FRESHFARM Markets


ON RETIRING – ANN HARVEY YONKERS & BERNIE PRINCE IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Yonkers_Prince_Retirement

Today, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors Ann Harvey Yonkers and Bernadine Prince announced they would be retiring later this year. Here are their thoughts on what the past 18 years have meant to them, the evolution of the delicious local food revolution and more.

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Endings and Beginnings

As the time has been approaching for the announcement about stepping down from FRESHFARM Markets, I have kept coming back to four major themes:

  • The founding of FRESHFARM Markets
  • Farmers markets create place and community
  • Why I am grateful
  • Leaving FRESHFARM Markets

The Founding of FRESHFARM Markets
It has been such a privilege to found and lead FRESHFARM Markets for the past 18 years. I am very lucky to have found work that united both my passion and vocation, work that called deeply upon my skills and knowledge as well provided me with a sustaining sense of mission.

I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to create something new, to start fresh, to get it right.  From the beginning, I felt a kind of destiny in this work and a sense of confidence that I had a unique role to play. Following the advice of master local farmers Susan and Chip Planck as well as Moie and Jim Crawford, and by utilizing best practices from markets around the county, we created an organization that was farmer focused, that could measure our progress and was committed to education of all stakeholders including farmers, customers and local officials.  By adopting percentage fees, counting customers, choosing market gleaning partners, creating a chef-at-market program and going on farm visits we forged a unique path. One that has served us well as we have grown beyond our original vision.

We always thought big including a preference for closing streets to hold markets.  This proved to be one of our greatest challenges and nearly our undoing early on, but insisting on converting streets to farmers markets eventually proved to be one of our strongest suits.  It said, “Take notice. Farmers markets matter. We are here to stay.”

Farmers Markets Create Place and a Community
Farmers markets have a unique ability to create a place and forge community. Maybe it has to do with their temporary nature, the original pop-ups if you will. The food is beyond beautiful and invites touching, smelling, sampling and conversations.  The farmers and producers are there, so customers can simply ask how and where it was grown, and by whom.

I have loved being part of this magic quality of markets and witnessing it happen in so many settings. The Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Market from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. draws office workers out of their cubicles, chefs from their nearby kitchens, commuters on their way home and residents as they return home. Suddenly it is a community. And there are so many conversations happening.

On Sunday morning’s, the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market is a destination in and of itself, and a regional pilgrimage.  It is our market with a national profile and it is a beloved Sunday morning ritual for many Washingtonians.  In the little town of St Michaels, MD, our market is the gathering place for the town residents. A place for conversation and catching up on local gossip while waiting in line to buy croissants or sunflowers or the first peaches.

Why I am Grateful
Most Americans have never met a farmer. They are essential to our everyday survival but are completely under appreciated.  I am lucky enough to have worked with more than a hundred of them these past 18 years. My hat’s off to them and how they grow delicious food under all conditions. I am in awe of what they know about soil and seeds, pruning and cultivars, engines and greenhouses, heating systems and caring for animals, to say nothing of harvesting, storage, transportation and presentation of product at market. We buyers love to see their gorgeous food, but what really is most impressive is behind the scenes. I have loved going to their farms, learning from them, talking with them about their ups and downs and watching their progressive successes.  I am deeply grateful to have earned their trust.

I have looked at our producers, an emerging class of food entrepreneurs, with pleasure and anticipation as they are bringing new excitement to our markets by way of their pickles, tacos, soup, charcuterie, wood fired pizza and more. They are building businesses because of the new abundance of local food.

I cherish our customers – the original loyalists from 1997 and all of the newer ones. They are giving their support to local agriculture by showing up at markets, and voting with their forks and their wallets.

I am so grateful to our market partners in Washington, DC and Virginia – the Downtown BID, Mount Vernon Triangle CID, CityCenterDC, Edens at Union Market, Crystal City BID and Ballston BID. Without them we would not be able to build our markets and constituencies, broaden our influence and reach new heights.

We have been so fortunate to attract quality people as FRESHFARM Markets staff and volunteers. I see such creative work, commitment to creating community, hardiness, growth, service and loyalty to our mission. What a pleasure to go to work every day.

Our Board is the absolute best. We’ve relied on Board members to guide us in our market policies, organize our financials and raise much needed funds. Now as we transition, they are also transitioning to a governing board. It’s been a thrill to see them step up.

I am grateful to Bernie Prince, my co-conspirator and partner of 18 years, for her absolute enthusiasm for the markets, her high standards and for all her hard work to create the FRESHFARM Markets we see today. I know of no one who works harder and cares more. Bravo, Bernie! We did something great!

Leaving FRESHFARM Markets
Leaving FRESHFARM Markets feels very different than starting it. Instead of leaning in, it means stepping back and taking stock. I can clearly see we’ve come such a long way. We created a successful organization beyond our dreams. FRESHFARM Markets is like a beloved child, one I have cherished, worried over and championed for 18 years and is now ready to fly away and discover new ways to excel. It’s time, and that’s fine with me. I am a proud Mama.

~ Ann Harvey Yonkers, FRESHFARM Markets co-founder and co-executive director

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Reflections on FRESHFARM Markets

I never thought creating a farmers market would be so challenging (i.e., difficult!) and yet rewarding in so many wonderful ways. When I see the farmer tents at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market, my spirits soar, just knowing that we did it—we transformed a dusty parking lot and a city street into a bustling producer-only farmers market or as some customers say “the church of the market” every Sunday in the heart of Washington, DC, our nation’s capital.  Over the past 18 years, I have had the privilege to work with the most talented farmers and producers and smart, young staff to create the best and largest farmers market network in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

FRESHFARM Markets has been a huge part of my life and I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished. I look forward to every market day! I love talking to the farmers, hearing that Eli Cook’s crew at Spring Valley Farm & Orchard crossed two icy mountain ranges to get to market, Heinz Thomet of Next Step Produce has sticky rice and rolled oats, Zach Lester of Tree & Leaf Farm has a new batch of spicy kimchi, Eric Rice of Country Pleasures Farm has my favorite fruits–organic Montmorency cherries and blueberries, Emily Zaas from Black Rock Orchard has pawpaws. I love taking the pulse of the market, seeing so many regular market shoppers, and knowing that nearly every farmer or producer I see is staying in business and looking forward to the next season or the next market s/he can be part of with FRESHFARM Markets.

I will miss taking on the next FRESHFARM Market adventure with co-founder Ann Yonkers, who as been the best, most passionate, local foods partner to work with for more then 18 years. I will miss ringing the market bell, going on farm visits and seeing the bounty of food, flowers and more every FRESHFARM Market day. But I know it is time to go—to have another passionate and far-sighted leader take FRESHFARM Markets to the next level.

Most dear to me are two programs I created. First is SNAP/Food Stamp redemption at markets and our Matching Dollars program that started in 2009 to help low income shoppers afford fresh market food. FRESHFARM Markets was the first DC farmers market to accept SNAP and the second to do so in Maryland, plus we give Matching Dollars tokens to shoppers using their USDA Supplemental Nutrition benefits at our farmers markets. This program makes fresh, healthy food accessible and affordable to people in need and thanks to hundreds of individual donors FRESHFARM  Markets has given out more than $200,000 in Matching Dollars since 2009.

Second is the FoodPrints’ gardening and nutrition education program now in five DC schools and a model for teaching life skills so young people know how to grow, care for, harvest and prepare fresh healthy food. I have been so lucky to have Jennifer Mampara (FoodPrints Director) to create the curriculum; Barbara Percival (Master Gardener) to build the organic, edible school garden at Watkins and a talented team of FoodPrints’ teachers to teach young people about healthy eating. I estimate that about 10,000 students are eating raw kale salad as their favorite FoodPrints dish since the program started at Watkins elementary school in 2009. It makes me happy to see families shopping at market with their FoodPrints recipes in hand because the children want to eat more fresh vegetables!  Educating our next generation of eaters is so important to me, and I’m glad to have inspired this food revolution for young students in the District. I’m hoping that FoodPrints will not only be a model for nutrition education but actually BE in every elementary school in DC, and maybe next year in Delaware!

I’ve shared FRESHFARM Markets’ successes with other market managers and farmers by speaking at conferences and workshops throughout the USA. Because of FRESHFARM Markets, I have traveled to Australia and New Zealand where farmers market managers in those countries are using our producer-only model for their farmers markets. I have served two terms as president of the national Farmers Market Coalition and I’ve been asked to continue serving as president in 2015.

When I retire later this year, I’ll join my husband on our 10-acre “Blue Skies Farm” in Georgetown, Delaware where I have started to grow lots of flowers, garlic and strawberries—all organic. Come spring, I will be planting fig trees, paw paws and organic vegetables in my new raised garden beds. My husband Ray has bigger plans. So if you hear about the guy who believes he can grow trees inoculated with the truffle spore in Delaware—that’s Ray with a dream that keeps us both reaching for the stars!

Will I miss FRESHFARM Markets? I will miss every market day, talking to the farmers and their staff, the incredible foods and farm products that are brought to market, and yes, I’ll miss ringing the market bell. But I know that it is only a two-hour drive from our Delaware farm to DC. I know I can visit FoodPrints schools and see new school gardens growing. I know I am on Cedarbrook Farm’s ham list forever. I know where to find the best food at FRESHFARM Markets farmers markets every week in DC.

FRESHFARM Markets has been a wonderful experience for me and I trust the next leader of FRESHFARM Markets will be just as successful in growing the organization—perhaps finding a permanent market site or a second Dupont Circle market site on weekdays in the new park planned for Connecticut Avenue.

I’ll be cheering from Delaware and always ready to return to ring the opening bell.

~~ Bernadine Prince, FRESHFARM Markets co-founder and co-executive director

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WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IN 2015?
Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Markets

As we kick-off the new year, we want to hear from you. We want to know what you want to hear about in 2015.  Everyone who shares with us will be entered to win $25 in market dollars to spend at market. Go here to tell us what you want to read about. We look forward to hearing from you!

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FROM THE DESK OF AMANDA PHILLIPS MANHEIM

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver”- Maya Angelou

The late, great Maya Angelou makes the case for those of us in the fundraising community who are charged with raising money for our non-profits. You see, we actually like asking our supporters to give. We believe, knowing this full well ourselves, that those of you who give to us just once a year or all year long (whether through a monetary donation or through volunteering for us in some way) have found happiness in each gift. You know that in helping our farmers and producers, or those in our community who have less access to delicious, healthy fresh food, you are providing the gift of health. A healthier livelihood for our farmers, a healthier future for local families, and a healthier neighborhood which also honors and cares about healthy economic growth.  We know that there are many reasons to give and many organizations who deserve your gift so we appreciate every donation, no matter how small.

There are many ways you can help us broaden our reach, expand our market scope and extend our programs to those who may need us most of all:

  • Make a monetary donation on our website: you can designate which program you would like to support or let us choose to use your gift where the need is greatest.
  • Donate to us via your personal Donor Advised Fund. Many financial institutions offer these vehicles, especially Fidelity Charitable and Schwab,  which allow a donor to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax benefit and then recommend grants from that fund over time.
  • Make shopping that much more fulfilling! Various businesses will designate a percentage of their sales to FRESHFARM Markets when you shop.  For Amazon.com, please use the Amazon Smile program.  Also GoodSearch will donate a percentage of each sale to FRESHFARM Markets when you search the web or shop at over 5,000+ online stores through their GoodShop platform. Each sale helps us!
  • If you already use one of our nonprofit affiliates such as Catalogue for Philanthropy (CFP) or Network For Good (LINK), please consider us in your giving plans.  In 2014, we were recognized by CFP as “one of the best small charities in the Washington DC region”.
  • We offer market tabling sponsorships to local and national businesses at almost all of our farmers markets and can offer substantial visibility to your company. Be a part of our diverse and active market communities, showcase your love of healthy food and consider sponsoring us! For more information, please contact  me at amandamanheim@freshfarmmarkets.org. Our markets are the perfect way to reach more like- minded customers and we customize tabling opportunities to meet your needs.
  • When you attend one of our events, you are helping us spread the word about how local food is healthy for everyone, as well as being healthy for our agricultural community. Our varied event programming offers another fun way in which we can get to know you, where you can meet others (chefs, policy makers, nutritionists, winemakers and many others) involved in the fight for farm fresh food. Check our event calendar often to see what delicious and innovative networking opportunities we are creating!
  • Finally, we love our FRESHFARM Markets volunteers! Sign up to volunteer at one of our farmers markets, at our Penn Quarter offices or at one of our events.

We know that healthy food is good for our soul, great for our communities and all of us here at FRESHFARM Markets know the power of both giving and receiving a gift.  Using the words of Maya Angelou, we ask you to think about “liberating your soul” and giving to FRESHFARM Markets this season!  In return, we offer you the power of making the difference, a year-long season of healthy, farm-fresh food and the opportunity to have an impact in your immediate neighborhood and across the nation.  Together, we can keep our markets running and expand our educational reach.  We are so grateful for your support.

Written by Amanda Phillips Manheim, Director of Fundraising and Advancement for FRESHFARM Markets.

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2014 – A YEAR END REVIEW
Year in Review Blog 2

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.

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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!

FoodPrints Expands
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

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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.

The lows
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.

The highs
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

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THANKSGIVING FRESH FOOD DRIVES
Turkey Drive Blog

Last year during our Thanksgiving FRESH Food Drives we raised over $10,000 total at seven markets and we bought food from FRESHFARM Markets’ farmers (including turkeys!) that we donated to our gleaning partners. Not only will this donated food go to feed those in need, but each dollar we raise will be spent with our farmers which will help them sustain their business as we prepare to close up markets for the season. This year we’d like to raise even more to help our gleaning partners and farmers alike. Here are some of the ways you can help:

Get a cup of coffee at our Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market. We have vetted local coffee businesses to participate in a coffee fundraiser at market, based on their sourcing, environmental management and waste management practices. They will be donating 25% of their proceeds to our Food Drive – all of which will be spent with FRESHFARM Markets farmers. We see this as a dual fundraising and awareness raising venture, not a change in our producer-only rule.  The coffee will be served at the North end of the market, on 20th Street between Q St. NW and Connecticut Ave. NW leading up to and during the Sunday of our Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market FRESH Food Drive which is on November 23rd.

Give the market turkey roosting at each of our orange Market Information tents a feather! All donations are tax-deductible and will be spent with FRESHFARM Market farmers on local, humanely raised turkeys for our gleaning partners.

Buy food at market and drop it off at the orange market info tent the day of the FRESH Food Drives.

Make a tax-deductible monetary donation online or at the orange market information tent at any of our markets listed below. We will purchase food directly from our farmers and producers and donate it to our gleaning partners.

Our Food Drives take place at the following FRESHFARM Markets the week before Thanksgiving Day beginning with:

Wednesday, Nov. 19th at Foggy Bottom benefiting Miriam’s Kitchen

Thursday, Nov. 20th at Penn Quarter benefiting Thrive DC

Saturday, Nov. 22nd at H Street NE benefiting First Church of Christ Holiness

Saturday, Nov. 22nd at Downtown Silver Springs, benefiting Growing Soul

Sunday, Nov. 23rd at Annapolis, benefiting Annapolis Light House

Sunday, Nov. 23rd at Dupont Circle, benefiting DC Central Kitchen

Tuesday, Nov. 25th at Crystal City, benefiting Arlington Food Assistance Center.

Thank you for your support as we fight hunger and help farmers this Thanksgiving!

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BEN WENK, IN HIS OWN WORDS
Ben Wenk, Three Springs Fruit Farm

Three Springs Fruit Farm’s Ben Wenk, a seventh generation farmer from Pennsylvania, was our featured speaker at our 12th Farmland Feast on Monday, November 10. Here’s what he had to say:

There is a contradictory nature about agriculture that I have always found fascinating.  On one hand, the art of agriculture is ancient and has been practiced by human beings for over 12,000 years.  Yet, each spring brings renewal: new opportunities and new challenges – testing everyone in agriculture, regardless of his or her age.

As a young farmer representing his family’s seventh generation, I am the beneficiary of both the wisdom and sacrifice of my ancestors, but am also responsible for crafting my generation’s legacy on our land.

In 2006, I graduated from Penn State University’s College of Agriculture with a degree in Agroecology. There I learned the science behind making an agricultural environment and the natural environment work together harmoniously. After a brief period of soul searching and kicking the tires, I decided to return home and introduce our farm to selling at farmers markets.

This was a big change because Three Springs only sold our fruit wholesale to processors for applesauce, juice, and pie filling or to distributors for fresh sales in grocery stores.  My father David and Uncle John allowed me the opportunity to make this business decision, although I didn’t have a good sense of how many changes this would entail at the time.

For starters, in addition to growing tree fruit, I would have to start growing vegetables to make my farmstand more attractive and profitable.  Now you might think, what is so controversial about growing vegetables?   This doesn’t seem like such an odd thing.  But in Bigglerville, PA, the “Apple Capital USA” vegetables are grown in your backyard, not on “good orchard ground.” My little acre patch raised a lot of skeptical neighbors’ eyebrows.

What’s more, I started keeping odd hours.  Odd, like sorting tomatoes until 1 a.m. or odd like waking up at 4:30 a.m. to drive to market.  Two farmers markets per week that first year seemed like a lot.   Now, seven years later with many crippling box truck disasters, collapsing market tents, bad weather, and crop struggles under my belt, Three Springs Fruit Farm attends seven Chesapeake Bay regional farmers markets weekly including the vibrant Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market.  Our veggie patch has grown from one acre to seven and our neighbors now come to me for advice about growing their own vegetables.

But really, this idea of diversifying our crops wasn’t a new one. It was standard practice in Adams County just two generations ago.  And while different crops made for more full tables at market, it also had other benefits.  This diversity made more work for our diligent crew, who now had full time jobs all year, planting annuals and harvesting spring veggies as well as taking care of our fruit tress.  Furthermore, the crop diversity breeds biodiversity.  These new crops helped raise populations of beneficial insects and limited susceptibility to all kinds of diseases.

In 2010, I was able to parlay our sustainable growing practices into certification by the Food Alliance.  This third party certification verifies that we are reducing our pesticide use, protecting  the Chesapeake Bay with nutrient and soil conservation tactics, enhancing the biodiversity around our farm, managing our farm labor in a fair and socially responsible way. Market customers liked this certification and our sales have increased by 16% since our first certified crop.

In 1993, my grandfather Donald Wenk passed away.  Though my memories of him are few and dear, he continues to inspire me today.  In spite of what we now know about the benefits of a diversified farm, post war farming wisdom told American farmers to “get big or get out.” Donnie chose to go big into apples and a fledgling Grower Cooperative over an allegiance to corporate poultry (thanks, Pap!).  But it wasn’t an easy road.  After taking out a large loan to buy apple trees, my grandfather farmed during the day and worked the night shift at the box factory in town until his trees came to bear.  In 1964, apple trees didn’t reach full maturity for fifteen years or more. For my grandfather, this meant working around the clock for over a decade.

My grandfathers’ sacrifice and my father and uncle’s perseverance are the foundation on which my new endeavors were built.  There are no words to express how fortunate I was to have a successful family farm to return to after my schooling.

Being a younger man on an older farm has allowed me to put my youthful energy into some new enterprises that haven’t been explored for generations.  If I can match the perseverance of my ancestors, these opportunities can make my farm better for my heirs, just as Pap’s farm was for Dad, and Dad’s farm was for me.   Three Springs Fruit Farm is now nearing completion of the legal requirements for our own commercial hard cider business, P&Q Cider Company.  The release of our first cider is scheduled for the spring of 2015 and I’m excited about our new venture into this historic American beverage.

And that’s what it’s all about for me. A new face practicing the ancient art of agriculture.  I am working the same soil as my ancestors, honoring their sacrifice and devoting a new energy into their same struggles.  I am striving to improve my family business and preserve my family’s land. Humbly appreciating the ways in which my work and my land improve me everyday.  I am feeding my local foodshed with clean, wholesome food and maintaining the vibrancy of the natural world through our farming practices and doing it with a smile.  And each spring, when the buds break and new life flows into the farmland of my ancestors, I am again inspired to pursue this ancient art for the generations yet to come.

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