My friend Adam Shake, founder of Twilight Earth, was at the opening of the White House Farmers Market last week. I asked him a few questions about the opening.
MNN: You're a very busy guy. What made you take time out from your day to go to the opening of a farmers market?
Adam Shake: My wife and I recently went on a health diet. We have been slowly eating better for about two years and recently took the plunge to eating nothing but fruit from sun up till sun down. (It gets easier as fall gets closer!) One of the problems with working in the city is the lack of options for fresh fruit to be purchased at lunch. Sure, there is the hot dog vendor on the corner, but I know that his fruit is coming from Latin America and not from Virginia or Maryland. So anything that I can do to support a local farmers market in the city, I am going to do.
What was the general mood of the crowd that had gathered before Mrs. Obama came out to speak?
Because Mrs. Obama was there, security was tight and the lines getting into the market were long. It was raining softly and people had to go through security. You would think that people would be upset by this, but it actually seemed to make the atmosphere a little bit more exciting. As I stood in line, I wondered if people were there more to attend the farmers market or to see Michelle speak. I was happy to see that when she was done speaking, there wasn't a mass exodus out of the market. Almost everybody stayed to browse the produce stalls and buy things.
Obamafoodorama called Michelle Obama's speech at the event "stunning." Did anything in her speech strike a cord with you?
One of the great things about Michelle is that she has a very laid back approach. She comes across as a common person who just happens to be lucky enough to be living in the White House. She spoke about what it was like living in Chicago as a senator’s wife and trying to juggle a busy schedule with eating healthy. She discussed what so many parents run into, and that is buying fast food on the way home from work because the kids are hungry and there is just not enough time in the day or food in the refrigerator.
I know that sometimes in the mornings, it's hard to remember to "take something out for dinner" and when I get home at 7 o'clock at night, the last thing I want to do is try to spend the next hour figuring out what to make to eat. That's why having a farmers market in the city is so important. You can stop and grab some raw food on your way home from work and there is little to no prep or cook time.
Was there anything anyone else said, even someone from the crowd, that sticks out in your mind?
The Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, spoke about how important farmers markets are to local farmers across the country. In a time when more and more family farms are selling land to housing developers and big agri-business is buying up more and more farms, the ones who are left are having a harder time competing in a market where produce can be grown in a foreign country and shipped here for the same amount of money that it costs to grow the same thing here.
"Farmers markets have an important role in local and regional food systems by helping consumers have access to healthy, nutritious foods," said Vilsack. "These grants will help continue the recent expansion of farmers markets across the country to increase access to locally grown foods for consumers, and increase incomes for farmers."
He also announced $4.5 million in funding for the "know your farmer, know your food" initiative.
How were the prices at the White House Farmers Market? Do you think they are prices that the average D.C.-area resident will be willing to pay?
The prices seemed right in line with the prices that I see at other farmers markets in the Northern Virginia area.
One of the things that I've been hearing is that the reason obesity and diabetes is going up in this country is that because fast food and junk food is so inexpensive. With the economic struggles that we have been having, I can understand the incentive to buy a two-liter of soda for 99 cents, versus a bottle of fruit juice for $2.99, or a Value Meal instead of an acorn squash. But the real question is, what is the real price of bad food. What will it cost you in health dollars, gym memberships, sick days, lower immunity systems ...?
Back to your question. The question of affordability comes down to not only can you afford to, but can you afford not to? People say "I can't afford to buy healthy food." But I honestly believe that many of these people are the same ones who are buying other items that are not necessities (like junk food, soda, etc...) Your money is better spent on healthy food.
How do you think this farmers market and others like it in your region are beneficial to D.C.-area residents?
There are a lot of government employees who work within the Federal Triangle area of Washington, D.C. I see them every day, eating at the food courts, the McDonalds, the hot dog stands and buying donuts at Starbucks for lunch. Having a farmers market in the shadow of the White House will help a lot of them (including me) eat healthier on a day-to-day basis.
One of the exciting things about the farmers market is that they also accept government WIC stamps. This will really help the lower income parents buy good food for their families inside the District.
People have been very interested in knowing what the first lady bought at the market. But I want to know, what did you buy at the market?
I bought half a dozen organic tomatoes and a half dozen peaches. I love tomatoes and eat them like apples. Peaches are a great afternoon fix when you're running low on energy and want something that tastes great.
The photos above are from the piece Adam wrote about his experience on Twilight Earth. Pop on over there for more of his photos and more of his thoughts.
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The White House farmers market: A first hand account
What was the opening of the White House Farmers Market like? We've got the scoop.