For most people, school or work is what brings people to Washington, D.C. and Mary Ellen Koontz is no exception to this. Originally from York, Pennsylvania, Mary Ellen moved to D.C. to work on policy issues affecting refugees and refugee resettlement. Although she found meaning in this work, she found her true passion to be transportation. Mary Ellen has devoted her professional career to creating safe spaces for people to walk and bike and is the Manager of Trail Funding Advocacy at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
Mary Ellen started working at the Farmers Market when it was under the Cleveland Park Business Association’s (CPBA) tutelage which eventually became the Cleveland Park Main Street. As a graduate student at Georgetown University studying Urban and Regional Planning, Mary Ellen needed a part time job. She learned that the Cleveland Park Farmers Market was hiring in a student newsletter. As a resident of Cleveland Park, interested in the intersection of food systems and community, she could not think of a more perfect part time job. Mary Ellen has been deftly managing the Cleveland Park Farmers Market now for four years. Last year she successfully brought a composting program to the market which is now wildly popular. She likes connecting with neighbors, farmers and vendors and thinks it’s fun to watch the kids growing up week by week.
During the pandemic, the Farmers Market was a bright spot for the community. Despite the extra safety precautions involved in actually managing the market, Mary Ellen remembers those weeks fondly as a time of intense connection with each other. During those days, dogs were not allowed into the Farmers Market and Mary Ellen became the default keeper of the neighborhood dogs just outside the Market’s perimeter while their human owners shopped. Perhaps it was this experience that inspired Mary Ellen to consider adopting a dog.
Like most things in her life, it was her connections in Cleveland Park that brought Rory to her. A Cleveland Park resident brought their Lucky Dogs Rescue foster pup to the Farmers Market. Although she did not adopt this pooch, Mary Ellen did explore other options at Lucky Dogs Rescue and adopted Rory late October of 2021. If the weather is not too hot for Ms. Rory, she is at the Farmers Market every Saturday, mooching berries from people in the Garner Farms tent. If the Cleveland Park Farmers Market is the Town Square of Cleveland Park each Saturday, Rory undoubtedly should be the mayor.