2020 Annual Report

Nurturing A Resilient Food System

In a year marked by a global pandemic, FRESHFARM confronted our fair share of challenges. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Washington, DC metro area in March, we responded quickly, shifting our operations dramatically and establishing creative ways to continue to serve our communities. FRESHFARM remained resilient as we worked to keep our farmers markets open, increase food access for vulnerable families and seniors, and pivot to virtual food education for students.

In the midst of a national reckoning on racial justice, we took a hard look at our personal and organizational biases, and pushed forward to address these challenges to promote a just and equitable food system. We dove deep into the important work of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion and committed to making sustained, intentional changes to become an anti-racist organization.

Despite the challenges of 2020, it was a year of new pathways and new successes for FRESHFARM. After merging with Community Foodworks at the end of 2019, we made strides in integrating our staff, finances, policies, and cultures, and found exciting new opportunities for collaboration and innovation among our programs. We deepened partnerships with organizations across the region to help expand our impact and reach.

We are grateful that we have been able to continue to serve our communities and help sustain the local food system during 2020 — and for all the partners, customers, and families who supported us along the way.

Hugo Mogollon
Executive Director

Farmers Markets

Cultivating inclusive, welcoming community spaces to access and enjoy local food, improve health, and support local farmers and food producers

The 2020 season brought unprecedented growth and challenges to our farmers markets. Our merger with Community Foodworks doubled the number of farmers markets FRESHFARM manages, making us the third largest farmers market organization in the country and the largest in the region. Just as we were preparing to launch the biggest market season in our history, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Our markets team immediately sprang into action, working tirelessly to keep markets open through ever-changing rules and safety guidelines. We immediately implemented safety measures at market — including handwashing stations, one-way traffic flow, and timed entries and capacity limits — which changed every week as the pandemic unfolded. We worked closely with local and state governments in DC, Maryland, and Virginia to ensure that farmers markets could remain open as essential businesses, serving a critical lifeline for both farmers and customers.

Demand for fresh food skyrocketed in the early weeks and months of the pandemic. FRESHFARM markets, as well as our farmers and producers, pivoted quickly to respond to the needs of the community. Customers turned to local farmers markets as a relatively safe, outdoor venue for purchasing fresh, nutritious food. Farmers and producers relied on the market to keep their businesses afloat as wholesale orders and restaurant accounts dried up.

To increase purchasing power for shoppers using nutrition benefits at market, we eliminated the $10 cap on our Fresh Match program, offering unlimited dollar-for-dollar matches to anyone shopping at the market with SNAP, WIC, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program benefits, or other benefit programs. The farmers markets have truly proven to be resilient and essential in keeping our community fed, and our farmers and producers in business, during this unprecedented time.

Farmer Spotlight

Supporting Local Businesses During a Pandemic

For Jorge Barajas, the timing of the pandemic couldn’t have been worse: after planning all winter long, he was ready to bring his produce to market, and now he wasn’t sure if farmers markets would even be able to open. “When the pandemic hit, we didn’t know what to do,” said Jorge. “We already had everything planned out, we already had all of the investments done at the beginning of the season, and our only source of income is the farmers market.”

The loss of those markets would have been catastrophic for the Barajas family, who operate their 56-acre produce farm in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Farmers like Jorge depended on FRESHFARM to open markets safely, and our ability to quickly transform our operations in the aftermath of COVID-19 helped farmers and producers stay resilient. “If it wasn’t for [the markets staying open], we really don’t know what we’d be doing,” said Jorge. Together, we kept the markets open and thriving for the community, and we’re so grateful to our incredible farmers and producers for their hard work in weathering this challenge with us.

Customer Spotlight

Increasing Food Access Through Fresh Match

Market shopper Ashley has always cared about eating whole, organic, fresh foods. But once she had her son, it became difficult to afford the nutritious, seasonal food she wanted to feed him. As a shopper using SNAP benefits, she relies on FRESHFARM’s Fresh Match program to help her afford the groceries she needs to maintain her family’s healthy diet.

Based in Front Royal, Ashley started shopping at the Oakton farmers market during the pandemic and shops there every few weeks, when she makes the hour drive to see her family in the area. “I appreciate that this market has SNAP and that I can use the SNAP matching dollars here,” says Ashley. “It means a lot to me that I have access to healthy food for me and my family.” Ashley does a significant part of her grocery shopping at the market, which wouldn’t be possible without the unlimited dollar-for-dollar match offered by the Fresh Match program. She also loves building connections with the farmers at market, adding, “this is a great experience for my son to understand where his food comes from.”

22
markets & farm stands opened during the pandemic
189
farmers & producers participated in FRESHFARM markets
$15.6m
in revenue for farmers & producers
680
market days hosted
427k
customers shopped at FRESHFARM farmers markets
$298k
spent in nutrition benefits + FRESHFARM match at market

“Shopping at the farmer’s market has been a highlight of my pandemic life! I don’t think I have missed a week at the market since 2019. I source as much as possible from your markets!”

— Michelle Sara King, market shopper

Pop Up Food Hub

Linking farmers and communities to increase access to fresh, local produce through an innovative model of food distribution

The Pop Up Food Hub launched its 2020 season in March, just as the pandemic was arriving in our region. COVID-19 quickly brought many elements of the industrial food system to a grinding halt, with people across the country facing empty grocery shelves and farmers dumping food that could no longer be sold to restaurant and wholesale distributors. The stark contrast of food being wasted while millions went hungry revealed how brittle our national food supply chain is. In the midst of this crisis, the Pop Up Food Hub’s regionally based food distribution model helped fill critical gaps in our local food supply while providing additional revenue for farmers at a time when they needed it most.

Every week, the Pop Up Food Hub team picks up wholesale orders from farmers attending FRESHFARM farmers markets and distributes these orders to institutional partners, childcare facilities, senior care organizations, and rec centers who we work with throughout the year to distribute fresh food to their clients. With the pandemic limiting recipients’ ability to leave home to pick up their groceries, we implemented home delivery options, bringing bags of fresh produce to hundreds of seniors and families with children each week. We established new partnerships in Northern Virginia with medical centers and school PTAs to serve a wider swath of the community.

In 2020, our operations scaled up an incredible 600% to meet the needs of families and individuals across the DC metro area, bringing more sales to local farmers who fulfill our wholesale orders and more fresh food to families struggling to buy groceries. In this difficult year, the Pop Up Food Hub was an inspiring example of a nimble and resilient regionally based food system, rooted in the community it serves.

Partner Spotlight

Building Connections In Northern Virginia

This summer, our longtime partner, the National Landing Business Improvement District, convened FRESHFARM, Friends of Urban Agriculture, and three Arlington Public Schools parent-teacher associations to help alleviate food security in Northern Virginia. Together, we helped provide over 20,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to vulnerable families in the Arlington neighborhoods of National Landing, Shirlington, and Columbia Pike. This important partnership expanded our Pop Up Food Hub distribution in Northern Virginia, getting more fresh food directly from farmers to families in need.

“[The] community is loving the produce because it is so much better than what is available at the grocery store, and I suspect many are trying some of those fruits and veggies for the first time,” said one Arlington Community Corps volunteer who helped distribute FRESHFARM bags to community members. At a time when our region has seen a 48% to 60% increase in food insecurity, getting food to people who need it is more critical than ever. The fresh groceries from the Pop Up Food Hub made a real difference in the lives of hundreds of Northern Virginia families this year.

Farmer Spotlight

Growing Farms Via Wholesale Opportunities

In 2020, Pleitez Produce Farm, owned and operated by Astrid and Alex Pleitez, provided nearly half the produce that the Pop Up Food Hub distributed to our partners. The farm’s partnership with the Pop Up Food Hub accounted for nearly 40 percent of their revenue. “It pays my bills!” says Astrid. “It makes a big difference because I can plant more, and it’s more of a turnout [of product] for us.”

Selling wholesale to the Pop Up Food Hub provides Pleitez Produce with an outlet beyond their farmers markets to sell vegetables. Plus, the partnership removes the administrative burden that farmers would incur if they were managing wholesale orders with multiple individual clients. “Working with [the Pop Up Food Hub] has been a blessing because I don’t have to do a lot, just deliver,” says Astrid. ‘I don’t have to pack or do more work that needs to be done.” Instead, she delivers the food to the farmers market, and from there, the Pop Up Food Hub team distributes the food to clients. That means more revenue for farmers like Astrid and Alex, and more fresh produce for people in the community.

22
farmer partners
31
wholesale organizational partners
6,322
people served
22,395
bags of produce distributed
$599k
revenue in wholesale orders for farmers
409K
servings of fresh produce

“Residents very much appreciated the addition of these bags of produce, which were bountiful, aromatic, and contained a variety of excellent quality produce.”

— Abby, community organizer

FoodPrints

Connecting students to nutritious food with joyful, academically enriching cooking and gardening experiences

FoodPrints began 2020 engaging students in the full scope of our program. This included monthly two-hour immersive in-school field trips based in the FoodPrints Curriculum and an innovative partnership with the school meals program, which linked what students were learning in our classrooms and gardens to what they were served in their cafeterias.

In March 2020, when COVID-19 closed schools and students started learning from home, FoodPrints staff quickly pivoted to online learning. Through live classes, our staff engaged students in lessons based on our curriculum with creative adaptations for virtual learning that reinforced academic learning, fostered independence, and brought joy to learning, just as we do while we are together in the classroom. We also created FoodPrints Anywhere, with videos, guides, and activities for families to use at home together.

During our 7-week Intensive Summer Program for 30 DCPS students from Wards 7 and 8, students received weekly home deliveries of supplies for cooking, gardening, reading, and studying plants. Students logged in daily for morning meetings, book clubs focusing on literacy through farming and food, cooking classes, and garden science investigations. Students also had weekly visits by the authors and illustrators of the books they received and read. Weekly home delivery of food – coordinated by the FRESHFARM Pop Up Food Hub – provided students access to the ingredients they needed to cook each week.

For the 2020-21 school year, FoodPrints uses a flexible programming model with our school partners, including: virtual cooking and science classes, family cooking nights with food access to support equitable participation, and outdoor garden clubs and classes that offer small-group, hands-on learning in school gardens. We are honored to partner with schools to give students exciting, meaningful opportunities for hands-on, joyful learning during a difficult year of isolation.

Food Education Spotlight

Staying Engaged With School by Cooking Together

In FoodPrints family cooking nights, students and caregivers cook nutritious recipes together, with guidance from their FoodPrints teacher, using produce delivered to their homes or schools prior to the session. In one session at Burroughs Elementary, families came ready to make Homemade Applesauce. Some had their apples already peeled, chopped, boiled and cooled while others followed along step-by-step.

Students loved seeing their teachers cook along with them and had fun comparing the different ingredients and supplies everyone was using. FoodPrints teacher, Ms. Tailor, encouraged students and staff to hold their ingredients up to the camera, saying “Show me your apples! Who’s using green apples? Red apples?” One student even made music for everyone using her cinnamon sticks.

In a session with Ms. Rain at Anne Beers Elementary, families talked about “eating the rainbow” and made Colorful Kale Salad. Together they chopped apples, tore and massaged kale, and mixed dressing. Increased family involvement in FoodPrints was a silver lining in 2020, as many parents who were not able to volunteer at school during pre-pandemic in-school sessions were able to join virtual sessions.

Garden Education Spotlight

Safe, Outdoor Learning In School Gardens

Entering the garden in November, PreK students at Tyler Elementary were cautiously excited for their first in-person FoodPrints class since March. Their FoodPrints teacher, Ms. Allie, gave students a guided tour, building a sense of familiarity and confidence. “What is this for?” one student inquired, pointing to a row cover. Ms. Allie explained that plants need to keep warm over the winter just like humans: “It’s a plant blanket!”

When students were told that surprise guests were joining their class with hints like “they help keep soil healthy” and “have no ears or eyes,” students exclaimed, “worms!” Some were fearful at first but quickly warmed up to the worms, giving them names and even “feeding” them pieces of kale. The classroom teacher, Ms. Jimenez, took a container of worms to her newly reopened classroom to extend the lesson on composting. This lesson, “Worms in the Garden” is part of the comprehensive elementary FoodPrints curriculum, and this class was one of the very first in resuming in-person outdoor learning in FoodPrints school gardens.

5,700
students served at 15 schools
525
virtual classes taught
400
high-quality children’s books delivered
275
bags of fresh produce provided
50
bags of produce harvested from FoodPrints gardens

“During the isolating nature of this year, FoodPrints outdoor learning has been a bright spot in our work to maintain our vibrant and close-knit community. FoodPrints is always such a joyful experience for students, and it means even more this year to have time engaging and exploring in-person in our garden and outdoor classroom.”

— Jasmine Brann, Principal, Tyler Elementary

Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at FRESHFARM

In 2020, FRESHFARM joined the Center for Nonprofit Advancement as the first client in their new Center for Race, Equity, Justice and Inclusion. The Center is committed to modeling and ensuring racial equity across sectors, and has worked with FRESHFARM to develop, implement, and sustain a racial equity work plan to guide real change within the organization.

As the first step of this partnership, the Center conducted a comprehensive organizational scan where they gathered information from farmers, vendors, staff, shareholders, customers, and community partners to understand the current landscape of racial equity and inclusion in our work. We are using the findings from our partnership with the Center as a baseline for our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, and to inform a plan of  action across all areas of our organization to make our work more equitable.

In 2020, the FRESHFARM staff and board of directors participated in a series of anti-racist trainings to examine our personal and organizational areas of growth and bring a stronger equity lens to our work. The board modified their bylaws to mandate a set number of BIPOC members to serve on the board. Plans for 2021 include revising our hiring and vendor selection process to account for bias and increase equity and transparency.

We know there is much work left to do. As we seek to build an equitable and just food system, we are also committed to building an equitable and just organization in everything we do. We are grateful for your support as we continue our efforts to cultivate a local food system that is fair, transparent, sustainable, accessible, and nurturing for everyone in our community.

2020 Financials

FRESHFARM secured diverse revenue streams in 2020 to support our COVID response and operations: 71% of our revenue came from public support in the form of grants and donations, which we paired with support from private foundations and entities as well as individual donations. We kept our administrative costs low: 85% of our funds went directly to our core programs promoting sustainable agriculture and improving food access, education, and equity in the Mid-Atlantic region.

 

 

 

Please note: these are preliminary numbers and subject to change once the 2020 Financial Audit is complete.

Funders

In 2020, FRESHFARM saw a substantial increase in generosity from individual and private funders in support of our COVID-19 emergency response. We retained 85% of grant awards and exponentially increased the number of new individual donors. Working with a diverse network of corporate, government, and private funders, we maintained and grew our programs in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We are immensely grateful to all our funders, partners, and other supporters for helping us create a vibrant, resilient, and equitable food system.

$20,000 - $25,000

  • Fairfax County Government
  • Hines & Company
  • The Meridian Group
  • The Parks at Walter Reed
  • Rosslyn BID
  • Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  • Whitehead Foundation

$15,000 - $19,999

  • Capitol Hill Cluster School PTA
  • The Curtis & Edith Munson Foundation
  • Greater Washington Community Foundation
  • Inova Health Care Services
  • Office of the Montgomery County Council
  • The Share Fund
  • Washington Nationals Philanthropies

$10,000 - $14,999

  • Amazon
  • Ballston BID
  • CareFirst
  • Consumer Technology Association
  • DC Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs
  • Downtown DC BID
  • Evergreen II Fund
  • Kettering Family Foundation
  • National Landing BID
  • sweetgreen

$5,000 - $9,999

  • Buczynski Building Resilience Fund
  • Buffone Family Foundation
  • The Elsie P. Van Buren Foundation
  • Foley Hoag Foundation
  • JBG SMITH
  • Joan Fabry & Michael Klein
  • Judy & Peter Blum Kovler Foundation
  • The Lavin Family Foundation
  • Marie Reed PTA
  • Marie Reed PTA
  • Revada Foundation of the Logan Family

Get Involved

FRESHFARM believes that food transforms communities. As a regional and national leader on local food, we’re pushing forward innovative solutions to create a thriving and sustainable food system. Our integrated approach to addressing food production, distribution, and education makes an impact in communities across our region. We invite you to join us in this work in 2021 and beyond! Here are some ways to connect with FRESHFARM:

Special thanks to our 2020 Annual Report contributors: report design by Two Penguins Creative; videography by Castle Gate Media; graphics by JMT Creative; illustrations and photography by FRESHFARM staff.