Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI) held the final Riverwalk Farmers’ Market of the 2014 season this past Saturday, October 18. The market, which is located on North Walnut Street in a section of the beautiful Mispillion Riverwalk, offers fresh produce, locally grown farm products, as well as arts and crafts every Saturday from May to October.
The Farmers’ Market has provided an opportunity for locals and visitors to buy local produce and products while supporting farm families, agriculture and the environment. The market also helps to preserve Milford’s small town feel by building a sense of community, raising awareness of environment and health issues and promoting the downtown area as a center for economic activity.
The market began approximately 14 years ago when several downtown merchants decided it would be an interesting addition to the downtown area. The market eventually became part of Downtown Milford, Inc. (DMI), and was operated by Jim Cooper for several years before his retirement. During Jim’s oversight, the market expanded to include not only local produce and farm items but arts and crafts as well. In recent years a Riverwalk Farmers Market Committee, consisting of 10 Milford residents, has been organized to carry out the logistics and activities associated with the market. This year, the Riverwalk Farmer’s Market increased in size, traffic volume and sales, making 2014 a very successful year.
Since 2012, the Riverwalk Farmers Market has seen progressive success in the increased vendor sales and number of vendors and individuals in attendance. Between the 2012 and 2013 seasons the overall sales made by vendors increased from $85,000 to approximately $100,000. During the 2014 season the sales increased again, toping $115,000 at 15% growth. The market averaged 20 vendors weekly from May to September this year and attendance was up 20%. The Riverwalk Farmers Market has gained statewide attention as David Smith, Agricultural Marketing Specialist for the State of Delaware, wrote a letter in support of the organization’s efforts for this year’s application to the Great American Main Street Award.
“The Riverwalk Farmers Market in Downtown Milford, Delaware is one of the most successful and popular markets in the First State, and has been in existence for the benefit of the local community for many years now,” stated Smith. “The market brings energy and life to downtown Milford every Saturday morning…”
Director of Downtown Milford Inc. Lee Nelson states that the Riverwalk Farmers Market has become much more than a venue to purchase produce and locally made gifts. The sense of community has acted as a catalyst for revitalizing the downtown district in Milford. Nelson points out that the Riverwalk Farmers Market has also been able to drive traffic downtown, increasing the opportunities for locals and visitors to see downtown businesses, activities and recent beatification efforts.
“The market builds on the quality of life aspect that is critical to downtown revitalization,” said Nelson. “It also drives economic development and creates another reason for residents and visitors to come downtown on a weekly basis.”
Looking forward to next year, the Riverwalk Farmers’ Market hopes to continue its growth by connecting with more vendors. Nelson said that the market is looking for more in the line of dairy products such as cheeses, yogurt, butter, and even eggs as those are product lines that are currently being underserved at the market. Vendors may apply to join next year’s Riverwalk Farmer’s Market by visiting www.downtownmilford.org, clicking on the Farmer’s Market link at the top of the page, and then clicking on the Vendor Application link at the bottom of the page. Print the application, complete it and send it to Downtown Milford Inc. at the address provided, and it will be forwarded to the committee for review.
Although market season is officially over, the Riverwalk Farmers Market will host one last event on Saturday, November 22 from 10am to 2pm. Vendors will offer fall produce such as apples, jams, pumpkins and squash and holiday gifts that families can use for the following Thanksgiving week and the upcoming holiday season.