Honor the farmers who sustain us

May 26, 2019

I’m standing in line to buy fresh eggs from the egg lady at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market. She doesn’t hurry, because she is catching up with her loyal customers.

I am reminded of the time when I first retired to Delaware nine years ago. I was standing in line at the local bank, and the teller and her customer were talking about the weather and how it had affected the growing season.

Who was I to hurry them? I never fully realized how many farms surround us until then.

The egg lady, Eileen Dykes, and her husband Ned drive an hour and half every Saturday morning from their Twin Post Farm in Princess Anne, Md., to sell 200 dozen eggs to local residents.

Customer Blair Jones is in line early. “Once you taste a fresh egg, you will no longer want a store-bought one,” Dykes says.

For 35 years, her family owned a commercial chicken business until the dynamic of the industry changed and pole house structures were not customary. Rather than retrofit her houses, she decided she would change her business. She wanted the birds to breathe fresh air.

Her houses are filled with nesting boxes for between 800 and 2,000 hens at any given time. Every morning and afternoon, the chickens and her ducks must be fed, given water and allowed exercise.

All of the eggs she gathers are washed before they are stacked in coolers for the road trip. Between feedings, Dykes is still working to get the egg cartons ready.

“People don’t realize how much work is involved. You have to have a passion for this job, because it’s 365 days a year,” she said.

When asked about taking a vacation, Eileen laughed. “We go out to dinner on Wednesday night. My vacation is often listening to my customers’ vacations. My spirit is with them.”

Eileen always has a smile on her face as she takes orders and then opens the cartons to check for broken eggs. We wait our turn while she attends to the friendships she has developed over the years.

The Dykes travel to the Camden Avenue Farmers Market in Salisbury every Wednesday and to the Dupont Circle Market in Washington, D.C., on Sundays. In addition, they supply eggs to How Sweet It Is in Fruitland, Md.

In addition to fresh produce, eggs, fruits, breads, baked goods, meats, fish, cut flowers and herbs, the HLFM features workshops by local chefs.

A few weeks ago, all of the chairs were full as we watched executive chef Danio Somoza from Harvest Tide Steakhouse prepare an ahi tuna, romaine and strawberry salad.

Of course he featured fresh lettuce from Rob and Shauna at Totem Farms, and strawberries from a local vendor who sold out his crop before I could buy any. (I will find out next Saturday, I promise.)

Farmers market in the a.m. and then another venue to support HLFM, their fundraiser in Shipcarpenter Square! I enjoyed my first experience as residents opened their homes and local chefs prepared their finest cuisine. And I met new faces!

Sunday was another stellar day. Rogation Sunday is a time to honor the farmers. Herman Jackson, a member of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, dedicated the farmland surrounding St. George’s Chapel in Harbeson. He offered thanks and wisdom to all of us: “We need the farmland to sustain us. We need to take care of the earth.”