Farmers’ market season brings freshness to customers

In the summer months, when you see white tents popping up in parking lots early in the morning, you’d be wise to stop and take a look — and breathe deeply the scents you’ll find underneath those tents. You’ll be glad you did — and so will your stomach.

Farmers’ markets have started back up for the season, bringing the very freshest produce to locals and visitors alike. Although most local vegetables have not come into season yet, they will be arriving as the summer unfolds. In the meantime, each week brings new harvests from the fields people pass on the way to the beach.

Under those tents can be found treats ranging from specialty mushrooms to local honey; from plump, indigo blueberries to crusty, aromatic breads.

On a Sunday morning in Bethany Beach, with blueberry season at its zenith, customers lined up for containers of the ripened blue-purple orbs. Kassie Collins of Parsons’ Farm Produce cheerily bagged each container, right up until the market’s noon closing time.

Carrie Bennett of Bennett Orchards in Frankford has been involved with the Bethany Beach market since its inception 12 years ago. She said she is not surprised at the lines for fresh berries, as “It has grown each year,” Bennett said, adding that the market “seems to be a win-win situation for everybody,” from farmers to consumers to the town itself.

Bennett, vice president of the board overseeing Bethany Beach’s market, said that although the “rules” vary from market to market, it’s common for vendors to be required to grow what they sell.

“We are a producer’s market,” she said, adding that she feels that is what has made the market so successful. “It encourages growers to produce more and better produce, she said.

“They bring what they grow, and the market reflects that in its beauty and abundance,” she said. The growth of farmers’ markets reflects “a hunger on the part of the customer for fresh produce,” Bennett said.

Although the peaches at Bennett’s own orchard were devastated by a late-season freeze this past spring, marketgoers will see later in the summer a new crop the Bennetts have brought on, in part to make up for the loss of the peaches. Small, specialty melons will soon make their debut.

Bennett said the smaller melons are perfect for vacationers, because they’re easier to store and carry. The melons, she said, are a perfect example of bringing to a “coastal market,” such as Bethany Beach, produce that will fill a particular niche.

Margaret Young of Bethany Beach, who has been involved in the market’s operation for years, said, “People are constantly asking me when the market is going to open” for the summer.

The Bethany Beach market has spaces for 15 vendors, and Bennett said on the “rare occasion” that a vendor drops out of the market, the board carefully reviews applications for new vendors.

One longtime vendor is the Honey Bee Lake Apiary. Located in Frankford, the honey producers have been part of the local farmers’ market scene since 2008. The family business started producing honey and has branched out to other honey-based products, according to Carol Hudson, whose family got into the business after her son learned beekeeping at Sussex Technical High School.

Across the way, the Davidson family sells exotic mushrooms at the market. Although the mushrooms are grown in Kennett Square, Pa., family members in Delaware bring the fancy fungi to the market each week. Terry Langrehr of Wilmington said she enjoys educating folks about mushrooms as much as selling them. Langrehr added that the markets have broadened her horizons along the way.

“One of the things I’ve learned is how to cater to vegetarians,” she said, since mushrooms are a favorite food source for those who don’t eat meat.

Customers strolling among the booths — whether drawn to the heady aromas emanating from the Lavender Fields stall or the cut flowers from several vendors — seem to enjoy the process of shopping at the market as much as they do the produce they haul back to their homes or vacation spots.

Kathy Hill of Rockville, Md., said she comes to the market when she’s in town for its “great local stuff; lots of variety.” Hill said she is looking forward to getting local tomatoes and corn in the coming weeks. Mary Schafer of Lanham, Md., said on her second visit ever to the market that she was impressed by what the market had to offer, even this early in the season.

“The stuff I’ve gotten here before is really fresh,” Schafer said.

The Bethany Beach Farmer’s Market is open each Sunday during the summer months from 8 a.m. to noon.

Local farmers’ markets aplenty

Bethany Beach Farmers’ Market
Garfield Pkwy. & Pennsylvania Ave. (PNC Bank parking lot), Bethany Beach
Sundays, 8 a.m. to noon
June 12 to Sept. 4

Fenwick Island Farmers’ Market
1406 Coastal Hwy. (bayside at Warren’s Station), Fenwick Island
Mondays & Fridays, 8 a.m. to noon
June 17 to Sept. 2

The Farmers’ Market at Sea Colony
Marketplace at Sea Colony Shopping Center (parking lot), Rt. 1 South, Bethany Beach
Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to noon
June 15 to Aug. 31

Garden Shack Farmers’ Market
Garden Shack Farm, 19884 Beaver Dam Road, Lewes
Thursdays, 2 to 6 p.m.
April 7 to Nov. 17

Georgetown Farmers’ Market
16 Mile Brewery, 413 South Bedford St., Georgetown
Wednesdays, 3 to 6 p.m.
May 25 to Aug. 21

Historic Lewes Farmers Market
George H.P. Smith Park, DuPont & Burton Avenues, Lewes
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon (May 7 to Sept. 24) and 9 a.m. to noon (Oct. 1 to Nov. 19)
May 7 to Nov. 19
This market accepts EBT cards (SNAP benefits).

Milton Farmers’ Market
Dogfish Head Brewery, 6 Village Center Blvd., Milton
Fridays, 3 to 6 p.m.
April 22 to Oct. 7

Nassau Valley Vineyards Farmers’ Market
Nassau Valley Vineyards & Winery, 32165 Winery Way, Lewes
Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
May 29 to Sept. 4

Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market
Grove Park, Rehoboth Ave. (adjacent to Lighthouse Circle), Rehoboth Beach
Tuesdays, noon to 4 p.m. (May 3 to Sept. 27) and noon to 3 p.m. (Oct. 4 to 25)
May 3 to Oct. 25
This market accepts EBT cards (SNAP benefits).

Riverwalk Farmers’ Market
Downtown Milford
South Walnut St. at Riverwalk Park, Milford
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
May 7 to Oct. 1

Bayside Town Center Market
(New this year)
Bayside Community, west of Fenwick Island on Route 54
Opening June 23
Every Thursday and Friday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Featuring local retailers, food trucks, family fun

Note: The Town of Millville will not be holding its farmers’ market this year due to continued construction on Route 26.