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First State kicks off inaugural Delaware Local Produce Week

The First State is spending this week highlighting its local produce industry.

Gov. Jack Markell (D-Delaware) and a handful of legislators visited Fifer Orchards in Camden Monday to officially kick-off Delaware Local Produce Week.

Markell signed a joint resolution passed by the General Assembly last month creating the week, which seeks to highlight how produce growth locally has an impact throughout the state.

“It’s a statement about Delaware agriculture, that it is important, that these farms being profitable maintains open space, generates a lot of economic activity, is good for the environment and generates good food in particular," said State Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee.

State Rep. Lyndon Yearick (R-Dover South),  the resolution’s primary sponsor, adds it’s worth highlighting this piece of the state’s agriculture industry – an industry that as a whole is estimated to an $8 billion dollar economic impact on the state annually.

“It’s a great opportunity up and down the state – whether you’re in the city, whether you’re in the suburbs, whether your at the beach – there’s a way to have a deep appreciation for and enjoyment of supporting the [state’s] number one industry and having great food on your table," said Yearick.=

In recent years, the state has increased its role in encouraging the sale and use of local produce. Through various programs, the Department of Agriculture has supported the growing number of farmers markets, which now number 23, and nearly 100 on site farmstands run by local farmers - as well as Community Supported Agriculture programs or CSAs that many farms operate.  The Ag Department has also worked to build farm to school and farm to table initiatives. 

Kee says he sees the results of those efforts.

“The interest in buying local has superseded interest in organic.  And not only buying it directly from farmers, but the restaurants in Delaware have bought into this, especially down in the resort areas, said Kee. "It’s not unusual at all to go in and the menu feature some Delaware peaches or sweet corn or whatever.  And that’s another good venue that gets across the point that it’s not only about good food, but it’s about profitable farming."

Mary Fifer Fennimore, whose family has run Fifer Orchards since 1919, says while their farm is primary a commercial venture , selling to supermarkets and such,  the recent push to buy local has opened new avenues for their business.

“Our retail portion is the portion that has given us more of a spotlight I would say and brought us to do other programs with the schools and CSAs and farmers markets.  And we’ve seen an increase in our local sales because of those programs and we’re glad to be a part of them," said Fennimore.

Delaware Local Produce Week continues all week long with a series of events up and down the state – including cooking demonstrations in Rehoboth and New Castle and an event in Wilmington spotlighting urban community gardens.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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