The Holiday Spirit

Tired of seeing of the news on Syrian refugees and Paris terrorist attacks? Me, too. Tired of Presidential debates in a non-election year? Me, too.  Already seeing Christmas TV ads and wondering how you’re going to get everything done? Me, too. Take a deep breath, slow down, and consider these 2 suggestions:

  1. Visit a local Christmas tree farm.
  2. Take a stroll at a holiday farmer’s market.

There’s no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than to visit a local tree farm. We visited Schreppler’s Fir Tree Acres in Magnolia, DE recently and I’m so glad we did. The smell of pine and intense green color surrounded us. Chance loved playing hide-and-go-seek in between the trees and all of sudden we were singing Jingle Bells. Many have Christmas shops with decorations, greenery, holly, and wreaths. But you don’t have to buy a thing-getting in the spirit is free! Find a tree farm near you in this guide from Delaware Dept. of Agriculture.

How about a stroll at a holiday farmer’s market this season? Little Wagon Produce will be a vendor at 2 upcoming local markets:

  • Friday, Nov. 20 – Milton “Harvest Market”, Noon-4pm, on the grounds of Dogfish Brewery. Check out this article in the Cape Gazette for more info. Dogs welcome!
  • Saturday, Nov. 21 – Milford Riverwalk 2nd Annual Fall Market, 10am2pm, downtown Milford. Check out this article in Delmarva Life.

You can “buy local” for Christmas gifts, local produce, seasonal decorations, jewelry, baked goods and more while enjoying Christmas music in the background. See my previous post for what Little Wagon Produce will be offering. Downtown Milford is especially a great place to mingle where local residents drink coffee, hug, smile, and fellowship. There’s no entry fee. Just come enjoy the friendly atmosphere and get in the holiday spirit at the same time!

WrightFamilyXmas-8WrightFamilyXmas-35WrightFamilyXmas-51WrightFamilyXmas-1

2015 Local Holiday Markets

This past year, Mom and I revamped the Little Wagon Produce website. After 6 years, it became outdated. It’s no small task for a small business. It took several meetings with Tim Smith’s team from Delmarva Digital, new pictures, and updated text. A few new features include a scrolling picture banner and a “We Sell” tab. Over the years, we’ve collected a database of customer email addresses to send seasonal updates. We feel it’s a nice benefit to quickly tell customers, “Sweet corn’s ready!”. This winter, I plan to increase our collection of customer recipes online. To check out our website or join the email newsletter, just go to our homepage.
Here’s our last email update for 2015 regarding upcoming holiday markets:
Greetings Patrons & Friends,
Thank you for a wonderful 2015 season! Little Wagon Produce is closed for the season. On a daily basis, we may have a few produce items available on our wagon for “self-service”. For those of you who stopped in the beginning, you know what this means!  However, we do have 2 upcoming holiday market dates to share with you. Please mark your calendars:
  1. Friday, Nov. 20 – Milton “Harvest Market”, Noon-4pm, on the grounds of Dogfish Brewery (featuring punkin ale), come enjoy the live music!
  2. Saturday, Nov. 21 – Milford Riverwalk 2nd Annual Fall Market, 10am2pm, downtown Milford, come get your Dolce coffee and take a stroll!
We plan to offer the following at these holiday markets:
  • Jams, jellies, honey, canned pickles
  • Spaghetti and acorn squash
  • Butternut and Hubbard squash (good for pie making)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips
  • Holiday slates with wrought iron (pictured below)
  • Holiday flags with wrought iron (these make great holiday gifts!)
  • Possibly a few fresh greenery pieces (wreaths, garland, etc.)
  • Possibly a few fruit baskets and/or jam & jelly gift baskets
We hope the weather stays mild and would love to see you there! You can also check out our Fall/Winter Recipes on our website. We will be adding more throughout the winter.

If you have any specific needs over the winter, please give us a call at the house (not the stand): 302-349-5206. Thank you again for your business and we look forward to serving you in 2016. Have a blessed holiday season!

Sincerely,
Little Wagon Produce
Dan & Becky Vanderwende and Families

1509857_838243179529044_7756608000485031304_n 10313198_838243172862378_7692412741796498032_n 10384036_838243176195711_897752956314265172_nwinter slate

Bring on Summer and Fresh Produce!

Written by Christy Vanderwende Wright, Little Wagon Produce, for Milford Live (page 14) in honor of Local Produce Week

Bring on summer and the local produce! A sure sign of summer is downtown farmer’s markets. Little Wagon Produce is busy as a vendor at three – the Milton Farmer’s Market on Friday afternoon, the Riverwalk Farmers Market in downtown Milford every Saturday morning, and the Georgetown Farmer’s Market at 16 mile Brewery every Wednesday evening.

The Riverwalk Farmers Market in Milford has become a regular meeting hub for the Milford community. Shoppers mingle, talk, smile, laugh, and hug in between buying goods. Live music and many new vendors compliment the market. The weather has been warm but the grove of trees provides a refreshing shade. We appreciate the loyalty of Milford patrons year after year. I also appreciate the many questions and concern in my absence. I welcomed a baby boy last August and have taken time off to care for him. My sisters, Danna and Amber, have replaced me and love to share pictures of the baby!

The most popular question we get each year is “Do you have sweet corn yet?” The answer is YES! We are also picking daily our own yellow squash, zucchini, sweet corn, string beans, kale, green tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. We will soon have red tomatoes. Farmers have been blessed with plentiful rain this season. Keep in mind, there are expenses incurred by vendors such as fuel costs, paper and plastic bags or packaging, labor, and significant time picking and packing the day before the market. We tend to spend most of Friday preparing for the market in Milford and schedule 4-5 employees to attend and assist customers during the market.

If you do plan to take a stroll downtown soon, here are a few tidbits to help you be “Farmer Market Ready” this summer:

  • Bring cash! Many vendors are small businesses and cannot afford the fees accompanied with credit card machines. There is no bank in downtown Milford anymore.
  • Bring your own bags! The recyclable grocery bags work great! By doing this, you will help the environment and help us because plastic bags are an additional expense to vendors that we usually do not pass on to the customers. We even pay more and go out of the way to find heavy-duty plastic bags to hold a dozen ears of sweet corn (and they still don’t hold a dozen ears well).
  • Bring a friend! Word of mouth is the best marketing! The Riverwalk Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 9am-1pm.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask! Many markets have an information booth or a “Market Manager” to oversee the market each week.
  • Spread the love! Hopefully you will find more than one vendor to patronize. In Milford, there’s a large variety of vendors offering more than produce and there are several businesses nearby such as Dolce Coffee Shop, Blooming Boutique, Sugar Bee Candy Store, Arena’s and Georgia House Restaurant.
  • Bring your smile! Many vendors love to talk and engage their customers, including us.
  • Stay updated! The market is usually rain or shine! Vendors still come out in the rain. Check to see if your local market has a Facebook page and/or website for updates. Milford can be found on Facebook at “Riverwalk Farmers Market” and we update our page as well, “Little Wagon Produce”.
  • Say thanks to the vendors! There would be no market without them!

Thank you to all our loyal customers who already know the ropes and patronize the market week after week! Be sure to check out the Department of Agriculture’s “Buy Local” website for a farmer’s market near you at www.de.gov/buylocal.

The Man We All Called Pop-Pop Bob

Everyone who knew him, loved him. He was so personable, loving, and outgoing. He smiled all the time. He loved his community, baseball, church, fire hall, 4-H, the DE State Fair, and family. But above all, he loved his grandkids. For almost 35 years, he was a second dad to me. I loved to hear him talk about growing up in Hickman, making scrapple with his dad, and his time working on base.

Even though he wasn’t a farmer, Pop-Pop had a love for agriculture and farm crops. This stemmed from his dad (Floyd Messick), owning a produce stand in Hickman and driving truck crops to the city with Mom-Mom’s dad (Hugh Vincent). This may help explain Pop-Pop’s role as Superintendent of the Farm Products building at the DE State Fair each year. One of the ways I connected with him more recently was through the Milford Farmer’s Market. For the past 10 years, he showed up on Saturday morning in Milford to help my Mom sell produce. He would sit in a chair in the back and cup vegetables, while customers sat with him. He loved the conversation, hugs, and smiles from so many familiar faces he saw each week. I joked that I’m not sure who was more popular-our sweet corn or Pop-Pop Bob. But in recent weeks I know for a fact now, it was Pop-Pop. Thank you so much for all the concerned questions about him from customers in recent weeks.

So here’s to the man who painted my bedroom Punky Brewster colors (each wall was a different color), took us grandkids to the beach every Labor Day and taught me how stand a wave, let us celebrate the last day of school by inviting friends over to swim in his pool, taught me how to drive on the Nine Foot Road well before I was 16, came to all my high school ball games, drove me to Springfield, MA for a FFA contest when no one else would, loved to hug and squeeze me, and danced with me at my wedding. No matter what I did, he loved me unconditionally and made me feel important. He will never be forgotten and I’m proud to call him mine. Baby Wright may never meet him but I will be sure to teach him about the loving man we all called “Pop-Pop Bob”.

Robert Eugene Messick

April 8, 1930 – June 28, 2014

This sailboat was filled with sand and had our names on it.

This sailboat was next to Pop-Pop’s pool in his backyard. He filled it with sand and had our names on the side.

This pretty much sums him up.

May 1984. This pretty much sums him up.

Sitting on the top row of Woodbridge Elementary School bleachers. I have no idea what we were watching. I am the one underneath the pom-pom. (Christy, Derek, Pop-Pop, Devon, Danna)

Sitting on the top row of Woodbridge Elementary School bleachers. I have no idea what we were watching but doesn’t he look like a big kid sitting there with us? Can you guess who is underneath the pom-pom? (Christy, Derek, Pop-Pop, Devon, Danna)

In the old 4-H Building at the fair. Janelle and I just gave our sewing demonstration. (Pop-Pop Bob, Janelle, Christy, Mom-Mom Ruth and Mom-Mom Ann)

In the old 4-H Building at the fair. Janelle and I just gave our sewing demonstration. (Pop-Pop Bob, Janelle, Christy, Mom-Mom Ruth and Mom-Mom Ann)

This was at Girl's State in 1997. He came to see me sworn in as Girl's State Auditor. (Danna, Pop-Pop Bob, Christy, Pop-Pop Bill)

This was at Girl’s State in 1997. He came to see me sworn in as Girl’s State Auditor. (Danna, Pop-Pop Bob, Christy, Pop-Pop Bill)

He recovered well from heart surgery in 1999.

He recovered well from heart surgery in 2001.

Delaware State Fair in 2002. He loved to stick his tongue out at us.

Delaware State Fair in 2002. He loved to stick his tongue out at us.

 

He loved the DE State Fair.

He loved the DE State Fair and served as Superintendent of the Farm Products building.

The was at the Milford Farmer's Market one year. He loved to help us every Saturday morning. And the customers loved him.

This was at the Milford Farmer’s Market in 2008. He loved to help us sell produce every Saturday morning. He helped Mom initially, when she started at the market 14 years ago. The customers loved to see him and often sat down with him or gave him hugs. Thank you to all the customers who have asked for him this year.

Dec. 2008. Our annual shot of all the grandkids.

Dec. 2008. Our annual shot of all the grandkids at Christmas.

Sept. 22, 2012. At our wedding, right after the anniversary dance, which they won. It's one of the only pictures I have of all 4 of us together.

Sept. 22, 2012. At our wedding, right after the anniversary dance, which they won (they were married for 64 years). It’s one of the few pictures I have of all 4 of us together.

 

 

Top 5 Consumer Questions from 2013 Farmer’s Markets

You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers! As many of you know, Little Wagon Produce can be found at many local farmer’s markets in Sussex County. Here’s the questions (and answers) Mom and I witnessed the most from consumers at local farmer’s markets in Delaware this past year:

#5 Question: Do you have strawberries?

Answer: It depends on when you ask us! On Delmarva, strawberries typically ripen in May. Sometimes it’s early May. Sometimes it’s late May. It’s rarely before May because the threat of frost usually lasts until May 15. It’s rarely in June because the temperature becomes too hot. As you can tell, strawberries are fickle. Too much rain, they rot. Too much heat, they get mushy. Too cold, they don’t ripen. Therefore, if you see a farmer with strawberries in July and August, they aren’t from the Delmarva Peninsula! And that’s why we don’t sell strawberries in July. We try to only sell produce which we grow. I often take this Availability Chart below, provided by DDA, and post it to help customers understand.

Availability Chart

#4 Question: Are you organic?

Answer: No. Why? Because Farmer Dan learned how to farm the conventional way and wants to keep prices reasonable for our customers. He has a pesticide license and only sprays the vegetables when he sees evidence of an insect or weed. He does not spray sporadically because chemicals are very expensive.

Research shows that organic does not necessarily mean a healthier product. A recent review of over 400 scientific papers concluded organic and conventional foods remain equally healthy. In order to be certified organic, we would have purchase an expensive license, buy and plant more seed so that we have enough yields, and employ more labor to remove weeds by hand. This is the reason organic produce costs more.

Our advice? Simply wash your produce thoroughly, whether it’s organic or not! I love this video from a farmer in Kentucky who shares her take, as a mother and farmer, on organic produce:

#3 Question: Can I freeze corn?

Answer: YES! Many customers share ways that they freeze it. Here’s one way how:

Freezing Sweet Corn

#2 Question: How long does sweet corn last?

Answer: The best way to store fresh corn, besides freezing, is to keep it cool. We recommend storing it in the refrigerator and leaving it in the husk when storing. The husk protects it from the air, which causes it to dry out. Our super sweet corn varieties last up to 7 days if kept in the refrigerator! Trust us, it works!

And the #1 Question: Is your corn GMO?

Answer:  No. Why? Genetically modified sweet corn seed has not been available long. We have chosen not to purchase it. This type of seed tends to be more expensive and we don’t feel it is worth the cost because we are not growing large amounts for a cannery, etc. Most vegetable seeds are not GMO altered. Currently, there are only 8 crops commercially offered from GMO seeds in the U.S. Please check out the graphic below. This website and link offers great insight to GMO answers: www.gmoanswers.com

47624_FINAL_GMO_Infographic_JpegHiRes-573

We look forward to answering more consumer food questions and educating the public at the 2014 Farmer’s Markets! Happy New Year!

Are you Farmer’s Market Ready?

A sure sign of spring and summer is farmers markets; many of which have begun already this year. Little Wagon Produce has been busy with two so far-the Milton Farmer’s Market on Friday afternoon and the Riverwalk Farmers Market, which is in downtown Milford every Saturday morning. This week was the return of the Georgetown Farmers Market which is on Wednesday afternoons.

I always look forward to returning to the Riverwalk Farmers market every spring because we’re amazed at the loyalty of many of our customers year after year. Many of our regulars ducked showers last weekend to see us and to find Mother’s Day flowers or produce.  The past 2 weekends, I’ve received many of the same questions such as “Do you have sweet corn yet?” and “Are the strawberries local?” These are great questions and it always helps when the farmer is right there to answer. Anytime my Dad visits the market he is usually surrounded by inquiring customers about the food he grows.

Farmer Dan is on right. Its rare to see him at the market! He's usually in the field.

Farmer Dan on right. Its rare to see him at the market but the customers love to talk to him! He’s usually in the field picking the produce or keeping the irrigation going.

Sometimes I take this chart, made by the DE Dept. of Ag, to offer customers insight about the growing season in Delaware. It helps a customer understand that sweet corn is never ready in Delaware until the last week of June or thereafter. So please don’t believe any of the false advertising you may see!!! I can also assure you that almost all produce will be a little later than normal this year because of the cold wet spring. No strawberries have been local until this past weekend. I know this confuses customers because last year the weather was extremely mild and strawberries came on early. I try to remind customers that farmers are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Here are some more tidbits to help you be “farmers market ready”:

  • Bring cash! Many vendors are small businesses and cannot afford the fees accompanied with credit card machines.
  • Bring your own bags! The recyclable grocery bags work great for this! By doing this, you will help the environment and help us because plastic bags are an additional expense to vendors that we usually do not pass on to the customers. We even have to pay more and go out of the way to find heavy-duty plastic bags to hold a dozen ears of sweet corn.
  • Bring a friend! Word of mouth is the best marketing for us!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask! Many markets have an information booth or a “Market Manager” to oversee the routine each week. Some markets even have a bell that rings before you can sell anything (Milton).
  • Spread the love! Hopefully you will find more than one vendor to patronize. In Milford, there are many wonderful downtown businesses such as Dolce Coffee Shop, Blooming Boutique, and Georgia House Restaurant.
  • Bring your smile! Many vendors love to talk and engage their customers, including us.
  • Stay updated! Many thought the market was canceled last Saturday because of the rain but we were open. Check to see if your local market has a Facebook page and/or website.

Thank you to all our loyal customers who already know the ropes! And for all the newbies, I hope to see you soon! For a market near you, see the 2013 Farmer’s Market Directory here.

Who Spoke Up for DE Ag?

On Monday, August 13, I attended the public hearing at DE Dept. of Ag (DDA) regarding Executive Order 36. In my previous post, “Speak up on DE Ag Regulations“, I explained this order and announced the 3 hearing dates regarding agriculture in each county. At the Kent County meeting there were 3 public guests. According to Ed Kee, 5 public guests attended the Sussex hearing. The New Castle meeting was last week but I have not heard how it went.

There are several reasons I wanted to attend. The first is because I wanted to see how many others were interested in DE regulations related to agriculture. The second is because I’ve had the opportunity to study public policy and work in state government and I’ve learned that once regulations are put in place, they are very hard to remove. Sure, they can be amended but they are not always evaluated once put in place. So, I’m interested to see how this process works. And the third reason is, I was interested to see if any of the hot topics related to agriculture came up. What are the hot topics? In my opinion, they are Nutrient Management, Animal Welfare, and Food Safety/Food Supply.

Ed Kee, the DE Secretary of Ag, moderated the hearing and had several of his section heads present to address current regs. He opened by reading specifics of the order and stating the Governor’s wishes. He asked that we be specific when addressing regulations; not just to say all regulations are bad. Each agency within the executive branch must conduct a public comment period up until October 1. At the conclusion, agencies will evaluate comments and conduct their own review. In June 2013, the Governor’s office will submit changes made to the General Assembly.

The Secretary then introduced each of his staff members present. Who were the 3 attendees? Pam Bakerian-Executive Director of the DE Farm Bureau, Al Paoli-Director of the Small Business Development Center at DSU, and myself. He asked each of us to introduce ourselves and when doing so we had to sit in a specific chair so our voice could be recorded. Pam went first and complimented DDA for their long-standing committment to farmers. Al was up next and spoke to his small business experience and how we can work to gether to help farmers. He also stated how surprised he was that there weren’t more people in attendance. Ed commented that if it was for topics specifically, such as nutrient management, there probably would be. He said he also expects more attendance at DNREC and DOT’s hearings.

So then it was my turn. I introduced myself, explained my background in ag, and my current involvement-which is basically on the weekends, assisting my parents with picking, farmers markets, and marketing. This led into my comments regarding the increase of farmers markets and how well they have complimented my parent’s retail business. I also explained that it takes many people to make a farmers market successful-market managers, vendors, customers, downtown associations and many more. A change in just one of these can alter the success of a market. We recently experienced a change in management of the Downtown Milford Farmers Market as a newly formed committee took over the reigns. A request went out to vendors early in the season that all vendors must have a certain monetary level of liability insurance, which many vendors cannot afford. As a result, vendor participation decreased significantly. From what I heard, blame was put on DDA. However, the committee changed the requirement soon thereafter. I asked Secretary Kee, “Is this a regulation of DDA?” His response was “No, that it’s up to each individual farmer market”. Good to know. Then he had a question for me. He stated that he has received calls about vendors at markets stating or displaying organic produce when they are not actually certified organic. He asked, “Should DDA regulate this?”. My response? “No.” Even though it is a problem, it is something each market can monitor, just as they do with the insurance issue. How can they monitor it? By requesting a copy of vendor’s certification for organic production, making their own list of organic vendors, and making it public. DDA could help by listing certified organic producers on their public website; not necessarily regulating every market in the state. I also strongly believe each individual market knows what is best for their customers and vendors. Anyone else have ideas? Please let me know (cvanderwende@hotmail.com) or contact the Secretary himself!

If you would like to address current regulations, whether for agriculture or any other state agency, you still have until October 1 to submit a form online or printed. Now’s your chance!