Food

DC’s Largest Farmers Market Adds Black Businesses After Backlash Over Diversity

FreshFarm announced the inclusion of four new Dupont vendors.

Toyin Alli, chef/owner of Creole-Cajun food business Puddin'. Photograph by Reema Desai

FreshFarm, one of the largest farmers market organizations in the US, announced a new plan of action in the hopes of building diversity. It follows a week of criticism over the lack of Black businesses in their network and especially at the Dupont Circle market—the largest in DC and the highest grossing of FreshFarm’s 33 locations. On Friday, executive director Hugo Mogollon announced a new directive for the non-profit with long-term goals and some “immediate changes,” including the addition of four Black vendors to Dupont. Starting Sunday, June 21, you’ll see Dodo Farms produce, organic Fight Juice, vegetarian/vegan foods vendor Sexy Vegie, and Cajun/Creole kitchen Puddin’.

“This response is the first step, but our commitment to change will be widespread and longer-lasting. We will be continuously sharing details with the public about our approach over the next few months,” Mogollon said in the statement.

The backlash began last week after FreshFarm posted a message to its nearly 23,000 Instagram followers, encouraging them to “shop with black-owned businesses in the FreshFarm network”— 16 vendors out of FreshFarm’s 240 farmers and producers. Only one, Deep Roots Farm, operated at the Dupont market, which accounts for 46 percent of all market revenues. Puddin’ chef/owner Toyin Alli, who is Black, then posted a video on her Instagram sharing her experience as a FreshFarm vendor of seven years, having applied for a spot at Dupont and being denied multiple times. 

“They’re clearly not following any best practices in vendor selection,” Alli told Washingtonian. “Don’t you dare use me when it’s good for you to promote yourself on social media. We don’t have that kind of relationship.”

FreshFarm issued a lengthy apology last week on its social media platforms “for tokenizing [Black-owned businesses] rather than providing that support.” On Friday, Mogollon—who joined FreshFarm last year as part of the merger with another major organization, Community Foodworks—posted his own video to the FreshFarm Instagram to share plans for the nonprofit moving forward.

“As we move into a new chapter for FreshFarm, with my leadership, we commit to addressing the concerns this important discussion has raised by one, clarifying and sharing our vendor selection process; two, publicly sharing the regulations and guidelines by which vendors must adhere, and three; ensuring our organization is anti-racist in its direction, strategy, and structure,” says Mogollon.

A  Saturday meeting is scheduled between FreshFarm leaders and the organization’s Black business owners. Alli, who’s been a prominent voice in urging change at FreshFarm, says she hopes this is just the start.

“I think this is one step and there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” says Alli, who’ll join the Dupont farmers market on Sunday after seven years at the downtown White House market. “I’m a small business, I can only do so much. I just hope this isn’t just an optics thing.”

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

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