First lady commends Murrysville brothers for their garden

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Travis Schraeder can't get enough of fresh cucumbers and green beans, and unlike many 8-year-olds, he wants nothing to do with french fries.

His little brother, Casey, on the other hand, adores the fried versions of their home-grown potatoes. After several summers of tending to their own garden, both boys love most foods that come out of the ground.

“We do it for the fun and for the food,” Travis said. “The vegetables from our garden taste, different – there's more taste and they're not wax covered.”

Michelle Obama agrees.

The first lady sent the boys a letter last month, commending them on the sprawling garden they've tended for more than four years behind their Murrysville home.

The brothers sent Obama a newsletter about their garden in October after watching a program about the White House garden and Obama's efforts to encourage healthy eating in children.

“Every American, no matter what age, has a special role to play in leading us to a better tomorrow,” Obama wrote in the letter.

“That is why it is so important for you to study hard in school and stay active in your community. If you keep up the good work, I know you will have all the tools you need to achieve your dreams.”

Last year, the boys planted cucumbers, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, beets, eggplant and other vegetables. They had success, said Casey, 6.

“When I look in the bucket and see all the vegetables we have from our garden, I am proud of my hard work and proud that I did it,” he said.

One of his favorite parts of gardening is maintaining the vegetables. The boys used water cannons to keep their crops moist and would chase crows and rabbits from their harvest.

The project also has been a good chance for the boys to bond with their grandparents, who watch the brothers during the summer. Their mother, Lisa, has similar memories from growing up and working a garden with her grandparents.

“I'm pretty proud of all of the work they put into it,” Lisa Schraeder said. “They got to make good memories with their grandparents.”

The garden became a family affair, said Angela Warfsman, the boys' grandmother. She and her husband, Richard, helped the boys plant and maintain the garden. Their father, Wayne, found new recipes for each of the vegetables as the boys harvested them.

This year, the boys will add an herb garden, their grandmother said. That way, they can enjoy gardening all year long.

“It's like having a science project in our backyard,” Travis said. “It's very, very cool.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

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