EASTON The same local produce available every Saturday at the Easton Farmers Market is now available four days a week at Easton Market Square.
Bridgeville, Del.-based T.S. Smith & Sons recently moved into the Market House, which, until then, was void of a produce vendor.
Although this is T.S. Smith's first permanent location in Easton, the company is not new to the area. Fourth generation farmer Charlie Smith, who runs the 800-acre farm in Bridgeville and several retail operations with his two brothers, fondly remembers being a boy in the 1960s and accompanying his father and grandfather to sell produce off U.S. Route 50 in Easton.
"At one time, a lot of our clientele was from Easton," Smith said.
More recently, T.S. Smith was a vendor at the Easton Farmers Market last fall, building a loyal following that continues to support the company at the Market House, Smith said.
Being based in Delaware, though, Maryland customers often don't view T.S. Smith as "local," said Greer Stangl, marketing and outreach director for T.S. Smith.
"But if people don't think about state lines, we're really close," she said. "We're 33 miles from Easton and only 11 miles from Federalsburg and 14 miles from Denton."
As the closest apple orchard and the closest large-scale peach and nectarine orchard, T.S. Smith has some of the most local produce around for Easton residents, Stangl said.
T.S. Smith's core crops include asparagus, cantaloupes, sweet corn, nectarines, peaches and apples, which are beginning to come into season.
The produce company will sell 15 varieties of apples this fall, as well as value-added apple products such as apple sauce, apple cider and its famous apple cinnamon doughnuts, all of which will be available at the Market House.
A strong believer that "quality products are the key to success," Smith is very conscientious about not selling produce that has yet to ripen or is too ripe. All of the produce at T.S. Smith is hand-picked, even the corn, Smith said, and sold within a 100-mile radius of the Bridgeville farm to ensure freshness.
In addition to freshness, the farm is committed to growing flavorful products, which sometimes comes at the expense of appearance, Smith said.
"For 10 years, people wanted an apple that looked like it came out of Good Housekeeping a big, red, round apple," Smith said, adding that hybrid varieties had to be created to make the apples look that way.
Since a lot of those hybrid varieties "taste like cardboard," Smith said, he began focusing on what he calls "the ugly variety," mainly Fuji, Jonagold and Gala apples, which aren't considered to be the prettiest apples.
"We're marketing on taste, not looks," he said.
The farm's focus on fresh, high-quality produce is what has kept it in business for 104 years, Smith said.
T.S. Smith and Sons was formed in 1907, when Smith's great-grandfather, T.S. Smith, a butcher by trade, swapped a butcher bill and five acres of land for the Bridgeville farm. At least, that's how the legend has it, Smith said.
Once the land was in his possession, T.S. Smith started farming, bringing his two sons into the trade, and then their sons after, and their sons after. Charlie, Tom and Matt Smith, the current operators, are the fourth generation of farmers.
In the 1920s and '30s, the farm's main crops were asparagus and summer apples, which were shipped by train into Canada, Smith said. Peaches were then added to the mix in the 1940s.
After that, the farm began planting heavily in processing apples, tomatoes and cucumbers until competition got too tough, Smith said. Today, the farm focuses on growing produce for local consumption in the safest and most environmentally friendly ways possible, Smith said.
Some of the ways the farm accomplishes this is through trickle irrigation to conserve water, solar panels to power a 6,300-square-foot walk-in refrigerator, minimum-till or no-till farming and chemical management.
The farm has someone who specializes in pest management come in weekly to check the produce for bugs and identify the areas that need to be sprayed.
"We don't want to use any chemicals more than necessary to grow the product," Smith said. "That's a very important part of our business because it helps us provide the safest products."
Anyone who wants to see these practices first hand or learn more about the farm's operations can schedule a tour by calling 302-337-8271. T.S. Smith is located five miles over the Delaware line at the intersection of U.S. Route 13 and Redden Road. Its main market also is located at that location.
Easton Market Square is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.