By: Kyra Azore
WASHINGTON – The breeze blows softly as balloons squeak as they are being transformed into various balloon animals. Children carry them around as they accompany their parents to the weekly Farmer’s Market, which has become a staple event in the community.
The event, which is held every Saturday morning in the lot on 4th and M Street S.W., is an opportunity for community members and vendors to connect. Musicians grace the stage as community members shop the booths of local vendors, buying fresh groceries and handmade crafts.
“We’ve created a space where the community comes together, an outdoor living room. We turned a desolate lot into a meeting space,” said Michael Berman, president of Diverse Market Management, which is the company responsible for producing the farmer’s market each week.
When asked why these events are vital to the community, Michael Farnell, a vendor said, “They support local businesses, instead of buying your groceries at a Safeway or large businesses, they come here and buy local, which puts money back in the community.” Farnell, who works at Sandy Bottom Acres, a local producer of farm-raised beef said, “[Business has] probably doubled since we’ve started, this is our third year.”
The market which stands in the shadows of a recently constructed Safeway grocery, gives community members the option to buy local. Ward 6 is not technically a food desert, because there are accessible grocery stores, but there are not as many that are needed to support the population of that neighborhood. Not only has the Farmer’s Market provided a new place of business for local vendors, but it has also established a sense of pride and community among residents.
(Above: Patrons shop at local vendors. Photo credit: Kyra Azore)
“I think Southwest has been a community neighborhood for so long, even with the construction it’s still good to have these community events. Brings people together from all walks of life, and all stages of life,” said John Spallino, pastor of Mary Hill Church. Spallino said he and the members of his church come out each week and make balloon animals and paint faces as a way to do their part in building a sense of community.
Spallino, a new father, said these events helped him feel more apart of his community than ever before, “We meet a lot of families, we meet other families with kids, which turns into playdates. I feel way more connected [to the community] because of this.” The Farmer’s Market encourages connections not only amongst community members but with vendors as well, allowing the community to directly interact with those who produce their food and goods.
(Above: Volunteers from Mary Hill Church play games with children. Photo credit: Kyra Azore)
“Events like a farmer’s market are important to the community, because they foster a sense of community [amongst residents]. It provides a way for certain parts of the community to get the things they need like fresh vegetables. We also provide a place for small businesses, made in D.C. goods,” said Berman.
The Saturday Farmer’s Market will be every Saturday until November 18. There’s also an arts and food market every second and fourth Friday in the month, in the same lot, starting at 4 p.m.