At White House Market, One Question


Photo by Eleanor Barkhorn

There was no produce from the White House garden for sale at this afternoon's inaugural White House Farmer's Market. And the market wasn't really at the White House--it was a few blocks away, on a street in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Nonetheless, the market carried the White House imprimatur and opened with a speech by First lady Michelle Obama. Her 10-minute speech focused on the importance of farmer's markets in supporting the local economy, developing the community, and--important, considering the current debate about health care reform--promoting health.

After Obama left the Sunnyside booth and everyone else rushed in to buy their own food, Sara said there was one thing everyone wanted to know: What did the First Lady buy?

"For those of us who are battling the time crunch and for those of us whom access to fresh food is an issue in our neighborhoods," she said, "farmer's markets are a valuable resource that we have for us to support."

In ending her remarks, Obama switched gears to appeal to stomachs rather than hearts and minds. "Now it's time to buy some food," she announced before doing just that. She walked over to the booth run by The Farm at Sunnyside (where our own Sara Lipka is working this season) joined by White House chef Sam Kass and another Atlantic Food contributor, Zeke Emanuel.

After scanning the day's offerings, she filled a basket with Tuscan kale, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and hot peppers--but skipped the beets, despite the farm's sign that declared "Beets Even the President Would Love." She then moved on to a creamery's booth, where she bought chocolate milk and Camembert cheese.

After Obama left the Sunnyside booth and everyone else rushed in to buy their own food, Sara said there was one thing everyone wanted to know: What did the First Lady buy?

"It's like her outfits," Sara said. "When she wears a J. Crew dress, everyone goes out and buys it. It's going to be the same thing with kale."

If there's a run on leafy greens at your farmer's market this weekend, you'll know why.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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