Markets and Truffles: Delaware Couple Invested in Ag

      Posted On: August 27, 2018

Bernadine ‘Bernie’ Prince believes that the future of farm markets is bright.

She is the co-founder and was the former co-director of FreshFarm, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that operates a network of producer-only farmers markets in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

FreshFarm, with its school programs, chef demonstrations and other innovations, is considered a model for producer-only farm markets. Besides its markets being a place for small farmers to sell their wares, FreshFarm has a mission to educate consumers and provide them with access to healthy and nutritious foods. It is billed as nothing short of a way to improve health and enhance lives.

Prince retired from FreshFarm in 2015. But her involvement in agriculture continues. Today, she and her husband, Ray Prince, live on a small 10-acre property near Georgetown, Delaware, called Blue Skies Farm. Together, they make chive-blossom vinegar and grow turnips, fava beans, strawberries, horseradish, carrots, fennel, swiss chard, beets, cucumber melons (a type of round Italian cucumber), garlic and sesame seeds as well as other crops. They also grow culinary herbs and flowers such as peonies and dahlias.

Their sesame is descended directly from sesame seeds that Thomas Jefferson got from France, Bernie said.

Blue Skies Farm, which is also the title of a Willie Nelson song, is the only farm name the two could agree on.

In 2016, Ray received a USDA specialty crop block grant to research whether truffles — a potential niche crop — can be grown commercially in the area. Truffles are edible fungi, or mushrooms, that grow around certain trees and can bring a high price.

As part of the project, the couple has planted 120 hazelnut, oak and pecan trees. The roots of the 3-year-old trees have been inoculated with four different types of truffle spores. The two are also studying whether truffles can be grown on local native hickory trees.

Truffles usually grow on nut trees, although some can be found on Douglas firs and a few fruit trees like Asian pears and cherries.

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