DC area organic food is available through a variety of channels and can be easily found. Direct sales from farmers to consumers, retail sales in grocers, and restaurants utilizing these products are all featured in local directories.
Direct sales from farmers are a particularly good way to buy fresh organic food and build a relationship with the growers. Direct sales principally consist of two methods: community supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers markets. A CSA is operated by a farm, which sells shares of its produce. Typically, each shareholder will pick up their equal portion of the produce on a weekly schedule. CSA’s are run by the farms themselves, so it is best to contact them directly. There are dozens of markets in the city and its suburbs, some of which are operated by organizations such as FRESHFARM Markets and Markets & More. Many farmers market directories exist for the DC area. In particular, the Winston A. Price Foundation and the Washington Post have thorough lists.
Other comprehensive directories include grocers and restaurants, along with farmers markets and CSA’s in their listings. For Northern Virginia residents, the Piedmont Environmental Council’s Buy Fresh Buy Local program is a helpful resource. Searching by county or zip code produces results for several categories, including farms specializing in produce or animal products, vineyards, specialty products, farmers markets, restaurants, and more. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, ATTRA, has an excellent list of area organic farms. It can be searched through their website’s “Learning Ops” link. The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (despite its name, it has members from up and down the east coast) has a membership directory including farms, businesses, schools, and non-profits related to local organic agriculture. Chef’s Collaborative database is for chefs looking for local producers and consumers looking for restaurants that buy from local producers. Culinate is more of a social networking resource for local food, but it also includes a search option. Local Harvest is another well known database. It can be used to look for farms, CSA’s, restaurants, retailers, and other local food venues.
Local organic food is available for low-income residents as well. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Clagett Farm works with the Capital Area Food Bank to provide local organic food to those in need. The 7th Street garden works to offer affordable produce and gardening programs. FARMFRESH Markets has partnerships with several humanitarian and community organizations through their “gleaning” program. DC Food Finder is a great map-based resource which locates everything from farmers markets to meals for the homebound.
Edible Chesapeake is a different type of resource – it is an inspiring magazine about the local organic food culture in the Chesapeake region. It features all aspects of our food system, from farmers and restaurants, to recipes and chefs.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the resources available to DC area residents. But the amount of information that is available to us right now can foster the relationships between those who grow food and those who eat it. A healthier DC requires that we cultivate the relationships that will create a functional yet celebratory local food culture.