What is a Community-based, Producer-Only Farmers Market and How is it Different?
A community-based, producer-only farmers market is not just another retail enterprise. It is part of a growing environmental movement pioneering ways to save the land, provide small farmers and small producers a way to stay in business, and to educate our children about the food that we eat.
In addition to fresh produce, eggs, fruits, breads, baked goods, meats, seafood, cut-flowers and herbs, the HLFM features workshops by local chefs (using food from the market), master gardeners, wellness providers, and sustainable agriculture experts. Best of all, the market is a place where every Saturday and Wednesday mornings we meet our neighbors and make new friends, making our community much stronger.
People worldwide are rediscovering the benefits of buying local food. It is fresher than anything in the supermarket, and that means that it tastes great and is more nutritious. It is also good for our local economy buying directly from family farmers and producers helps them keep their land.
Why a Farmers Market in Lewes, Delaware?
There have been numerous markets in and around the Lewes area for many decades. The historic square behind King’s Ice Cream (201 Second Street) has been documented as the site of an early market. We have two locations in Lewes, Delaware. Our Saturday market is located in the heart of Lewes, Delaware, and our Wednesday Market is also located in Lewes, near Route 1.
History of the Historic Lewes Farmers Market
While there had been numerous markets in and around the Lewes area for many decades—the historic square behind King’s Ice Cream (201 Second Street) has been documented as the site of an early market—these markets disappeared over time. By 2005, there was only one remaining farmers market in Sussex County, the agriculture center of the Delaware.
Sometimes big ideas start at small parties. The idea of starting a farmers market in Lewes began in 2005 at a birthday party in Cape Henlopen State Park with a conversation among friends. That conversation blossomed into a plan for a very unique, producer-only, community-based Market that would operate as a non-profit run by volunteers. Being producer-only would mean that the farmer selling at the market actually grew the product. Unlike other markets with crafts and re-sellers, this market would be centered around farmers.
It took a year of planning and recruiting farmers. On July 1, 2006, the Historic Lewes Farmers Market held its first market on the Lewes Historical Society grounds in the center of Lewes. There were 16 local farmers/producers who brought vegetables, fruit, fish, honey, pastries, beef, baked goods, cut-flowers, and more. The Market opened at 8am and there were so many customers that every vendor sold out by 9:30am!
As more farmers extended their growing season in order to be able to produce vegetables earlier and later in the spring and fall, the Market also extended its dates from May through November. In 2016, the Market moved out of the Lewes Historical Society grounds to its new location two blocks away at George H.P. Smith Park. Also in 2016, a new HLFM Wednesday Market was established at Crooked Hammock Brewery in Lewes. These Markets are rain or shine, and the Markets over the many years have only closed a handful of times due to hurricanes and other extreme weather.
In 2008, the Historic Lewes Farmers Market partnered with the Lewes Public Library to bring Children’s Storytime to the Market every Saturday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Thousands of children and their adults have participated in this program where local librarians and library volunteers read books about gardening, the environment, and healthy eating.
There is a Market Demonstration every week at the Saturday Market featuring local chefs, environmental speakers, and other local non-profits. With event days like the Tomato Festival and Kid’s Day, there’s always something to celebrate at the Market! There are over 52,000 customer visits to HLFM markets every year and almost 40 farmers/producers across both Markets. Over 150 volunteers work at the Markets or on Market committees and boards.
All of this is the result of an idea hatched between friends over a decade ago and shared with their local community.
The Historic Lewes Farmers Market needs volunteers. The volunteers help set up and take down the market every Saturday. They assist the chefs and others putting on market demonstrations, and, in general, help the vendors during the market hours. You don’t need to have any expertise to volunteer.
If you’re interested in spending a few hours on a Saturday between May and November, helping us at the market, or want to volunteer to help us in other ways throughout the year, please call us at 302-644-1436 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.