Vendors return to Foggy Bottom farmers market after pandemic hiatus

Media Credit: Lilly Speredelozzi I Photographer

Vendors said they’ve enjoyed sharing their produce and cultural food with their customers now that the farmers market is back in person.

The Foggy Bottom farmers market has returned, bringing back local vendors who are eager to rebuild their clientele to pre-pandemic levels and connect with locals for the first time in more than two years.

The farmers market reopened at the intersection of 23rd and I streets earlier this month, where vendors have set up shop to offer a mix of goods ranging from produce like apples and potatoes to empanadas and wood-fired pizza every Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m. Vendors said they’ve enjoyed sharing their produce and cultural food with their customers again now that the market is back.

Molly Scalise – the deputy director of communications for FRESHFARM, the organization that oversees farmers markets in the District – said customers have expressed their excitement that the market is back in Foggy Bottom, and FRESHFARM has seen a “great turnout” so far.

“We will have several more vendors joining the market lineup as the spring harvest begins in earnest,” she said in an email. “Moving ahead, we are hoping to continue to expand the market to provide more grocery staples to the community.”

Washingtonian reported that FRESHFARM closed the Foggy Bottom market two years ago in the interest of public health concerns due to its proximity to the GW Hospital, but with the onset of spring and the change in weather, they’re expanding their market offerings, opening a new location near the White House and extending the Dupont Circle location’s hours and days of operation.

Hugo Mogollon, the executive director of FRESHFARM, told Washingtonian that the organization’s revenue grew by 33 percent during 2021, resulting in $20 million for its farmers and producers.

Jorge Barajas said he had been working at the Barajas Produce stand, a small family-owned business selling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, at the Foggy Bottom market for 10 years. He said before the pandemic, he saw high volumes of foot traffic from customers who were heading home from work via the Metro and students who were heading back from class.

“You see a lot of different people here, and that’s the best part of it,” he said. “We love it.”

But he said the market hasn’t seen the same turnout following its return this year, given the two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hopefully more people come out, and more people are aware that there’s a farmers market going on,” he said. “Because if not, a lot of farmers and vendors are going to start dropping off and the market is not going to work out.”

Patrice Cunningham – who runs the stand for Tae-Gu Kimchi, which sells handcrafted napa cabbage kimchi – said she started her business after she quit her job as a chef in the District at the start of the pandemic. She said this spring marks her first time as a vendor at the Foggy Bottom market.

Cunningham said after starting her business during the pandemic, she has largely only interacted with her customers when they ordered online until starting at the market. She said operating in person has helped her connect with her customers and receive immediate feedback on her products.

“I love being outside when the weather’s nice and being able to work with other vendors too that are in the same industry,” she said.

Denece Cesceves, who works at the DMV Empanadas stand serving up empanada flavors like beef, shrimp old bay and spinach and cheese, said it has been “amazing” to see customers trying their food in person now that the market has returned during the pandemic.

“I like to speak with the people [who] know our empanadas because it is our identity, it’s our food,” she said. “And if the American people like those, oh my gosh, it’s amazing for us.”

Diana Mendoza – a vendor for King Mushrooms, which has been in operation selling mushrooms, soups and tinctures for eight years – said the turnout at the Foggy Bottom market increased in the few weeks since it reopened this season.

“It’s definitely busier, more foot traffic than other places,” she said.

Mendoza said she looks forward to coming to work at the Foggy Bottom market where she can see other vendors and try out the food they have to offer.

“It’s exciting to know you’re going to have your favorite lunch from a vendor, so that makes it fun to come to work,” she said.

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