by guest blogger Lily Oswald, freelance environmental and garden writer
Danielle Vogel, a young entrepreneur out of Washington DC, is shaking up Capitol Hill one bite at a time by delivering tasty foods to the community via Glen’s Garden Market.
Glen’s is a grocery store with a unique mission: to populate the shelves with local products sourced exclusively from the Chesapeake Watershed (New York to Virginia).
After graduating from Tufts and earning a law degree from American University, Danielle went to Congress to fight the good fight as environmental counsel for Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). After years of working on environmental policy on the Hill, Danielle got fed up with the slow-moving nature of Congress and its inability to enact measurable change. She wanted to find an alternative way to combat climate change beyond public policy and litigation. In the absence of the possibility for large-scale legislative progress, she looked to her family’s past to inform how incremental progress might be made.
Drawing on her family’s experience as a fourth-generation family business in grocery (both grandfathers were grocers, and her father Glen cofounded NYC-based Food Emporium in 1980), Danielle left her post on Capitol Hill to push environmental change forward by changing the way people shop. With a vision for a grocery store that could serve as a vehicle for climate change advancement, Danielle opened Glen’s Garden Market in the spring of 2013.
By sourcing food from nearby, the team at Glen’s is minimizing emissions from transportation and refrigeration, a goal that ordinary grocery stores struggle to achieve. Glen’s also sources wind power through an offset program, offers no plastic or paper bags, and stocks a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian products and prepared meals to encourage low-carbon, healthy eating.
All containers are of course recyclable or compostable, and chefs cook following a strict “no food waste” mandate. The store has become a profitable venture, successfully breaking into the DC food market and helping to grow other small businesses along the way.
The goal? To displace demand for industrialized food by creating regionally ubiquitous brands that are sourced locally. Glen’s Garden Market has taken a chance by buying from, incubating, and helping to grow 24 small food companies in the last 19 months, beating its goal of launching one new food vendor per month by almost 25 percent.
The team at Glen’s is always looking for vendors who are mindful about the way they grow and create food. Companies like Baba’s Pickles, Fruit Cycle, Gouter Tonics, Ice Cream Jubilee and Carla Hall baked goods now grace their shelves. Not only are these startup food companies given a chance to succeed at Glen’s, but Danielle and her team also work to promote these sellers within the region. Some have even ended up on shelves at Whole Foods.
Glen’s Garden Market has a triple objective to create good: Growing small businesses is good for the economy; sourcing local products is good for the environment; and creating healthy foods is good for the people who buy and eat those foods. Sound familiar? The Rodale Institute’s triple mandate has always been about healthy soil, healthy food, and healthy people. How nice to have fresh faces at the table as we tackle this climate challenge, one bite at a time.
For more background on Danielle’s mission, stream her TEDx here and watch her stint on Bloomberg TV here. And… if you’re ever in Dupont Circle, check out Glen’s Garden Market for yourself. Did we mention the store has $4 local craft beer on draft all day, everyday? What’s not to love about that?
Lily Oswald is a NYC-based fashion retailer, freelance writer, and MBA student who is passionate about gardening and the environment.