- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2008

If you see a yellow school bus with another bus upside-down on the roof, you’ll probably look twice. And that’s just what Casey Gustowarow wants.

Mr. Gustowarow, from the city of Riva in Anne Arundel County, is part of a duo traveling the country in the upside-down bus, promoting the idea of putting an organic farm or garden on the grounds of the White House.

Mr. Gustowarow, 27, and his friend Daniel Bowman Simon are growing greens and herbs on the roof and inside the bus, as they take their message to farmers’ markets and schools from coast to coast.

“We’ve got one goal: We want the president to plant a garden, plant a farm - something that’s a model,” Mr. Gustowarow said.

He said the president could lead by example and persuade more Americans to eat healthy, local produce that has fewer negative impacts on our planet. Local food uses less oil for transportation, and organic food does away with pesticides, weed killers and fertilizer.

They’re part of a growing movement promoting local and natural foods, inspired by authors, chefs, farmers and foodies.

Mr. Gustowarow said the 17-acre White House grounds has been home to a garden before. During World War II, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a “victory garden” and encouraged Americans to follow her lead.

“We want to have the president eat out of his own property once again,” he said. “It happened once, it should happen again.”

In his vision, local schoolchildren help tend to the garden, and tourists can take a look during White House tours.

Mr. Gustowarow and Mr. Simon want President-elect Barack Obama to lead the way but are trying to inspire others with their on-the-go organic gardening.

The roof of their bus - called the White House Organic Farm Bus or “WHO Farm Bus” - is covered in large plastic containers of leeks, swiss chard, sorrel, kale, strawberries and even compost. Inside the bus, herbs grow on a ledge.

“If we can do it at 60 mph on the highway, certainly people can do it at their homes and balconies and patios - and the president can do it on 17 acres,” said Mr. Gustowarow, a graduate of DeMatha High School in Hyattsville and McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.

The duo needed two weeks to outfit the bus after buying it from Ben Cohen, one of the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Mr. Cohen used the bus earlier this year to point out the “upside-down” nature of government spending.

The bus cost $42,000. Mr. Gustowarow and Mr. Simon have been living cheaply, sleeping on the bus or staying with friends. They eat the food they grow, as well as food from local farmers’ markets and people they meet along the way.

With the Obama transition already starting and the inauguration looming in January, Mr. Gustowarow expects the bus will stay in the D.C. metro area for a while. Mr. Gustowarow drove the bus home to Riva so he could vote, while Mr. Simon went home to New York to vote.

Mr. Gustowarow has been going back and forth between meetings and farmers’ markets in the District, Baltimore and Annapolis.

Craig Sewell, owner of A Cook’s Cafe and a member of the alliance, has been helping out the WHO Farm Bus team. That fits with Mr. Sewell’s ideas about making responsible buying decisions and supporting local farmers.

“I need to do whatever I can do to help people like Casey,” he said.


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