Farmers markets provide great foods to buyers and help local growers stay strong, even as beach development encroaches on their fields.
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Like Bella’s, many vendors are from coastal neighborhoods. Yet other vendors happily travel to participate. The Fenwick market features ice cream and cheese from Chesapeake Bay Farm near Berlin, Maryland. A grower from Mardela Springs, Maryland, sells blueberries and raspberries in Bethany.
Many vendors participate in two or more markets. Consider Good Earth Market, which sells at the Lewes and Bethany markets, or Bruce Pape of Deep Grass Nursery in Greenwood, who participates in both the Lewes and Rehoboth markets.
“We’ve been going to farmers markets for more than 30 years, and both the Lewes and Rehoboth markets are the best we’ve ever been a part of,” says Pape, who sells potted herbs, blueberry plants, perennials, melons and sweet corn. “I would equate them with being pretty close to the green markets in New York City.”
The markets have more to offer than food products. Lewes features chef demonstrations and lectures by master gardeners. Fenwick plans to add cooking demonstrations. Rehoboth now offers information on green living, conservation and alternative energy.
Artists also get involved. Lesley McCaskill, for instance, paints at the Rehoboth market several times a summer. “It adds some nice flavor to the market,” she says. “Everybody is talking and laughing. I like that people are mingling. They’re not in a rush to get their stuff and leave.”
The direct merchant-customer connection is yet another attraction of farmers markets. “It’s local food from local farmers to local people—boom!” says Allen of Hattie’s Garden. “People really, really like to buy stuff from people they know and people they get to know.”
What they may not know is that the Lewes market is feeding more than onsite customers. Last year it donated about $3,500 worth of food to Casa San Francisco, which aids the poor in the Milton area. The operation, now run by the Diocese of Wilmington, includes a brown bag program that feeds 260 families a month and an emergency food program that offers up to $80 worth of groceries to those in need.
“They’re very generous with us, which we certainly appreciate, especially since the request for emergency food is up almost 100 percent from last year,” says Bill Post, program manager of Casa San Francisco.
If past years are any indication, that generosity will continue. “The market is a huge hit, and the community loves us,” Dardine says of the Lewes venue. “Every year, it becomes better and better.”