Oasis in the Desert

DC Community Gets its First Farmers Market


On a typical weekend in the District, it’s not hard to find people shopping in their neighborhood grocery stores getting healthy food for the week – unless you live in Ward 7, a virtual food desert.

That is until now.

Recently, the Parkside-Kenilworth Farmers Market opened in the Parkside neighborhood in Northeastern DC, a place that’s considered one of these “food deserts”.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a food desert is an area that lacks affordable access to healthy eating options.  Over 23 million Americans reside in food deserts, and a disproportionate amount of those are African American.

Betty, a resident in the Kenilworth neighborhood, has experienced this first hand.  “The closest grocery store is far,” she said as she picked over apples at one stand. “And it’s expensive.”

At the market you’ll find elderly people examining peaches and picking out cabbage, you’ll find families picking out fresh pies, and children coloring nutrition activity books provided to nutritionists from the University of the District of Columbia. 

DonnéMallory, who helped organize the market, think that its opening will help combat this issue. “I believe this will help people eat healthier,” she said. “There’s a McDonald’s nearby. I know down the street there’s a convenience store and a liquor store and there’s a carryout on the corner, but this is the first place that has the fresh stuff. You can preach about eating healthy, but what do you do if you don’t have access to that?”

The Parkside-Kenilworth Farmers Market is grower only, meaning that those selling food can only sell what they grow and having more seasonal options than wholesaling markets.  Many of the farmers have been growing food for over ten years and travel from market to market selling their food.

The need for change is even palpable to them.  Carl Purvenas-Smith of Terrapin-Station Farms based in Pennsylvania say there’s a type of “food warfare.”  “I say, if I sell it in Northwest, I better be sure to sell it in Southeast and Northeast. Everyone in the city should have access to good, wholesome, nourishing food.”

“You look in some of these places and they’re selling junk,” he continued.  “Even the chain stores – and that’s if they have them.”

The market boasts a wide array of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and fresh meat as well as a pickle stand, a Senegalese food stand, and UDC nutritional science students that teach healthy eating habits.  The vendors work together; the man that sells pastries uses fruits from the market; the chef from UDC uses fresh vegetables from one of the local farmers in his cooking demo.

The market is located at Burnham Place and Kenilworth Terrace every Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM. The market takes the WIC program, as well as EBT cards