DOVER – Delaware’s community farmers’ markets set a new sales record in 2013, with shoppers buying more than $2.1 million in fresh produce and other goods, the Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.
Gov. Jack Markell and Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee announced the news at an annual farmers’ market managers’ meeting in Dover, praising their work and the work of the many growers and producers who sell at the markets.
“This record-setting year is a perfect example of what can happen when communities, business and government work together to increase economic opportunities and strengthen our neighborhoods,” Gov. Markell said. “These markets offer Delaware’s best farm-fresh products to consumers and create vibrant gathering spots in our towns and cities.”
The markets help support farmers by offering another sales outlet, but also by directly connecting growers and consumers, Kee said.
“Interest in healthy eating and local foods has been dramatically on the rise in Delaware. There is no better way to encourage that than by giving shoppers the opportunity to have conversations with the men and women who nurture and grow their corn, lettuce, sweet potatoes, watermelons and apples,” Kee said. “This success is directly due to the leadership of our market managers and community leaders, and we want to help them expand and grow as we continue to move agricultural opportunities forward.”
Sales for 2013, which featured 26 markets in all three counties, passed $2.1 million, up $200,000 over 2012. Four years ago, the 2010 season had 14 market sites and $1.3 million in sales.
Produce made up 62 percent of the total sales, with the remainder coming from value-added products such as meats, cheeses, jellies, breads, salsa, eggs or honey.
Delaware’s farmers’ markets are all run at the local level, by municipalities, business groups, farmers or market associations, with the Delaware Department of Agriculture providing support and marketing assistance.
Use of the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card system is growing steadily, allowing families to purchase local produce and food items as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Six markets offered transactions during 2013, for $2,300 in sales. The Wilmington Farmers Market at Cool Spring Park also had more than $9,000 in sales through its community-supported agriculture program made through the EBT network. Several other markets are planning to expand into the program in 2014.
The 2014 farmers’ market season will begin in April with the opening of the Milton market. Most markets start their operations in May, June and July. A full schedule will be released later this spring.
Farmers and others interested in becoming a vendor, or community groups interested in starting a local market, can contact Department of Agriculture marketing specialist David Smith at (302) 698-4522 or email@example.com.