The state's farmers markets feature local growers, who now have their own brand to promote Delaware-grown produce.

On the heels of a 2017 farmers market season that saw over $3 million in sales, farmers across the state are gearing up for the start of the upcoming farmers market season.

“When consumers buy locally grown produce, they are not only getting the freshest Delaware has to offer, but they are helping to keep small farms productive,” said Stacey Hofmann, chief of community relations at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, “Which in turn boosts and grows the local economy.”

In order to make it easier for people to find Delaware-grown produce, her department is rolling out a “Delaware Grown” brand. A logo sticker will be on Delaware produce in grocery stores, both in and out of state, with signs posted at farm stands and markets.

“We’ve been noticing for a while that our farmers really needed a way to promote their crops,” Hofmann said. “Now, anywhere they sell produce, you’ll be able to tell if it’s Delaware grown.”

To further promote Delaware farmers, the DDA is designing a website where visitors will be able to use interactive maps to find produce grown in-state and learn more about the farmers. They can browse recipes and safe food-handling practices. The website is tentatively set to launch this summer.

As anyone who’s been to a farmers market knows, they’re much more than just fruits and vegetables. In 2017, produce made up 53 percent of total sales. The rest came from products like meats, jellies, breads and honey, and goods like soaps, candles and wood products from burgeoning cottage industries.

Koreen Pacher of Georgetown sets up shop at Delaware farmers markets throughout the season, peddling her homemade soaps as Sand Hill Soap Co. She and her husband live on a fixed income, consisting of her disability and his Social Security benefits. Pacher supplements that by selling her artisanal soap.

“My skin has been dry and itchy for years, and I found [online] that store-bought soaps have a lot of harsh chemicals,” Pacher said. “So I started melting and pouring, and I started working with lye. My base is olive oil, shea butter and coconut oil. Some are made with dried herbs or fresh fruits or vegetables.”

Most of the money she earns goes toward basic necessities, like food, for the couple.

The vendors aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits. Roughly 75 percent of state farmers markets now accept the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, and WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, giving low-income individuals and families access to fresh local foods.