Here’s a sign that it’s time to pack the winter coat away: The H Street Freshfarm Market is making its return this weekend.
The collection of about a dozen vendors selling produce, dairy, meat and other products might be smaller than its flashier cousin on the other side of the Hill, Eastern Market, but it has a more intimate vibe — and a closer connection to local farmers.
We talked to Co-Director Bernie Prince to get the dirt (pun intended) on the produce and programs coming to the market.
How long has the H Street market been around and how has it changed?
This is our eighth season, and it’s really become a community gathering place. Early on, people would wander by and wonder what was going on, but it’s a destination now. People bring their kids — we have horseshoe tossing and jump ropes — so they can play while their parents shop.
The entire H Street corridor has been so torn up, but this year, the streetscape is looking closer to being ready. It will be possible to park in the back, which we couldn’t do last year.
Who are the market’s customers?
Young professionals, a lot of young families with strollers and many seniors who’ve lived in the neighborhood for a long time. We have a lot of low-income shoppers because we have a food-stamp program. We actually match low-income shoppers with up to $10 to use at the market.
What’s new this year?
There will be barbecue [from Geppetto Catering] and kettle corn that’s made from Maryland corn. We’ll also have gelato and baked goods from Atwater’s bakery — they source local ingredients and have a farmer down in North Carolina who mills flour just for them.
Why shop at a farmers market?
It adds a layer of authenticity when you know where your food is coming from. The people selling at the market are often farmers, or their families, or people who work on the farm, so they can tell you about what’s going on on the farm and what’s going to be ready next week.
If you go to Eastern Market, I’m sorry, but there are very few farmers right there.
And the food is grown for flavor, not to be packed and shipped off to a grocery store.
We do programs, too. We try to book a chef every week, or at least the first Saturday of the month, to demonstrate cooking with seasonal ingredients and how to stretch your food dollar, like using whole chickens. And there’s live music.
What produce will be available at the start of the season?
We have one farmer who says he’s going to have asparagus, which will be great. Also, there will be green garlic [baby bulbs with a milder flavor than mature ones]. We’ll have lots of those tender greens like arugula and watercress and spinach. Things really get started once strawberry season comes around. Once that starts, we can expect all the fruits we love, like apricots and plums.
The market is at 625 H St. NE and is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.