AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK OPENS 2009 USDA FARMERS MARKET SEASON
WASHINGTON, June 5, 2008-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today opened the 14th season of the USDA Farmers Market season with a ceremony at USDA Headquarters. The USDA Farmers Market features farmers from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia selling their locally grown produce and other items. The market is open to the public and will operate every Friday through October, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at USDA Headquarters on 12th St. and Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.
"One of USDA's top priorities is to encourage eating fresh - and locally grown - fruits and vegetables," Vilsack said. "At farmers markets, especially during the summer months, these are abundantly available."
The site of the USDA Farmers Market is adjacent to "The People's Garden," which Vilsack broke ground on earlier this year. "The People's Garden" is a vegetable garden on USDA property that recently was expanded to include sustainable landscaping for the entire grounds. Starting on May 21 and each week since, USDA has harvested and donated more than thirty 10-gallon bags of romaine, butter, red and green leaf lettuce, mixed greens of arugula, red and green chard as well as spinach, along with boxes of radishes, cilantro and sugar snap peas to the DC Central Kitchen. The DC Central Kitchen offers job training in culinary and food service skills to DC's homeless, which has received unsold food donations from the USDA Farmer's Market since 1996.
A USDA domestic and international initiative, "The Peoples Garden" will help illustrate the many ways USDA works to provide a sustainable, safe and nutritious food supply as well as protect and preserve the landscape where that food is produced. It is designed to provide a sampling of USDA's efforts throughout the world as well as teach others how to nurture, maintain and protect a healthy landscape. The garden concepts that USDA is practicing serves as a living example of how to provide healthy food, air and water for people and communities as well as food and shelter for wildlife, while improving soil health and water quality.
The National Directory of Farmers Markets currently lists more than 4,700 farmers markets, up from about 4,400 only three years ago. The number and popularity of farmers markets continue to increase as more and more Americans discover their many benefits. Farmers markets, an important alternative marketing outlet for farmers and food producers, offer consumers greater access to locally grown, farm-fresh produce. Farmers markets also offer consumers the opportunity to interact with local farmers and producers.