Red, white, and blue balloons soared high above the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and vendors at the opening of the 19th season of the USDA Farmers Market. With echoes of the Star Spangled Banner played by the “President’s Own” Marine Band, we celebrated the service of our men and women in uniform, reaffirming USDA’s commitment to supporting veterans and active-duty service members. We also celebrated several points of intersection between American agriculture and the military community.
From our partners and stakeholders who joined us for the event, we saw amazing generosity and dedication to improving the lives of military families. Burpee Seed Company handed out thousands of Welcome Home Garden Project seed packets, bringing the healing gift of gardening to thousands of heroes. With over 165,000 families participating and over 1.8 million seed packets distributed over the last two years, their efforts to provide healing, comfort and homegrown foods are truly inspiring.
Participants in the 4-H Military Partnerships, which have created programs and opportunities for military children for the last 18 years, helped market visitors create seed bombs for a variety of plants. Around forty percent of our military members are parents, meaning there are about 2 million military kids whose parents are serving their country. The 4-H partnerships provide opportunities in science, technology, and agriculture to military kids, giving them access to development programs, camps, and activities to help enrich their lives.
And from our guest chefs, we saw an amazing BBQ competition! Each chef – aprons on, – used fresh, local ingredients to wow the crowd. Our guest judges – Chef Eric Ziebold (executive chef of CityZen), USDA’s own Alexis Taylor (former Army cook and current Chief of Staff for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Mission Area) and AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal had a hard time choosing the winner. Competing chefs Monique, Joseph, Tasha and George grilled their best, but Chef Sergeant Monique Sorrell reigned supreme with her cocoa-rubbed flank steak, asparagus and mint couscous, taking the title home for the Army.
We are thankful for our service men and women—including the many USDA employees that served their country—and for the many partners and champions who came together today. I also want to thank the farmers and vendors who participate in farmers markets across the nation. They work hard to bring us fresh fruits, vegetables, and other products, and their work contributes to the health and economic success of their communities.
The USDA Farmers Market, managed by my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, is open every Friday from June to November. We hope to see you there – Fridays from 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. at 12th St, and Independence Ave., S.W.