New farmers' market springing up in Fenwick

Farmers’ markets are sprouting up throughout coastal Delaware, and an already-impressive crop of new markets from 2007 will be joined this year by a Friday-morning market at the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce’s headquarters right outside Fenwick Island, starting June 27.

“The Chamber welcomes the opportunity to showcase local farmers and vendors with a wide variety of fresh produce, organic foods and health products,” said Chamber President Patti Grimes. “We’re thrilled local farmers are working together to expand the markets so residents and visitors in the Quiet Resorts will have the chance to purchase goods in Bethany on Sundays and in Fenwick on Fridays.”

Those who attended the Bethany Beach Farmers’ Market in its inaugural year in 2007 will see many a familiar face when visiting the Fenwick Island Farmers’ Market starting in the last week of June. Most of the vendors in the new market were part of Bethany’s first season of Sunday mornings and will be part of both markets this year.

“Some of the vendors that will be here at the Fenwick farmers’ market also do Rehoboth, Lewes and Georgetown,” noted Chamber Executive Director Karen McGrath, “but almost all of them do Bethany as well.”

According to McGrath and Market Master Ellen Magee, thus far, the list of vendors for the first year of the Fenwick Island Farmers’ Market includes:

• Magee Farms (just in time for strawberry season),

• Lavender Fields (lavender products),

• Bennett Orchards (peaches, nectarines),

• Parsons Farms (produce),

• Honey Bee Lake Apiary (organic honey and honey products),

• Johnson’s Country Market (produce, flowers, bedding plants, herbs),

• Greenbranch Organic Farm (a Salisbury, Md.-based vegetable and berry farm in the process of becoming certified as organic),

• Kogler’s Old World Bread (French and sourdough breads),

• Good Earth Market and Organic Farm (produce, herbs, flowers, eggs), and

• Hudson Produce (produce, flowers).

“We are a producers’ market, so we’re trying to stay with as many Delaware farmers as we can,” emphasized Magee, who was still waiting this week to hear from at least one farm as to whether they’ll be joining the Fenwick market. “We only have one Maryland farmer now.”

McGrath said the first season of operation the Bethany market will be an asset for the new Fenwick market, as it set the scene for what the vendors can expect. Judging from last year, that could mean long lines of people waiting eagerly at market opening to grab up all the fresh products they can get each week before the vendors run out.

But McGrath and Magee said they’re not concerned about any supply problems, despite the demonstrated demand.

“From the Bethany market, they have a good idea of what they need to have on hand,” said McGrath. “And I think Bethany was the most successful one last year, in year one. We’re looking for this to be a great draw here.”

Magee agreed. “Usually we don’t have sweet corn until July 4,” she noted. “And the vendors always made plenty of product. I don’t think we’ll run into that this year.”

The Chamber had been named as a potential location for a local farmers’ market as efforts got under way last spring to get one in place in time for the summer.

Organizers ended up choosing Bethany Beach as their location, with facilities provided in the bank parking lot at the corner of Garfield Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue, right in the heart of downtown Bethany, and support from the Bethany Beach Landowners Association, Bethany Beach Women’s Civic Club and Town of Bethany Beach.

“We’d been approached before, before they’d started the one in Bethany,” McGrath recalled. “But we felt the vendors would need be members of the Chamber before proceeding. Our building is one of the resources and benefit for members,” she emphasized.

With the outrageous success of the Bethany market in its first year, it was only natural that organizers would turn to the Chamber in 2008 as a possible host for an additional market.

“Ellen Magee and the Department of Agriculture approached us again this year,” McGrath said, “and basically the same group as in the Bethany farmers’ market was interested in doing it and joining the Chamber.”

So Magee made a proposal to the Chamber’s board.

“They were all in favor of it,” McGrath said. “All the vendors will be Chamber members, and we’re happy to be able to provide them the market opportunity as a great member benefit.”

She also pointed out the many positives of the idea for the Chamber as a whole.

“We see it as a way to help these family farmers by providing a strong member benefit for them,” she said. “It also enhances the tourism experience for people who are here, for them to have the opportunity to shop at a real farmers’ market, to buy produce and cut flowers, and then they can use them while they’re here or take them home with them,” she added, emphasizing the choices provided by the area offering both a Sunday and Friday market opportunity. “We think it’s a nice complement to the Sunday market in Bethany.”

McGrath said the Chamber also considers hosting the market as a benefit to all of its other members.

“It will bring a whole new group of people to the information center, where they can see everyone’s materials and brochures,” she said.

But the bottom line to the idea, at least for McGrath, is its benefit to the area’s agricultural economy.

“In terms of ensuring that local family farmers have sustainability, this type of program is really important,” she said. “Increasing agri-tourism increases their opportunities to have income, and sales opportunities that they can depend on and budget for. It is what is going to keep them in business.”

McGrath said the decision to go with a Friday-morning market was a relatively easy one. “We talked about different times of day, and we decided on 8 (a.m.) to noon. It is going to be an early one,” she said. “But the product is certainly better in the morning, before the heat of the day develops.”

McGrath said the Chamber was also looking to add on to the traditional farmers’ market model with a pilot program that could bring the freshest local produce to area restaurants, too.

“We’re also trying to develop a model program with Mango’s and Bethany Blues, and some of the farmers who are going to be in the market, to see if we can develop a usable model for restaurateurs to source local produce,” she revealed.

“We’ll see how that works out, but, hopefully, we can expand that next year,” McGrath said. “It benefits everyone. The restaurants get to use produce that hasn’t been on a truck for three days. They can, hopefully, get better a price and better produce. And the farmers benefit from long-term, sustainable income.”

McGrath said the entire project was being greeted warmly by the Chamber, with support from a number of the parties and agencies involved.

“We’re really excited about partnering with them,” she said. “We’re working with the Bethany farmers’ market to co-promote the markets. And the Department of Agriculture is going to be one of sponsors at the Taste of Coastal Delaware in June, to promote the farmers’ market.”

The Fenwick Farmers’ Market will take place on Fridays from 8 a.m. until noon in the Chamber’s Information Center parking lot on Route 1, north of Fenwick Island, beginning June 27. For more information on the market, contact the Chamber at (302) 539-2100.