The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened its farmers' market for the 20th season on May 4, 2015, according to a USDA press release. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has identified strengthening local food systems, including farmers' markets, as one of the four pillars of the USDA's commitment to rural economic development.
"For the past two decades, the USDA farmers' market has shown us how farmers' markets bring urban and rural communities together and expand access to locally-grown fruit and vegetables," said Secretary Vilsack. "Like thousands of markets around the country, the USDA farmers' market benefits local farmers and ranchers, small businesses, and consumers by creating economic opportunities and offering healthy, wholesome food."
The USDA farmers' market, which is managed by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays an important role in creating economic opportunities for local farmers and small businesses in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding Chesapeake Bay region. The market is located just off the National Mall at 12th Street and Independence Ave. S.W. and will be open on Fridays through October 30, 2015. For the first time, the USDA will also host a night market from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the third Friday of the month beginning Friday, May 15, 2015, featuring prepared food and entertainment.
"The USDA farmers' market fits perfectly with our mission of facilitating marketing, and it's wonderful to see how the growth of the USDA Farmers' Market is creating so many local economic opportunities and jobs," said AMS Administrator Alonzo.
AMS also supports farmers' markets around the country through grants, technical assistance and applied research. This year, AMS is making available more than $90 million in grant funding to support local food efforts through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Farmers' Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) initiative coordinates USDA's local food efforts. In the past two years alone, USDA has made over 500 investments in food hubs, local processing facilities, and distribution networks.