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The good ol’ farmers market. Promoting sustainability, healthy living, and…free plastic bags?

The city’s new 5-cent fee on them—save the Anacostia!—has GOPers picketing, residents running into Maryland and Virginia to shop, and Politics & Prose ditching the mints.

But on any given Sunday, residents can still find an abundance of free plastic bags (free bags for the elite!) at the Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market, writes Ed Bruske at The Slow Cook. Why? Because farmers markets are exempt from charging a bag fee, says Bernie Prince, co-director at the Fresh Farm Market. Where does the irony end?   

Charles Allen, chief of staff for Tommy Wells, Ward 6 councilmember and the lead sponsor of the bag fee legislation, was surprised to hear this. “When you shop at the farmers market, green beans inside a bag, there’s no fee on that bag,” he says. But since there still is a transaction going on, or a so-called “point of sale”—like, when you go to pay for those beans and you walk away with them in a plastic bag—it would seem there should be a charge, he says.

Ultimately, the District Department of Environment (DDOE) is responsible for the interpretation and implementation of the bill, Allen says. So City Desk contacted DDOE. But DDOE had to contact the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) for a bit of assistance: Under the act, a business is required to charge a bag fee if it has to hold a public health and retail license, and that’s DCRA’s purview. DCRA did not respond to a request for comment.

“We encourage our customers to bring their own canvas bags or baskets, which many of them do.…To be honest, I am uncertain why they [Fresh Farm Market] have not instituted the 5-cent charge,” says Nick Lapham, who sells his produce at Fresh Farm.

Says Prince: “We want to be part of the action here.” But inquiries from Fresh Farm on how to implement the program have gone unanswered by DDOE, Prince says. “We have 40 farmers, it’s not like CVS, with one store with a central checkout.”

So grab those free plastic bags before they disappear. But, hey, bringing your own buckets for those blueberries may not be so bad.