FreshFarm, the largest organization of farmers markets in the DC area, is making several changes to its market locations and opening schedules due to the pandemic. Typically April is opening time for several of the non-profit’s seasonal markets around downtown DC—an area particularly hard hit by the pandemic due to loss of office workers and tourist foot traffic—including Penn Quarter, Foggy Bottom, and by the White House. All three locations were closed last year due to Covid, and will be delayed this year. The same is likely true for the market at CityCenterDC, which usually starts in May.
“We’re keeping an eye on things. It’s not only about downtown office workers returning. We’re waiting on regulations that increase foot traffic, and get more people on the Metro,” says FreshFarm deputy director Nony Dutton.
Though no specific late opening dates have been set, Dutton says the hope is for mid-May or June openings. He estimates 20 out of 30 of FreshFarm’s regular markets in DC, Maryland, and Virginia will be open by May.
Dutton says FreshFarm has been working to relocate the farmers and vendors whose locations are delayed. One option is literally “picking up and moving” one of markets—likely Foggy Bottom or the White House—to Dupont Circle during the week. He says they’re leaning towards the Wednesday Foggy Bottom market since it’s close by. (It’s been closed due to its proximity to GW Hospital).
FreshFarm has also added more space at the year-round Dupont market on Sundays—the largest and most profitable market in DC—for a rotating cast of vendors to pop up. The move to create a more inclusive Dupont market started last June after FreshFarm faced backlash over the exclusion of BIPOC farmers and vendors at the lucrative location, which has long had a reputation of being difficult to join. (FreshFarm receives around 500 applications for Dupont each year.) Dutton says FreshFarm has received a permit to expand the huge Sunday market’s footprint even further, which they plan to do in the spring.
Like everyone else, FreshFarm has pivoted in the pandemic, creating OpenTable reservation systems for popular markets, creating online pre-ordering platforms, and redirecting traffic flow. Dutton says the organization is waiting on new regulations from the DC Health Department on increasing capacity limits. The non-profit is also looking at adding outdoor streatery zones to markets where a lot of prepared food and drinks are sold (currently eating at markets is prohibited due to mask regulations). One Before Times tradition that isn’t on the horizon?
“Sampling is still off for the time being,” says Dutton.