Delaware's farming future and long agricultural heritage were both recognized today in a ceremony honoring the newest participants in the state's Young Farmers Program and the latest inductees into the Century Farm Program, with the announcement that 10 young farmers would be receiving no-interest loans from the First State's new innovative assistance program, now in its second year.
"These young farmers are continuing a long tradition of agricultural entrepreneurship exemplified by these longtime farm families that we also recognize today," Gov. Markell said. "Our farming heritage is strong and proud in Delaware, and it will continue that way because of the hard work of the next generation and the investments we make in agribusiness today. Our Young Farmers Program will support a powerful agricultural industry and preserve farmland for years to come, and is a key part of our commitment to provide opportunity for all."
The Young Farmers Program now has 20 participants -- 10 in 2012 and 10 in 2013. This year's class includes: Robbie Emerson, 24, Middletown; Matt and Bobbi Jo Webber, 34, Clayton; Toby Otwell, 33, Laurel; Doug Walsh, 35, Laurel; Cory Atkins, 26, Seaford; Cody Vanderwende, 22, Bridgeville; Sam Melson, 22, Bridgeville; Ryan Swartzentruber, 29, Greenwood; Josh and Kathryn Wharton, 33, Millsboro; and Clint Moore III, 39, Millsboro.
"The high cost of purchasing land to get into farming turns many young people away, but this program can help solve that dilemma," said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. "This innovative program represents our firm commitment to supporting their dreams, and is a demonstration to agribusiness and our farmers that agriculture has a firm future in the First State."
The land purchased with help through the program will also be permanently preserved as farmland through Delaware's Agricultural Lands Preservation Program.
The average age of a Delaware farmer is 55; the average age of this year's Young Farmers Program participants is 30. The participants include two couples, for a total of 10 new farms. One is from New Castle County, one from Kent County and eight from Sussex County.
Another round of applications is being accepted through Nov. 30. While not required, pre-qualification helps farmers ensure that they meet the criteria for the program and gives Department of Agriculture officials a way to gauge interest.
The inductions into the Century Farms Program bring the total number of farms recognized to 125, said Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Austin Short, who oversees both the Young Farmers Program and the Century Farm Program. The Century Farm awards have been presented annually since 1987.
"We hope that all of our young farmers will continue to thrive and become Century Farms," Short said. "These awards are a shining example of the hard work and long days put in by so many generations of Delaware farmers on farms that are still active and working."
The families recognized as part of the Century Farms Program on Wednesday were:
>> The Cannon family (James H. and Patricia A. Cannon), which owns an 89-acre farm in Kent County, near Greenwood, which has been in the family since 1879. The original 92-acre parcel was purchased for $800. The farm now produces corn, soybeans and wheat, and previously also produced pumpkins, gladiolas, chickens, ducks, turkeys and horses.
>> The Welch family (Glenn H. and Paul Welch), which owns a 38-acre farm near Felton, which has been in the family since the 1850s. The original 165-acre parcel was believed to have been purchased in 1854 for $540. The farm now produces corn, soybeans and chickens, and previously also produced sweet potatoes and was home to a dairy operation.
>> The Adams family (Brent McCabe Adams Jr.), which owns a 211-acre farm near Greenwood. The original 90-acre parcel was purchased in the 1860s. The farm now produces soybeans, corn, wheat and barley, and previously also produced vegetables, peaches, poultry and other livestock. There are 14 historic agricultural structures on the property.
>> The Gray/Oliphant family (Irene Gray and Diane Oliphant), which owns a 20-acre farm near Georgetown. The original 50-acre farm was purchased in 1913 for $2,530. The farm now produces beef cattle, corn and soybeans, and previously also produced cucumbers, peppers, chickens, pigs and harness horses.
Century Farms must have been farmed by the same family for at least 100 years and must include at least 10 acres of the original parcel or gross more than $10,000 annually in agricultural sales.
2013 Delaware Young Farmers Program Participants
>> Ryan Swartzentruber, 29, Greenwood, 180 acres (two farms), growing row crops
>> Cody Vanderwende, 22, Bridgeville, 111 acres, row crops
>> Josh & Kathryn Wharton, 33, Millsboro, 30 acres, row crops and watermelon
>> Cory Atkins, 26, Seaford, 54 acres, row crops and watermelons
>> Robbie Emerson, 24, Middletown, 112 acres, row crops and hay
>> Sam Melson, 22, Bridgeville, 140 ares, row crops and hay
>> Clint Moore III, 39, Millsboro, 135 acres, row crops
>> Toby Otwell, 33, Laurel, 20 acres, row crops, watermelons
>> Doug Walsh, 35, Laurel, 33 acres, poultry
>> Matt and Bobbi Jo Webber, 34, Clayton, soybeans, wheat, lima beans