FRESHFARM farmers market workers vote to ratify union contract

Employees of FRESHFARM farmers markets, operator of the Dupont Circle Farmers Market (pictured), voted Monday to ratify their first union collective bargaining agreement with the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 400. (Photo credit FRESHFARM Farmers Markets)(Courtesy FRESHFARM Farmers Markets)

Employees of FRESHFARM farmers markets, the largest network of farmers markets in the Mid-Atlantic and the third-largest in the country, have voted to ratify their first union collective bargaining agreement.

The Monday vote in favor of ratification with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 makes FRESHFARM the first farmers market operator in the country whose employees have approved a collective bargaining agreement. They unionized last year, with contract negotiations starting shortly after.

The three-year contract covers 25 employees responsible for staffing and operating nearly 30 farmers markets in D.C., Virginia and Maryland.

The unionized employees are direct FRESHFARM employees. Markets are generally staffed with two to four FRESHFARM staffers who coordinate the markets, managing operations that are outside the responsibilities of the hundreds of farmers and other vendors who set up at the markets each week.

The contract includes higher wages, including a premium for those who speak a second language, guaranteed annual raises, and vacation time to seasonal employees for the first time ever. The minimum wage is now more than $20 an hour.

Some FRESHFARM markets are year-round, while others are seasonal.

The new contract also includes provisions for improved workplace conditions and safety standards, including a labor-management committee, grievance and arbitration procedures.

FRESHFARM is the first, but not only, farmers market operator to see workers unionize. Farmers market workers in New York City unionized last spring, though they are still in negotiations over their first collective bargaining agreement.

According to FRESHFARM’s 2022 annual report, its markets generated a record $24.7 million in sales for 254 farmers and producers that year, the most recent report publicly available.

FRESHFARM’s first market, the Dupont Circle Farmers Market, opened in 1997 with just 15 participating farmers. The company’s most recent addition was taking over operations of the Cleveland Park Farmers Market last year, the 27th market it operates.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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