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Farmers' market sales in Delaware dip slightly in 2016, remain strong overall

James Morrison
Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s 25 farmers’ markets showed strong sales last year, despite a wet spring and humid summer. 


Farmers’ market sales in Delaware in 2016 were $2.9 million, down slightly from their peak of $3 million in 2015, according to data released this week by the state. 


Last year’s slight dip in sales can most likely be attributed to a few bad-weather weekends, according to David Smith, from Delaware's Department of Agriculture.


“We did have a very wet Spring. A very popular market down in Milton had it rain three or four consecutive Fridays, which impacted some of their numbers,” he said. 


Smith added it's a good sign that sales were almost identical over the past two years.


And even if sales were down at the market, farmers are seeing more demand for local produce elsewhere.    

“A lot of these same farmers are now selling to the grocery store chains. Or they're selling to school districts or the local restaurant,” Smith said.  


The steady sales and the demand for local produce outside farmers’ markets are all good news for First State food growers.  


But last year’s dip in sales could mean demand is reaching its peak after climbing 900 percent over the past decade, from under $300,000 to over $3 million.


“I don’t know how far we can climb. I mean Delaware is only so many square miles,” Smith said.


There aren’t any plans to increase the number of farmers’ markets in the state beyond the current 25.


Smith said that would only shift money from one market to another.


But even though sales may have hit a plateau, Smith thinks 2017 could be the best year on record.


That’s partly because the state is expanding a program that lets low-income people use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits at farmers’ markets


The state will be releasing its schedule of farmers markets in March.


The first market is expected to open in Milton in mid April.

Delaware Farmers' Market Sales
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