A farmers market just outside of the White House gates will welcome its first customers on Thursday and state-inspected meat processors this week can start shipping their meat across state lines.
Those two bits of welcome news are part of "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food," a federal intiative announced today in Chicago to promote local, sustainable agriculture.
Ann Wright, deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, detailed some of the programs kicking in this week or very soon -- all approved under the 2008 Farm Bill -- at a national summit of chefs, purveyors and other food industry types at Kendall College. Those programs include farmers market promotion grants and a farm -to-school program.
The USDA will launch a Web site Friday that will serve as a sort of "one-stop shopping site" detailing the various USDA programs and grant money available. "Those eligible to compete for these grants are those working for local and regional food systems," Wright said.
"It's a USDA-wide effort to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers and starting a national conversation about the importance of understanding where your food comes from and how it gets on your plate," Wright said.
Wright could not put a dollar amount on how much will go toward the "Know Your Farm" program but said there are $65 million in grants being announced this week alone.
The weekly White House farmers market will run "well into fall" and will feature produce from local farms, but Wright did not know just how many vendors will call the market home.