Dover farmer’s market produces growing sense of community

DOVER — With this year’s run for the Loockerman Way Farmer’s Market nearly over, volunteer manager Amy Mullen says the summer turnout has been “pretty good” as the market continues to deepen its roots in the community.

While Wednesday’s dark skies delivered an afternoon downpour, Mother Nature has cooperated most weeks to help make Dover’s Loockerman Plaza “a nice little place.”

Grace Mullen, 8 of Felton shows off ears of corn for sale Wednesday at the Loockerman Way Farmer’s Market in Dover’s Loockerman Plaza. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Grace Mullen, 8 of Felton shows off ears of corn for sale Wednesday at the Loockerman Way Farmer’s Market in Dover’s Loockerman Plaza. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Ms. Mullen remains confident the market, though small in comparison to others established elsewhere, has potential to flourish.

The market has set up in Loockerman Plaza every Wednesday since mid June and originally was scheduled to go through Sept. 9 but it may shut down early. Next Wednesday could be the last one for the year.

The Downtown Dover Partnership, a city-funded entity with a mission of improving the downtown area, sponsors the market with vendors renting spaces. To participate or for more information, call (302) 359-9532.

When Ms. Mullen took over managing Loockerman Way last year it was her first foray into planning a market so she set off to visit others for ideas and to court vendors.

She quickly determined the Dover market, which had been in operation for a couple years, needed vendors and entertainment.

She took care of the latter problem by recruiting local singers, who have benefited from the exposure. Many have been able to book other gigs, Ms. Mullen said, after participating in the Wednesday market.

She also found herself “driving the back roads around Dover and Camden,” stopping at farms with roadside stands to spread the word about vendor space available at the Dover market.

Ms. Mullen may have been a rookie in managing a market and it has taken more time than she anticipated, but she doesn’t have regrets.

“I love it,” she said. “I like the agricultural part of it, and to bring the small local farmers and growers attention they might not get otherwise.”

She’s also lost the rookie stripe as she’s gained understanding that you can’t throw just anything into the mix and expect to reap the rewards.

“Farmers markets are their own beasts,” she said Wednesday morning, in between steering vendors to their areas. “They are complicated and complex.”

The Loockerman Way market remains a work in progress.

“Last year I wanted to fill the plaza, so we took on vendors that maybe were not so much the traditional farmer’s market type,” she said.

CX farmers market boxBut those vendors helped get the weekly event off the ground and brought in needed attention to the market, formerly known as the Dover Farmer’s Market.

“This year we have fewer vendors but they are solid kick-tail farmer vendors,” she said. “The two that we have have everything you need.”

She rattled off a kitchen’s list of vegetables and produce, from nine varieties of peppers to squash, tomatoes, corn and anything else needed to satisfy a discriminating palate.

But the market is about more than food. Every week it also has live music and activities for children. Kids can pet animals up for adoption from First State Animal Center and SPCA.

The presence of First State Heritage Park representatives also helps give it an atmosphere of markets of yore.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” Ms. Mullen said.

Equally important, in Ms. Mullen’s eyes, is what the Loockerman Way Farmers Market brings to the community.

“It’s huge in community building.”

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