Britain's Prince Charles begins US visit on city farm

4th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Days after the pomp of his son Prince William's wedding in London, Britain's Prince Charles picked his way through an urban farm in a gritty part of Washington as he began a US visit Tuesday.

"Yo, Charles! Over here!" called a voice from the far side of a split-log fence at Common Good City Farm, where locals grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers on what used to be a baseball field.

And without flinching at Americans' lack of knowledge of proper etiquette, the heir to the British throne trudged across mulch and dirt to shake hands with well-wishers who had gathered at the farm in the predominantly black neighborhood to see British royalty.

The Prince of Wales, an advocate of sustainable food, spent nearly an hour at Common Good farm. He planted a tree, examined a compost heap, shook hands with locals from nearby low-income housing projects and discussed nutrition and obesity with Common Good executive director Pertula George.

"We talked about how the obesity epidemic isn't just a problem in the US, but also the UK, and it's growing," George told AFP.

A third of LeDroit Park residents live in poverty, and one in five is overweight, partly because of the lack of affordable fresh produce in many US inner cities.

Common Good City Farm is trying to change that by giving most of the food produced on the former baseball field to "people in the neighborhood who need it most," said George.

Since the farm opened four years ago, it has provided more than 400 bags of fresh produce to low-income families in Washington and taught several thousand city dwellers how to grow fruit and vegetables.

"It's an honor that Prince Charles came here," said farm coordinator Amanda Formica, who had spent most of the hot spring afternoon hoeing a row of vegetables in the middle of the farm as the British royal visited while US Secret Service agents eyed the brick homes overlooking the rows of borage and kale.

"His visit will call attention to the fact that nutrition and sustainability matter, and that other countries are way ahead of us on both counts."

The prince also toured the US Supreme Court, and is due to call on President Obama at the White House just a few weeks before the US leader is due to pay an official visit to Britain.

On Wednesday, Charles will give the keynote speech at a conference on sustainable agriculture at Georgetown University and attend an event to support British and American troops deployed overseas.

"He's very personable. That's kind of unexpected," said Howard University student Kayla Lindsey, 21, who was pressed against the farm's rough wooden fence at Common Good after shaking hands with the British royal.

Next to Lindsey, a woman broke with protocol and asked Charles for his autograph. The heir to the British throne replied with a smile, "I'm not good on Tuesdays," and turned to walk towards a chamomile bush and a row of vegetables sprouting in the middle of the farm.

© 2011 AFP

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