USDA farmers market in Washington, D.C. opened bigger than ever
Shoppers will be able to choose from an eclectic mix of locally produced options for breakfast or lunch as well as an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, bedding plants, seafood, eggs, dairy products, cured meats, baked goods, and more.
Visitors to the market, which is open every Friday through October 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., can picnic in the Headquarters People's Garden next to the market or take purchases home to enjoy with friends and family, including products for pets.
The USDA farmers market is also one of the 6,400 markets that now accept SNAP benefits, a growing trend to help SNAP households increase their access to healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opened the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers Market for its 21st season.
He announced a new partnership with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to promote gardens, farmers markets, and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) at Federal workplaces.
"Farmers markets and community gardens are growing rapidly across the country, cultivating social and economic benefits for rural and urban communities alike. They increase access to fresh, healthy foods for people of all income levels and create new market opportunities for local farmers," said Vilsack.
"At USDA's own farmers market, headquarters employees are able to get to know area vendors and other customers, and it has inspired some of the new resources we have made available to small-scale farmers and local food entrepreneurs. We are thrilled to help bring this experience to our federal colleagues' workplaces."
With USDA support, the number of SNAP-authorized farmers, roadside farm stands and farmers markets has grown more than eight times since 2008, up from 753 vendors then accepting SNAP.
Purchases made using SNAP at farmers markets rose from approximately $2.7 million in 2008 to $19.4 million by 2015, creating new customers for local farmers and giving SNAP users more access to fresh, healthy food.
Secretary Vilsack also cut the ribbon for the new VegU tent where each week visitors can get a "VegUcation" and learn how to pick, prepare and store a featured, in season fruit or vegetable.
The free 10-minute classes taught by USDA employees from the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Food and Nutrition Service, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service are offered between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
"We believe USDA's Farmers Market is a 'living laboratory' that lets us test new ideas and share the results with farmers market managers across the country.
"With VegU and a weekly night market that will open in June, USDA is leading the way in helping consumers know their farmers and their food while also creating opportunities for farmers, ranchers and other local food businesses," said Elanor Starmer, Administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which manages the USDA Farmers Market. ■