At the heart of things, Delaware is still very much an agriculture-based economy.

Yes, our beach towns are largely driven by tourism dollars, and the bordering towns benefit by drawing in that crowd to shops, restaurants and housing. It’s a big deal. And “up north,” well, they benefit from the banks and financial institutions.

But from the borders of Maryland to Pennsylvania, and most points in between, agriculture is a constant. Consider Sussex County as a whole — chickens, watermelons, berries, peaches, soy and everything else that springs up from nature’s bounty provides jobs, feeds families and makes things “go.”

So it was encouraging last week when the Delaware Department of Agriculture announced at the Farmers Market Managers Summit that last year’s farmers’ markets hit an all-time sales record of $3.7 million. That is a sizeable increase from last year’s total of $3,159,175.

“This past year demonstrates that direct-to-consumer sales for Delaware-grown products are strong,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “Delaware tends to follow the national trend that direct-to-consumer sales mainly occur at on-farm markets, farmstands and farmers’ markets. So when we have a great year at farmers’ markets, our producers also see the increased business at their farm location.”

It’s good news. Consider the drop from 2019 to 2020 (the pandemic timeline, if you will): Sales went from $3.3 million to $1.9 million that one year. Many things that went backward that year have never rebounded. These have, and that is encouraging for our farmers — and our local economy as a whole.