WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama, who keynoted the launch of a new farmers' market a block from the White House on Thursday, said at the ceremony the success of her White House garden has "been one of the greatest things that I've done in my life so far.''
Mrs. Obama said, "And it's important to know that when I travel around the world, no matter where I've gone so far, the first thing world leaders, prime ministers, kings, queens ask me about is the White House garden. And then they ask about Bo."
Mrs. Obama has made healthy eating, supporting locally grown produce and cultivating her garden on the South Lawn among her small number of signature issues. The opening of an open-air market in front of the Veterans Affairs Department headquarters -- featuring goods from regional providers -- seemed to combine all of her themes.
"In this society today, sometimes it's hard to make regular meals, healthy meals, a part of everyone's existence," Mrs. Obama said.
"And this is one of the reasons why I'm so supportive of farmers' markets. For those of us who are battling the time crunch and those of us [to] whom access to fresh food is an issue in our neighborhoods, farmers' markets are a really important, valuable resource that we have to support."
The market Mrs. Obama presided over is run by a nonprofit, Freshfarm Markets, and will be selling fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese and baked goods for at least the next seven weeks.
The idea the White House was advocating was to locate a farmers' market downtown so federal workers would have an easier time buying healthy foods. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, older brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel -- and a White House health adviser -- was one of the people behind the plan.
The White House garden -- planted in March, with its yield used for meals at the White House and surplus donated to food banks -- has inspired folks across the nation to plant their own, said a Freshfarm co-director, Ann Harvey Yonkers.
"It's been huge, a symbolic and practical impact," Yonkers said.
"What's happened is people are very, very interested. There has been a huge increase in home gardening, a huge increase in seed sales, Yonkers said.
Mrs. Obama visited two stalls after her remarks. She gathered in a straw basket at one stand run by Farm at Sunnyside, a certified organic farm in Rappahannock County, Va., a dozen eggs, two bunches of Tuscan kale, two pints of cherry tomatoes, four Asian pears, one pint of small potatoes and one-half pint of hot peppers. The tab was $18.
From the Clear Spring Creamery, an organic creamery in Clear Spring, Md., Mrs. Obama bought a wheel of Claire's organic camembert cheese and a half-quart of chocolate milk, with the bill coming to $10.