Fenwick farmers’ market wraps up first year of business

Last Friday, Aug. 29, a slew of representatives and honorees spoke at the conclusion of the inaugural year of Fenwick Island’s Farmers’ Market, which started this June. Among the guests speakers were Market Master Ellen McGee, Delaware Farm Bureau President L. Edward Jestice Jr. and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

The morning began with words from Patti Grimes, president of Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, the market’s host for its first season.

“Agriculture is a rich resource, not only in the Bethany Beach and Fenwick areas, but in Sussex County and the state of Delaware,” she said. “Farmers are important providers to society and promote agricultural business.”

A variety of local farmers and businesses joined the Chamber this past year and participated in the event, held the last nine Fridays at the Chamber’s welcome center outside Fenwick Island. Kogler’s Old World Bread, Parsons Farms, Bennett Orchards, Hudson Produce, Good Earth Market and Greenbranch Organic Farms were just some of the contributing vendors at the market.

Ellen McGee of McGee Farms worked closely with the Chamber to bring a farmers’ market to Fenwick Island following last year’s success of the Bethany Beach Farmers’ Market in downtown Bethany.

“Farms feed America,” she said. “That’s why we started the market here in Fenwick. America loses over 1 million acres of farmland to commercial development every year, which is the equivalent to losing an area the size of Delaware each year. We need to remember: no farms, no food.”

Jestice added that agriculture is the No. 1 resource in the state.

The issue of supporting agriculture in the U.S. is a familiar one to Carper. In December 2007, the U.S. Senate, with Carper’s support, passed a new Farm Bill that increased continuing commodity support for soybean, corn, wheat and dairy farmers, as well as establishing new support for specialty crops, like fresh fruits and vegetables, which could really help farmers in state of Delaware.

Following his contribution to the Farm Bill, Carper also recently brought his expertise and support to the development of a comprehensive New Energy Reform Act of 2008, or “New ERA.” The proposal was aimed at reducing gas prices, lessening the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and strengthening America’s economy. Working with farmers’ markets is just one way many people across the country are helping to improve the economy, Carper said.

“There are more than a dozen farmers’ markets in the state,” Carper said. “Local farming places a big focus on nutrition.”

When prompted on the importance of farmers’ markets, as opposed to the corporate production of most food stocks, he responded, “If you look at the cost of the food we buy, for every dollar we spend in the supermarkets, relatively little ends up in the pocket of the farmers. Instead, a large amount goes to processing, packaging and transportation. At the end of the line, it doesn’t leave a lot for those who worked hardest.”

He added that his actions with the farm bill and energy reform acts will work together to help essentially “lower costs for consumers and increase what comes back to farmers” by cutting out middlemen.