DOVER — The Capital City Farmers’ Market is not just about having a place to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables in downtown Dover — it is a happening spot full of activities for families and shoppers alike.

The fourth year of the Capital City Farmers’ Market is set to invade Loockerman Way Plaza at 126 Loockerman St., on Wednesday, June 19.

It will return every Wednesday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., through Oct. 30.

“I am very excited for this year’s market,” said Brynn Voshell, of the Downtown Dover Partnership, who will be taking over as manager of the market this year.

“The market has been going strong for three years now and this will be my second year helping run things. I look forward to meeting new people as well as seeing those familiar faces that frequent the market each week.

“I would have to say that what I enjoy most about the market is seeing families come out to enjoy the crafts, music and activities while they shop local.”

This year’s Capital City Farmers’ Market will bring back its’ familiar “Meet me at the Market” slogan again this season.

The Downtown Dover Partnership will give away aprons adorned with the slogan along with the event sponsor’s names on them to the first 150 customers on opening day June 19.

The aprons will also be made available to customers who purchase items at the market on other select days throughout the year.

And, of course, there will be lots of delicious food to purchase from local vendors and food trucks all just a few blocks away from the state capital building.

“We will have a variety of food vendors and many of the community favorites will be returning this year along with some new additions,” Mrs. Voshell said.

“We will also have more artisan vendors this year selling a vast range of items from home decor, jewelry, flowers, sauces and even goat’s milk soap.

Dover Mayor Christiansen reads a story to kids at the Farmers’ Market last year.

“We’ll also have multiple produce vendors with a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. We have partnered with Autism Delaware as they are taking over the spot the was previously held by Interfaith Mission for Housing. Autism Delaware will purchase their produce from Fifer Orchards (at a discounted rate determined by Fifer’s) and all proceeds made from sales will go directly to their organization.”

Mrs. Voshell estimates that around 200 to 300 visitors frequent the Capital City Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays throughout the market season.

One of the coolest things about Dover’s farmers’ market is that it gives people a chance to socialize, particularly people who work in the downtown area and like to stroll around at lunch time.

“We do see a lot of people coming out during their lunch break, and it seems to be a good way to catch up with friends that work locally that may not be able to get together as often as they would like,” said Mrs. Voshell.

Farmers’ markets in Delaware
The Capital City Farmers’ Market is one of 20 community-run markets throughout the state that will be in operation this summer. There will be two in Kent County, the other being the Asbury Church Farmers’ Market in Smyrna on Glenwood Avenue on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. until Oct. 11, as well as nine markets apiece in New Castle and Sussex counties.

The Sussex County markets are particularly popular, as they are close to popular beach areas, with many farmers’ markets positioned to attract seasonal tourists. Sussex County also leads the state in farmland acreage.

Last year marked the fourth-largest year for farmers’ markets in Delaware, as 19 operating markets generated $2,883,702 in revenue.

A total of $1.5 million of those sales came from fresh produce, with the remainder going to sales of fresh meats, cheeses, honey, jellies and other products, according to Stacey Hoffman, chief of community relations for the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Rep. Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden-Wyoming) has always been a big supporter of promoting local produce and goods.
“Fresher food translates into better nutrition, better taste and the potential for creating healthier eating habits,” Rep. Yearick said. “And when consumers spend their food dollars locally, they support Delaware’s family farms and spur our economic activity.”

While fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs are a highlight of farmers’ markets, about half of Delaware farmers’ market sales are typically tied to agricultural products such as meats, cheeses, jellies, breads, salsa, eggs or honey, facilitating small business start-ups.

In 2017, Delaware farmers’ markets generated more than $3 million in sales, the second-highest season since the state began recording sales just more than a decade ago.

“These numbers are a reflection of the positive relationship that Delaware residents and those visiting our state have with our family farmers,” said Michael T. Scuse, secretary of agriculture for the state of Delaware.

“Consumers know food purchased at our farmers’ market are grown locally, picked fresh and delivered that day by the farm.

“Not only do they have the opportunity to learn how their food is grown directly from Delaware farmers, but they are able to make a positive impact on the economy by keeping it local.”

When it comes to vegetables and fruits grown for the fresh markets in Delaware, the local produce includes watermelons, cantaloupes, sweet corn, cabbage, green beans, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, peaches, apples and strawberries.

The First State is a major watermelon producing region and there are 3,000 acres for the tasty melons in the state. Sweet corn for fresh corn on the cob is grown on more than 3,500 acres on farmlands throughout the state.

Getting food that is grown locally has become more and more important to consumers.

“We know consumers – both Delawareans and visitors to our state – are seeking out local food options because they are more and more interested in where their food is produced,” Mr. Scuse said. “Having an array of locally grown, fresh in-season produce encourages consumers to try new fruits and vegetables and eat healthy.”

Opening day activities
The Capital City Farmers’ Market has several special days throughout the season, but none is more special than opening day on June 19.

That day will feature free lunch to children under the age of 18 provided by the Capital School District (which will take place every Wednesday during the summer), a Pop-Up Adventure Playground, while Kidz DeLight will create amazing balloon animals for the kids.

There will also be a craft corner, story time with a special guest, cooking demonstrations by the Food Bank of Delaware, along with a demonstration by Unbranded Dance, Zumba Kids with the Ice House: Wellness & Community and music by Imagine.

Deaf Outreach, Inc., Delaware’s Quaint Villages, Restoring Central Dover and Wesley College Community Garden will also join the first farmers’ market of the season and there will be giant Jenga, Connect Four, corn hole and more.

Mrs. Voshell said the farmers’ market offers something for everybody.

“We will continue to accept SNAP/EBT benefits, WIC Vouchers and this year we will accept the new Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program Vouchers,” she said. “Opening day will be a chance for those interested in participating in the new program to sign up as the Department of Agriculture will be on site with applications and will be able to answer any questions.

“Each week we will feature live music, a cooking demonstration as well as physical activity for the kids and kids at heart. Giant games, story time, arts and craft corner will be available each week to help keep the little ones entertained.”

Following the excitement of opening day, Mrs. Voshell has a couple of other dates circled on her calendar.

“This year we will feature our Kids’ Market on July 17th and August 7th,” said Mrs. Voshell. “The Capital City Farmers Market is giving young entrepreneurs ages 18 and younger the opportunity to run their own business for a day. Kids may sell products that are handmade, hand-grown, handcrafted, or hand-produced.

“Products purchased from or made by a third-party source will not be permitted. As market vendors for the day, kids practice basic skills of product development, marketing, sales and customer service.”
She added, “Visitors are welcome to come visit out farmers’ market any week of the season. They can always ‘Meet me at the Ma

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.