Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said in a statement the markets are a great example of public-private partnerships.
"Over the last few years, we have seen an incredible rise in people wanting to eat healthy and buy fresh, local foods for themselves and their children," Kee said. "Our farmers and producers are working to meet that demand by selling some of the best fresh produce, meats, cheeses and honey that any state can offer. Our farmers' markets also connect the people who eat with the people who grow their food, fostering conversations and friendships that can last a lifetime."
Shoppers bought more fresh produce and other goods from farmers' markets than ever before in 2014, according to the Department of Agriculture. Sales from all 27 First State community-run farmers' markets totaled $2,636,727, up more than $520,000 from 2013. Sales have increased more than eightfold since the Department of Agriculture began tracking them in 2007, officials said.
Fresh produce made up 59 percent of the total sales, with the remainder coming from value-added products such as meats, cheeses, jellies, breads, salsa, eggs or honey.
Delaware's farmers' markets are all run at the local level, by municipalities, business groups, farmers or market associations, with the Department of Agriculture providing support and marketing assistance.
Use of the Electronic Benefits Transfer card system is growing steadily, which officials said allows families to purchase local produce and food items as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Five markets offered EBT transactions during 2014, for $5,902 in sales. Several other markets are planning to expand into the program in 2015, the Department of Agriculture said.
The 2015 market season will begin in April; most markets start their operations in May, June and July. There are currently two winter markets open for the season, in Millsboro and Delaware City. A list of the markets is online at Delaware's Buy Local Guide, de.gov/buylocal.
Farmers and others interested in becoming a vendor, or community groups interested in starting a local market, can contact Department of Agriculture marketing specialist David Smith at (302) 698-4522 or email@example.com.
Delaware Farmers' Market Sales Trends