Underground Farmers Market Launching in DC


Photo by PoPville flickr user rockcreek

“Dear PoP,

I am the organizer for the DC Grey Farmers Market which is sponsored by Grey DC . We are planning our first ever market and the event will be taking place in Petworth!

We are looking for small food vendors who would like to sell food that they have made or grown.”

Their Web site says:

“A grey market, also known as parallel market, is the trade of a commodity through distribution channels which, while legal, are unofficial, unauthorized, or unintended by the original manufacturer.”

You can find more info here. Anyone ever heard of a grey market before? Think this is a good idea for DC?

27 Comment

  • So in other words, we’re too lazy to ask the community, get a permit and will instead rely on our own sense of moral superiority?

  • Is this like a secret/underground bake sale? Interesting…

  • I can’t see how Uhuru would approve of this.

  • Bear

    I loved the watermelon curb! Apparently the Department of Public Works didn’t agree as they replaced this curb with a non-watermelon shaped one shortly after it was painted.

    • I loved the watermelon curb! Apparently the Department of Public Works didn’t agree as they replaced this curb with a non-watermelon shaped one shortly after it was painted.

      I’m pretty sure it was already slated to be removed when it was painted.

      • Bear

        Maybe so, but it’s odd–they had just redone all the sidewalks and crosswalks at that intersection when the watermelon paint appeared. That little concrete wedge hadn’t existed for more than a few weeks when it was painted.

        • I lived up the block at the time and saw people trip over that chunk more than a few times – it was awkwardly placed and served no purpose, and I got the impression that it was a rote build out by the contractor of an error in the plans (or a misreading of them). They ended up replacing it w/a normal curb cut that isn’t a menace to pedestrians.

  • This stuff better be really cheap – passing along the savings of not having to be inspected by the health department

    I can think of a few other ways to save money, I suppose

    But maybe this is more like a potluck or a bakesale or something where people just cook and bring their own food?

    Q. Why do I have to sign up?
    A. The DC Grey Farmers Market is a private membership club that serves as an incubator for small food vendors who can’t yet afford to be licensed. By registering you are signing up for the club and signing a waiver that says you are aware that there may be products that have been made in a kitchen that has not been inspected by the health department.

  • Sounds like a great way to get food poisoning.

    • Probably not. Getting licensed and having a commercial grade kitchen (for baked goods) sometimes prices out a lot of otherwise totally legitimate small farmers and vendors. I prefer to just talk to the growers and sources, most are pretty open.

  • I really thought you meant, underground as in “out of the cold.” Bummed, would rather have a the out of the cold version.

  • This is basically illegal, right?

    • probably the private membership club part is to get around that. I have heard of similar loopholes for strip clubs. Didn’t think Id ever refer to strip clubs in a comment about farmers markets

  • Underground restaurants are big in many cities (not sure if DC has caught on to the craze yet). I guess this is similar.

  • I think its a good idea. How is it different from a bakesale or lemonade stand? If someone has a huge crop of zucchini or makes a killer cupcake, why shouldn’t they be able to sell them to other people without having to go through the hoops that only a larger, full time operation has the resources for? Yeah, for most people, a normal farmers market is probably the best bet. But I for one think I’ll check this out. look at how many licensed establishments make people sick… spinach at the grocery store, Baughers Apple Cider (which I love) allegedly giving people food poisoning. Honestly, I’d rather have something that was made or grown by a caring hand than something that came from a factory or was covered in pesticide. If I’m actually buying from the guy who made the food, why not have a little trust?

  • homemade canned food can give you botulism if it’s done wrong. I wouldn’t mess around.

    this is not cool; it’s a kick in the teeth to folks who actually worked hard to follow the rules when they set up a farmers’ market, restaurant, food truck, etc. If they feel these rules are too restrictive (and some are; while others are important for health, safety, etc.) they should try and change them.

    they’re just asking for DCRA or the Dept. of Health to shut them down and fine them, and I won’t be sad when they do.

    • I think a lot of people do work to try and change them, but the deck is definitely stacked against the smallest farmers in terms of start up costs.

  • Will they have cupcakes?? I could really use some more cupcakes!

  • We are totally for the health department but not everyone can afford the fees yet ($500+). Come out and support us and hopefully our vendors will make enough money to start the licensing process.
    The prices will probably be reasonable but you have to remember that the reason manufactured stuff is cheap is because of subsidies and economies of scale.

    And there is a good chance there will be cupcakes.

    • “Come out and support us and hopefully our vendors will make enough money to start the licensing process.”

      what? that’s like “pay us the first months rent and we’ll have enough money to put in a smoke detector in the apartment” or “buy a few taxi rides and hopefully our drivers will make enough to take driver’s ed.”

      you don’t get to have a business and make money until you get licensed. Why don’t you have a legitimate event with all licensed vendors and charge them, then loan your proceeds to help someone get licensed (you could even make it a revolving loan, so more people can start legit businesses)?

  • I’m definitely for this. As a home cook who’s briefly looked into selling homemade food, it’s a rather expensive/cumbersome process as you have to get your cooking space inspected and certified (and I’m under the impression it’s basically impossible to get a personal home kitchen oked – though this might not be the case) as well as the fees, process, etc of getting licensed. I’m also really interested in supporting other people making delicious food in small quantities.

    Keep in mind, too, this is really a relatively minor blip in the food landscape.

  • In America, we spell it “gray.” This is obviously a subversive plot launched by foreign enemies.

  • We thought about spelling it gray but as Gray just got elected for the next four years we didn’t want to cause confusion.
    You can start a business and use the money to become “legit” sb. There are also people who are served by alternative economies. There is an alternative taxi service in Baltimore where the service is cheaper but the driver isn’t licensed.
    License requirements are also not as thorough as one might think. I bet there are licensed taxi drivers who’ve flunked drivers ed or whatever the requirements are.

    Anyways, I’m glad there are people who fervently adhere to license requirements but there are other options.

  • I think this is a great idea and I’m really excited about this event! Do you actually have to be selling something just to go shop or can anybody go?

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