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First Rate - First State Summit draws 140 farmers and produce buyers

February 14, 2013

About 140 fruit and vegetable growers across Delaware and produce buyers from around the region met Feb. 6 at Delaware’s fifth annual produce marketing meet-and-greet session, the First Rate - First State Summit, designed to connect farmers with the people who purchase their products.

With record attendance this year, the initiative of the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Marketing Section helps farmers, retailers, restaurants and consumers, said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee.

“Farmers can meet many different buyers; grocers, restaurants and retailers find new local sources for their produce, and consumers ultimately get better variety, fresh from their local fields,” said Kee. “This event is core to our mission of helping farmers in our small state reach more markets and thrive economically.”

The informal networking session was held at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus, a one-stop experience where retail buyers, school district nutrition supervisors, and restaurant and farmers market managers seeking new vendors could meet and discuss products informally and exchange information. Almost every grocery chain in Delaware was represented at this year’s event.

In just five years, the summit has led to many contracts for growers, said David M. Smith, a Department of Agriculture marketing specialist, who coordinated the event.

“One farm began selling to several school districts because of this event,” Smith said. “Another grower tells us that he picks up a new account here every year. This event really is about making connections and developing those important relationships, and it works.”

Delaware farmers or retail buyers interested in learning more about Delaware produce and grower opportunities can contact Smith at 302-698-4522 or davidm.smith@state.de.us.