Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, 50, who is the mastermind behind USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, makes her first appearance on this year's Time 100 list, in the 'Thinkers' category. The magazine annually names "the 100 people who most affect our world," and Merrigan (at left) has had a big impact on American--and international--agriculture since joining the Obama administration in 2009.
Chef Dan Barber, one of the most notable advocates in the sustainable food movement, who was himself featured on the 2009 Time 100 list, does the Time write-up for Merrigan. After praising her for supporting farmers markets, and for developing national organic standards for USDA in her first round of employment with the Department in the '90s, Barber writes:
"...she supports conventional farmers, refuses to vilify biotech and relishes above all else a good steak. "I displease pleasingly," she'll say, and you respect her all the more.
In addition to all her other duties as Deputy Secretary, Merrigan has spent much time tweaking Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food to work with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, seeking to marry local farmers with local schools, as a way of getting more fresh fruit and vegetables onto students' lunch trays.
Most recently, for Let's Move!, Merrigan attended the White House Summit on Child Obesity, where she spoke about the connection between hunger and obesity, a now-frequent topic in her public remarks. A highlight of 2009: Merrigan led the US delegation to the 36th annual Food and Agriculture Organization conference in Rome, Italy, the first woman to ever do so. (Above: Merrigan, center, listens to Surgeon General Regina Benjamin speak at the summit; OMB director Peter Orszag is at right)
On May 6, Merrigan will be on hand when the Farmers Market By The White House re-opens for its second season. Click the link for more info on the market.
President Obama, who is also featured on this year's Time 100 list, and First Lady Michelle Obama dined at Barber's Blue Hill restaurant in New York on May 30, 2009, and Barber has consulted on the White House Kitchen garden. In case you're still wondering, yes, it's all connected. Mrs. Obama was on last year's Time 100 list, too.
Related: In September of 2009, your intrepid blogger accompanied Dep. Sec. Merrigan on a farm visit to Virginia, for the launch of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.
*Top photo by Christopher Morris/Time; second photo by Obama Foodorama