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Redskins’ Reed Doughty, Beekman Boys celebrate opening of USDA Farmers Market

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As the signs show, the USDA Farmers Market accepts SNAP benefits through the electronic benefit transfer system and also distributes double value coupons for the purchase of vegetables. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)


PHOTO BELOW: Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo addresses the group gathered for the opening of the USDA Summer Farmers Market. At right is as Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)

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Rain Friday forced the Agriculture Department to bring the opening of the USDA Summer Farmers Market into the patio of the Jamie Whitten headquarters building, but as Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo said, “A little rain does not dampen the enthusiasm of today’s celebration.”

Rain only proves, she added, that “vendors are vulnerable to and dependent on the weather.” She also noted that there are now 7,800 farmers markets nationwide and that AMS undertakes many activities to support them.

USDA was ostensibly celebrating its “community ties” with the farmers and merchants who sell every Friday in the USDA parking lot, but it broadened the experience to include Washington Redskins player Reed Doughty, who was promoting the National Football League’s “Fuel Up to Play 60” campaign founded with the National Dairy Council and USDA to encourage students to take command of their own health and eat better.

PHOTO BELOW: From left, Washington Redskins player Reed Doughty chats with Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, the farm couple known as the Beekman Boys, who traveled from Sharon Springs, N.Y., to sell their books and food products at the USDA Farmers Market. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)
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Doughty said he teaches his own children not to eat from vending machines and that healthy foods do not usually involve chips or soda pop. When his 2-year old son wakes up in the morning, he asks for “yo go,” meaning yogurt, he said.

Doughty noted that he grew up in a farming community and also said that in addition to playing football he hikes, fishes, rides and bikes with his sons.

After a workout, Doughty added, he drinks chocolate milk.

Alonzo also recognized Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, a New York City couple who moved upstate to operate a farm and have become known nationally as The Fabulous Beekman Boys on a reality television show now showing on the Cooking Channel.

Kilmer-Purcell, a writer, and Ridge, a physician, had traveled to Washington to speak at USDA-LGBT Pride Observance, sponsored by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s advisory group on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

That event was closed to the press, but they tweeted and noted on their Beekman Boys Facebook page that they had met Vilsack and talked about diversity and small farming. Their mission, according to their website, is “To prove that small farms can grow bigger than their fences.”

Like the rest of the farmers and merchants, the Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge later braved the rain to sell their line of food products in the parking lot. They also autographed copies of their books.

A wide range of products from plants to meats to baked goods were for sale. The USDA Summer Farmers Market is located next to the People’s Garden that Vilsack and former Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan initiated. AMS employees also gave away kale plants, which they said had been grown on the roof of the USDA South Building. Before the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center was constructed, the employee noted, the South Building included a greenhouse.

The USDA Summer Farmers Market is held every Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through November 22, at the USDA parking lot at 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW, Washington.

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The Dairy Cow, Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and the Fight Bac food safety character were on hand for the celebration to open the 2013 Farmers Market. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)