Dupont Circle’s Sunday farmers market is the biggest and busiest in Washington—and this spring, it’ll grow even further. FreshFarm, the DC-based nonprofit that was founded alongside the market’s opening in 1997, will launch a Thursday afternoon farmers market on Thursday, May 5. Plans are also underway to expand the popular Sunday market—adding a dozen or more new farmers and producers to the 75-deep roster—starting Sunday, April 3. Almost all of the newcomer will “self-identify from key groups historically excluded from agriculture,” according to FreshFarm representatives.
FreshFarm currently operates 28 producer-only markets across the region—farmers must grow food within a 200 mile radius of the market—and is the third-largest farmers market network in the United States. Amidst racial justice protests in summer 2020, the nonprofit faced backlash—mostly centered around the Dupont Circle market—over a lack of diversity and inclusion. At the time, FreshFarm posted a message encouraging social media followers to patronize Black-owned businesses in the FreshFarm network—which amounted to 16 vendors out of FreshFarm’s 240 farmers and producers (only one, Deep Roots Farm, operated at Dupont at the time). The nonprofit was then criticized for its opaque and seemingly exclusionary application process into the Dupont market. It receives over 450 applications each year, and at the time accounted for nearly half of all market revenues. The application process only launched in 2017; prior to that, vendors joined by invitation only.
In the immediate aftermath, FreshFarm added four Black vendors to the Dupont market. Over the past year and a half, they say they’ve changed their application processes to increase transparency and inclusion—including more dialogue between applicants and potential employers, more diversity among the selection committees, and affirmative actions measures to prevent discrimination.
“It’s an important time for self-reflection and to analyze the processes in general,” says FreshFarm executive director Hugo Mogollon, who joined the nonprofit in 2019 after its merger with Community Foodworks. “We want to offer a platform for socially disadvantaged and underserved vendors. That’s an important part of the process.”
The group of of “socially disadvantaged or underserved” people historically excluded from agriculture, defined by the USDA, includes Black, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, military veterans, and women. Mogollon says the specific farmers and producers have not yet been finalized for the Sunday expansion or the weekday market.
FreshFarm’s Thursday Dupont Circle market—a first weekday venture in the location’s 25 year history—will be held from 3 to 7 PM, and will operate along the 1900 block of Massachusetts Avenue, Northwest. The market will feature a lineup of 10 to 15 farmers and producers, offering local produce, proteins, breads, cheeses, and more. FreshFarm will also reopen two popular markets that have been closed since the pandemic: the market near the White House, which operates on Thursdays around lunchtime and specializes in grab-and-go foods for office workers, and a Wednesday market in Foggy Bottom. After an early pandemic dip, Mogollon says FreshFarm experienced a 33 percent growth last year, creating 20 million in revenue for its farmers and producers.
“People are very comfortable shopping outside, and knowing you’re supporting local,” says Mogollon. “With supply chain issues, diversifying our food sources helps the city be more resilient. Farmers markets need to count as an important part of the food system.”