Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors Ann Yonkers and Bernadine Prince reflect on 15 years of bringing local food to the Chesapeake region. We also invite you to share your reflections on what FRESHFARM Markets and our family of 150 farmers and producers mean to you. How have our farmers markets and our wonderful farmers and producers changed your life?
Ann Yonkers, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director:
In the Yonkers family we have an annual post Christmas family tradition of setting goals for the coming year. It’s usually a convivial gathering where each family member makes a list of new skills they want to acquire, books they want to read, travel destinations and other modest goals. In 1992 when I sat down to make my goals, my vision was anything but modest. I wrote I wanted to become a leader in the sustainable food movement and a voice for change in agriculture.
This is the vision that has carried me forward to FRESHFARM Markets. It compelled me to read everything I could about agriculture and the environment. It led me to my fellow co-founder and co-executive director, Bernadine Prince. We quickly became co-conspirators and collaborators. And once that happened, there was no stopping us.
In the 15 years since we opened the Dupont Circle market, we have built the largest network of producer-only farmers markets in the region. We now operate 11 markets in three states with 150 farmers and producers. As a result, we’ve engaged chefs and the community. We’ve made a difference in how Washingtonians eat. We were pioneers and now we are players.
The certainty that our farmers markets’ matter and that local food is vital for the health of our communities and for us an individuals is as strong as ever. Agriculture connects people and regions. It engenders a sense of place and belonging. There is nothing like it. I am deeply grateful for the joy, the bustle, the beauty and the flavor I experience every market day. I feel privileged to know and work with farmers and artisanal food producers, to have helped shape this local food movement in the Chesapeake Bay region and especially to have created this delicious legacy in my hometown of Washington, DC. May the markets continue to thrive far into the future!
Bernadine Prince, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director:
Every Sunday I am at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market is the best day of the week for me because I see the amazing transformation of a parking lot and a city street into the most vibrant, healthy foods community of farmers and seasonal eaters in the District of Columbia. Almost everything my husband and I eat comes from our FRESHFARM farmers markets, so it is a double bonus—working at a job I truly love and shopping for, cooking and eating the best local foods!
Market days remind me that FRESHFARM Markets has made a difference by helping farmers survive economically in our region, inspiring young people to become farmers, and ensuring that our farmers see a future in farming. We have “charter” farmers at market as well as “charter” customers and “charter” volunteers like Eilene Robb who has been coming to market since we started the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market in July 1997. Every market day is a chance to connect with FRESHFARM Markets’ extended family of farmers, customers and volunteers while we all shop for the freshest, seasonal foods and flowers!
As we have grown to 11 producer-only farmers markets, we have also grown our program activities. Thanks to a donation in 2005 from Dupont market shoppers, Ben and Julie Feldman, we have a FoodPrints program at Watkins Elementary School that uses an edible garden and a classroom project-based curriculum to teach math, science, language arts and more! Last year, thanks to over 450 donors, we raised $60,000 to transform a classroom into a Food Lab which is used for classroom instruction, growing plant seedlings and kids preparing and eating seasonal foods from their garden.
Another program I am very proud that we offer is Food Stamps/Matching Dollars which helps make food at our farmers market more affordable for low income shoppers. The program helps families in need purchase fresh, healthy food and it increases farmer sales – a double benefit!
There so many people to thank for the success of FRESHFARM Markets starting with my co-executive director Ann Yonkers and our families, incredible staff and volunteers, over 150 farmers and producers, hundreds of thousands of customers, hundreds of chefs and home cooks, community organizations, foundation donors and more—the list is HUGE!
So, thanks to all of you who have inspired me and my work at FRESHFARM Markets. Every market day, you are making food choices that benefit your health and the future of our farmers and farmland, and mother earth. See you at market!
Now it’s your turn to share. What does FRESHFARM Markets and our family of 150 farmers and producers mean to you? How have our farmers markets and our wonderful farmers and producers changed your lives since the first market opened in Dupont Circle in 1997? We invite you to share your reflections and thoughts below. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!
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