In January Governor John Carney and the Delaware Department of Agriculture announced Delaware farmers’ markets hit an all-time high sales record of $3.28 million in 2019. The announcement came during the 15th Annual Delaware Agriculture Week held at the State Fairgrounds in Harrington, a week-long conference that covers agricultural operations in Delaware and provides critical updates, research, and training for members of the industry. Governor Carney issued a proclamation declaring the week of January 13 to January 17, 2020 as “Delaware Agriculture Week.”
“Delaware has a rich farming history, and agriculture remains our number one industry. It’s no surprise Delaware’s farmers markets continue to gain popularity with Delawareans and visitors to the state who want to purchase local, Delaware grown foods and farm-fresh products from family farms,” said Governor Carney. “Agriculture contributes $8 billion to Delaware’s economy, and we’ve permanently preserved 25 percent of Delaware’s farmland so that agriculture will continue to be the backbone of our economy.”
Delaware’s Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse said in a time when ordering groceries using an app and picking up curbside is popular, these figures are indicative of how much people value the connection with the farmers growing their food.
“Looking at 2019, the weather was cooperative, and our farmers had a lot of great produce to sell at our local farmers’ markets,” said Scuse. “Delaware produce is seasonal and changes from month to month, week to week. The variety of Delaware grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and other items provides a lot of options for consumers who want to eat healthy.”
Over recent years there has been a boom in educating the public on the importance of eating fresh organic local produce. “We all know a healthy diet gives us energy and helps us live longer and more productive lives. This food revolution starts at our local farmers markets,” stated Milford’s Riverwalk Farmers Market Chairperson Melissa Pingue. “The farmers that grow the food are there, face to face and explaining the process of growing, the type of produce available, how to prepare it and introducing new products that the consumer may not be aware are available. There are so many variations of fruits and vegetables that are grown in our region and the farmers are doing their best to make sure we have a variety every week.”
The tradition of the Milford market began with residents of Milford backing their pickup trucks up to the Mispillion River to share their vegetables, fruits and handmade items with other locals on Saturday mornings. It has now evolved into an affair that not only preserves the small town feel of Milford but also promotes downtown Milford as a center for economic activity.
According to DMI volunteer Land Redden, in 2018 the Milford market recorded $123,630.15 in sales. In 2019, the market recorded $140,299.21 in sales; showing a $16,669.06 increase from the previous year in market sales. Interest in the market has increased from 7,668 attendees in 2018 to 8,369 attendees in 2019. The market also had a high vendor attendance in 2019, where they had an average of 20 vendors per market.
Fresh produce made up 57 percent of total sales, with the remainder coming from products such as meats, cheeses, jellies, breads, salsa, eggs, or honey. The Riverwalk Farmers Market committee started their application process early this year. The 2020 market applications went out by the end of 2019 and already over half of the market spots are full.
“Some new vendors include rabbit meat, fresh flowers, herbs, plants and a natural skin care vendor. We would love to have another meat or seafood vendor,” said Pingue. “This year the Cheese Board will be returning and I hear she will be making fresh grilled cheese sandwiches. We will of course continue our traditional annual strawberry social in May, Celebrate farmers market week in August and have customer appreciation our last day in October. We are still working on scheduling other possible events.”
In 2019, there were 14 markets that participated in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Women, Infants, and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Both programs had their highest participation since Delaware began offering these benefits. There were 9 markets that participated in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). These programs help expand access for low-income residents to be able to purchase fresh local produce at Delaware farmers’ markets.
Delaware farmers’ markets are all run at the local level, by municipalities, business groups, farmers or market associations, with the Department of Agriculture providing support and marketing assistance.
The Riverwalk Farmers Market runs from May through October and will be hosted in downtown Milford every Saturday from 9am to 1pm.
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