“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