Skip to main content

farmers market

Celebrating Seasonal Variety at the USDA Fall Harvest Festival

Can you describe your favorite thing about fall? Would it be picking pumpkins, jumping carefree into a pile of crisp leaves, admiring the brilliant riots of color in our national forests and grasslands, eating fall vegetables, or something else entirely?

You can celebrate fall in all of these ways at the 7th annual USDA Harvest Festival on Friday, October 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the People’s Garden, at the USDA Farmers Market and along 12th Street right next to the market. Take advantage of the last opportunity this year to enjoy what’s in season from pumpkins to apple cider at the USDA Farmers Market located at the corner of 12th Street and Independence Ave, SW in Washington, D.C.

USDA Farmers Market Shoppers Participate in Behavioral Economics Study about Food Choices

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

What were visitors to USDA’s Farmers Market on Friday, Sept. 30, doing with the iPads they were holding?  They certainly weren’t playing Pokemon Go!  Instead, they were participating in a behavioral economics study about food choices.

The USDA Farmers Market, managed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and located just steps from the National Mall in downtown Washington, D.C., is a “living laboratory” for farmers markets around the country.  It’s also a great place to learn about the factors that influence customers’ buying decisions.

Hill Farm Buzzing with Pollinator Success

Since it’s National Pollinator Week, it seemed fitting to express my thanks to farmers Scott and Susan Hill - who run the Hill Farm outside Charlottesville, VA.  Earlier, I had the chance to visit their 10-acre property former tobacco farm to see firsthand how hard they are working to grow a variety of produce for the local customers. But there are more little workers helping on the Hill Farm too. Pollinators!

In the United States, about one third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Insects and other animal pollinators are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. It’s clear that pollinators are important to the Hill Farm for their production of their artisan and specialty varieties of several vegetables, including lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes and even golden beets.  And the first year, the addition of bees increased their tomato production by 25 percent.

Learn How to Bee a Friend during USDA's Pollinator Festival this Friday, June 24

The best time to bee a friend to pollinators is now! Today is the first day of summer and the launch of National Pollinator Week, June 20-26. Around the globe, people are celebrating with events that emphasize the importance of pollinators and teach ways to save them. Here at USDA, we’ve issued the National Pollinator Week Proclamation and are hosting our seventh annual Pollinator Week Festival this Friday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside USDA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

The festival highlights the work of USDA agencies, other federal departments and institutions such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Smithsonian Gardens, and the U.S. Botanic Garden, who along with partners like the National Honey Board, Pollinator Partnership and University of Maryland Extension are working to address pollinator decline.

USDA Farmers Market at Night is Back - Every Friday, June to September, 4-7 P.M.

We can’t think of a better way to spend time after a long day of work then by relaxing on the National Mall with good food, good company and good music. That’s why after piloting the first ever USDA Farmers Market at Night last year, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has decided to bring back the USDA Farmers Market at Night! It’s an opportunity for people all ages to connect with food and agriculture in a very unique setting.

Visitors can purchase food and enjoy a picnic right next to the market in the Headquarters People’s Garden. The garden is tended to by USDA employee volunteers and produces vegetables and fruits for donation to a local community kitchen. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic blanket but don’t worry if you forget – seating as well as picnic blankets are available in the garden.

Talking Local Food: Measuring Progress and Creating Opportunities

Results—at USDA we are constantly tracking and measuring them.  We want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference, that we’re making progress towards our mission, that the communities we support are getting the help they need.  Recently I had the pleasure of visiting local food stakeholders that are making a real difference in Charlottesville, VA and hear firsthand how USDA programs have made an impact in their community.

During my visit, I had a chance to listen to farmers, local food organizers, and business owners share their experiences involving local food production.  Just outside Charlottesville, I toured the Hill Farm and the warehouse of Local Food Hub.  The open dialog of these visits is important to me and important to USDA.  I strongly believe that we need to hear from the public so we make sure our priorities, programs and services are in line with what the American people need.

People's Gardens, Farmers Markets & CSAs at USDA and Across Government

We celebrated a few “firsts” today when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opened the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market located outside USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Secretary announced the first-ever partnership between USDA, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to better support agencies and Federal employees who want to incorporate gardens, farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) into the Federal workplace.

OPM provides Government-wide guidance on health and wellness policies for Federal employees and GSA manages Federal property and offices.  By working together, we can more effectively exchange ideas about how to engage thousands of employees and improve employee health and wellness in the workplace.

See You on May 6th for Opening Day of USDA Farmers Market

Get excited—we sure are! Friday, May 6, is the opening of the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C.  This means USDA employees and others who work nearby, residents of the city’s Ward 2, and tourists visiting the National Mall can once again shop at the USDA Farmers Market at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W., starting next Friday, May 6, at 9 a.m.

We’re thrilled to have more farmers and growers participating than ever before. Farmers and growers participating for the first time include Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm and Spiral Path Farm, both of which are certified organic farms that offer community supported agriculture (CSA) pick up; EcoFriendly Foods, which has packaged and ready-to-eat meat and poultry products from animals raised without steroids, antibiotics, and hormones; King Mushrooms, which offers fresh varieties of oyster, button, and other mushrooms; and Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, which has small-batch, handmade cheeses and farmhouse foods.

Farms that Sell Directly to Consumers May Stay in Business Longer

Opportunities to buy food directly from farmers, in urban and rural areas, have increased considerably in recent years. The number of farms that sold food at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms, onfarm stores, and community-supported agricultural arrangements increased 24 percent between 2002 and 2012. Economists at the Economic Research Service (ERS) have found that farmers who market goods directly to consumers are more likely to remain in business than those who market only through traditional channels.

Farmers face many business risks, including fluctuations in prices and yields.  ERS looked at Census of Agriculture data showing that 61 percent of farms with direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales in 2007 were in business under the same operator in 2012, compared with 55 percent of farms without DTC sales. In a comparison of farms across four size categories (defined by annual sales in 2007), farmers with DTC sales had a higher survival rate in each category. The difference in survival rates ranged from 10 percentage points among the smallest farms to about 6 percentage points among the largest.

Mid-Atlantic Health Care Partner Network; Finding New Ways to Revitalize the Health and Wellness of Our Communities

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Make no mistake: Hunger is a health issue. There are clear associations between food insecurity and poor health outcomes, and health providers across the country know that good health doesn’t depend solely on medical care. And this is where USDA comes in.

I frequently interact with community health organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Through conversations and the observations of physicians, community clinics and hospitals, we understand that USDA’s nutrition assistance programs are a natural partner to patient care.  And so, in my region we created a platform for sharing ideas on how to target our nutrition programs at the places and with the people who directly provide health services in our communities.