White House market opens today

I really don’t understand all the kerfluffle over the White House FRESHFARM Market that opens today.

Is there another one, at the same time, in Penn Quarter? Yes, and I HIGHLY doubt this one is poaching customers, especially since the two markets have the same vendors. Also, there are a ton of chefs in the Penn Quarter area that use that market, and somehow I don’t think they’ll be coming to the new market (with the same vendors) instead of the one directly outside their kitchens. This also speaks to the density of downtown. For cripes sake, I think we can support 2 markets in downtown DC.

Is Vermont Avenue a major artery? Uh, maybe, but not the part that’s going to be closed. Yes, there are always cars on it, but they are relatively scant, compared to the clusterf*ck that is 14th Street. Or 16th Street. Or K Street. See, we have plenty of clogged streets!  That part of Vermont Ave is not one of them.

I tend to universally support more farmers markets. Would it have been better to open one across the river? Probably. Does that change the fact that this is still a good thing? No.

Over at the Atlantic Food Channel, they note some concerns originally voiced in Mother Jones (emphasis mine):

Mother Jones offered more tempered enthusiasm, saying “this confirms my suspicions that President Obama is pretty damn cool”–but also offering four pieces of advice for how to make sure the market becomes “a very cool project”: give out free samples; feature hot meal options; make the produce (as) cheap (as possible); play music.

Working at the various markets, I’ve come to realize there are some vendors that set different price points based on the clientele.  I can’t blame them for this.  I think the solution lies in not making the produce as cheap as possible (if you don’t think growing food is hard work, then you don’t deserve to eat), but in making it affordable– and those are NOT the same thing.  There’s a two fold solution to this, and it’s already in place in many of the other FRESHFARM markets. 

The first part is making sure all the vendors take WIC/Senior FMNP and/or EBT.  Not allvendors at all markets take WIC and EBT, and even if they do, it’s not always in the “friendliest” manner.  I understand that there is some red tape involved, but if you’re really trying to make things affordable, isn’t it worth it?  Also, could we please try not to be rude or snide to anyone paying with WIC or EBT- that goes for vendors, shoppers, everyone.

The second part is a pilot program already in place at the H Street and Silver Spring markets (UPDATE: AND it is my understanding it’s already in place for the White House market today).  These markets got a grant (and private funds) to match any WIC/Senior FMNP coupons, effectively doubling the money.  Furthermore, these coupons can be spent on anything- eggs, honey, meat, cheese, flowers (never underestimate a well placed bunch of flowers to lift the spirits), while the FMNP programs are only for produce.


Bottom Line: More markets=more fresh, good local food.  And that’s never a bad thing.  However, until we address the root causes of why good food is so expensive (farm bill, subsidies, blah blah blah), the best way make the good stuff affordable is by working through programs like this.  And I’d like to commend FRESHFARM for their attempts.  So quit yappin’ and go buy something at your local market.  I saw pumpkins yesterday.


UPDATE #2: Forgot to mention that Capital Spice has the list of all the producers.


11 responses to “White House market opens today

  1. I don’t see how anyone can get in a huff about loacl and fresh food. Calm the hell down, people.

  2. Totally agree – the more, the merrier! Seriously, the issues of competing with other markets or closing down “traffic” are beside the point on this market. Just like the White House garden, the point here is to raise awareness and elevate the importance of farmers markets and fresh, local food. This helps make it more “acceptable” for local governments and regulatory agencies to start removing the roadblocks that keep more people in more places of all economic situations from having access to good food. We’ll be at the opening cheering as loud as anyone!

  3. When we interviewed Bernie Prince with FreshFarm Markets, she was very proud of the fact that this market will include the same “Double Dollars” program as at H Street and Silver Spring. She mentioned grant money AND private donations as the sources of support that allowed them to open this market with the program already in place.

    Really glad they’re doing it that way – you hit the nail right on the head with your affordable vs. cheap distinction.

  4. That line in Mother Jones irked me, too. “Cheap” is the problem with our food today, not a solution! Glad FF is offering the double dollars program at the new market.

  5. One problem that urban planners are consistently trying to address in terms of making cities more livable and healthy is bringing in affordable fresh produce– if we can make it accessible and reasonably priced then hopefully more families will make fresh fruit and veg a regular part of their diets!

    • Hello my love, I’ve been wondering where you’ve been!

      And yes. Even working at the market, I’ve noticed I eat far more fruit and veg than I did before, and I even eat things I used to hate, like peaches.

  6. Pingback: 10 Things I Learned From One Day as an Assistant Manager of Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market | Endless Simmer - A Food Blog

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