Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors Ann Harvey Yonkers and Bernadine Prince share their reflections of the year. What another amazing year it has been for FRESHFARM Markets, punctuated with some unpleasant reminders of the havoc Mother Nature and other forces can bring. Here are their reflections.
As our 2014 farmers market season comes to a close, FRESHFARM Markets has so much to be thankful for, and I attribute that to the partnerships we have nurtured over the past year that have resulted in very successful programs.
Here are my highlights for 2014:
A 10th Anniversary, Two New Markets & CSAs
In 2014, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the H Street NE FRESHFARM Market—known in the neighborhood as “the little market that could” and that now has The Washington Post Food Editor Joe Yonan as a regular shopper!
In June, two new FRESHFARM Markets opened—at City Center and Mount Vernon Triangle. Both new markets had the partnership support of the Downtown DC BID and the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District. We launched CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) at our Ballston, Foggy Bottom and Penn Quarter markets that provided over 100 customers with 24 weeks of conveniently packaged fresh market foods. Due to the program’s success we are now offering a Winter CSA at our Dupont Circle market for 12 weeks starting January 11!
More Healthy Food for Everyone
In 2014, we provided Matching Dollars and SNAP (Food Stamps) redemption at 10 of our FRESHFARM Markets, giving out more than $50,000 in Matching Dollars. In addition, our DC markets distributed Produce Plus checks to income-eligible residents so they could purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
Produce Plus was funded by the District of Columbia to increase DC residents’ ability to purchase healthy and nutritious foods at farmers markets with the ultimate goal of improving their health. Many other cities across our country are providing funding to meet similar goals but DC’s program is the only one that incentivized SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, TANF, and SSI recipients. DC residents responded by using their checks to purchase over $156,200 in fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers markets in every ward of the city! Our FRESHFARM Markets in Wards 2 and 6 attracted many new shoppers every week and gave out $36,370 in Produce Plus checks! We are pleased that the District of Columbia will continue Produce Plus in 2015 and FRESHFARM will once again participate.
Also, thanks to a grant from the Maryland Farmers Market Association, we increased our Matching Dollar tokens to $20 at our Downtown Silver Spring market and have enough funding to continue the match at $20 for the 2015 Winter Market!
Our FoodPrints program expanded to five schools including Peabody, School Within School, Ludlow-Taylor, Tyler and Watkins Elementary thanks to funding from the Office of the Superintendent of Schools and to donations from each of the schools funded by a portion of their “PWP Funds for Increasing Student Satisfaction.” FoodPrints reaches nearly 2,000 students with hands-on garden and cooking instruction along with a nutrition curriculum that meets DC and Common Core standards. School Within School won “Best School Garden” award, and a Food Corps service member is working with all of our schools, especially Ludlow-Taylor. Our FoodPrints program at Watkins was featured on NPR and if you, like me, missed hearing the radio broadcast, you can hear and read about it here.
Thanks to our farmers and producers, our market partners and program sponsors, the teamwork of our staff and board of directors and to all of you reading this today who shop at our farmers markets and volunteer for our programs, 2014 was a very good year! Thanks for your support and best wishes for the holidays!
~ Bernadine Prince, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director
One of the many pleasures of sharing a family meal with our daughter and son-in-law and our three grandsons, Ronan age 11, Darcy age 9 and Cyrus age 7, is participating in the ritual of reciting their highs and lows of the day. It’s amazing how this little exercise focuses the mind and sharpens the perceptions. So that’s why I chose to use this same format for my reflections on 2014.
A cold, wet winter and spring
Winter’s record freezing temperatures and the persistent cold and wet spring, while uncomfortable for us, was a disaster for farmers. Trying to grow in a hostile landscape of sodden soil and chilly temperatures delayed planting, and dramatically slowed down production. The temperatures also kept away market customers. It took until September for the markets, the farmers, plants and the crowds to start to grow again and fully recover. This is yet another and the most recent reminder of what the farmers face with Mother Nature as their partner.
Pot Pie Barn fire
This low trumps every other low, maybe every other low of a lifetime. We lost our beloved 100 year old gambrel roof barn and adjacent pole barn to a massive fire on a clear beautiful day in June. The cause of the fire was never discovered but with its total destruction went 23 years of careful reimagining of this massive timber frame post and beam barn as an tool shed and work space, production center and second story apartment. What we also lost was the heart of and the gathering place for the St Michaels market community, a site for FRESHFARM Markets’ annual fundraisers, dinners, tours, barn parties, and the iconic center of the food movement we have been building in St Michaels since 1998.
Not only was this a family and farm tragedy for me and my husband Charlie Yonkers, as well as farm and market manager Carol Bean, but also for the St Michaels market community. Their response spoke volumes as they flocked to the market with equipment, tools, help, hope and hugs. To top off this heartfelt response, the Wallace Genetic Foundation came forward with an extraordinary grant to fund a new Disaster Relief Fund for FRESHFARM Markets.
Compass Foundation Grant
Thanks to Amanda Phillips Manheim, our Director of Fundraising and Advancement, and her grant writing prowess, FRESHFARM Markets is now engaged in our second extensive pro bono grant. While the Taproot Foundation provided us with strategic planning expertise last year, this grant will provide us with expert advice and resources in marketing and pr. This grant from the Compass Foundation is valued at about $180,000 and will permit us to review, restructure and rebrand our communications and pr with advice from an expert team. Stay tuned for positive changes in how we communicate with all of you.
Introduction of FFM Feed Series
It has been my long-time dream for FRESHFARM Markets to hold lively and substantive discussions about the state of agriculture in the USA and the world featuring the farmers’ voice. Our first official foray into this came in the form of our panel: “The Chef, The Doctor and the Farmer” on September 9. Speaking to a full-house in the lovely sanctuary hall of the church where our office is housed, the panel featured FRESHFARM Markets board members Chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen, Zeke Emanuel, oncologist, university professor and Affordable Healthcare Act architect along with Tree and Leaf Farm’s Zack Lester, a talented and innovative farmer and who is fierce advocate of sustainable agriculture and talented grower. Moderator Corby Kummer of The Atlantic, one of the most widely read food writers in the United States, kept the pace lively. What a launch! What a success to build on.
Celebrating 12 Years of the Farmland Feast
2014 was another rollicking success. Our 12th year of the Farmland Feast. We had the largest number of guests, chefs, and sommeliers in the history of the event. Not to mention the most fun. Not only did we break our fundraising records bringing in almost $350,000 to support our market operations and programs, but this year felt like a tipping point. After all these years, our advocacy for local food and sustainable farming practices has finally achieved wider traction. Thanks to a generous grant from the Farvue Foundation, we were able to invite and lodge over 40 farmers and producers from our markets to attend and meet our supporters. The benefits were clear. Lots of amazing energy as our guests, farmers and producers all mixed and mingled and got more engaged in the struggle to change our broken food system. This is the power of the Delicious Revolution.
~ Ann Harvey Yonkers, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director