All politics is local, they say, and nothing is more political these days than local food. FreshFarm Markets announced last night that they are, in fact, opening their ninth market on Vermont Ave. in DC, just steps away from the White House. The vendors, as identified by Capital Spice, are familiar to anyone who shops DC’s existing markets, ranging from organic and quasi-organic produce to bakeries, dairy and meat producers. The White House involvement was downplayed in the news release, and reportedly seems to be limited to a “hope” that assistant chef and food initiative coordinator Sam Kass will appear for cooking demonstrations. The press release, did, however, invoke the symbolism of the new market’s location saying, “This is the culmination of a long journey for FRESHFARM Markets, which has brought farmers into the center of Washington, DC, where policy is made.” Intrigued by the suggestion that perhaps FreshFarm was opening this market as a volley into political advocacy in support of increasing access to fresh foods*, I obtained this follow-up explanation from founder and co-director Ann Yonkers:
“We think the farmers presence in the center of Washington, DC, is the best answer to many policy questions about how we should eat. There’s no need to talk, one bite of the delicious local food and the argument for fresh and local is made.”
No need to talk? Maybe members of Congress won’t shuttle across town, bite into an apple from Spring Valley Farm & Orchard, and suddenly be inspired to rush back to the drawing board to come with an extra billion dollars to double the funding for school lunches. But perhaps tourists who drop by the new market will be inspired to go home and write their legislators to urge their support for farm-to-school and healthy lunch programs. If so, then the market will achieve more than just symbolic change. We do need to talk, and loudly, to change our food policy for the better.
I love farmers markets, and I agree they are powerful for creating sustainable local communities. I commend FreshFarm Markets for the work they’ve done to grow the local foods movement in DC. I just continue to hope that the White House will work to extend their reach into the communities in Washington who still don’t have access to fresh produce. Let’s make the White House farmers market more than just a symbol.
*Note: As with several of their existing markets, FreshFarm Markets will double the value of Food Stamps, WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Coupons at the new market and offer a gleaning program to benefit Miriam’s Kitchen.
P.S. Don’t forget it’s Fight Back Friday over at the Food Renegade – go check it out!