DOVER — Gov. Jack Markell began Delaware’s inaugural Local Produce Week Monday at Fifer Orchards by signing a resolution to encourage First Staters to buy local.
“There aren’t many things that are all good news, but this resolution is all good news,” he said.
Agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry in Delaware and more than 508,652 acres — 41 percent of Delaware’s land — is farmland, comprised of 2,451 different farms.
The buy and eat local movement started about six years ago and since then, opportunities increasingly have arisen for Delawareans to support local agriculture.
According to the Department of Agriculture, there are more than 100 on-site farm stands in Delaware, more than 25 community farmers’ markets and about 20 farms have U-pick options.Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, Rep. Harvey Kenton, Rep. Bill Carson, Gov. Jack Markell and Rep. Dave Wilson picked blueberries as part of Fifer Orchards’ u-pick option in support of Local Produce Week.[/caption]
U-pick offers consumers the opportunity to go into the field and select their own produce. Fifer Orchards currently has U-pick blueberries and on Monday Gov. Markell stepped among bushes to try his hand at picking a few ripe berries.
“Farming is the number one industry in Delaware,” Rep. Lyndon Yearick said. “There are many things we can’t control like rain and temperature, but we are in control of farming remaining Delaware’s number one industry.”
Many community gardens also have sprung up in recent years. There, people can plant produce and as it ripens, anyone in the area may pick it. In Wilmington, more than 70 community gardens were started since 2009. Kent County got on board last year, starting one outside the Levy Court building on Bay Road in Dover.
If you’re too busy to pick your own produce or stop at multiple farm stands every week to get your needed produce, there are other options like Communities Support Agriculture programs which are available throughout the state.
By enrolling in a CSA program, members can pick up a box of fresh produce either weekly or biweekly at a designated location. The boxes contain fruits and vegetables picked at peak season from farms in the immediate area.
“We’ve had a really good couple of years, bringing in record yields,” Gov. Markell said on the state of Delaware farming.
High yields are in part thanks to the four-year-old Delaware Rural Irrigation Program which helps farmers irrigate their fields. Prior to DRIP, only a quarter of Delaware’s farmland was irrigated.
Buying local benefits more than farmers, it also benefits the environment. Typical produce bought in a grocery store travels hundreds of miles from the farm, mostly on trucks, so buying local uses less energy and cuts down on pollution.
As for the benefits for buyers are also getting fresher, more nutrient-rich food since no time is wasted from taking it off the farm and getting it onto the table.
Gov. Markell said children are also benefiting from the eat-local movement because for nearly seven years, farms have been working with public schools to get fresh produce in the cafeteria.
To learn more about local produce and how to support it, visit dda.delaware.gov.