First lady Michelle Obama visited Burke County Middle School in Waynesboro on Thursday to help students plant veggies at their school's garden as part of a victory garden tour before she leaves the White House.
"Tuesday, we did our last planting before my husband and I, we leave the White House," said Mrs. Obama, who was joined by students from Louisiana, Colorado and Wisconsin at the Tuesday event and also had a stop planned at a Newark, N.J. school on Thursday. "I was a little sad, but wanted to celebrate by doing what we're calling an American Garden Tour. So I'm traveling all around the county and highlighting all the great work that's been done over the last seven or eight years in community gardens, in school gardens. Because since we planted our garden, a lot of people across the country have done the same things, and so there are all these wonderful stories all over the country."
School's out for spring break this week but plenty of young gardeners were happy to trade a bit of their vacation for a chance to dig in the first with the first lady.
"Tell me about yourselves," Mrs. Obama said to her fellow farmers as she knelt with a group to lay in some seedlings.
She didn't take questions from reporters (who at one point were aptly and decorously penned in with a bank of geraniums) but was eager to spend time with the youngsters.
"Are you excited about baseball season?" she asked one young fellow.
A young lady announced plans for a family trip to D.C. and Obama recommended 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a tour stop.
Mrs. Obama was accompanied by weatherman Al Roker, who dubbed her the nation's "gardener in chief."
Students were beyond excited about the day.
"It’s always been a dream of mine to meet her," said sixth grader Glennera Bostic, 12. "Ever since I was a little girl, she was the president’s wife. I always wanted to meet her in person and today is the day that I did."
Fellow 12-year-old sixth grader Tyrone Wilkerson was equally charmed.
"It was an unforgettable day," Tyrone said. "My mother, she was saying that good stuff doesn’t come every day. Today was a very special day for me."
Mrs. Obama's visit highlighted Burke County's impressive farm-to-school program where area farmers provide produce and students are involved in the school's harvest.
"We started our garden in the fall and our students really took ownership of what it takes to cultivate," said Principal Mona Reynolds. "They are a lot more willing to consume what they plant."
Jacob Hopkins is proof. The 12-year-old sixth grader fairly rhapsodized about his favorite crop.
"My favorite vegetable is a sweet potato. You can eat them baked, you can eat them in a sweet potato casserole. They’re always delicious," he said. Unlike the viral photos of grim school lunches that occasionally make waves online, Burke County students feast daily.
"We have pretty good school lunches. We get three side dishes and one main course," Jacob said. "Every day they’re healthy."