FRESHFARM Markets


BACK TO SCHOOL WITH FOODPRINTS
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As another school year begins, I am so pleased to share exciting news about FRESHFARM Market’s FoodPrints program.  FoodPrints is FRESHFARM Market’s food education program that aims to make positive changes in what children and their families eat through highly engaging, hands-on experiences with growing, harvesting, cooking and preparing nutritious, local and in season foods.  This is the beginning of our 10th year of partnering with D.C. Public Schools and we have so many exciting projects and opportunities on the horizon!

FRESHFARM Markets works in partnership with administrators and teachers to ensure that FoodPrints offers a relevant, enriching educational opportunity that teaches Common Core, Next Generation Science and DCPS/OSSE Health standards, and that adapts to the unique curricular goals of each school we partner with.  The Program was started by FRESHFARM Markets co-founder, Bernadine Prince in 2005, and by 2009 landed at Watkins Elementary where we developed an extensive school garden and converted a classroom into a Teaching Kitchen. FoodPrints continued to grow and by the 2014-15 academic year, FRESHFARM Markets had partnered with five DCPS elementary schools, serving 1,800 students in 77 classrooms ranging from preschool through 5th grade.

The 2015-16 academic year is marked by exciting partnerships and developments, including:

  • Debuting FoodPrints at School without Walls at Francis Stevens (2425 N Street NW). This is our first school outside of Capitol Hill, and will bring our current program reach to 2,200 students in 110 classrooms.  Through collaboration with The George Washington University and Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup, D.C. Public Schools is constructing a demonstration teaching kitchen classroom inside the school cafeteria that will provide a state-of-the-art space for FoodPrints classes.
  • An intimate Harvest dinner on September 29 at Urbana to celebrate and support FoodPrints at School without Walls at Francis Stevens. Stay tuned for details about tickets! .
  • Whole Foods Markets has come on board as our Food Prints program partner and will provide dry goods and pantry items that aren’t available at FRESHFARM Markets to all six Food Prints schools. FoodPrints recipes (so popular that some students have insisted these dishes be served at their birthday parties) will be prepared and featured at the Whole Foods Markets-Tenlytown in its deli.
  • A partnership with DCPS Food and Nutrition Services to serve and highlight FoodPrints recipes as part of the school lunch program at our partner schools.
  • The removal a large area of asphalt from the playground at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary and replacement of it with a storm water retention basin, native plants, and an extensive FoodPrints vegetable garden with over 30 raised beds. This is a joint project with the District Department of the Environment’s RiverSmart Schools program, the University of Maryland and The Neilom Foundation.
  • At Tyler Elementary, the construction of a free-standing FoodPrints Teaching Kitchen Classroom in the courtyard next to the vegetable garden. This project has received funding for architectural plans and project management from The Share Fund, and drawings have been completed.  We hope to raise the funds for construction this year and see the project complete and ready for students as they return to school in the fall of 2016.
  • A pilot of our new Farmer-In-Residence program at one school that will provide a substantial stipend to a farmer or producer in exchange for developing a year-long relationship with students and families through FoodPrints. The aim is to roll this out at all FoodPrints schools in the 2016-17 academic year.

As FRESHFARM Market’s education program, FoodPrints is also looking forward to developing programming at our markets and in the larger community. Click here for more information about FoodPrints and please reach out with ideas, comments and your support.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Mampara

FoodPrints Program Director

 

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BUILDING MARKET COMMUNITIES
Building Communities Blog Pic

The Oxford English Dictionary defines community as “a body of people or things viewed collectively.” The word originates from the ancient Anglo-Norman and Middle French communité meaning “joint ownership.”

I believe that Americans are forming community at farmers markets faster than they are anywhere else. I believe that a greater sense of American community is desperately needed in our time.

I have been working in and around farmers markets for more than a decade. They are, in many respects, burdensome and exhausting. Early morning risings, complicated packing and transportation, risk-laden commercial transactional logistics, and considerable physical exertion, all wrapped up in a rather primordial and certainly unpredictable reliance on Mother Nature to be kind, a posture she refuses to accept.

But then the bell rings – and then the weekly building of the market culminates in the creation of community. And with the first customer greeting, with the first smiled question, with the first purchase, the weariness ends and the burden lifts. In an act as ancient as any in our time, food is provided, labor is recognized, quality is rewarded, and connection is made.

In their repeated weekly cycle, these market-built communities expand organically like the rings of a tree or the tendrils of a vine. On your next visit to market, take note. Our market community is strong and inclusive: food from five states bringing together consumers of all colors, ages, races, ethnicities, and economic and social backgrounds. Rural meets urban. Rich meets poor. Young meets old. Conservative meets liberal. These distinctions fall away as we collectively relish the joy of beautiful lettuce greens, perfectly ripened stone fruits, humanely raised meats, actively ripening cheeses, breads from local grain, and all manner of products made by the hands that sell them.

Building these market communities is most significant. They are among the few places where we still permit ourselves this falling away of divisive and artificial social layering. They are among the few places where we slow down enough to greet a stranger, make a new friend, see and wonder about those others – those not like us. In a sense, farmers markets are where we can see true democracy at work.   In these market communities, we come face to face with those who feed us, and for a few hours we share with them an experience of the primordial and unpredictable natural environment and climate that we collectively rely on. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too windy, too humid? Yet, the market happens.

And our market community is growing. Market gleaning partners like DC Central Kitchen and Iona Senior Services take leftover, unused food to those with the greatest need, those who may never be able to physically attend the market. Matching Dollars and Produce Plus attract consumers to the market, these programs work to break down the economic barriers that prevent consumers from joining the community and that prevent access to the food we celebrate.

Ann Harvey Yonkers repeatedly calls my attention to a phrase in the founding documents of FRESHFARM Markets. The phrase, “to share the burden of government,” partly justifies our status as a non-profit organization. In this phrase beats the heart of the market community because it illustrates how markets knit up the fabric of community and make communities prosper and connect people. She also calls markets “the new town squares” because markets welcome everyone and are places where people feel at home.   The community works to exclude none, the community that week after week grows toward a fuller awareness of our joint responsibility to care for the people and places that provide our food.

Next time you are at market, pause a moment and look around. Look at peoples’ faces and listen to the murmur of conversations all around you. This is not an ordinary public space. Somehow the combination of the beautiful food, the authenticity of the exchange between farmer and customer and the simplicity of the setting is transformative. Everyone feels at home. The market feels like their place and they are engaged, receptive and happy there. There is no question there is some magic going on.

See you at market!

Written by Mike Koch, Executive Director, FRESHFARM Markets

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LONG ON THE SUPPLY SIDE
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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FROM OUR NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
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.

A MISSION: IN THREE ACTS

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
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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A SUPER SIMPLE SPRING!
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

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.

Chard

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.

Spinach

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.

Carrots

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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