The New Castle County Farm Bureau annual meeting and banquet Oct. 9 attracted not only Sen. Tom Carper and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester to the Townsend Fire Hall, but Gov. John Carney and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, as well as Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro, State Representatives Kevin Hensley and Jeff Spiegelman, New Castle County Council President Karen Hartly-Nagle, Councilman Bill Powers and Michael Scuse, Delaware secretary of agriculture.
Blunt-Rochester gave the invocation, first saying, “Now, more than ever, we need faith in our country and in our work.”
Sen. Carper told the assemblage of about 120 members and guests, “We are going through rough times, but we have been through rough times before. We can get through this time as well.”
The governor said he had spent a lot of time discussing the issues farmers face across the state. “I don’t know how you do it,” Carney said. He described a recent tour with Ag Secretary Michael Scuse in which they had met with farmers at the Carvel Center in Georgetown. “We spent 60 minutes of our 90 minutes there talking about deer,” he said. He added that he had talked to Shawn Garvin, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, who is going to come back with help for deer damage. The problem is made worse by three factors: fewer hunters, fewer deer harvested and a thriving deer population, Carney said.
He ended with an invitation: “Don’t hesitate to reach out to Michael or me or the legislature.”
Tommy Unruh introduced the New Castle County’s Farm Family of the Year, the William Alfree Family, honoring Bill and Susan Alfree of Middletown, Del. Unruh explained that Bill is his cousin.
“Bill has been a member of Delaware Farm Bureau since 1994,” Unruh said. “Bill has served as a New Castle County Delegate to the Annual Meeting for several years.” He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Southern States in Middletown.
The family farm operation, Deer Crossing Farm, was established in the early 1970s. When Alfree’s father, William R. Alfree, retired, Bill started farming in 1978 on his own.
“But Bill’s farming experience really started when he was a young boy working with his dad in the hay business, mowing, raking, baling hay all summer long with tractors, with no cabs or air-conditioning. Those were dusty, dirty, long, hot days!” Unruh recalled.
Alfree currently tills approximately 1,400 acres of hay, straw, soybeans and corn. One farm he tills is St. Andrew’s School farm, the farm where his grandfather, William E. Unruh, was born in the late 1800s.
The Alfrees have two daughters and four grandchildren, all of whom love the farm and spending time with GrandPop on the tractors and combine. They may be some future farmers for Deer Crossing Farm! The Alfrees’ sons-in-law also help out on the farm when needed, and their daughters, when growing up, were a great help also.
“The person who keeps the farming operation going is Susan,” Unruh said. “She can be seen raking and baling hay on any given day. Susan also has the huge responsibility of manager of the farm office and all the paperwork, and we all know how time consuming that can be. Susan also works full-time at M & T Bank in Middletown.”
In 2016, Alfree was second place state winner in the Dekalb corn yield contest, producing 254.9 bushels per acre. He won the New Castle Conservation District 2015 Cooperator of the Year award. He nominated St. Andrew’s School to receive one of Monsanto’s Agriculture grants to further the school’s ag program.
Alfree’s favorite pastime, besides spending time with his grandchildren, is trap shooting. He travels extensively with this sport and has won numerous championships. In 2014, he was inducted into the Eastern Trap Shooting Hall of Fame.
Bill Powers presented a resolution on behalf of New Castle County Council, and Governor Carney and Lt. Gov. Hall-Long presented another resolution on behalf of state elected officials
Stewart Ramsey presented the 2017 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award to former New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon. Born and reared in Wilmington, Gordon attended Salesianum School, then earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Wilmington University. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy as well as of the U.S. Secret Service Program.
Gordon served as County Executive from 1997 to 2004 and again from 2012 to 2016. Some of Gordon’s most significant accomplishments have benefited and will continue to benefit the agriculture industry for many generations to come.
Open space and parklands were always on the top of Gordon’s to-do list. He worked diligently to ensure that adequate parks and facilities are available to the public, including Carousel and Glasgow Parks where local growers market their produce and goods at Farmers’ Markets.
In 2003, Gordon announced the first-ever fully funded New Castle County Farmland Preservation Program. Five million dollars of county money was dedicated and approved in his New Castle County Capital Budgets for each of three consecutive years. Due to the rapid loss of NCC farmland to development, the motto “Time is Running Out” was adopted.
“Many landowners and farmers, including folks in this very room, have benefited from Gordon’s foresight and dedication to preserve New Castle County’s agriculture industry for future generations,” Ramsey said.
Gordon served as a major force behind the efforts to preserve farmland and farm families in New Castle County. His commitment to preserving farmland stands steadfast to this day.
Margie Chase presented the Nationwide Award to the Broadbent-DiOssi agency, which signed 77 new members in the last 10 months. The agency has been providing auto, home, commercial and life insurance to Delawareans for more than 71 years. Lisa followed her grandfather, father, uncle and cousin’s career path by becoming a third-generation Nationwide agent.
In his president’s remarks, Ramsey covered several problems farmers face, including trucking issues and deer damage. On his farm, which is partly in Pennyslvania, the deer problem dates back to his childhood. When Ramsey discussed his current problem with Pennsylvania authorities, they told him to “shoot anything with fur,” he said. “They understood.”
Delaware authorities sent him doe tags, but that’s not enough. “We’ve had 15 bucks in the fields every night all summer long,” he said. “We need to be very aggressive.”
Ramsey presented two checks from the 2017 Milk Run 5K Run/Walk: $7,130 to the Ministry of Caring’s “Milk For Children Fund” and $1,000 to The Neighborhood House Inc. in Middletown.
In memory of Herman Wallace “Hap” Cook Jr., owner and operator of H.W. Cook and Sons, a family dairy farm in Newark, who passed away in September, NCCFB donated $1,000 to the 4-H Foundation. “We have to do something,” Ramsey said, noting the funds would go toward youth dairy programs.
State Farm Bureau President Kitty Holtz thanked members of the county and state boards of directors for their service. “Your jobs are vitally important,” she said. “You have the pulse of the farmers. Your time is valuable, and your contribution to the organization is also.”
She reminded farmers that their deer damage data is needed before Delaware Farm Bureau goes to the legislature for help. “Get your neighbors to send their data also.”
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Rate of Gain winners were recognized by Councilman Bill Powers. Andrew Shaffer’s 4-H market hog gained 1.94 pounds per day. His parents are Denis and Brenda Shaffer of Middletown. Andrew’s mother accepted the award for him. Darren Jester’s 4-H goat gained 0.38 pounds per day. Darren is the son of Heather Jester of Townsend.
Powers originally brought the idea of a rate of gain project to New Castle County in an effort to get more youth involved. The project spread to the other counties. The livestock program has improved 100 percent in the past 15 years, he added.
The Women’s Committee report was given by June Unruh and included work done in the past year for farm safety.
Mrs. Unruh also reported the scholarships given to Carl Ramsey and Wilbert Wright. Carl received a $1,000 scholarship from New Castle County Farm Bureau and a $2,500 scholarship from the State Women’s Committee. Wright received a $1,000 scholarship from New Castle County Farm Bureau and a similar amount from the county Women’s Committee.
Helena Kirk will represent New Castle County Farm Bureau as Youth Ambassador.