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Washington, D.C., Sept, 2009
"We applaud the opening of the new White House farmers market and for the First Lady's support of increasing opportunities for local farmers and community access to fresh, healthy, local food," says Jon Scholl, President of American Farmland Trust. The White House Farmers Market will open today just outside the White House grounds on nearby Vermont Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C.
"Farmland is the base requirement for a local food system. So is supporting the farmers on that land who grow our food. Farmers markets are a great way to bring local farms and communities together, and to help consumers understand that there's no local food without local farmland," added Scholl. "Our mission is to save America's farm and ranch land, promote healthy farming practices, and supporting farms and farmers."
"After 30 years as the leader on farmland protection and conservation issues, we couldn't be happier to find support from the White House on an issue in greater need of national attention. By opening this market, the White House has set the table if you will, for an important discussion. Protecting farmland for future agricultural use is of the utmost importance to every citizen in this country. And it is vital to maintaining the future viability of our farmers and rural communities," added Scholl.
Julia Freedgood, managing director of AFT's Growing Local initiative to promote strong local and regional food systems agrees. "In 1989, there were 1,890 farmers markets across the country. Today there are about 4,900 markets, over a 250 percent increase in 20 years."
Freedgood attributes the amazing rise of farmers markets to a number of factors. "Among them the public's concern about how and where our food is raised. Today more than ever, consumers are demanding 'food with a face' that comes from a place - food choices that celebrate family farmers and special agricultural landscapes like the Chesapeake Bay watershed"
To encourage the support of farmers markets and the economic and social role they play in the community and draw attention to the fact that farmers markets and local food ingredients cannot exist without the requisite farmland, AFT just held its first national online contest for people to vote for America's Favorite Farmers Markets. Over 30,000 unique votes were cast with markets in Collingswood, NJ, Williamsburg, VA, and Davis, CA, earning the titles in their market size categories.
"Farmers markets provide public health benefits and economic development opportunities," Freedgood says. The most recent USDA Census of Agriculture reported that nearly $1.2 billion stayed in local communities from direct to consumer sales-up 49 percent since 2002. "There is no question that farmers markets and farmland are a positive part of communities."
"We're excited to see the White House draw attention to agriculture in this way," Scholl adds. "Whether providing healthy food, renewable energy or environmental services, agriculture is at the heart of solutions to our nation's most pressing issues."
American Farmland Trust is a national nonprofit organization working with communities and individuals to protect the land, plan for agriculture and keep the land healthy. As the nation's leading advocate for farm and ranch land conservation, AFT has ensured that more than a million acres stay bountiful and productive. AFT's national office is located in Washington, D.C.
The phone number is 202-331-7300, and the website, www.farmland.org .
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