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2013 – PASSING OF THE TORCH & MORE
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As 2013 comes to close, we wanted to share reflections from our Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors Ann Yonkers and Bernadine Prince on the high’s of the year through their eyes. You’ll find their thoughts are as diverse as the farmers markets we operate and the educational programs we run. They capture the exciting opportunities presenting themselves to an evolving and growing organization at the heart of the region’s local food movement.

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Looking back over 2013 and the 16th year of FRESHFARM Markets, I am struck by three things: our organizational adaptation, our embrace of our core activity of holding farmers markets and our continued work toward the development of a robust local food economy in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Four developments are especially positive indicators of this dynamic evolution:

  • The creation of a new market and programs structure
  • The innovative celebration of the 15th anniversary of our St. Michaels farmers market
  • The passing of the torch at the Farmland Feast
  • Continued recognition of our achievements and the initiation of a strategic planning process

The organizational changes came in the form of turning over day-to-day responsibility for the logistical and operational aspects of our farmers markets to Reg Godin and Juliet Glass, who were named Markets and Program Directors.  In turn, Reg and Juliet assembled a dynamic team of six new market managers, all of who lend an energy, creativity and rigor to the 11 farmers markets and a mounting array of office tasks.

Thanks to Carol Bean, the veteran market manager of our St. Michaels farmers market, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of this small town farmers market in innovative ways.  Prior to our April opening, market farmers and loyal customers gathered for our first ever fish fry fundraiser at Pot Pie Farm.  At year’s end, Carol spearheaded a campaign to fund a food preservation program at the St. Michaels food pantry. The star of the campaign was her colorful, hand crafted 3-foot tall plywood carrots that hung on light poles throughout town. These carrots were purchased by supporters to raise funds for the preservation workshop.

2013 also marked the passing of the torch at our annual fundraiser, the Farmland Feast. Cathal Armstrong, our coordinating chef for the past six years, stepped down and was succeeded by local food pioneer Brian McBride of RW Restaurant Group.  Cathal ‘s remarks at the Feast touched everyone as he generously welcomed his successors, Chef McBride and his partner, RW Restaurant Group founder Robert Wiedmaier.

Finally, FRESHFARM Markets continues to attract accolades and recognition.  Of particular note is our fourth inclusion in the Catalogue of Philanthropy, a guide to the top nonprofits in our region.  We also launched our strategic planning process.  Assisted by a major grant from the Taproot Foundation valued at $70,000, this grant brings us a professional pro bono team of experts who will augment our strategic planning process.

In short, it was a very good year.

~ Ann Yonkers, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director

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2013 was the first full year of FRESHFARM Markets’ offices at the First Congregational Church of Christ in Penn Quarter.  In this time, we have deepened our roots in the Penn Quarter community by partnering with our next door neighbor, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, at our Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Market.  We have also benefited from the congregation who generously supported our Thanksgiving Food Drive in support of Thrive DC, our Penn Quarter market gleaning partner.

Our FoodPrints program, edible schoolyard gardens integrated into a school nutrition curriculum, expanded to three DC schools (Watkins Elementary School, Peabody Elementary School and School Within School).  The program was also recognized by the Mayor’s Sustainable DC Plan as “a model to provide targeted educational programs…[that]will raise awareness about nutrition and health issues, educating residents to make better choices.” In October 2013, the Watkins school garden was named “Best School Garden” by the DC Office of the Superintendent of Schools.  Watkins fifth grader, Louise Banks, proudly read her winning essay for the school garden, saying “The garden is teaching us new things constantly.”

Our SNAP (Food Stamps) and Matching Dollars program that helps low-income families and seniors afford to purchase more healthy food at our markets expanded to our Ballston, Virginia farmers market. This year, we have given out over $48,000 in Matching Dollars to qualified low income shoppers at eight of the eleven FRESHFARM Markets.  Support for the Matching Dollars program is from individual donations.

Our FRESHFARM Markets farmers markets and related programs continue to enhance communities throughout the DC metro area and are a continuing source of pride for all of our FRESHFARM Markets’ staff, farmers and producers.

As we celebrate our accomplishments in 2013, I want to thank all of our community partners, hundreds of thousand market shoppers, over a hundred chefs and home cooks, 120+ farmers and producers, corporate sponsors, foundations, our FRESHFARM Markets’ Board of Directors and our talented and dedicated staff for an outstanding year. We look forward to seeing many of you at our year ’round markets this winter at Dupont Circle and Silver Spring. Happy holidays!

~ Bernadine Prince, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Founder and  Co-Executive Director

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OUT OF THE KITCHEN: CHEFS AT MARKET
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Every summer Sunday morning at 11am, a crowd gathers around a table at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market. Everyone, including a nearby canine or two, has their eyes glued to the chef behind the table who chops aromatic scallions while melting butter in a hot pan and guides the audience through the steps of a seasonal recipe. This is the FRESHFARM Market’s Chef at Market program.

Through the program, FRESHFARM Markets operates approximately 200 demos each year at all 10 farmers markets in the hopes that chefs and home-cooks can help share their knowledge on how to use seasonal fresh produce.  The demos are not just educational, but a chance to build connection between local chefs and local farmers. However, 15 years ago, when the program started, things were much different.

The Chef at Market program was born shortly after the Dupont Circle market opened in July 1997, and while the program goals were very much the same, it was difficult to coax chefs from the kitchen. FRESHFARM Market’s Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Ann Yonkers spent hours not only recruiting chefs to the program, but also conducting many of the demos herself.   At that time, it wasn’t just the program that was new, but also the farmers market, and for many, the concept of eating local and seasonal foods.  But, there is something unifying about good food, and it didn’t take long until chefs, shoppers and farmers began gathering round the table.

Today, Chef at Market Program Coordinator, Maddy Beckwith, fields applications from hundreds of chefs and food authors each year, most local, but some, including Michael Pollan, Jacques Pepin and Mollie Katzen (Moosewood Kitchen) traveling to the District for book signings. Rather than spending hours pounding the pavement recruiting, Maddy now spends hours networking by phone and email, coordinating recipes, and sourcing ingredients from the farmers. During the peak season, Maddy coordinates about five demos per week, everything from the home-cook with a fabulous recipe for kale, to the giant Paella extravaganzas hosted by Jose Andres’s Jaleo, in which a team of chefs, often including Jose himself and a guest chef from Spain, roll out the nine-foot diameter Paella pan and cook a meal large enough to feed the entire market.

The broad reach of the program now allows us to attract a wide range of cooking talent, and even host demos that feature many vegetarian, vegan or even raw-foods chefs. For the chefs, the program is more than just publicity. It’s a chance to get out of the kitchen, enjoy the market day, and directly interact with the people who eat their food. Some chefs, such as Michael Costa, Ris Lacoste, Odessa Piper or Janis McLean, have dedicated countless hours, early mornings and hot summer days to the program.  The demos are fun and dynamic and sometimes a bit unexpected. During one demo, Jared Slip, of Notte Bianche and Dish, proposed to his girlfriend by slipping a ring over a spear of asparagus and passing it to her as the first sample (she said yes).

While marriage proposals might not happen every week, we hope that the Chef at Market experience is not only an opportunity for our customers to sample some free food, but also inspiration to try a new vegetable or learn new cooking techniques.  And for us at FRESHFARM Markets, not only do we get to learn along side our customers, but we revel in watching the great connections that arise between grower, cook and eater.

Hungry for More? Check out upcoming chef demonstrations on our calendar, and search our recipe database for past demo recipes.

Post by Laura Genello, FRESHFARM Markets Newsletter

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FIFTEEN YEARS AND STILL NO BANANAS
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“Where are the bananas?” We field that question so often at market it has become our in-house joke. A confused market shopper arrives at our information booth and can’t understand why America’s favorite fruit isn’t part of our offerings. They assume we have simply failed to include this popular fruit in our inventory or wonder why we are not like most of the other markets they patronize. They have no idea we actively choose not to include bananas. They are not aware we only sell what is grown and made in the Chesapeake Bay region.

So when Dupont Circle business owner and market advocate, Sue Landini of Axis Salon was looking for a cheeky way to celebrate FRESHFARM Markets, she created one of her signature windows focusing on this absence – FRESHFARM Markets – Fifteen Years and Still No Bananas (see photo).

At the center of the FRESHFARM mission and our markets is a two-word phrase, producer–only. What does it mean? Why does it matter? And why is it so hard to explain?

Producer-only means you are buying from the farmers who grow the food you purchase  and/or from the people who make it (producers such as bakers and cheese makers.) The short version is, “Buy it from the guys who grow or make it.”

In the simplest terms ‘producer-only’ means you are buying directly from a farmer who is selling exclusively what they grew on their own land and harvested with their own hands. It is a ‘seal of approval’ as well as a pledge of authenticity and a guarantee of quality. By buying the fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers, cheese and artisanal products from these farmers you know exactly what you’re getting, whom you are getting it from and how it was raised or grown. All of the farmers and producers that sell at our markets reside within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Everything sold at our farmers markets comes from within a 200-mile radius that includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.

Why does it matter? According to the USDA, the average age of farmers is 57.1 years old and getting older. We need a new generation of local farmers in order to create new sustainable food systems throughout the United States. Research shows that a system such as our markets creates economic opportunities and incentives that encourage young people to enter farming. Our mission is provide them opportunities to sell their product close to home in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The mission of FRESHFARM Markets is to build a vibrant local food movement in the Chesapeake Bay region. In order to do this we need to build capacity in the farming and artesian food community. We are doing that by restricting our markets to what can be grown and produced locally. We are creating a demand for local growers and producers using local foods. After fifteen years we can see this is working. We can see the change. It’s a mission worth sticking with.

So until we see banana plantations (or coffee, plantations, olive or citrus groves), on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, we will not be including bananas or any other exotic products at our farm stands.

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

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THE WINTER THAT WASN’T
Mark Toigo

It’s official. The National Weather Service has determined that the winter of 2011 – 2012 is Washington’s warmest on record. To those in the DC area, mild temperatures meant light sweater weather and not having to bundle up for year round farmers’ markets. But to our Chesapeake Bay region fruit growers, it meant lots of worries about what the weather was doing to their trees.

To find out how the mild winter has affected farmers and to learn what shoppers can expect to find at market this Spring, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Executive Director Ann Yonkers talked to Mark Toigo of Toigo Orchards. Mark and his family grow apricots, apples, peaches, plums, cherries and nectarines as well as field fruit such as raspberries and strawberries on their 400 acre farm in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Toigo Orchards sells at 4 FRESHFARM Markets: Dupont Circle, By the White House, Penn Quarter, and Crystal City.

Tell me how this warm weather has affected the trees and the farm?
While Shippensburg is north of DC and had slightly cooler temperatures, it was the warmest weather I can remember. It wasn’t good for much, but operationally it had some good effects. We could catch up on all the seasonal farm work such as pruning the trees. Our crew was happy because they kept working and earning money all winter. Without a snowfall, we had no trouble getting into the orchards and taking care of the trees.

It’s so rare to be able to get through the pruning process systematically due to cold, rain, mud and bitter conditions. Pruning is usually a rush job in early spring because of the conditions. We prune the trees to open them up to sunshine and air circulation. This promotes healthy trees, less subject to a myriad of diseases and to insect damage. Pruning also promotes healthy fruit set and beautiful large fruit that our customers love at farmers’ markets.

What happens to the trees when you don’t have a real winter?
The trees never go into dormancy, which prepares them for another year of the hard work and stress of bearing fruit. This winter our fruit trees never got this rest. So, they are a little like teenagers. All raging hormones, and unsure what to do next. Bud? Flower? Grow? In short, they’re confused and agitated.

How much earlier are the trees flowering?
We had apricots blooming before St. Paddy’s Day. Now that’s a record.

How does early flowering put the trees in danger?
The trees are exposed earlier and longer to cold nights. When flowering trees get hit with a spring frost, the fruit never develops. That means the tree has no or a very limited quantity of fruit that season. Frost could happen anytime between now and May. Around here, fruit growers think of the first moon in May as the safe date when the danger of frost is passed.

Fruit growers around here can talk of little else but the warm weather. Should they prune the trees harder and risk less fruit damage or leave more branches in case the frost damages more fruit? Farming is a usually a dance with Mother Nature, but this year it’s more like a jig.

What does this mean for farmers’ market shoppers this Spring?
It’s really hard to predict, but if current trends continue spring vegetables such as English peas, Spring onions, asparagus and green garlic will be coming in earlier. They’ll also be in abundance much earlier too.

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A TRIBUTE TO JIMMY HOGGE
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FRESHFARM Markets Co-Executive Directors Ann Yonkers and Bernie Prince reflect on the life of Jimmy Hogge of Buster’s Seafood.

Jimmy Hogge of Buster’s Seafood died on Monday in his home in Urbanna, Virginia. They don’t make them like Jimmy Hogge anymore. He was an old fashioned country boy with an accent that was broad and particular. It carried you directly to Tidewater, Virginia where he was born, lived and died. As soon as he opened his mouth, you were compelled to listen to the rich local color of his speech. You were charmed by his quiet unassuming manner. Paige and Jimmy of Buster’s Seafood have been coming to the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market farmers market since 2004 to sell crab, oysters, rockfish, deviled crab and occasionally eel. Their friendly manner, the quality of their products and the opportunity to chat with Jimmy and Paige built a legion of happy, loyal and curious customers.

Smooth sailing, Jimmy. May the winds push you along to rest and peace.

Ann Yonkers
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“How are you? I’ve got something to show you.” Those were often the words that greeted me from Jimmy Hogge as he stood smiling behind his market table loaded with crabs, fresh-caught fish, jars of oysters or clams at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market farmers market. A few weeks ago, Jimmy proudly showed me his 9 pound rutabaga. Another time it would be a live wiggly eel that Paige would rather not have brought to market. Jimmy’s distinctive fisherman’s drawl charmed me every time, and I looked forward to his weekly predictions of when rockfish or oysters would be at market so I could plan my weekly purchase. When my daughter visits from Montana, Buster’s is her favorite because she makes a breakfast of their deviled crab.

Earlier this week, I received the very sad news message that Jimmy Hogge of Buster’s Seafood died at his home on Monday, March 6th. As Paige noted “He so loved the market. God bless you all.”

Paige and Jimmy have been selling at the Dupont Circle farmers market since 2004. I first visited their home, crab and oyster sheds in Urbana, Virginia after receiving their application materials, with Paige proudly noting that they were only 130 miles from DC. I learned how they spent sleepless days trading shifts in the crab shed so they could bring softshells to market. When they brought the first fresh oysters to Dupont, Jimmy proudly shucked one for my breakfast.

Over the years, Jimmy and Paige have been like family to me. When my husband had open heart surgery, Jimmy told me about his operation and always asked how Ray was doing because he had gone through the same healing.

I can still hear his voice and see that giant rutabaga at market. God bless and keep you, Jimmy. This market lady and her family will miss you.

Bernie Prince

A memorial service for Jimmy Hogge will be held on Friday, March 9th at 11am at Hermitage Baptist Church, 94 Wares Bridge Road, Church View, VA. Lunch will be served after the service.

FRESHFARM Markets is also planning a memorial tribute to Jimmy at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market farmers market on Sunday, March 11.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts in Jimmy’s name be made to:
- Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department, 4583 Water View Road, Water View, VA 23180
- FRESHFARM Markets, P.O. Box 15691, Washington, DC 20003

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