The Coalition Converges in the Capitol
Posted On: November 3, 2009
by Sarah Johnson
Thirteen members of the Farmers Market Coalition’s Board of Directors hopped on flights across the country on Monday, October 26, joining Executive Director Stacy Miller in Washington, DC for a busy week spent reflecting upon the Coalition’s accomplishments, planning for the future, and meeting with local partners and friends.
The week got off to a tasty start with Monday’s board dinner at Teaism, hosted by DC’s FRESHFARM Markets and featuring local sweet potatoes from Mountain View Farm in Virginia and green beans from Greensboro, Maryland’s Sand Hill Farm.
After a productive day of strategic planning on Tuesday, the board caught up with allies in USDA along with Jane Kirchner from American Farmland Trust, Megan Elsener of the Community Food Security Coalition, Aimee Witteman and Kate Fitzgerald of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and other DC-area friends. at a reception hosted at the home of board member and FRESHFARM Markets co-director Bernie Prince. Everyone enjoyed the variety of regional food brought from farmers markets across the country—as Bernie remarked, “What a delicious way to engage potential partners in support of our farmers and producers who are providing the healthy food we love to eat every day!”
On Wednesday, the board members set out on foot to meet with USDA and congressional representatives, beginning with a meeting with Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture about the new USDA ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative and how to build the capacity of farmers markets.
The group then fanned out across the USDA to sit down with agencies such as Risk Management, National Institute of Food & Agriculture (formerly CSREES), Rural Development, Food & Nutrition Service (FNS), and the Agricultural Market Service (AMS) about the work needed to strengthen farmers markets and opportunities to cooperate with the USDA to achieve this goal. In the afternoon, the board headed to the House and Senate Office Buildings to discuss current food safety and child nutrition legislation with staffers from House and Senate Agriculture Committees as well as the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
After talking about farmers markets all day, the group was itching to visit one. As soon as the congressional meetings were concluded, everyone trekked from the Capitol building to the Foggy Bottom FRESHFARM market, sampling a wide variety of Mid-Atlantic apple varieties. The day was then capped off with a celebratory dinner generously donated by Founding Farmers, a LEED certified restaurant that features produce from small farms across the country. The board was especially excited to sample the butternut squash ravioli, made from scratch with squash grown, harvested, and delivered by FMC’s Executive Director.
As they prepared to depart on Thursday afternoon, the board members reflected upon their week together, recalling the new relationships forged, plans made, and delicious local food enjoyed. Board member Janel Leatherman of the Dallas Farmers Market concluded, “It is rewarding to work with so many positive people and see the progress we are making and to have FMC recognized as The Source for information-sharing. We do have exciting times ahead of us as we fulfill our strategic plan.”