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7 Questions with Bernie Prince, Founder of FRESHFARM Markets

Today, we welcome Bernadine Prince to 7 Questions! Bernadine (Bernie) Prince is co-founder and Co-Executive Director of FRESHFARM Markets, a featured Catalogue charity for 2013-2014. FRESHFARM operates 10 producer-only farmers markets in the mid-Atlantic region. Bernie started FRESHFARM’s Food Stamp/Matching Dollars program and oversees FoodPrints, the local foods school program which includes a Food Lab, a fully-functional teaching kitchen that complements the organic edible garden and curriculum instruction. For the past seven years, Prince has also worked in Australia and New Zealand, where she helped set the standards for those countries’ farmers markets.


1. What motivated you to begin this organization ? What need does it fulfill and how is your organization working towards meeting this need?

Ann Yonkers and I met in 1996 and started FRESHFARM Markets by opening the first producer-only farmers market in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC in 1997. We both saw a need to showcase the bounty of local food grown in our Chesapeake Bay region by ensuring that farmers sold this fresh, healthy food in a well-managed farmers market. We also saw a need to educate the public about local food and farming issues and do that every market day, now with our network of 10 producer-only farmers markets in DC, MD, and VA.

2.What was your most interesting recent development, update, project, event, or partnership?

FRESHFARM Markets is currently undertaking a strategic planning process that is evaluating new opportunities for direct marketing of local food and also looking at strengthening our FRESHFARM Markets identity and brand. We have added talented new board members who are enthusiastic about this process which will help set the course for the organization over the next three to five years. Although this sounds like a very nerdy type of project, it is actually very interesting to look back at our markets and programs, partnerships, successes, and failures to evaluate them and try to look into the future for FRESHFARM Markets.

3. What other projects are you up to?

We are working to bring a new FRESHFARM Market to Union Market in Washington, DC, complete with the diversity of local food products that we have at all of our producer-only farmers markets and offering SNAP (Food Stamp) redemption with a Matching Dollars program. We have applied to USDA to accept SNAP (Food Stamps) at our Ballston, Va FRESHFARM Market, making this the first Virginia market to accept SNAP.

For our local foods, FoodPrints program, we expanded the program this year to include all the grades (first through fifth) at Watkins Elementary School so we are reaching 540 children with growing and harvesting food in our organic garden and learning about healthy foods and nutrition. We added Peabody School (pre-K and K) and SWS (first and third grades) to the program. And, thanks to funding from DCPS, we are offering a monthly Family Night where parents and students cook in our FoodLab kitchen at Watkins learning about healthy eating and cooking fresh, seasonal foods together. FoodPrints has become the most popular enrichment program in these schools.

4.Who inspires you? Do you have a hero?

We have two heroes here at FRESHFARM. Nora Pouillon (chef/owner, Restaurant Nora, first certified organic restaurant in the US) who was the inspiration for creating a producer-only farmers market in the District of Columbia. Also, Jean Wallace Douglas, who supported our work through the Wallace Genetic Foundation from the very beginning, encouraged us in every way we could to help small, family farmers. We have named our farmer scholarship fund in memory of Jean Wallace Douglas.

5.What is the single greatest challenge that your organization faces, and how are you working towards combating this issue?

Running farmers markets is a lot of work and we are always looking for energetic and talented staff to help with our work. We have recently created more full-time positions with employee benefits to attract staff who can grow with the organization.

6. What advice do you have for other people in your position? What’s your biggest take-away lesson you have gleaned from your experiences?

If you work in a nonprofit organization like FRESHFARM Markets, you love the work you do and know that you are making a difference every single day. So, remember to celebrate your successes and thank those who have been part of the process.

7.What’s next for your organization, both in the short term and long term?

We will have our annual Farmland Feast on Monday, November 11th and already have our Feast volunteers and staff busy on the planning for this spectacular local food event that has been called “a delectable philanthropic success” and the “locavore party of the year!” Longer term, I would like to see the FoodPrints program expand to more elementary schools in the DC metro area. We would also like to see the local foodshed in the DC metro area become even stronger with more restaurants and institutions buying and serving local food and more young people becoming the next generation of farmers in our region.

Picture for the Day

Courtesy of DCist:

As much as we like to maintain an exclusive focus on the business of Washington, DC, there’s no denying that our city is inexorably intertwined in international affairs. So when unthinkable bloodshed breaks out across the world, our purview often widens … Take, for example, the current state of affairs in Libya, which drew a group of protesters to the White House on Saturday. Just one example of the local response to events currently transpiring in Tripoli, DCist contributor Kevin Carroll was able to capture some powerful images during Saturday’s gathering.

While we are most aware of happenings on our street and around our homes, those of us in Greater Washington are often profoundly conscience of and connected to the broader world by virtue of where we live.

Similarly, our focus here at Catalogue is certainly local — yet we also are committed to non-profits who are enacting specific and localized change around the world, in the communities that are most in need. Do check them out. No matter how far away we are, we definitely can still reach out.

Companies for Causes

A few times, yesterday included, I touched on the application (or imposition?) of for-profit business models on non-profit organizations. Should non-profits take the lead from more traditional businesses or are the two models incompatible? In the future, I would like to delve further into this question. But for now, I’d like to raise a more specific one: can and do these two entities meet and talk about one another? In other words, do non-profits have a forum to discuss corporate partnerships and do corporations have one to discuss community outreach?

Enter Companies for Causes, whose aim is just that: bringing together medium-sized local businesses to brainstorm and launch philanthropic endeavours as well as entrepreneurial ones. Essentially, this effort will provide the network and resources for companies to expand their reach (and deepen their impact) in the Greater Washington community. Their first symposium is coming up next Wednesday, October 27. You can see the agenda here, sign up for more info, and check out these interviews:

Continue reading

In the News …

I wanted to highlight this post from Greater Greater Washington; the piece was written yesterday morning, the City Paper picked it up yesterday afternoon, and the comments thread debate is still going now. Bryan Weaver, executive director of Hoops Sagrado, recounts his twelve-year connection to Jamal Coates, who was killed in the 13th & U funeral shooting. He concludes:

“I don’t profess to have the answers. If I did, Jamal would not be dead. But I do have some ideas about how we as a community — the entire community — can begin to frame the conversation that will hopefully bring about real change and possibly save some lives [...] We need real action. We need people who are really willing to look at our system and fix it [...] The best way to stop a bullet is an education and a job.”

The debate has focused, at least in part, on whether small and localized changed can make the difference or whether a national paradigm shift is necessary. For a simple answer, I’d say that the former is of course critical while we are waiting on the latter. But I’d also posit that education and outreach programs created for a single neighborhood, a single street, or a single block can have an impact (and an intimacy) that no national program could ever duplicate.

Do check out the post in full and TBD also has an interesting perspective. Moreover, take a look at some of the amazing work that our non-profits are doing in Education and Human Services. The changes may be local and specific, but that translates to deep and undeniable.

Moving (and Working) Together

From bright-red bikes to non-profit administrative operations, what are we ready and excited to share?

Regarding the new Capital Bikeshare program, the New York Times explains that Internet services, from Netflix to Pandora, have “changed the way Americans think about sharing and ownership. Collaborative habits online are beginning to find expression in the real world.”

Perhaps this ethic of collaboration spread from products and purchasing to operations and funding. Just last Friday, the Boston Globe reported that the Boston Foundation (along with three others) has unveiled “a new fund to help local charities … form partnerships, combine functions like bookkeeping or community services, or merge into new groups … to better serve their communities.”

Of course, the comparisons are not perfect. But speaking broadly, have cooperation and sharing become newly interesting? Haven’t they always been part of the picture?

Says the founder of NeighborGoods, an online resource where users can enter their zip code and locate neighbors willing to borrow or loan, “everyone thought we were completely crazy two years ago a desire for community, a desire to be more sustainable and, frankly, it’s the economy.”


Philanthropy 2173 asks an intriguing question: “if communities and businesses built on sharing — mutual aid — can really regain traction … what will this mean for organized, outside philanthropy as we know it?”

Will this trend last? Does it excite and inspire you? And are new models indeed on the horizon? Or have non-profits long employed this model and businesses are actually catching up? What do you think?