Four years after First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Farmers Market by the White House on its opening day in September of 2009, it is a big success story, says Ann Harvey Yonkers, co-executive director of FRESHFARM Markets, which runs the operation. (Above, Mrs. Obama during her visit)
The market will reopen for its fourth season on Thursday, May 2 at 11:00 AM with a traditional cow bell-ringing ceremony featuring DC luminaries, including White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, Yonkers said.
"Farmers' markets do more than just help Americans feed their families healthy meals," Mrs. Obama said during her visit as she touted the fresh fare. "They help America's family farmers."
The First Lady also noted that "this market is not just about food. It's about our community," and indeed, the community has embraced the project located a couple blocks from the executive mansion, at 810 Vermont Ave. NW in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The avid clientele has grown each year, said Yonkers.
Open at lunchtime, from 11:00 AM until 2:30 PM, the market attracts the thousands of federal workers in the neighborhood, as well as residents of the Downtown area, offering a wide variety of produce, pasture-raised meats, baked goods and breads, cut flowers and preserves, and prepared foods like sandwiches, pizza, kimchee, and Kettle Corn made with Virginia-grown corn.
The market itself will be "bigger this year," Yonkers said, and include "a few more farmers" as well as growers who participated in previous seasons. FRESHFARM runs ten other farmers markets, and the White House market "has the most prepared food," Yonkers said.
The White House chefs are often spotted doing their own personal shopping, as is DC's Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who will also be a bell-ringer on Thursday.
"She loves that market," Yonkers said.
Chef José Andrés' food truck, Pepe DC, will be at the grand opening; acclaimed chefs will do cooking demos over the course of the season, which runs each Thursday through Oct. 31, 2013.
Mrs. Obama had not yet launched her signature Let's Move! campaign when she made her visit to the market in 2009--that would come five months later--but during her speech she laid out the framework for her childhood obesity initiative, discussing the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables, gardening, and improving food access in under-served communities.
"Farmers markets are a simple but major ingredient in solving access issues in many communities," Mrs. Obama said. "Farmers markets are a really important, valuable resource that we have to support."
Another pillar of Mrs. Obama's campaign is making healthier food more affordable, and as it has before, Yonkers said the Farmers Market by the White House will offer "Double Dollar" coupons to WIC/Senior and SNAP (Food Stamps) beneficiaries, to match their EBT dollars and WIC/Senior coupons redeemed up to $10. Six of FRESHFARM's eleven markets, located in the District, Maryland, and Virginia, also participate in the program.
During her visit, Mrs. Obama bought eggs, black kale, mixed hot peppers, pears, cherry tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, cheese and chocolate milk to bring back to the White House. All of that and more will be available at the market.
Offerings on May 2nd will include asparagus, spinach, salad mix, leeks, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cut flowers, greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers, hydroponic lettuce, wood fire pizza, vegan soups and salads, crab cakes, and baked goods, according to FRESHFARM's market manager Reg Godin.
Godin said the artisans and growers this year will be: Baklava Couture; Baywater Greens; Bigg Rigg Farms; Capitol Kettle Corn; Chris’ Marketplace; Coulter Farms; Loulies (Chaya); Number 1 Sons; Pleasant Pops; Praline Bakery; Soupergirl; Spring Valley Farm & Orchard; The Red Zebra; Three Little Pigs charcuterie & salumi; and Toigo Orchards.
The Farmers market by the White House is located at 810 Vermont Ave. NW, between H St. NW and I St. NW. The nearest Metro stop is McPherson Square (Blue and Orange Lines). MetroBus stops are S2, S4, S9, 42, X2, L2, G8 and 11Y.
On Twitter: @FRESHFARMWhtHse and @FRESHFARMMktsDC. Visit the FRESHFARM Markets website for more information, and details about other markets.
*Photo by Samantha Appleton/White House