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To Market, To Market: Ward 8

On Saturday mornings, the small market with a big heart convenes at 500 Alabama Ave. SE in a fenced-in parking lot. (And what it would give for access on opposite sides instead of just the one gate.) It began in 1999 and operates as a nonprofit cooperative, unlike most markets in the Washington area. (A Safeway closed nearby the previous year.) At the end of the market day, W8FM distributes its surplus fruits and vegetables to nearby corner stores to increase fresh food options in the neighborhood.

Ward 8 is Marion Barry territory, and he’s been known to show up at the market from time to time. The market is partnering for the first time with So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.) to distribute W8FM certificates to the clients in its senior programs and has just added a second day and location – Tuesdays at the United Medical Center.

Obberron DeFreitas, owner of 99.6 acres and a Mule in Leonardtown, Md. (Patti Harburger)

Vendors participating this season include: Bree’s Plants, grown in the District; Grace’s Pastries of Herndon; Secrets of Nature, which has vegan and health food; Terrapin Station Herb Farm of York Springs, Pa., which sells a wide variety of dried herbs and preserves; Virginia Bakery, which makes smoothies and empanadas; Penn Farm of Colonial Beach, Va.; and 99.6 Acres and a Mule of Leonardtown, Md., which sells produce.

Obberron DeFreitas owns 99.6 Acres, and meeting him might make your day. On a recent sweltering Saturday he hawked his bicolor corn by offering a free ear with the line: “You haven’t had corn like this.” (Turns out, it was very good.)

He lived and taught special ed in Southeast D.C., and retired in 1995 – “but I’m learning all the time,” he says. He bought farmland in Leonardtown but missed the ’hood, so has brought his produce in for the past six years. Early in the summer, he’s selling potatoes ($1.29 per pound), cucumbers (80 cents each), grape tomatoes ($2.50 per box), collards ($1.35 per bunch) and his good corn (50 cents per ear).

“And I’m the Mule. No doubt about that,” he says.

Market manager Michael Segal is looking forward to next week’s educational event at the Tuesday location; a class on cooking and nutrition put on by the University of the District of Columbia’s Center for Diet, Health and Nutrition will answer “what do I do with it?” questions related to fresh offerings at the market. Segal worked previously at the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market, so he’s keenly aware of the challenges in Ward 8.

“Good things will be happening here,” he says. The market’s community support was recently highlighted in the American Prospect.

Ward 8 Farmers Market, 500 Alabama Ave. SE; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Tuesdays at United Medical Center, 1310 Southern Ave. SE, 3 to 7 p.m. E-mail:

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

By The Food Section  |  June 25, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  To Market, To Market  | Tags: Bonnie S. Benwick, To Market  
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