The Delaware farmers' market season will launch next month featuring new markets in Bellefonte and Dover, with farmers and markets fresh off a record-setting sales season of nearly $2 million last year.
Twenty-five local farmers' markets will be open during the spring and summer this year, offering fresh Delaware produce and other products as they come into season, Delaware Department of Agriculture spokesman Dan Shortridge said. The Milton Farmers' Market will kick off the season on April 19, with 13 markets to start in May, nine in June and one in July, with one market operating year-round, he said.
Among New Castle County farmer's markets, Carousel Park Farmers' Market in Pike Creek is scheduled to open May 17, and the Wilmington Farmers' Market is scheduled to open May 8.
This is the eighth year of Delaware's farmers' market program. Shortridge said.
The success of the locally-run markets is due to a strong interest in healthy eating and locally sourced food, Delaware leaders said. 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," Gov. Jack Markell said. "These gathering places help make our communities more vibrant and lively."
The farmers' markets provide a significant economic boost to Delaware agriculture. Last year, farmers' markets sold $1.96 million worth of goods at 29 locations.
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.
"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 state Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. "They are a joy to visit and see how consumers and farmers learn from each other."
Five markets will offer Electronic Benefits Transfer card transactions this year, allowing families to purchase local produce and food items as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Historic Lewes, Wilmington Farmers' Market at Cool Spring, Village Fresh (Wilmington), Co-Op Farmers' Market (Newark) and Western Sussex (Seaford).
Depending on the vendors, other products such as cut flowers, bedding plants, baked goods, jams, jellies or honey may also be offered. Consumers also will be able to attend special programs and pick up information on nutrition, community events and recipes.
The farmers' markets are supported and coordinated by the Delaware Department of Agriculture, but are funded and hosted by local groups, organizations and municipal governments.
For a complete list of farmers' markets and on-the-farm markets, along with opening dates and hours, visit dda.delaware.gov.
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