On the cover of her new book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, Michelle Obama is smiling into the camera and holding a huge basket of vegetables, the bounty of a garden planted, she writes, as “a starting point for something bigger.” That something bigger is the first lady’s campaign to get Americans — and especially children — thinking differently about what they eat. And behind the pride in her eyes is something a little trickier, a sly nod to the fact that for the past three years, she’s been getting a lot of kids to eat their vegetables.

It’s a challenge Jon Stewart summed up best recently when the first lady appeared on the Daily Show to promote her book. He asked, “Wouldn’t you have been more successful with, say, colonization of Mars?” She laughed at the question, but, in the book, she makes it clear that she takes this impossible mission very seriously.

American Grown chronicles the development of the White House Kitchen Garden — the first planted on the White House lawn since Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II victory garden. The story begins in March 2009, when the first lady broke ground with 23 fifth graders, and follows the garden through four seasons of growth and harvest. It also includes garden plans, composting and beekeeping tips, recipes, and of course, many photographs of the first lady surrounded by children, who appear — believe it or not — to be enjoying gardening and eating the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.