White House Farmers' Market Opens

Michelle Obama’s first official act as first lady, her White House garden, evolved yesterday with the opening of the White House Farmers’ Market, located on Vermont Street just outside of the White House.  Security was representative of any presidential event with metal detectors and secret service agents scattered about; nonetheless, a line of shoppers extended out of the security checkpoint in the damp morning air to browse the large selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, flowers, baked goods, and preserves.  Some of the celebrities among the throng of shoppers included Mayor Adrian Fenty, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Michelle Obama herself.  Many local chefs including José Andrés of Café Atlantico, Todd Gray of Equinox, and White House chefs Bill Yosses and Sam Kass came to do a little shopping as well.

The market, run by a local D.C. company called FreshFarm Markets, had been discussed by the First Lady in recent press conferences, and along with the White House Garden seems to be the beginning of a campaign for healthy eating.  In her address to the shoppers, Obama spoke of how healthy eating has benefited her own family —she also made the connection between organic foods bought at farmers’ markets and reducing the cost of healthcare.  Similarly, she discussed how, in this troubled economy, unhealthy food is often the cheapest, but that farmers’ markets provide a way to buy healthy food that’s also reasonably priced.  While there are well over a dozen farmers’ markets in the metropolitan D.C. area, Obama noted that this market’s proximity to surrounding federal buildings and the metro system would provide hurried federal employees and commuters with an opportunity to purchase a healthy meal; bringing cheers from workers at the nearby Veteran’s Affairs and Treasury offices watching from windows.

However, the future of the market seems to be uncertain, as the market will only be open on Thursdays, from 3pm-7pm, and will end on October 29th. There is no indication of if or when it will re-open.  While not officially stated, the market seems to be in its trial phase, with concerns of how it will affect traffic and White House security most likely on the minds of federal and city officials.  Whether the market will continue or not is unsure, but we can see from the progression of the Presidential Garden into a full, varied market that the First Lady has a healthy agenda on her mind and this probably won’t be last we hear of it.

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