The White House Farmers' Market Opens to an Excited Crowd


Photo credit: David DeFranza

"Hello DC!" Mayor Adrian Fenty began his speech at the opening of the White House Farmer's Market, before asking "are you excited about farmers' markets?" The crowd's cheering and applause answered his question. The rain had not managed to damper people's spirits minutes later when First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage.

"I have never seen so many people excited about fruits and vegetables," she began, "people are pumped and it's raining outside...this is good." Indeed, the spirit of the first day of this market was one of celebration and enthusiasm for all things local and organic.


Photo credit: David DeFranza

The market, which will be held weekly on Thursday until the end of October, is only the latest from an organization called FreshFarm. Focused on getting goods from producers operating around the Chesapeake Bay into communities that have a need for fresh, local, foods, the organization manages eight other markets in the DC and Baltimore area.

Not your ordinary farmers' market

While waiting in the long line at the entrance as visitors, both vendors and shoppers alike, were cleared through the slow security process, it became clear that this was not your typical farmers' market opening. Indeed, the presence of a mayor, the First Lady, and the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, makes for a special food-buying experience. The question seemed to be: Beyond the high-profile patrons, what is special about this market over others in the city?


Photo credit: David DeFranza

Ann Harvey Yonkers, co-director of FreshFarm Markets in Washington, DC, told the crowd that a market is about making a connection with a greater system that has, for too long, been ignored. She told that crowd that, through her work with FreshFarm, she has learned that "farmers...are one of the least appreciated...professions in the country." Shopping at a farmers' market, she added, is a way to give food producers the respect they deserve. "Every time you eat local food," she told the crowd, "you are saving farmland one delicious bite at a time."

This process, Secretary Vilsack explained, has become easier in the last 15 years as the number of farmers' markets has increased from 1,700 to over 4,700 nationwide. He also announced a plan, as part of the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, to invest nearly $5 million dollars to support new and existing farmers' markets.

Reconnecting with farmers is important, but local farmers' markets have a powerful impact on our neighborhoods and communities as well. As Michelle Obama explained in her speech that "this market is not just about food, it's about our community," she paused for a moment before adding "and this is just the beginning of the conversation." Hopefully, the discussion will be held over a meal made from local produce bought at this new market.

Read more about farmers' markets:
Obama to Set Up a Farmers' Market Outside White House?
Readers' Most Interesting Farmers Market Finds (Slideshow)
5 Strategies for Getting the Most from Your Farmers' Market

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