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“A Family of Eight Created a Lot of Compost”


Here’s a little bit of motivation for those with green thumbs out there: Gardening with your kids might motivate them to become a mogul like Martha Stewart.

Stewart — the businesswoman, television star and lifestyle maven — kicked off the Atlantic Food Summit in Washington last week by taking part in an interview with the magazine’s senior editor Corby Kummer. Stewart discussed her love of healthy and sustainable food, which began when she was a young girl and helped her father in the family garden (which was still known as a “victory garden,” even though it was after World War II).

“I was the only one of his six children who actually liked being in the garden with my dad,” she said.

Everything in the garden was organic, Stewart noted, because that’s just how gardens were grown back then. The family grew carrots, spinach and asparagus, among other vegetables, Stewart said.

“It was healthy, it was sustainable, it was fertilizer-free. We made our own compost,” she said. “A family of eight created a lot of compost.”

Stewart runs more than a family garden these days, but she still prioritizes many of the same practices she learned as a child. The compost for her personal chicken farm is made from materials gathered in her offices, and she brings eggs from the garden back to work for her employees to enjoy (they are allowed to take up to four, Stewart noted).

Although Stewart said she feels at home in the garden (and with the 200 chickens on her farm) she admitted not everyone can live the lifestyle she preaches.

Stewart said she is optimistic that more people will be able to eat healthy, as “people are paying attention” to the need to prioritize healthy and sustainable food. Her goal is to “promote the kinds of things that all of us wish we could abide by” to push things forward, she said.

Stewart wasn’t the only big name at Thursday’s summit, held at the swanky W Hotel just a few blocks from the White House. Celebrity chef Mario Batali also was interviewed on stage by Kummer, where he discussed how good chefs can become great entrepreneurs. In the afternoon, The Atlantic took aim at the childhood obesity epidemic with a panel discussion that included Leader Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Wootan argued that the amount of marketing at unhealthy foods aimed at children is a chief driver of the epidemic, noting that “parents don’t stand a chance against the food environment today.”

But there are signs that progress is coming to help parents out, Wootan noted. She pointed to new nutrition standards for school meals and upcoming nutritional guidelines for school food and beverages sold outside of meals, including in vending machines and at student stores.

National menu labeling standards, also expected to soon be implemented, will also help families make healthier choices, Wootan said.