The President’s Own Tomato Patch

The Obamas are intent on using their influence to promote healthy eating, and today a new farmers market opens up a few blocks from the White House.

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As co-director of FRESHFARM Markets, Bernadine Prince has 11 years of experience setting up farmer's markets in the D.C. metro area. FRESHFARM just received a permit to open a farmers market blocks from the White House.

The market is the latest in a series of White House-sponsored efforts to push local, fresh food. The first lady broke ground on a White House garden back in March, and the Department of Agriculture released a memo near the end of August outlining its plans to increase support for regional food systems.

The market, which opens today, will be located on Vermont Avenue between H and I Streets in Northwest Washington, and will run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, with 18 local farmers selling everything from celery root to cheese. The Root caught up with Prince to talk about the new market.

The Root: When did you get started organizing the Vermont Avenue market?

Bernadine Prince: Around the first of August. Our contact at the White House has been [White House assistant chef] Sam Kass. There is so much—there is the White House garden and the initiatives around local food. You've heard both the president and the first lady talk about the importance of healthy eating. They are models themselves by paying attention to their children's diet.

TR: Did the White House come to you with the idea?

BP: They knew about FRESHFARM Markets—we've been around since 1997, when we started the DuPont market. Sam Kass came to us. They thought their food initiatives should also include a farmers market.

TR: Did the permit process go faster with their support?

BP: I don't think so. They came to us, and said, ‘What can you do?’ We did our usual thing, going into the community to build support for the market. The permitting process takes a while—you have to get approval from the businesses that line the street, in this case, the Veterans Administration and the Export Import Bank. And then [D.C.'s neighborhood councils], in this case, two [Advisory Neighborhoods Councils], since Vermont Avenue is the dividing line between two districts and the Department of Transportation.

Maybe I'm being a little naïve, but I think [our success was] mostly because it's a good idea.