Magee, Bennett ready to open area’s farmers’ markets

Next week kicks off another season of the Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island farmers’ markets, and judging by last year’s success, this summer should be a promising one. Ellen McGee of McGee Farms is hoping that a new location and an additional market day during the week will help bring in even more business to the Fenwick market.

Coastal Point • File Photo: Onions are among the produce available at the area’s farmer’s markets.Coastal Point • File Photo
Onions are among the produce available at the area’s farmer’s markets.

“We’ve got an even better location,” she said, “and we’ll have more room for vendors and parking.”

Starting on Monday, June 29, the Fenwick Island Farmer’s Market will be held from 8 a.m. until noon on every Monday and Friday through Sept. 4, at the corner of Route 1 and Essex Road, beside the Dairy Queen.

“We had a lot of success last year when it was held at the Chamber of Commerce,” she said, “but we’re hoping to double our sales this year.”

Adding an extra day will allow for shoppers to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables at the start and end of each week this summer, and the spacious location offers more space within the town limits.

The Magees’ own offerings will follow up their already successful strawberry season this year with an abundance of sweet corn, watermelon, tomatoes and bell peppers at the market. Other favorites will be returning to the Fenwick Farmer’s Market, including Kolger’s Old World Bread and Lavender Fields from Milton. Some new faces will be showing up in Fenwick, too, such as Davidson Farm and their sought-after mushrooms and Cedar Swamp Greenhouse from Bishopville, Md.

Carrie Bennett of Bennett’s Orchard has been preparing for the Bethany Beach Farmer’s Market, which will operate every Sunday starting June 28. They’ll maintain their location at the corner of Garfield Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue, in the PNC Bank parking lot, and run each Sunday from 8 a.m. until noon through Sept. 6, the Sunday before Labor Day.

A long winter and a sharp temperature drop this past Easter has gravely affected the Bennett’s peach supply – already in high demand on market days – but Carrie Bennett isn’t discouraged about the market’s anticipated turnout or its ability to help farmers’ bottom lines.

“We probably lost 50 percent of our crop due to the spring freeze,” she explained. “But the farmer’s market lets us sell the peaches we do have at a fair price. The markets make a huge difference in farming. We won’t sell many peaches wholesale, but making the farmers markets a priority, for us, is a way to compensate for our crop loss.”

Many farmers, including the Magees and Bennetts, take their goods to markets throughout the region to promote sales, offer public exposure and enhance their connections with each other and the community as whole.

“Other markets, like the ones in Rehoboth and Lewes, start earlier,” said Bennett, “but we want to capitalize on the peak season in Bethany. The town and the town council are always very supportive. The locals like it. The visitors like it. The farmer’s market is a feature in the community that makes it appealing to everybody.”

As at the Fenwick market, favorites will be returning to Bethany.

“There are several long-standing farm families in the area,” Bennett noted. “Magees, Johnsons, Bennetts, Parsons, Hudsons: They’ve all been farming for generations, and they’re adapting to the demand of the public.”

Among those new favorites for growers and buyers, heirloom tomatoes have become tremendously popular, as have smaller squash and melons. Patrons will also be able to browse locally-grown blackberries and raspberries, as well as local cheese and honey.

“I have seen markets thrive in the downtown area of communities where people can walk or bike,” said Bennett, “and being where we are in Bethany has been like gold for us. The bank and town have really been generous to let us operate there, and we’re looking forward to another season.”

The fresh-from-the-field quality of the wares offered at the farmers’ markets is definitely a selling point for local farmers.

“People who haven’t had fresh fruit or vegetables can’t believe the difference the minute they taste it,” said Bennett.

While parking for the Bethany market has been a slight hindrance in the past, especially as the market hits its peak each Sunday, Bennett noted that there are some ways around that problem.

“The Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Department donated a strip of parking for us,” she said, “and if you get there early, the meters don’t charge until 10 a.m. People who get there from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. don’t have to pay, and they get the best selection.”

The growing popularity of farmers’ markets across the country have helped fuel their success around the shore.

“It’s a happening thing,” said Bennett. “Many towns across the country are doing this, and we’re fortunate to be close to that coastal draw. We live right in the region, and it’s a great market for us and the consumers. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”