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.