Toronto's St. Lawrence Market is proof that a year-round farmers market is viable in a colder climate. (photo by me).
Years from now, we may look back at Barack Obama's time in the White House, and not call it the Obama Administration, but the Organic Administration.
The references in speeches to eating better. The references from the First Lady about improving diets. The first modern-definition organic garden on the White House grounds. Now Barack Obama is talking about a White House farmers market.
One of the things that we’re trying to do now is to figure out, can we get a little farmers’ market — outside of the White House — I’m not going to have all of you all just tromping around inside — (laughter) — but right outside the White House — (laughter) — so that — so that we can and and and that is a win-win situation.
It gives suddenly D.C. more access to good, fresh food, but it also is this enormous potential revenue-maker for local farmers in the area. And and that — those kinds of connections can be made all throughout the country, and and has to be part of how we think about health.
Though this was an offhand suggestion, the logical assumption is that average Washingtonians (or tourists) could buy organic produce from the White House garden. As President Obama points out, the farmers market could be a boost for area farmers, not just in D.C. but in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.
Even without the help of the president, farmers markets are enjoying great popularity, especially at this time of year.
The other unspoken element is whether the market would be year-round. It's easy to be in love with farmers markets in August, but what about February? Except for warmer weather climates, year-round farmers markets aren't in vogue. Washington can get rather cold in the winter.
Having a year-round market, especially one endorsed by the White House, can go a long way to making year-round markets more of a reality, even in colder climates, of eating fresh all 12 months. Good habits are easier to keep without huge long breaks in between.
This is absolutely true in the northern climates. But it is possible to have year-round farmers markets in cold climates. Here are a few I have personally experienced.
Milwaukee has a year-round farmers market in its downtown area. It's even an easy walk from the train and bus station. True, you won't find much fresh fruit in February; however, there are plenty of locally produced food items.
Toronto's St. Lawrence Market would be the blueprint for how to do a year-round indoor market. Take a nice older building, preferably with two levels, and make it fun to explore all the hidden nooks full of food. The market is on the east side of downtown, and open Tuesdays-Saturdays.
On my most recent vacation, I discovered the Marche Jean-Talon in Montréal and the Marche de Vieux Port in Quebec City. The Montréal market has permanent structures on the outside parameter and a structure in the middle, some with year-round established businesses and some of the area for outdoor use by fruit and vegetable vendors. The Quebec City market is a permanent indoor year-round structure.
Having been to the Saturday market inside and outside the Ferry Building at Market Street in San Francisco last November and December 2007, there is a joy to fresh food in the middle of what would be cold back home that is very emotionally pleasing. While my only trip to Pike Place Market in Seattle was in summer, it's very easy to imagine getting lovely fresh food on the day before Christmas Eve.
Given Obama's desire for a White House farmers market, perhaps he can use some political muscle and get a year-round farmers market in an area he is very familiar with: his hometown of Chicago.
Chicago's history with food, its central location within the region, and its strong need for farmers' crops — all lend itself to having a year-round market. Yet the Windy City doesn't have one.
The highly popular Green City Market has tried to embody the spirit of a year-round market, experimenting with an indoor version, at first, during the fall, and then year-round this past winter — though the market ran 2-3 Saturdays a month in a nature museum. Despite the limited opportunity, people flocked to the site.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, known for decorating the city with beautiful growths in flowers, is much more ambivalent about beautiful growths in produce.
Getting a year-round farmers market near the White House would send a strong message of Obama's spirit toward eating better food. Getting a year-round farmers market in Chicago may be beyond the reach of the power of even President Barack Obama.