Delaware farmers’ markets produce record sales mark

DOVER — Delawareans have shown they have a taste for fresh produce and local treats when it comes to farmers’ markets.

Gov. John Carney and the Delaware Department of Agriculture said that was proven again in 2019 when they announced that Delaware farmers’ markets hit an all-time sales record of $3.28 million last year.

The announcement came during the 15th annual Delaware Agriculture Week underway at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington. It is a week-long conference that covers agricultural operations within the state and provides critical updates, research and training for members of the industry.

“Delaware has a rich farming history, and agriculture remains our No. 1 industry,” said Gov. Carney, who issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 13-17 as Delaware Agriculture Week.

“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.

“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.”

Sales from all 19 Delaware community-run farmers’ markets this year totaled $3,277,788, up more than $394,086 from 2018 — an increase of 13.7 percent. Sales have increased more than 11-fold since the Department of Agriculture began tracking them in 2007.

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.

Michael T. Scuse, state secretary of agriculture, said in a time when ordering groceries using a smartphone app and picking up curbside is popular, these figures are indicative of how much people value the connection with 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,” Mr. Scuse said. “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.”

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 nine 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 2020 market season will begin in April. Most markets throughout the state start their operations in May, June and July. A list of the 2019 markets is online at Delaware Grown, and will be updated in late March for 2020.