Farming seemed to come naturally for a young Connie Fox who found herself at the Philly and Baltimore stockyards with her father at Christmastime and during the summer where livestock was sold and purchased at auction.
Little did she know she would grow up to become a farmer much like the ones she met on those memorable outings.
“I was the boy my father never had. So, I always went with him. I went to the stock market, to the stock yards with him in Baltimore, the stock yard in Philly. . . I was tickled to death that I got to go with him,” she said of the experiences. “I grew up around animals, not necessarily farming. I just grew up with that; that’s just what my dad did and I went with him.”
Now as an adult, Fox spends her days selling real estate with the Marvel Agency and volunteering with organizations like the Carlisle Fire Company and the Delaware Farm Bureau. She also tends to her own family farm in Milford which yields corn, soybeans and barley.
“After I got older and married, we decided we would start farming some. So, we rented a small piece out on Elks Lodge Road [in Milford]. We had a pull behind combine and that’s how we started,” she said simply.
Her husband, Duane, brought some farming experience to the family from his student years as a member of the FFA. Fox says she was involved in other activities like the Girl Scouts as girls were not allowed in the FFA at the time.
Together, they started the family farm in 1993 and didn’t look back. In fact, she jumped headfirst into the farming lifestyle and joined the Delaware Farm Bureau.
“And if I was going to be a member, I was going to start helping,” she said. “So, I started working the Delaware State Fair food booth. I was there every day from 9 to 3. Well, I would take Sundays off. I would come home for dinner and then we would probably go to the fair again. People would say, ‘What are you going to do on your vacation?’ And I would say, ‘Go to the fair.’ I see more people there that I haven’t seen in a long time. And I see the same people every year that I only see once a year. That’s just another way of meeting people for me.”
Overtime, she grew into her volunteer roles with the Farm Bureau when the role of Sussex County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee Chair fell in her lap.
“I didn’t play a part as an officer or anything until shortly before my husband died. We were sitting at the booth and they were talking about our secretary for Sussex county who wanted to give up the secretarial board. And I said to them, ‘What other committees are there on your committee?’ Barb [Sapp] said, ‘Women’s committee chair. Do you want to be it?’ I said, ‘Let me think about it.’ So. I came home and talked to Dwayne,” she explained. “He said, ‘Yeah, go ahead.’ And that’s when it really started,” she explained.
Chairing that committee also meant Fox would participate on the Board of Directors for the statewide organization, earning her opportunities to go to the national conventions each year. Even with a “very small farm of maybe 200 to 300 acres” at the time, Fox was able to make a difference in her local farming community.
“If I’m going to be in something, I’m going to be active and do something good for them. And I feel that Delaware Farm Bureau represents the farmers not only as grassroots, but also how it keeps us out of trouble with the government and with the neighbors. So, I have enjoyed it,” Fox said.
The family farm grew along with her volunteer roles. With Fox behind the wheel of a truck much of the time, their sons now help run the operation.
“I can drive corn trucks, or the six-wheeler. We have a 10-wheeler that has air brakes and I won’t drive it. For me for the farm, I’m the go-fer. I can cut corn stalks, I can cut grass and I can drive the truck,” she said.
Other needs around their farm include truck maintenance, getting the farm ready for planting and harvesting and ensuring the products grown can be sold. Maintenance and cleanliness, she added, is of utmost importance to Fox, as it was to her husband before he passed away in 2013 after almost 52 years of marriage.
“We don’t put anything away without it being cleaned, even the combine,” she said. “It’s something that my husband incorporated in our children and we keep it that way now. I know what our combine looked like when we got it. It had about six inches of dirt on it. We took pictures of the before and after When the boys got done working on it, and my grandchildren, cleaning, power washing and waxing it, it looked like a new combine. You couldn’t even tell hardly what color it was when we got it. It’s money saved. And not only that, but when something goes wrong, you take care of it right then and there.”
Corn and soybeans from their farm are typically sold to Mountaire or Perdue Farms to be used in chicken feed. Barley is a new venture for the farm at the insistence of Fox’s son Christopher who wanted to diversity the business. Fox said this might be used for chicken feed also, or it might be used for local breweries.
“It’s hard work. When we put a plow into the ground for the first time in the spring and start planting, we’ve taken a gamble that we do not know whether that product we’ve put into the ground will grow and be able to harvest or make money, or do we lose money. We don’t go around saying the farmer is a gambler; he’s not. The biggest job the farmer has is to provide his family food. It all goes for food to feed the people of the United States and the world,” she said passionately.
She added, “Without farmers, you don’t have food. Without farmers, this pandemic would be worse than the depression. People are hoarding food and grabbing food out of the stores and stuff. But, if we didn’t have farmers, there wouldn’t be any.”
To discover volunteer opportunities with the Delaware Farm Bureau and make an impact in the community, call (302) 697-3183.