LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Delaware farmers’ markets, alcoholic craft beverage producers perfect together

Imagine stopping at a farmers’ market, buying a few fresh vegetables, maybe a jar of preserves, and sampling a locally produced wine or India pale ale.

Unfortunately, this relaxing, enjoyable scenario would be impossible under current law.

Spending part of a day strolling through one of the dozens of farmers’ markets that operate throughout our state is a great way to experience Delaware. It is also an exceptional way to promote the products of our farmers and small businesses.

Farmers’ markets have long been a destination for people wanting the freshest fruits and vegetables. Lately, they have also been at the center of the growing Buy Local-Eat Local movement — an initiative fueled by the health benefits of consuming the freshest produce; the environmental benefits of averted shipping; and the economic benefits of keeping food dollars close to home.

Rep. Lyndon Yearick

Rep. Lyndon Yearick

Increasingly, farmers’ markets have been a great place for farmers and small businesses to sell value-added local farm products. Ice cream made with the milk of cows from a local dairy is one example of this trend.

Mostly absent from this conversation has been Delaware’s craft alcoholic beverage industry. Wineries, breweries, and distilleries all use agricultural feedstocks. Grapes, corn, barley and hops become wines, bourbons, and beer.

Consumer interest in craft alcoholic beverages, and the number of businesses formed to meet that demand, have been quickly escalating.

In the case of breweries, the number operating in the U.S. grew 15 percent in 2015 alone. According to the Brewers Association, there are now 4,269 American breweries — more than ever before. Small and independent breweries account for 99 percent of these operations: 2,397 microbreweries, 1,650 brewpubs and 178 regional craft breweries.

In Delaware, more than two dozen alcoholic beverage producers – such as 3rd Wave Brewing Company (Delmar), Mispillion River Brewing (Milford), Painted Stave Distilling (Smyrna), Iron Hill Brewery (Newark), and Harvest Ridge Winery (Marydel) — produce a dizzying array of wines, beers and distilled spirits. Some are even expanding into meads and ciders.

These Delaware businesses are a dynamic segment of our agricultural economy, and allowing them to present their products at farm markets would be a pragmatic marriage.

To facilitate this union, we have joined with State Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, in jointly sponsoring House Bill 228.

Having gained bipartisan support, and clearing the House of Representatives unanimously, our legislation seeks to allow the operators of state-permitted farmers’ markets and agricultural events to conduct tastings and sell craft beer, mead, distilled spirits, and wine.

Such sales would be limited to sealed containers for off-premise consumption. The Department of Agriculture would be charged with

Jeffrey Spiegelman

Jeffrey Spiegelman

ensuring that these sales were only conducted at legitimate venues authorized under the bill. The usual safeguards prohibiting minors from accessing alcoholic beverages would also apply.

Agritourism is a significant tourism niche in Delaware. In fact, the Tourism Office has established the Delaware Beer, Wine and Spirits Trail, encouraging travelers to visit wineries, distilleries, and breweries throughout the state. These efforts would benefit from our proposal, enhancing the appeal of our farmers’ markets and introducing consumers to Delaware products they might otherwise not encounter.

Our bill should also help traditional alcoholic beverage retailers. There are far fewer farmers’ markets than there are package stores in our state, and the former are overwhelmingly seasonal. While farmer’s markets may serve to introduce consumers to local beers and wines, those same buyers will be visiting retailers to maintain a relationship with their new-found favorites.

House Bill 228 would help countless small businesses, promote a growing industry, support the “buy local” movement, and expedite the growth of quality jobs in Delaware.

State Rep. Lyndon D. Yearick
R-District 34 (Camden, Wyoming, Woodside and a portion of Dover; and unincorporated areas, including some with Magnolia addresses)
Magnolia

State Rep. Jeffrey N. Spiegelman
R-District 11 (Townsend, Hartly and Kenton; small portions of Middletown, Clayton and Smyrna; and unincorporated areas, including the Delaware portion of Marydel)
Clayton

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