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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Bethany started with just nine vendors. The first day the market opened, the growers were sold out by 9:30 a.m., recalls Carrie Bennett, the market’s founder and owner of Bennett Orchards in Frankford. “The mayor asked me to go out and get more farmers.”
In part, credit the locavore movement for the markets’ popularity. The New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2007 word of the year, locavore refers to people who mainly purchase food items grown within 100 miles of their homes. The foods needn’t be organic.
Both locavores and environmentalists seek to reduce their carbon footprint, the measure of the amount of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere as we go about our daily lives. Because strawberries from South America gobble up energy in shipping and storage, consumers who buy them leave a big print. To don baby booties, buy fruit grown a few miles away.
There are other advantages. “We all know that when you purchase local produce, it just tastes better than something that was picked two weeks ago,” says Ellen Magee, founder of the Fenwick Island Farmers’ Market and owner of Magee Farms near Fenwick.
The markets also support local farmers like Magee, who are facing encroaching development. “We want our local farmers to hold onto their farms,” Dardine says. Pat Coluzzi, founder of the Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market and a Rehoboth Beach commissioner, would agree. “They’re growing more vegetables and hopefully making more money,” she says.
Hattie Allen, owner of Hattie’s Garden, a boutique operation just west of Lewes, does not sell wholesale, so the Lewes market allows her to earn money with retail sales. Her produce includes hard-to-find items that don’t ship well, such as Japanese Hakurei turnips, flavorful red Russian kale, and pak choi (also known as bok choy).
Unusual items and a variety of products are secrets to the markets’ success. Coluzzi, who wants the Rehoboth market to be as much of a tourist attraction as its hometown, ensures that there’s an appealing mix, which might include fish, meat, cheese, chicken and eggs, produce, flowers and herbs.
Some items are exclusive to a market. Because Bella’s Cookies in Milton is near downtown Lewes, baker Kelly Leishear can whip up a batch of organic cinnamon buns and whisk them to the market—the only place you can buy them. “When those things get to the market, it’s like Pavlov ringing a bell,” says Kelly’s husband and partner, Mark Leishear. “People line up and salivate over those things.” Bella’s Cookies this year will introduce Key Lime Pie and Smith Island cakes to their cookies and baked good offerings.
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