A Farmer's Market at the White House?

By Eleanor Barkhorn
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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images


Michelle Obama thrilled the food world in March when she broke ground on the White House garden, a one-acre plot that's produced more than 90 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables.

Her husband set fresh-food-loving hearts aflutter again last month when he floated the idea of starting a farmer's market outside the White House.

"That is a win-win situation," the president said at a health care forum. "It gives...D.C. more access to good, fresh food, but it also is this enormous potential revenue maker for local farmers in the area."

It seems this wasn't just talk--a D.C.-area farmer's market organizing group has applied for a permit to set up a market near the White House, and First Chef Sam Kass attended a community meeting last week to drum up support for the project.

Most reactions to the news were predictable--except for one.

    • Hooray Advocates of local, fresh, sustainable food rejoiced. "The market should provide a shining symbol for the organic and local food movement," said green Web site Mother Nature Network.

Mother Jones offered more tempered enthusiasm, saying "this confirms my suspicions that President Obama is pretty damn cool"--but also offering four pieces of advice for how to make sure the market becomes "a very cool project": give out free samples; feature hot meal options; make the produce (as) cheap (as possible); play music.

    • Not in My Backyard D.C.-area news outlets have pointed out that the market would shut down a major street during rush hour. "Even the most seasoned D.C. road warrior might be a little upset to find his commute may have to change because of a farmers' market," said local radio station WTOP.

    • Why does Michelle Obama hate farmers? In a (satirical) post for Salon, Andrew Leonard skewered the White House's "relentless assault on free market capitalism," quoting criticism from unnamed "legislators" from both sides of the aisle.

So far, no major criticism has emerged from the wider opinion world. When it does, we'll see if life imitates satire.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/09/a-farmers-market-at-the-white-house/24695/