About This Cause
FRESHFARM was founded in 1997 and employs 25 full and part-time employees. In 2016, over 420,000 customers visited our markets, shopping with our local farmers and producers and supporting the local foodshed. These markets gross $9.8 million in sales for more than 140 farmers, producers and food entrepreneurs from five states and contribute to a diverse, vibrant, and sustainable regional food system. Our signature programs provide support to farmers and food producers, lower economic barriers to local foods and educate our communities about food, farms and a more equitable foodshed.
Our 13 producer-only markets directly support and strengthen the local, sustainable food movement in the Mid-Atlantic region. Our markets provide economic opportunities for our farmers and food producers. They provide a gathering place for local communities to celebrate the environmental and agricultural richness of our region and to learn where and how our food is grown and made. Our farmers and producers grow everything from stone fruit and berries, to organically grown varieties of mushrooms, to pasture-raised meat and poultry, to organic goat and sheep’s cheeses, and to bread’s using locally grown grains. These markets generate $9.8 million in sales annually, a direct and significant benefit to the agricultural health of our region.
FRESHFARM is more than markets, though. The FRESHFARM Farmer Fund provides financial support for farmers to attend trainings and conferences to help them learn new techniques and methods to support their businesses and improve the health of their farms. These conferences and trainings included the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) and the Mid-Atlantic Fruit Growers conference, among others. Additionally, FRESHFARM acts as a Trustee of Kiva Zip, who provides up to $1,000 in zero interest loans to farmers and producers to help them activate their businesses.
In 2015, through a USDA grant to The Conservation Fund, FRESHFARM was awarded funding for a two-year program to help farmers seek Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. GAP certification is a USDA designation that is required by many wholesalers and retail chains in order for farmers to sell their produce. By assisting regional farmers with the logistics, requirements, and expense required for GAP certification, the organization can help provide farmers with new outlets to build their businesses.
To address food waste FRESHFARM partners a Gleaning organization at each market. The Gleaners collect unsold, but still edible, food from farmers at the end of the market day. The food is then transported to local food pantries or kitchens to be turned into meals for those in the community who face food insecurity. In 2016, FRESHFARM donated 18,282 pounds of food from eight of our markets to our gleaning partners. To further support our gleaning partners, FRESHFARM hosts a Food Drive at Thanksgiving, which asks shoppers to donate fresh or shelf-stable food, as well as financial contributions. In 2016, we raised $7,700 from market shoppers during this high need time of year.
FRESHFARM also runs programs to support the Washington, DC community, including the over 86,000 D.C. residents who face food insecurity. The Matching Dollars program enables customers who use Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), or Senior Farmers Market Nutritional Program (SFMNP) benefits to double their purchasing power while shopping at a FRESHFARM market. Those who shop with SNAP receive a match of up to $10 dollars per market per week, and those who shop using WIC and SFMNP receive a full match on the amount they spend.
The Matching Dollars program provides access to and helps develop preference for fresh, healthy foods. It also supports the 140 farmers in our network by enabling them to sell produce in food insecure segments of the population and make that fresh produce more affordable. Finally, the program helps create a community commitment to finding solutions to food insecurity. Since its inception in 2010, FRESHFARM has matched nearly $275,000 dollars.
In 2016 alone, $61,510 in food subsidies was spent at market, with FRESHFARM matching $59,130. As demand for the program has increased, so too has the need for funding to supply the match and FRESHFARM anticipates that $70,000 in Matching Funds will be needed in 2017. The Program runs year-round – one of the few in the DC area that does. The height of the program takes place from March to November. From December to March, only our two largest markets, Dupont Circle and Silver Spring, are open and administer the Matching Dollars program.
To educate shoppers of all backgrounds on how to prepare market produce, FRESHFARM operates the Chef-at-Market program, which pairs local chefs with produce found at our markets. These events not only demonstrate the best ways to prepare in season produce, but also which local chefs and restaurants are committed to supporting our farmers and the foodshed through local sourcing. In 2016, FRESFHARM hosted 160 chefs and demos and to date in 2016, we have conducted 100 demonstrations at market.
FRESHFARM’s Farmshare (similar to a CSA) enables shoppers to take home a bag full of fresh, local produce each week. Our multi-farm sourcing model, allows us to create a balanced bag of produce for each subscriber and to introduce these members to fruits and vegetables they might not have otherwise selected for themselves.
FoodPrints, FRESHFARM’s food education program, is currently in place in nine DC public elementary schools. FoodPrints aims to make positive changes in what children and their families eat through highly engaging, hands-on experiences with growing, harvesting, cooking and preparing nutritious, local foods in season. FRESHFARM works in partnership with administrators and teachers to ensure that FoodPrints is a relevant, enriching program that teaches Common Core, Next Generation Science and DCPS/OSSE Health standards, and that adapts to the unique curricular goals of each school we partner with. FoodPrints goals include:
• supporting local farmers/farmland/agriculture through educating young eaters who will grow up to make highly informed decisions about how they choose to spend their food dollars;
• increasing academic engagement through hands-on experiences at school with gardening, harvesting, cooking and eating - and a companion curriculum that uses these experiences to bring environmental literacy, along with the life science, social studies, math, and language arts standards of learning to life.
FRESHFARM believes that these programs empower our community to ask questions about where their food comes from and helps drive the conversation about the health of the local food system.