On an early fall day when the rain refused to pass farmers and producers from the DC-metropolitan region gathered for the opening of the FRESHFARM Market by the White House on Vermont Ave. Federal employees, area workers and out-of-town visitors gathered for the festivities despite the weather and were excited for the new program.
In response to a lively crowd, First Lady Michelle Obama admitted, “I’ve never seen so many people excited about fruits and vegetables!”
At the event, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced 86 awardees of the 2009 Farmers Market Promotion Program totaling more than $4.5 million to help continue the spread of farmer’s markets across the nation. “Fifteen years ago there were only 1,700 farmer’s markets and today we have more than 4,700,” said Secretary Vilsack.
Since 1996 USDA has hosted a farmer’s market at 12th and Jefferson Avenue, and Deputy Secretary Merrigan’s announcement yesterday of a pilot program to serve healthy and nutritious foods offers yet another opportunity to eat local for federal employees.
Farmer’s markets provide more than an opportunity to purchase healthy, local products and goods; they also allow you to connect with the community. Walking through the vendors, I recognized a familiar face that was the mother of a great childhood friend. It’s so easy to become distracted with busy schedules and to-do lists; why not take an hour to shop for local goods and become reacquainted with your community, new or old.
Beyond food, there was plenty for crafters and casual passerby. Loudoun County’s Solitude Yarns will be at the FRESHFARM Market through October selling yarns made and dyed locally. Bonus – they offered to help with my latest knitting project should I have any issues! Beautiful locally grown flowers lined the market, sure to catch anyone’s eye.
Secretary Vilsack acknowledged the Obama Administration’s commitment to health and agricultural issues but closed in saying “ With all do respect to my President, I love the commitment of the First Lady as she helped break ground at our People’s Garden and continues the message.”
Farmer’s markets allow local food to become a part of a community’s culture. Secretary Vilsack noted that many people know the importance of local and regional food systems, others simply like having a fresh and healthy alternative. We’re hearing a lot of great stories from people visiting the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food YouTube playlist. There have been a number of announcements this week and we’re looking ahead to a new web site to educate consumers and connect people more closely with the farmers.
To find a farmer’s market near you, visit the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service service here.