Delaware Produce Week starts at Fifer Orchards

 

From left, Mary Fifer Fennemore and Jessica Yocum serve fruit and juice to state and Delaware Department of Agriculture officials that came to visit Fifer Orchards in Camden Wyoming on the first leg of a series of events during Delaware Produce Week.
(Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

CAMDEN-WYOMING — Delaware Produce Week, a series of events shining a spotlight on local Delaware farmers, started Monday afternoon at its first event in Fifer Orchards in Camden Wyoming.

The annual week-long observation, started by State Rep. Lyndon Yearick and now in its third year, is a partnership between the General Assembly and the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA).

“This week is just another great opportunity to promote local agriculture and the idea of buying local, eating local and supporting local farmers,” said Rep. Yearick.

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long also turned out for the event and gave a special dedication to Fifer Orchards from her and the governor’s office celebrating their place within Delaware’s agricultural industry.

“There are 80 on-site farm stands in the state allowing individuals and families to connect directly with local farmers and there are 25 community-run farmers markets as well,” said Ms. Hall-Long. “It’s very humbling that I get to present this dedication on behalf of our governor and myself recognizing what Fifer Orchards does for Delaware’s local produce.”

Fifer in the spotlight

Mary Fifer Fennemore, co-owner of the orchards with her brother Carlton, spoke a bit about the farm’s history and offerings. The orchard got its start back in 1919 by Ms. Fifer Fennemore’s grandfather.

“We’re very proud of our heritage, counting our children, we’re a fourth generation family business,” she said. “We farm just of 3,000 acres. We’re a commercial farm, first and foremost, but recently we’ve really ballooned in our retail sales.”

Ms. Fifer Fennemore said that their community supported agriculture program (CSA) and their retail sales at their two farm stands in the state now pull in around 20 percent of their total revenue. Jessica Yocum, Fifer’s events coordinator, noted that the CSA program started small in 2011 with about 50 subscribers but it has since grown to between 700 and 800.

The CSA is described as a partnership between the farmer and consumer and acts as a method for customers to purchase fresh, locally grown produce in-season. Buyers provide a “pre-season investment” to purchase a membership. Fifer Orchards uses the money to plant, grow and harvest the crops. Once harvest begins, the farm provides members with a weekly box of fresh fruits and vegetables that can picked up at a number of set locations.

“Our summer program runs for 18 weeks starting in May and going until the last week of August,” Ms. Yocum said. “Then our fall program picks up in November and runs for seven more weeks. There are 13 pickup locations throughout the state and we have three different sized boxes to choose from.”

Ms. Fifer Fennemore also mentioned the various events and fruit picking experiences the orchard offers customers throughout the year — including, the Strawberry Festival in May, Peach Ice Cream Day and their Fall Fest.

“Every fall we have a big festival and corn maze,” she said. “Just last week we counted the corn rows and we’re going to start cutting out the maze. This year’s theme is going to be the ‘Wizard of Oz’ — our slogan is ‘There’s no place like Fifer’s.”

Extolling the benefits farms like Fifer Orchards has on the local economy, DDA Secretary Michael T. Scuse said producers of fresh fruit and vegetables add special character to the agricultural activity in the state.

“We have so many great family organizations like this one in our state — there are approximately 2,500 farming operations state-wide,” he said. “Around 240 of those operations are producers of fresh fruit and vegetables …”

Next event

The next event during Delaware Produce Week will be held in Sussex County and highlight Bennett Orchards at 31442 Peachtree Lane in Frankford. Today at 10:30 a.m., lawmakers and DDA officials will meet with Carrie Bennet, whose family owns the sixth generation farm, to pick produce and discuss the history of the orchard. Delaware Produce Week will wrap up with its final event on Friday at 3 p.m. at the Glasgow Park Farmers Market on U.S. 40 and Del. 896 in Bear.

 

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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