Growing an Alternative Economy One Community at a Time

From Truth Dig:

By Thomas Hedges,
Center for Study of Responsive Law
Oct 24, 2012

On Sunday mornings, farmers, producers and consumers meet in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., and exchange locally grown products. Bright fruits, vegetables and flowers are lifted from large tables and brought to the cash register, where shoppers and farmers talk at length. Others taste cheeses and sample slices of tomato, pausing to savor the taste or read a handout detailing the food’s provenance.

The apples, pears, potatoes here are collected from farms within 150 miles of where they are sold. The men and women behind each stand are often the farmers themselves. Pesticides, antibiotics and artificial growth hormones are banned. Fresh Farm Markets, a not-for-profit organization that oversees and regulates the farmers market in Dupont Circle, travels to each farm to make sure that regulations are followed.

Any producers, whether they sell jam, pastas, or soups, must prove that their ingredients are from the region.

“We work with the locals,” says Isabel Castillo, co-owner of Dolcezza Artisanal Gelato. “I have apples from here, pears from here, ricotta from here. I support here.” Castillo makes the gelato in her flagship store on Wisconsin Avenue and Q Street. She has two other stores. “My son-in-law is the chef and my daughter and husband and I manage the shops,” she says.

The vibrancy here reaches beyond the mere color of the produce. It’s found in the conversations between shoppers and vendors, which point to a level of care in how people are consuming. It’s about more than health. It’s about buying food that hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get here, and the impact that has on the environment.

“The best thing about farmers markets is that people talk,” says environmentalist Bill McKibben. “A study found that shoppers at farmers markets had 10 times as many conversations per visit than at supermarkets.”

“That’s one way we reknit the community, lost as America sprawls outwards,” he says.

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