By Christy Vanderwende Wright
A sure sign of spring and summer is farmers markets; many of which have begun already this year. Little Wagon Produce has been busy with two so far-the Milton Farmer’s Market on Friday afternoon and the Riverwalk Farmers Market, which is in downtown Milford every Saturday morning.
I always look forward to returning to the Riverwalk Farmers market every spring because we’re amazed at the loyalty of many of our customers year after year. Many of our regulars ducked showers last weekend to see us and to find flowers or produce. The past two weekends, I’ve received many of the same questions such as “Do you have sweet corn yet?” and “Are the strawberries local?” These are great questions and it always helps when the farmer is right there to answer. Anytime my Dad visits the market he is usually surrounded by inquiring customers about the food he grows.
Sometimes I take this chart, made by the Delaware Department of Agriculture, to offer customers insight about the growing season in Delaware. It helps a customer understand that sweet corn is never ready in Delaware until the last week of June or thereafter. So please don’t believe any of the false advertising you may see. I can also assure you that almost all produce will be a little later than normal this year because of the cold wet spring. I try to remind customers that farmers are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Here are some more tidbits to help you be “farmers market ready”:
Bring cash! Many vendors are small businesses and cannot afford the fees accompanied with credit card machines.
Bring your own bags! The recyclable grocery bags work great for this! By doing this, you will help the environment and help us because plastic bags are an additional expense to vendors that we usually do not pass on to the customers. We even have to pay more and go out of the way to find heavy-duty plastic bags to hold a dozen ears of sweet corn.
Bring a friend! Word of mouth is the best marketing for us!
Don’t be afraid to ask! Many markets have an information booth or a “Market Manager” to oversee the routine each week. Some markets even have a bell that rings before you can sell anything (Milton).
Spread the love! Hopefully you will find more than one vendor to patronize. In Milford, there are many wonderful downtown businesses such as Dolce Coffee Shop, Blooming Boutique, and Georgia House Restaurant.
Bring your smile! Many vendors love to talk and engage their customers, including us.
Stay updated! Many thought the market was canceled last Saturday because of the rain but we were open. Check to see if your local market has a Facebook page and/or website.
Thank you to all our loyal customers who already know the ropes! And for all the newbies, I hope to see you soon! For a market near you, see the 2013 Farmer’s Market Directory at http://dda.delaware.gov/marketing/delaware_farmers_markets.shtml.