Posts Tagged ‘USDA’

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Outdoor Farmers Market at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

A farmers market is a physical retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers and others to consumers. Farmers’ markets are most frequently outdoors and typically consist of booths, tables or stands, where farmers sell fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and sometimes prepared foods and beverages.

For such a heavily urbanized area with no actual working farms within the city limits, D.C. boasts a large number of diverse farmers markets. Both large and small markets, they offer a selection of fresh produce and numerous other products. Most are outdoors and open seasonally, like one of my favorites, the Vermont Avenue Farmers Market.  Other larger ones, like Eastern Market, are indoors and open year round.  And some are less traditional and might not even be initially thought of by most as a farmers market, like The Maine Avenue Fish Market.  On this lunchtime bike ride to end the week, I went by the outdoor farmers market at the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is located in a parking lot outside the U.S.D.A. Headquarters on the corner of Independence Avenue and 12th Street (MAP), across the street from the Smithsonian Metro stop in southwest D.C.

Celebrating its 20th summer, the U.S.D.A. Farmers Market opened for the 2015 season on May 1st, and will operate from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Friday until the day before Halloween. Managed by the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the U.S.D.A.’s Farmers Market is considered by the Department as a “living laboratory” for farmers market operations across the country. As a model for others, the market supports the local economy, increases marketing opportunities for farmers and small businesses, provides access to an assortment of local and regionally sourced products, and increases access to healthy, affordable food in D.C.

So regardless of whether you get there by bike, or some other way, I recommend checking out either the U.S.D.A. Farmer’s Market, or any other farmer’s market near you.  If you try some of the many free samples while you’re there, you’ll most likely buy more to take home with you like I did.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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The United States National Arboretum

The United States National Arboretum

On this bike ride I rode to the United States National Arboretum, which is located just two miles from the U.S. Capitol Building in northeast D.C., with entrances at 3501 New York Avenue (MAP), and at the eastern end of R Street.  The arboretum was established in 1927 by an act of Congress after a campaign by the then chief botanist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Frederick Vernon Coville.  The Arboretum is a public garden, research facility, and urban “green space” operated by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service as a division of the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.  The Friends of the National Arboretum, an independent, non-profit organization, also works to enhance and support the National Arboretum.

As the only federally supported arboretum, and one of the largest arboretums in the country, the National Arboretum plays a unique role.  Functioning as a major center of botanical research and education, the arboretum conducts wide-ranging basic and developmental research on trees, shrubs, turf, and floral plants.  It is also a source for independent researchers, with a library containing approximately 10,000 volumes and 90 publications concentrating in botanical literature.

Comprised of 446 acres, and bordered on the east by the banks of the Anacostia River, the arboretum breeds, grows and displays acres of trees, shrubs and plants.  One of the most popular exhibits is the azaleas, with approximately 10,000 specimens planted throughout its hillsides.  It was one of the first collections, and  is such a sight to behold in early spring when the plants are in bloom that it was the azalea bloom that first prompted the Arboretum to open its doors to the public in 1949.

Also during the early spring, the arboretum is an ideal spot to enjoy cherry trees.  Although the National Mall area may be more widely known for the spring cherry blossoms of its dozen species and cultivars of trees, the arboretum boasts the same 12 varieties as well as 64 more.

Visitors also enjoy a variety of other exhibits year round, from formal landscaped gardens to the Gotelli Dwarf, and the slow growing Conifer Collection.  The Arboretum is also well known for its bonsai collection at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum.  Other special displays include seasonal exhibits, aquatic plants, collections of herbaceous plants and a National Herb garden, the Asian Collections, native plant collections, and the National Grove of State Trees.  Single-genus groupings include apples, boxwoods, dogwoods, hollies, magnolias and maples.

Another of the arboretum’s recent features and one of its most unique is The National Capitol Columns, comprised of 23 Corinthian columns that were part of the U.S. Capitol Building from 1828 until 1958.  They are the remnants of the old east portico that were removed when the building was renovated and expanded.  Originally destined for a landfill, the columns were rescued and put on display on a knoll near the Arboretum’s main entrance.

The arboretum is not only a good destination for a ride, but also allows riders to tour the grounds on their bikes.  With a campus that includes nine miles of roads with little to no traffic, as well as multiple trails and paths, I’m going to have to go back many times to continue exploring all that it has to offer.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]