Prince Charles sees Obama, urban farm, on US tour

5th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Prince Charles on Wednesday wrapped up a two-day US visit that has taken the heir to the British throne from an urban farm in inner-city Washington to a private meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama.

The Prince of Wales also met with US service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, visited the Supreme Court and delivered the keynote speech at a conference on the future of food, warning that unsustainable farming is overtaxing nature and leading the world towards a food crisis.

"In some cases, we are pushing Nature's life-support systems so far they are struggling to cope with what we ask of them," Charles, a long-time advocate for sustainable food production, told some 700 people packed into a meeting hall at Georgetown University.

"Soils are being depleted, demand for water is growing ever more voracious and the entire system is at the mercy of an increasingly fluctuating price of oil," the prince said in the keynote speech at the "Future of Food" conference.

Charles was joined by the son of a peasant farmer from Mexico who now advocates for farmworkers' rights, a professional basketball player turned organic farmer, a pediatrician working to promote healthy diets for low-income families and others in calling for a change to the way Americans produce and consume food.

But the prince was the only speaker to be given a standing ovation that set the wooden Flemish-Romanesque meeting hall rumbling.

Less than 24 hours earlier, the British royal had picked his way through an urban farm in a gritty part of Washington, one of the first stops on his whirlwind visit.

"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.

Without flinching at the lack of etiquette, the prince trudged across mulch and dirt to shake hands with well-wishers who had gathered at the farm in the LeDroit Park neighborhood to catch a glimpse of British royalty.

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. 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.

At the Georgetown University conference, Charles called the global reach of obesity a "disaster", and praised US First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, launched two years ago, to get American children outdoors and active and eating healthier food.

The prince met privately after the conference with the US president, who is due to pay an official visit to Britain later this month.

© 2011 AFP

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