Kip Supply Side Blog

My father always kept a small garden in our suburban DC backyard. We regarded it as a rather messy place – a source of embarrassment and reason to avoid the backyard altogether. It was not the tidy kind of garden our imaginations conjured. It looked nothing like the landscaped places we found in the backyards of our friends and neighbors.

The garden was not square or rectangular or frankly any recognizable geometric shape. It grew over the years like the plants it was meant to contain: organic and misshapen. There were raspberries that shot up in thorny unkempt fashion, a radish patch, mounds of asparagus plants, cucumbers grown in hay bales that he would bring home one at a time in the backseat (infuriating my mother), and caged peppers and tomatoes. Rather oddly we thought, marigolds and mint formed a frothy border around the whole perimeter.

Behind the garden and next to the fence was “the rotting place,” what I would later learn to call the compost pile. Despite my mother’s protests, all manner of kitchen scraps, weeds, leaves, grass trimmings and garden detritus would be piled up there. It created a fecund and puzzling heat – often steaming up in wafts during cooler weather. In the summer, when the rotting pile was most unbearable, he would spend more time there, turning it over in shovels full, pausing to pick up and inspect the worms and insects that he found there.

Dad would spend most weekends endlessly puttering in his messy garden, too often by himself. On those occasions when I agreed to help, he would quietly work alongside me trying to teach me without scaring me away. He told stories about his Great Depression-era life on my grandparents’ farm. He told stories about rain – too much and too little. He told stories about the joy that he, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncle would get from their farm and garden in Iowa. How the soil sustained them. Most often then, his stories inspired a derisive laughter from me. There was a Safeway blocks from our home; we could walk there for goodness sake. Most often now, and most certainly in this act of writing, I struggle to remember his stories as he is no longer here to tell them. These memories invoke as much shame as they do fondness.

When we were too young to refuse, we would summer on that family farm in Iowa. My Swiss grandparents were well into their seventies then, but still worked harder than most urban adults I now know. Days started early and ended late. Sleep was profound and fresh-air filled. Their farm, that home, was what I now know to be a family farm, a subsistence farm. It was eighty-eight acres – “there’s eighty-eight keys on a piano,” Grandad would say. It was enough land to grow grain for the animals and vegetables for family. And in good years, there was enough surplus grain to sell for cash and the inevitable but carefully-managed purchase of “catalog goods.” There were cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, and all manner of field vermin.

After years without making a single visit, the last time I visited that farm in Iowa my grandfather was in his nineties and I was a recent college graduate. He had fallen from his tractor and broken his hip. It was time, everyone said, to sell the farm. None of us grandchildren wanted to farm; I think that broke his heart. He sold the farm to the neighboring mega-farm and took a week-long vacation to Hawaii. He died shortly after.

Decades later, my partner Pablo and I bought a forlorn and crumbling 133 acre family, subsistence farm in Garrett County, Maryland. It is a hilly, rocky place with about 25 acres of tillable soil. We bought it from the ninety-something-last-remaining-child of its owners who had died there in the farmhouse. Pablo and I sense their spirits in the house still. The nineteenth century farmhouse and barn had all the same smells and sounds that I had finally grown to miss. We started our business there, there in the rural mountains of western Maryland. We work with farmers there, and I no longer deride the feelings of joy that well up in front of a table laden with locally grown and locally produced food.

The data on local, sustainably scaled farming is dire. In Garrett County, Maryland alone, an average of close to 3 acres of farmland have been lost everyday since 1997. Nationally, According to the USDA, between 1945 and 1975 the total number of farms decreased from around 7 million to 2 million while the average farm size more than doubled from 200 acres to 500 acres. And from 1987 onward, the median farm acreage has grown consistently while the median cropland acreage has stayed constant, reflecting the dramatic shift of cropland from smaller farmer for larger ones.  In fact, the nation’s largest farms, containing 500 or more cropland acres, account for more than 70% of total cropland in the United States and the top 2.2% of farms constitute 34.3% of all national cropland. Despite the much written about food movement, between 2001 and 2011 growth in agriculture has come almost entirely from large industrial farms with minimal growth in smaller, environmentally sustainable farms.

Friend and FRESHFARM Markets’ board member and accomplished businessman, Herb Miller, has said repeatedly to me, “Stay on the supply side, Mike.” I confess: until recently I received this advice rather generally, in a macro-economic sort of fashion. Over the past few months as I have reflected on my new place in this life, the meaning of Herb’s advice has deepened.

With global population likely to reach 10 billion souls in the next generation, his advice is indeed quite specific: stay on the supply-side, stay on the side of the farmer and the food producer. By investing in their survival, we are investing in a future that offers the joy of knowing a vine-ripened hand-picked tomato, hand made cheese, tree-ripened fruit, and an abundance of grains, produce, fruits and foods that are delivered to us by the hands of a neighbor.

I’m long on the supply side, Herb.

Written by Mike Koch, Executive Director, FRESHFARM Markets

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FRESHFARM Markets new Executive Director Mike Koch

We are thrilled to introduce Mike Koch, a recognized change maker and local food innovator, as our new Executive Director. We asked Mike to share his vision for FRESHFARM Markets that takes on the economics of our food system and puts the farmer at the core of its mission. Here’s Mike in his own words.


I am thrilled by the opportunity to continue to serve FRESHFARM Markets mission as Executive Director, and humbled to follow in the footsteps of Co-Founders Ann Harvey Yonkers and Bernadine Prince. Their vision and leadership over the past 19 years has altered the landscape of agribusiness and local food in our region, creating the environment necessary for a thriving group of viable food businesses and brands, including my very own FireFly Farms. I am committed to continuing their work, committed to ensuring that our regional and national food systems are diverse and sustainable.

And, I am invigorated by what lies ahead:  a future dedicated to realizing the mission of FRESHFARM Markets.  In my view, ours is a singular mission thanks to the vision of Ann and Bernie.  It is a mission that dares to take on the underlying economics of our food system, and to support and give voice to those who raise, make, or otherwise produce the food we eat.

It is an important mission, one that has as much meaning in Washington, DC as in Atlanta; as much relevance in London or Madrid or Bangladesh.  It is a mission in three acts:

Act One: Supply-side
Global population is rapidly increasing and is likely to reach between 7.5 and 10.5 billion by 2050. Feeding that growing population is – and will continue to be – challenging under the best of circumstances; already today in many places around the planet, strained food systems have lead to food shortages and food unrest.

Macroeconomics suggest that when large increases in food demand occur, there will be commensurate – if lagging – increases in food prices, unless and until the supply of food increases.

A broad and diverse set of food producers is needed, globally.

Act Two: Food (Security)
Whatever your convictions, investing in a community’s ability to feed itself from its own regional “foodshed” is becoming a point of galvanizing consensus. A rather primitive consensus like that only developed through generations of inherited experience. The alternative might lead to some Soylent Green reality of mass-produced, synthetically manufactured food, goodness forbid.

Draw the radius as far as you like, feeding the estimated 40 million people who call the region home requires an active and vibrant community of farmers, food producers, and food entrepreneurs.  To survive, these local businesses must be profitable, well-managed, and have access to the resources and services they need.  It is also in our interest that these local food-producing businesses not just survive but thrive, and that they produce a diverse and locally indigenous group of foods and food products.

Act Three: Investing in your Garden
It has been reported widely that the overwhelming majority of American farmers are operating at a loss — the median farm income was negative $1,453 in 2012. Many of these farm families require additional non-farm related income to make ends meet.

Global food production and distribution has become a business that advantages scale, and food systems in the US economy have accommodated that advantage well over the past decades.  Some innovative food businesses and entrepreneurs have invested in changing their sourcing models to ensure the viability of smaller, sustainably scaled local farming, some have not.

Our regional food distribution system needs to accommodate such smaller scale partners – and the very different economics that govern their success.


Over the past two decades, FRESHFARM Markets has served as a catalyst, spark, and incubator fueling change in our regional agricultural landscape.  I am committed to continuing this work, and honored to steward this ground-breaking, innovative organization that has the farmer at the heart of its mission.

~~ Mike Koch, FRESHFARM Markets Executive Director

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Meet Your Meat

With the unofficial start of summer kicking off this Memorial Day weekend, I thought it would be a great time to take a deeper look into meat at market. I’ve heard a lot of questions lately about the seasonality of meat, especially pasture raised and grass fed animals so I took a trip to Cibola Farms in Culpepper, VA to get some answers.

When I pulled up to the farm I met Rex, the Farm Operation Foreman at Cibola Farms who is usually working the buffalo stand at our Dupont Circle farmers market on Sundays. When I arrived we hopped into the Kobota RTV (think a golf cart for a farm!) and started our tour with a visit to Cibola’s advanced herd. Commonly referred to as buffalo, Cibola’s herds consist of American Bison, the same animals that used to roam huge swaths of North America in numbers upward of 25 million. The buffalo population was decimated to under 1000 in the 1800’s, but recently with the increase in demand for meat and the rise of sustainable buffalo farms, like Cibola, the number of buffalo in the United States today is about 500,000. The advanced herd of buffalo at Cibola Farms is home to some of their older animals, a mix of both bulls (boys) and cows (females who have calved before). They were happily munching on grass and were scratching off their woolly winter coats with their horns and the help of trees and fence posts when we saw them.

When I asked about what the buffalo ate during winter, Rex explained how he rolls out huge bundles of hay for the heard to feast on every couple of days in winter. They get their hay from a neighboring farm and when the bales are rolled out, it’s a literal hay buffet and the whole heard will graze together until it’s all gone. Cibola also supplements the hay with some free choice snacks, like pine needles and garlic which are available to the buffalo all year round at their leisure. The pine needles are a natural dewormer and the garlic helps keep parasites at bay. During the grass grazing season, pressed blocks of grain are used as treats to lure the buffalo into new paddocks, which they are moved to every few days. Cibola has a total of 35 paddocks which means that it takes a least 30 days for a heard to make the rounds back to the same spot. This ensures that the land has time to rest and rejuvenate before the next grazing.

When grass starts growing on Cibola Farm, usually between March and April, the buffalo transition from eating hay back to eating grass. As you would with changing the diet of any animal, Rex and the other farm workers at Cibola are sure to keep an extra close watch on the herd animals to make sure that each one stays healthy through the transition from dry hay to moist grasses and weeds. Once the buffalo are on a full grass diet again, they will continue to get their fill, moving from paddock to paddock until the a select few are led into transport trailers using a Temple Grandin designed corral system. Between June and November is when buffalo, no more than a dozen at a time, are taken to a USDA approved buffalo processing facility. By August some of the buffalo have had enough grazing time to ensure the tender, nutrient rich and flavorful meat that Cibola Farm’s grass-range buffalo is known for. Once the days start to get shorter and the grass grows back with less vigor the whole process starts over with hay roll buffets until spring when the buffalo can chow down on all 500 acres of fine green Cibola Farm grass once more.

Driving through the paddocks and getting to see the young herd, the advanced herd and some of the special needs animals, including an 8 week old baby buffalo that Rex bottle feeds daily, was an incredible experience. The buffalo at Cibola Farm are treated with respect and can go their whole lives on the farm with minimal human interaction. With the exception of annual check ups for all and occasional pregnancy tests for the females the folks at Cibola let their animals graze, mate, raise and wean their young all on their own. It’s no wonder that Cibola Farms prides itself on their principles of sustainable, humane and ecologically friendly treatment. In addition to their buffalo herd, Cibola also raises Tamworth heritage breed hogs using the same sustainable management practices as they do with their buffalo. They just took their hogs to slaughter a few days ago and are expecting more pigs to arrive any day now.

Cibola is unique in that they sell their products directly to their customers at our farmers markets and at their on farm shop. Each purchase you make from Cibola helps support their principles, their staff and their animals. If you eat meat, choose to support local farmers! Creating healthy, wholesome and natural food is only half of the sustainability equation, the other half is you, the customer who supports this work with your hard earned dollars. Yes, locally and humanely raised meat is more expensive but it’s up to us to create the change we want to see in the world so start small and when it comes to grilling out this summer, be sure to pick up a pack of bacon with your buffalo burgers from Cibola Farms at our Dupont Circle or Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Markets!

Written by Nikki Warner, Markets & Communication Manager at FRESHFARM Markets

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Simple Spring Photo

Spring greetings from Casey Seidenberg & Katherine Sumner of Nourish Schools. We believe cooking should be a happy, stress-free experience. Don’t you agree?  So we recently launched a new product to simplify healthy eating: The Super Food Cards.

The Super Food Card packet contains 8 user-friendly cards each containing all of the information you need to cook a category of food: greens, vegetables, grains, beans, proteins, nuts & seeds, fruits and stocks.

No thick cookbooks, no online searches. Everything is accessible the moment you choose to cook. The set also provides prep how-to’s, secret tips, easy to read charts, and over 75 recipes all on waterproof card stock (so don’t sweat the spills!)

The Super Food Cards make a great gift for the beginner or expert cook. Come check them out at the Silver Spring market on Saturday and Dupont market on Sunday – we will be serving up the lemon-mint white beans below.

In the meantime, here are simple recipes from our Super Food Cards incorporating delicious ingredients currently in season at the markets. As we like to say… “Nutrition is Confusing. Not anymore!”


Mint does more than freshen breath! It is full of antioxidants that help us fight disease, tissue damage and aging.  Enhance the flavor of white or lima beans with this simple dressing, and we promise you will be addicted!

Lemon-Mint Limas

Whisk together 1 minced shallot, 2 T olive oil, 2 T lemon juice, 2 T chopped fresh mint, 1 T Dijon mustard, 1 t maple syrup, ¼ t sea salt and ¼ t pepper in a large bowl. Combine 4 cups of cooked lima or white beans with the vinaigrette. Serves 4 to 6.

Shitake Mushrooms

Mushrooms, especially shitake and maitake, are known to boost the immune system. These crisps make a tasty snack and are a breeze to create.

Shitake Crisps

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper. Remove stems from 12 mushrooms and lay, top side down, on baking pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes, until crisp. Serves 4.


Dark leafy greens give us energy!  After such a long winter, whip up this simple chard for some springtime oomph, and also a boost of calcium, fiber and Vitamin K.

Simple Swiss Chard

In a large skillet, sauté 2 minced garlic cloves in 1 T olive oil until golden brown. Add 8 cups of chopped chard leaves, stir to coat, and add 2 T water. Cover and cook until greens are soft, about 5 minutes, Season with sea salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Serves 4 to 6.


Fight spring allergies with the extra kick of Vitamin C found in our spinach and pineapple smoothie.

Green Smoothie

Blend 2 cups frozen berries, 1 banana, 1 cup pineapple, handful of spinach and 1 ½ cups filtered water. Serves 2.


Spring can be a busy time of year, so grab a fresh carrot juice to keep your heart healthy and your skin glowing!

Carrot Beet Juice

Slice a small beet with tops removed, 2 large carrots and ½ cored apple to fit your juicer.  Juice and serve.  Serves 1.

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Whats in for 2015_blog

For our second annual list of “What’s In,” we’ve compiled a snapshot of what is happening at our markets as well as on farms and in kitchens throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We are literally witnessing a transformation of food and farming in the region and at our markets that is driving a  delicious food revolution. The unique grass roots character of farmers markets make them great places for moving  small farmers and food entrepreneurs to more solid economic footing.  The result?  Better local food for everyone and more of it.  The bottom line remains the same.  Put your food dollars in farmers pockets and we not only eat better and are more healthy but the whole region benefits from home grown economic activity.

Whether it be our farmers, local food entrepreneurs or chefs, there is tremendous energy and innovation in the local food scene.  Our “What’s In´ summarizes the broad swath of new ways this is happening right now:  bounty,  creative  ways of financing farm and food businesses; looking at soil, harvesting weeds and  native crops, featuring ugly fruit and vegetables or farmers and producers becoming more  social media savvy just to name a few.  There are so many exciting and innovative things happening that are sure to delight and surprise.

Here’s to hoping the markets keep growing and thriving as they have during our 18 years at the helm of FRESHFARM  Markets.  Thanks to our farmers and producers, as well as our many loyal and enthusiastic customers, the future looks bright. Hope to meet you at market soon.


~~ Ann Harvey Yonkers, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of FRESHFARM Markets


1. CSA’s = Shopping Done. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) at four of FRESHFARM Markets farmers markets – CityCenterDC, Foggy Bottom, Penn Quarter, and Ballston – deliver convenience and a weekly selection of the best of each market.  Many market farmers are also offering their own CSA’s.

2. Not just a pretty face.  Farmers and consumers are celebrating the uniqueness of misfit, imperfect fruits and vegetables that deliver as much flavor and freshness as their prettier counterparts.

3. Capital for crops. Micro-lending and grants are new financing tactics that provide farmers and producers an alternative to tough-to-get capital loans from conventional lenders. Kiva Zip and the Jean Wallace Douglas Farmer Fund are two ways FRESHFARM Markets is opening up access to funding so producers and growers can invest, expand and diversify their businesses.

4. Incubating success. With access to the freshest ingredients and an audience hungry for locally sourced and ready to eat foods, a new wave of up and coming local food entrepreneurs are joining the markets and feeding the appetites of market goers.

5. Food entrepreneurs adding to the fermentation fervor. Kombucha starters (also known as S.C.O.B.Y’s), all kinds of kimchi, sauerkraut and even fermented drinks such as wine, cider and kombucha.  Expect to see lots of great new products and collaborations between fermenters and farmers.

6. Match making at market. Chefs and artisanal food producers want the most delicious food and local farmers grow it. They are partnering more than ever before to do delicious business with each other and meet the growing demand for locally sourced and crafted products.  The result? Flavor begins in the fields and is enhanced in the kitchen; farmers put more dollars in their pockets; restaurant diners find unmatched flavor on their plates and shoppers enjoy a bounty of local food choices.

7. Eat healthy on a budget. Low-income shoppers continue to discover farmers markets as a source for their favorite fruits, vegetables and more. Programs like Matching Dollars are supporting these shoppers’ demand for fresh, local and healthy foods throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

8. Dirt….no longer a four letter word. Healthy food comes from healthy soil and many FRESHFARM Markets’ farmers are experimenting with crop rotations to enhance their soil fertility.  Cover crop “cocktails” are especially popular as farmers and researchers confirm that diverse crop rotations build the healthiest soils, which results in nutritious and delicious food.

9. Foraging for weeds and native foods. Given market customers ever widening appetites, farmers are foraging for, growing and selling crops formerly considered weeds such as amaranth greens, stinging nettle, purslane, ramps and dandelion greens. Foods native to the region are the new darlings including pawpaws, black walnuts and Winesap apples.

10. Get social & know before you go. Farmers and producers are increasingly becoming more tech and social media savvy.  Follow them and be the first to find out what they’ll have at market and learn about special end-of market deals. For shoppers who want to learn more about where their food comes from, they can go behind the scenes to see what a day on the farm is like, meet the families behind the food and fall in love with adorable farm animals.

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Volunteer Pic for Blog 2

I have had the pleasure of being FRESFHARM Markets’ Volunteer Coordinator for the past year.  We have relied on volunteers since the flagship market at Dupont Circle opened in 1997.  They help with everything from set up and break down, facilitating our Matching Dollars program at market, special market events like our popular Build-A-Bug and everything in between. They really become part of the market family.  Reflecting on the amazing work they do, I wondered: Why do these folks commit so much time, energy and hard work to FRESHFARM Markets without expecting anything in return? After all, so many of them have full-time jobs, busy lives and other places they could be on a frigid January morning or a gorgeous April afternoon than at market. So I asked…

Many of our volunteers started out as market shoppers. “I’m a dedicated amateur cook and was already a patron of the Dupont Circle market,” says David Robinson, a volunteer veteran.  “I figured I should give back to such a good cause. By making market patrons feel more at home and at ease, we can increase the connections between local shoppers and the source of their food.” Today, David brings his years of volunteer experience to bear on the Silver Spring market, which he appreciates for its transit-friendly location, diverse clientele, and relaxed vibe.

Mariah Halperin started out as a volunteer at FRESHFARM Market by the White House. “Having conversations with all the customers who would come to the Market Info booth gave me an appreciation for how much a farmers’ market can mean to a community.  It made me realize that I wanted to be a market manager myself.”  FRESHFARM hired Mariah to manage several markets last September.  “I now get to see even more of the immense behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on such great farmers markets.”

Luis Warner volunteers week after week helping break down our Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market. Asked how long he has been volunteering with us, he shrugged, “Honestly, it’s such a blast that I forget.” Even for an amateur chef like Luis there is much more to market than his beloved tomatoes and kale. “To me it’s not just about impacting local agriculture. I believe, by supporting the market and making good food affordable to more people, we can inspire change.”  David absolutely agrees, “I love that we make shopping at farmers markets more affordable for those receiving government nutrition benefits.”

According to April Israel, a Farmland Feast volunteer, “These markets offer a unique crossroads for several different types of people – producers, consumers, educators and advocates. Being able to support these connections in a safe and friendly space is one of the most important things to me and what I strive to achieve through my volunteer work.

Whether it’s the Matching Dollars program, the farmers, the shoppers or the food movement as a whole, volunteering is about sharing what you love about farmers markets with others. It’s about giving back to a community that you are a part of and according to Luis, “walking away with something more at the end of that experience.”

Interested in volunteering with us? We’re looking for reliable, energetic folks who love local food and farmers markets. Email me to find out more.

~ by Sam Giffin, Markets Manager and Volunteer Coordinator for FRESHFARM Markets 

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