By Jane Black and Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 11, 2009
An open-air farmers market with as many as 20 vendors will operate just north of the White House on Thursday afternoons this fall, after organizers received city permission to close one block of Vermont Avenue for the event.
The vendors' debut next week, encouraged by the White House and community groups, will mark the return of a fresh produce market that once stood nearby during the administration of Thomas Jefferson, at the dawn of the 19th century. In Jefferson's day, the market was in Lafayette Square, but security concerns require that its new incarnation be a tad farther north, on Vermont Avenue between H and I streets.
That block, which carries 4,600 cars on an average day, will be closed from 1 to 8 p.m. each Thursday through Oct. 29.
"I hope this farmers market will inspire cities and communities throughout our country and the world to transform public spaces into marketplaces filled with healthy, local foods from family farms," said Bernadine Prince, co-director of the market. "I also hope that this farmers market will be a model for making fresh food available to all people, regardless of income."
The organizers, from FreshFarmMarkets, said they contacted the White House shortly after Inauguration Day to suggest that a market selling locally grown fruit, produce and meat would underscore the value of good nutrition espoused by the president and first lady.
"You heard the president say he was interested in having a farmers market around here," said Ann Yonkers, co-director of FreshFarm, which operates farmers markets throughout the region. "The White House was very enthusiastic."
Assistant White House chef Sam Kass made a presentation on the market plan to one of two community groups asked to endorse it.
"Sam was there saying that it's totally and completely consistent with the goals that the White House has had in terms of fresh food and healthy eating," Yonkers said. "They like the idea of having a farmers market nearby."
She said the market will sell food raised by about 17 farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.