In this guest post, Roger Doiron shares how he turned his vision for healthy, sustainable foods into a grassroots movement that reached all the way to the White House. Roger is founder of Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI), a nonprofit network of over 20,000 individuals from 100 countries who are taking a (dirty) hands-on approach to relocalizing the food supply.
Back in January of 2008, I had a big idea. An idea so big it would need White House approval. The non-profit group I’d founded, Kitchen Gardeners, had just been selected for an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy fellowship. The goal was to get healthy and sustainable foods in the news and on America’s plate.
At the time the 2008 presidential candidates were busy crisscrossing Iowa with the world’s news media in tow, and it struck me that there might be a way to leverage the excitement and media power of the presidential campaign as a platform for talking about healthy foods and gardens.
I started to envision a grassroots movement to convince the next President to plant a sustainable garden on the White House grounds, inspiring other Americans to do the same and creating a dialogue about the dietary, economic and environmental benefits of locally grown produce.
In the spirit of edible landscapes, I dubbed the campaign “Eat the View” and set out to share it with America. Problem was, there were no national media crews camped out on my lawn, and I was working with a budget of approximately zero.
So I started telling a story by making homemade video presentations and putting them on the internet, hoping I might be able to grow some buzz.
The first “This Lawn is Your Lawn” chronicles me planting a garden in front of my own “white house”.
I followed it up with “Garden of Eatin”, an animated story about the history of the White House lawn and why what made sense decades ago makes even more sense now to save money, fuel and support healthy eating.
As the 2008 election was coming down to the wire, my Eat The View campaign videos were going viral, generating news stories and winning video awards.
Next thing I knew, there was new First Lady Michelle Obama digging into the White House lawn, breaking ground on America’s new First Garden with the national media gathered to capture the moment. Thanks to those little videos, that original big idea had grown into reality.
It was a remarkable moment for our grassroots operation. Our campaign wasn’t a fully-formed concept from the start, but, like a seed, it sprouted, unfurled its leaves and grew over the course of many weeks and months. What allowed it to build in size and momentum was that we were constantly looking for new ways of engaging people with the story so that there could be group ownership of the idea. Rather than just being my idea, it was our idea and the idea took on more and more power the more people got behind it.
And check out my latest “subversive plot” which I’m presenting via SlideRocket.
Maybe you have a passionate issue of your own, and you’re wondering if this is a good way to get the word out. I can only go by my own experience, but clearly we all have the power to change the landscape out there.