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Oct 14, 6:13 PM EDT

First lady Michelle Obama welcomes children to annual harvest of White House garden

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michelle Obama isn't afraid of a little dirt.

The first lady, clad in dirt-stained black pants and sneakers, was joined by schoolchildren Tuesday to harvest lettuce, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and tomatoes in the White House Kitchen Garden.

The children from Arizona, California, Ohio and the District of Columbia attend schools that have school gardens, teach nutrition education or have "farm to table" programs that use local food in school meals.

"It's beautiful," the first lady said, as she marveled the garden before they started digging. "And just imagine that everything was just dirt just a few months ago. And because the summer was so cool and wet and beautiful, everything is just bursting."

After the hard labor, the children joined White House chefs in preparing a late lunch in the East Room.

Mrs. Obama, in a new pair of slacks, toasted the students - with a glass of water- before they dined on pumpkin-sweet potato soup and chicken with ratatouille.

The first lady planted the vegetable garden in 2009, a year before she began her Let's Move! initiative to encourage children and families to eat healthier and exercise.

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