Tour on Oct. 19.

This email was received by Cold Spring’s Sandy McKelvey a couple of weeks ago. And though it might seem like one of those “You’ve won an Irish Sweepstakes lottery” come-ons, in this case, it was true.

Here’s the story, in words and pictures, from Sandy McKelvey:

“Hudson Valley Farm to School (HVFS) is a project of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust dedicated to promoting student wellness by encouraging the use of fresh, local farm produce in school cafeterias and offering classroom-based cooking classes combined with nutrition and food-system education.

“I received an email from Let’s Move offering an opportunity to apply for a chance to attend a special private garden tour for White House social-media followers. I had to answer in 140 characters or less (otherwise known as a tweet) why I wanted to attend. I wrote something like:

“‘Let’s Move motivated me to start Hudson Valley Farm to School bringing local farm produce into the cafeteria and chefs into the classrooms.’

“One week later, I found out that my entry had been chosen.

“I feel very lucky and privileged. I was very fortunate to have been chosen from thousands of applicants to attend the second-ever White House Social: Garden Tour.

“I met dozens of exceptional people from all over the United States who shared my passion for getting kids in the garden, teaching them to cook, while encouraging schools to offer more local, fresh farm produce as part of the hot lunch program.

“We started out at 7 a.m. waiting in the pouring rain to get the security clearance to enter the White House grounds. Once we passed through two levels of security, we were in.

“First stop: The Rose Garden: As I stood there, I couldn’t help but think about all the important speeches and press conferences presidents have made there over the years.

“Putting politics aside, it is an exquisite garden. And very intimate.

“It seemed like a good place for contemplation. And it’s right outside of the Oval Office – what a great walk to work every morning!

“Second stop: The Jacqueline Kennedy Garden.

“And saving best for last: Michelle’s Kitchen Garden.

“While up in NY we lost a lot of our crops due to last week’s frost, down in the White House Kitchen Garden all the vegetables were in full vigor — red bell peppers, japanese eggplant, kale, bok choy, cherry tomatoes, herbs and artichoke.

“The list goes on to include even tropical papaya. (They over-winter it indoors.) The vegetables are grown following organic practices and used by the White House chefs to serve at State dinners and for the First Family’s private dinners as well. What they don’t use is donated to a local soup kitchen.

“Opposite the Kitchen Garden is the White House Bee Hive. (Have you read about the honey beer they are brewing at the White House?) This year they collected 175 pounds of honey.

“After the garden tour, we had to exit the White House and go through security again to enter the Old Executive Building for the second half of our tour: Social-media connections.

Bill Yosses, the White House pastry chef

“Bill Yosses, the White House pastry chef, talked about leading a healthy lifestyle and eating desserts at the same time. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? He talked about cooking with whole, fresh foods and, of course, small portions and eating in moderation. What’s important is that food be delicious so kids will want to eat it and that it is well made and comes from a good source. He gave us one chef’s tip: Add a small amount of honey to any baked good recipe to make it stay moist. Asked what some of his favorite desserts he makes are, he said sweet potato pie and huckleberry pie.

“All in all it was a great day. I made a few new friends and felt quite privileged to be invited to view the gardens up close.”

Visit their website for more information about Hudson Valley Farm To School.

Photos courtesy  Sandy McKelvey

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Articles attributed to "staff" are written by the editor or a senior editor. This is typically because they are brief items based on a single source, such as a press release, or there are multiple contributors, such as a collection of photos.