WASHINGTON — Hundreds of hungry tourists and D.C. locals flocked to the opening of the 23rd annual Department of Agriculture Farmers Market Friday, featuring food grown or raised in the Maryland, Virginia and other nearby states.
Long lines formed around booths in the USDA parking lot adjacent to the National Mall. The market will open every Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., until October 26.
All 27 vendors either sell items they grow or raise or use ingredients from the Chesapeake Bay region, which includes Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. That is a USDA requirement to participate. Among the Maryland vendors are DMV Empanadas in Montgomery Village, in Capitol Kettle Corn and Popcorn in Fort Meade and Aquasco’s Villa de Alpacas Farm.
“This farmers market is unique in the different type of people that come through,” according to Patti Lou Riker, a 51-year-old farmer who runs Tall Cotton Farm with her husband Bill Schutte. “A number of times, farmers from other countries talk to us here.”
Riker jumped in and out of the bed of their pick-up truck to give grass-fed beef, turkey, chicken, pork and eggs to customers. The couple work full-time at their Urbanna, Va. farm and have sold their meat and eggs at the market for the last four years.
Across the parking lot, Andrew Dana spread pizza sauce and toppings over fresh mounds of dough. The 31-year old owns Timber Pizza Co. with his friend Chris Brady. The two left their tech jobs in 2014 to pursue their passion for pizza-making. The self-taught cooks now have a restaurant in Washington’s Petworth neighborhood. They’ve come to the market since they first started making pizza five years ago.
“Every year here we’ve sold more and more pizza,” said Dana. “This market helped us generate revenue to build a store.” He said he expected to sell 350 pizzas before the end of the day.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke briefly in between sets from local house band Granny and the Boys.
“We are honored to have these vendors here, providing fresh from the farm, quality products and healthy, wholesome, nutritious food,” Perdue said.