Delaware Farmers’ Markets To Open Under New COVID-19 Protocols

DOVER, Del. – With the assistance of the Delaware Farmers’ Market Coalition, a group of market managers from across the state, the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) is issuing protocols to help farmers’ markets safely begin opening starting May 15.

“We want to make sure that opening the farmers’ markets in Delaware is done in a way that maximizes the safety of market staff, family farmers, and the customers who are looking to purchase produce, specialty crops, and other value-added food items,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “We know a lot more about COVID-19 now and the steps we all need to take to prevent the spread of this disease. Farmers’ markets will not be the same social experience as they were prior to COVID-19, but we hope that Delawareans will utilize the markets as a place to purchase locally produced food.”

The protocols issued by DDA will be in place until further notice and are solely intended to allow farmers to sell produce, specialty crops, and other value-added food items that have been directly grown or raised on a farm or prepared in a permitted on-farm kitchen or cottage-food kitchen. Individual farmers’ markets may choose to implement more specific and stringent protocols, but they must at a minimum follow the issued protocols in order to operate and remain open.

“There is nothing better than heading to a farmers’ market in the spring as Delaware grown produce starts to become available. There is a sense of community pride around farmers’ markets that includes supporting our local economy and our family farms,” said Governor John Carney. “With the help of the farmers’ market managers and the staff at the Department of Agriculture and the Delaware Division of Public Health, we are able to allow farmers’ markets to begin opening on May 15 as long as they are able to enact the protocols issued by the Department of Agriculture.”

To create a safer environment for all involved in farmers’ markets, they will no longer be considered a social venue. This means there will be no social gatherings, no entertainment shows or activities, no food trucks or prepared food for consumption on site, no on-site food preparation or sampling, no demonstrations, and no pets allowed, except for service animals.

Depending on the farmers’ market, they may operate a walk-through market or a drive-through market. All customers will be required to wear face coverings, or they will be denied entrance. A maximum of two people per household will be allowed to enter the market to shop. Upon arrival, customers will check in at the entrance with market staff. If the market is at capacity, the customer will be given instructions on how they will be notified when they can go into shop.

Progress through the farmers’ market will only be in one direction. All market attendees will be required to enter through a specific entrance and will all leave out a designated exit, there will be no doubling back to shop at a vendor. Market staff, vendors, and customers will need to social distance, maintaining six feet distance from all others while inside the market area. In order to reduce shopping time, vendors will not have their product available where people can touch or handle product. Customers will need to request items that they want to purchase, and the farmer will package for purchase.

If you are sick with any of the following symptoms, stay home: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle fatigue, chills, shaking with chills, loss of smell or taste. Other symptoms such as headache or digestive symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or lack of appetite) are potential symptoms related to COVID-19 and may prompt further screening, action or investigation.

If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have symptoms of illness, you may not go out in public. Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions – including serious heart conditions, chronic lung conditions, including moderate to severe asthma, severe obesity and those who are immunocompromised, including through cancer treatment – may have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. We want to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 within our farmers’ market community, so if you are sick or have been exposed or are at higher risk for severe illness – stay home, do not go to the farmers’ market.

More information regarding the protocols for opening Delaware farmers’ markets can be found at https://de.gov/buylocal.

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Delaware State Fair connects fair-goers with Delaware agriculture

DOVER, Del. — The countdown is on for many Delaware youth and adult exhibitors as they get ready to showcase their agricultural exhibits at this year’s Delaware State Fair. Along with rides, food, and games, the state fair is a great opportunity for fair-goers to learn more about agriculture – Delaware’s top industry.

Boy watering his show pig between shows“By far, Delaware has one of the best fairs in the United States and with each year it only gets better. I encourage everyone to join our staff to celebrate the history and the accomplishments of 100th Delaware State Fair,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “This is an opportunity for Delawareans and visitors to learn about Delaware agriculture and all it does for our consumers and our economy. Take time to walk through the livestock barns to see the wide variety of animals that our young people are showing. Take time to ask questions and learn where your food comes from. Getting to see a dairy cow up close helps make the connection that milk comes from a cow.”

More than ninety-nine percent of Delaware’s 2,300 farms are family-owned. Delaware farmers produce a variety of agricultural products on more than 525,000 acres of farmland, including corn, soybeans, wheat, poultry and livestock, and fruits and vegetables. All of the state’s agricultural commodities can be experienced simply by visiting the barns and buildings along Holloway Street, from the front of the Fair by Quillen Arena all the way back to the 4-H/FFA Building (The Centre) and The Delmarva Building.

“We are excited to bring a new educational experience for visitors in the Department’s Agriculture Commodities and Education Building. So many people do not understand that their food really begins its journey on a family farm ─ not in the grocery store.” said DDA spokesperson Stacey Hofmann. “We have a really vibrant display that’s larger than life that will help start the conversation about how food gets from the farm to the table – whether your 5, 50, or 100.”

If you love trivia, the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Farms and Food game show is always a hit. Loaded with brand-new questions, bring your family and friends by the Delaware Agriculture Commodities and Education to have fun testing your Delaware agriculture knowledge.

Educational demonstrations will be held at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. from the first day of fair, through the last Friday. Topics include:

• Thursday, July 18: Utopia Fruita Snacks for All; One Health: How the Health of Humans, Animals and the Environment are Interconnected
• Friday, July 19: Drying Herbs; Dish on Delmarva Poultry
• Saturday, July 20: Making Straw Bracelets; Watermelon Demo
• Sunday, July 21: Butter Churning; Cooking with Honey
• Monday, July 22: Worm Composting; Bee Talk
• Tuesday, July 23: Is It a Wasp or A Bee?; Watermelon Demo
• Wednesday, July 24: Heat to Toe Avocado Show; LeadDelaware Class 5
• Thursday, July 25: Trees are Terrific; Dish on Delmarva Poultry
• Friday, July 26: Butter Churning; Honey Extraction

This year, Delaware’s Department of Agriculture, Delaware’s Division of Public Health, and Delaware’s Division of Fish and Wildlife are teaming up during State Fair to educate the public about rabies prevention. There will be a hands-on educational exhibit in the Delaware Agriculture Commodities and Education Building the last five days, as well as the presentation “One Health: How the Health of Humans, Animals and the Environment are Interconnected” on Thursday, July 18 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Rabies is an infectious disease affecting the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Rabies is endemic to the East Coast, but it has become more of an issue as development encroaches on the habitat of wild animals. Infection can occur through the bite or scratch of an infected animal or if saliva from such an animal gets into the eyes, nose, mouth or an opening in the skin. Fortunately, rabies is also almost completely preventable.

“In the past, when wild animals got rabies, they would typically die and no one would really know about it because they were in their own habitat. Every once in a while, a rabid animal would come in contact with a pet or person, and then the individual would go through the series of rabies shots or a pet would be quarantined,” said Dr. Karen Lopez, Deputy State Veterinarian. “But today, these animals are making it into our developments more frequently because we are now living in their backyard. Typical animal behavior is no longer present when a wild or stray domestic animal is infected with rabies. We want to make sure owners are vaccinating their pets, horses, and livestock. It is also important for everyone to know what to do if they get bitten or scratched by an animal capable of carrying rabies. If transmission does occur, rabies is considered a fatal disease.”

On the grounds, fairgoers can travel back in time and revisit the history of Delaware agriculture through the Antique Machinery Showcase held on July 20 in the Quillen Arena. This event features antiques dating back to the early 1900s, and even some before then. With antique tractors, broom makers, craftsmen, and more, there is something for all ages to experience.

Attendees can also get a glimpse of the equine industry throughout Fair. Exhibitors will be participating in English and Western classes, showmanship, showing horses in hand, and driving. Harrington Raceway is one of three tracks in Delaware that offers horse racing. On Thursday, July 25, fair-goers are invited to attend harness racing in the M&T Bank Grandstand with a 7 p.m. post time. With approximately $600,000 in total purses, the race program will be headlined by four $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund final events for 3-year-olds as well as program staples like the Governor’s Cup, which features some of Delaware’s top horses, ages three years and older. Governor John Carney will be on hand to present the trophy to the winner.

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Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov


Celebrating Delaware’s agricultural diversity, linking producers to consumers

Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse kicks off Delaware Grown Week at the Rehoboth Farmers' MarketRehoboth Beach, Del. – Delaware Grown Week – a campaign highlighting the fruits, vegetables, and value-added agricultural products produced in The First State – officially launched with a kick-off event at the Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market including Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse, state legislators, and other officials.

State Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Camden-Wyoming, authored the legislation creating Delaware Grown Week in 2015. He said one of the goals of the partnership between the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) and the Delaware General Assembly is to facilitate closer relationships between farmers and local consumers.

“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.

purple and green kohlrabi bulbs on wood crates at farmers' market “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. Having an array of locally grown, fresh in-season produce encourages consumers to try new fruits and vegetables and eat healthy,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “With the kickoff of Delaware Grown Week today, I am pleased to announce the release of the new Delaware Grown website. Through the use of an interactive map, DelawareGrown.com helps consumers find local products from fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey to Christmas trees and other value-added products. This is also a resource where citizens can go to learn how to cook using locally grown produce, meet many of our farm families, and learn neat tidbits about the specialty crops we grow here in Delaware.”

Elected leaders and agricultural officials will conduct smaller, targeted activities throughout Delaware Grown Week emphasizing the numerous ways citizens can connect with local farms and enjoy Delaware farm products, such as:

  • Shopping at one of the more than 90 onsite farmstands throughout the state.
  • Visiting and purchasing locally grown products at one of the 20 community-run farmers’ markets operating in Delaware this year.
  • Enjoying time with family and friends at a Delaware “u-pick” operations that offer a satisfying experience for patrons to get the freshest fruit and vegetables possible by harvesting it themselves.
  • Participating in a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, providing shareholders with fresh produce weekly during peak harvest seasons.

Take the opportunity to stop off at a local farmers’ market or on-farm market where there is a variety of fruits and vegetables in season. This is an opportunity to connect with Delaware family farmers that take pride in growing the freshest produce. Many farmers’ markets accept Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) transactions, the Women Infant and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program – expanding the availability of healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables.

For more information, visit https://delawaregrown.com.

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Deadline extension for agricultural preservation districts puts Delaware closer to preserving 381,000 acres of farmland

DOVER, Del. – Since 1996, the Delaware AgLands Preservation Program has preserved 127,000 acres of the state’s 508,000 acres currently in agricultural production. After a few years with reduced funding due to statewide budget woes, the tides have turned and the program received full funding this year from Delaware’s General Assembly at 10 million dollars.

“Delaware has the best farmland preservation program in the country. We have preserved 25 percent of our landmass in agriculture, but we have a lot more to go,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “Farmland preservation is an important tool that guarantees land will be available for future generations so that we can continue to produce the agricultural commodities needed to feed Delawareans and our neighbors.”

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation voted to extended district enrollment until December 31, 2018 to any agricultural landowners who want to preserve their farms and still have the opportunity to submit an application for the upcoming round. Farms must be enrolled in a preservation district before the landowner can sell an easement.

According to the Delaware AgLands Preservation Program, there are currently 300 farms participating in the 10-year voluntary preservation districts eligible to sell their development rights during Round 23. Those farms comprise an additional 46,000 acres that could be permanently preserved.

“Agriculture is an economic driver here in Delaware. Our family farms contribute eight billion dollars to the economy and ensuring their sustainability through farmland preservation is important to Delaware’s future,” said Governor Carney. “Delaware is fortunate to be within eight hours of most of the major population centers, which creates an opportunity for our family farmers producing fruits, vegetables, chickens and grains to enter the retail market. And with the recent agreement to further develop the Port of Wilmington, we are helping to open future international markets for our farmers.”

Typically, landowners are eligible to submit a bid to sell their farm’s development rights the year after they enroll their farm into a district agreement. District applications for the upcoming year would usually have closed on December 31, 2017; however, the Foundation members were concerned that landowners might not have applied by the deadline fearing uncertainty for this year’s budget, so the deadline was extended to December 31, 2018.

The Foundation approves all applications, using an impartial discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for the taxpayer. The Foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners’ development rights and has a permanent agricultural conservation easement placed on the property.

For more information or to obtain applications related to the Delaware AgLands Preservation Program, interested landowners can visit https://agriculture.delaware.gov or call (302) 698-4530.

The Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes representatives from agriculture and state agencies. Trustees are: Bob Garey, chairman; Bill Vanderwende, vice-chairman; L. Allen Messick Jr., treasurer; William H. “Chip” Narvel Jr., secretary; Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse; State Treasurer Ken Simpler; Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Shawn Garvin; Peter Martin; Theodore P. Bobola Jr.; Robert Emerson; and Janice Truitt.

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Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542, Stacey.Hofmann@delaware.gov


Delaware requests emergency declaration from USDA for crop damage due to recent storms

DOVER, Del. — Too much rain at the wrong time, like Delaware experienced in April and May, has destroyed several high dollar crops and threatens the yield of many others, leaving farmers to wonder what the future holds. In surveying the state and listening to farmers, Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse made a request for an emergency disaster declaration two weeks ago to USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Service Center.

“Delaware family farms are the backbone of our economy, making agriculture our number one industry,” said Governor Carney. “Farming is hard no matter what – but when you get hit with the weather we have seen this spring, and the damage it has done to our fruit and vegetable crops, our grains, and our hay – it has a huge impact on our farmers, our communities, and the state as a whole.”

Once a request for a declaration is made, the FSA staff begins official surveys of the status of current crops at the state and county level. These reports are then compiled, reviewed, and sent on to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. In order to be eligible for this declaration, Delaware has to have at least 30 percent loss in crop production for at least one crop.

“It is impossible for Delaware farmers to come out of this without emergency assistance,” said Scuse. “Many of our fruit and vegetable farms have taken a beating and other crops definitely will not be able to reach optimal yields. We have farmers who are trying to plant field corn for the third and fourth time. That’s a lot of money invested in seed and when the bill arrives they are going to need help paying it.”

The state has three months from the last day of the disaster to file a declaration request to USDA.

The benefit of an emergency disaster declaration is it gives farmers time to apply and get an emergency loan. These loans help producers to recover from production and physical losses from the torrential rains and flooding in Delaware. Farmers have nine months to apply for the loans once USDA makes the official crop damage declaration, which provides them time to compile the paperwork and only apply for the funds they really need to borrow.

Once submitted, Delaware has to wait to learn if USDA will grant them the emergency declaration.

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Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov