Looking for Economic Growth with Delaware’s New Farm Markets

5/18/2013 7:00 AM
By Michael Short Delaware Correspondent

BELLEFONTE/DOVER, Del. — “We just want fresh, local produce,” said Stu Evans, one of four people starting a new farmers market in Bellefonte, Del.

The town of Bellefonte and the city of Dover will soon be the sites of the two newest farmers markets in Delaware. The small state with the big-time agricultural history will host 25 farmers markets this year, markets which did some $2 million in sales last season.

Bellefonte, which lies in the shadow of Wilmington, Del., will open its market on Saturday, May 18, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., to coincide with the Bellefonte Arts Festival.

Stu and Wendy Evans and Frank and Theresa Holodick have been the driving force behind the new market. Steve Russo, a local plumber, is providing the location for the new market.

Holodick has been busy spreading the word about the new market as he cuts the hair of local residents in his barber shop.

Stu Evans hopes the market will draw people into the shops and restaurants of the village, spurring economic growth and helping local farmers and artisans.

“Come into town and see what we have and maybe it will spark a little more economic growth,” he said.

“We felt like we were missing the boat with not having a farmers market up here,” he said. “There is a huge, social aspect. ... Come on out. Bring your family. Bring your dog.”

At the state capital in Dover, the story is much the same. A new farmers market will begin Wednesday, June 5 from noon to 4 p.m. in the shadow of Legislative Hall and Dover’s historic Green.

The Dover market will be located on Loockerman Way and is expected to be anchored by Fifer Orchards, a nearby fourth-generation farm which is one of the two last large remaining peach and apple orchards in the state.

“We are hoping it will be one more reason to come,” said Tonda Parks of the Downtown Dover Partnership. “It’s a lovely location. ... We are anxious to see it get started. We hope it will get bigger every year.”

“People on the street are very anxious to see it open,” she continued. “The merchants are very enthusiastic. It’s yet another reason to draw people downtown.”

Opening a new farmers market can be a challenge, particularly finding vendors who aren’t already committed to other locations. That is one reason the new Dover market chose Wednesday instead of more popular days like Saturday, said Parks. “So far the biggest challenge is getting people to sign on and commit to a new market. ... We don’t have a track record.”

“Some of the challenges encountered by upstart weekly farmers markets include: location, parking and finding ways to create a fun, exciting and educational experience for consumers,” said Mike Fennemore of Fifer Orchards. “(The towns of) Lewes and Rehoboth Beach have done an outstanding job of this by offering weekly cooking demonstrations, live music, product sampling ... and plenty of space for shoppers to enjoy the experience.”

“Many times the consumers are in line waiting to purchase produce when the bell rings to open the market. This weekly anticipation and excitement for fresh, local fruits and vegetables never gets old,” Fennemore said.

This is the eighth year of Delaware’s farmers market program. Last year saw explosive growth in the number of markets, growing from 16 locations to 29.

“The strength of our farmers’ market program benefits farmers and consumers alike, making the agricultural industry strong and supporting local jobs,” Governor Jack Markell said. “These gathering places help make our communities more vibrant and lively.”

“Each of these markets helps bring people face-to-face with their local farmers, which broadens Delawareans’ understanding of agriculture and deepens their appreciation for farmers’ contributions,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. “They are a joy to visit and see how consumers and farmers learn from each other.”

The farmers markets also provide a significant economic boost to Delaware agriculture. Last year, farmers markets sold $1.96 million worth of goods at 29 locations, according to Delaware’s Department of Agriculture. The 2011 season featured 16 market sites and brought in $1.8 million, while the 2010 season had 14 sites and $1.3 million in sales.

For a list of Delaware farmers markets, go online and visit dda.delaware.gov.

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