Barbara Sapp of Milton and the Herbert Wright family of Delmar were honored at the Sussex County Farm Bureau’s annual banquet held Oct. 5 at Memorial Fire Hall in Slaughter Beach. Sapp received the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award and the Wrights’ children accepted the Farm Family of the Year Award for their parents, who had been out of the country and were delayed in Iceland on their return.
“Herb Wright truly has farming and Sussex County in his blood,” said Guy Phillips, former Sussex County Farm Bureau president, who made the presentation.
The Wright farm was founded in 1933 by Herb’s father and grandfather. He currently lives in the house he grew up in. Over his lifetime, Herb has remodeled two more farmhouses on his land, both now lovingly lived in by his children and grandchildren. He says, “I’ve moved three times in my life and never gotten more than 2 miles from the home I grew up in.”
Herb left Delmar long enough to earn his bachelor’s in agriculture in 1973 and master’s in plant science in 1975 at the University of Delaware. It was there that he met a Jersey girl, Kathy, whom he says he “rescued from city life” and successfully converted her to farm life. Kathy and Herb celebrated 40 years of marriage in September of this year. They are blessed with four children: Dawn, Phillip, Jeffrey and Lisa, who brought some special additions to the family in the form of their spouses and 12 wonderful grandchildren. Jeffrey was awarded a Farm Bureau scholarship as he followed in his dad’s footsteps to earn a plant science master’s degree from University of Delaware.
Herb partners with son Jeffrey in his farming operation, H and J Wright Family Farms. Together they farm more than 500 acres, growing corn, soybeans, watermelon and butternut squash. Their truck crops are delivered to New York City and Jessup, Md. Turkeys have been grown on the Wright farm for more than 80 years and the whole family participates in the busy turkey dressing season. Herb was the last operator of Double Mills Grist Mill in Mardela Springs, Md., where his own corn was ground into hominy and corn meal. You may have enjoyed hush puppies at the Red Roost Restaurant in Whitehaven made from the corn meal he delivered there.
Herb is an active member of his church and community in addition to Delaware Farm Bureau roles at the county and state board level. At Mount Hermon United Methodist Church, he is chairman of the Administrative Board and liaison for the Pastor Parish Relations Committee. Herb served on the Delmar School Board for over 10 years, including six years as president. He is a member of the Mar-Del Watermelon Association. Herb was a founding board member of the Delmar Foundation, serving initially as treasurer and then as president for three years. This foundation coordinates fundraising in the community and awards grants to teachers for special school projects. Fun years of Cub Scout and Girl Scout campfires, hayrides, and pumpkin picking have been enjoyed on the Wright farm with Herb as tour guide and Kathy as troop/den leader. Countless Wright wagons have been transformed into homecoming floats and parade platforms for the local sports teams. In 2012, Herb was chosen as one of WBOC’s “Honoring Delmarva Farmers” awardees…so you may have seen him tilling his land, as filmed by Channel 16’s Charles Paparella.
Laura Hill, Delaware Farm Bureau vice president, introduced the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award winner, Barbara Sapp, who trained Hill to take over chairmanship of the DFB Food Booth at the Delaware State Fair.
Barbara Sapp grew up on a farm, “on the other side of the tracks” in Harrington from her future husband, Richard.
Her parents had grown chickens, and Richard’s parents had dairy cows. When they got married, they made a pact that they would have neither. They settled in Milton some 60 years ago, in the house where Richard was born; it was his grandmother’s home.
There, and on 2,000 acres of rented ground, they raised beef cattle and grew limas, peas, wheat, barley, rye, soybeans and corn. In recent years they’ve had the help of their son, Richard Jr., and grandson, Richard III (“Trey”).
Barbara worked at a bank until pregnant with their son, and then at the local hospital until expecting their daughter. She’s been a substitute teacher and cafeteria worker and was a crop insurance adjuster for many years. She enjoyed working with farmers, but gave it up, she said, “when I thought I was too old to be traipsing through corn fields.”
Barbara has served the Farm Bureau as chair of the Sussex County and the state Women’s Committee and as a director of both the Sussex County and state Farm Bureaus. She is vice-chair of the Farm Bureau Food Booth Committee, serves on the Ag Literacy Committee, and is a past member of the Legislative Committee. She is a former member of the Nutrient Management Commission, having been appointed to the original commission by former Gov. Thomas R. Carper.
She was one of the first two women to receive the Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Delaware Agriculture, along with Laura Hill. The award was presented by then Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee in 2014.
Sapp is also well known for her sweet potato pies, which she has been donating to Farm Bureau functions since the early Young Farmers and Ranchers auctions in the Taylor and Messick Building.
The pie baking dates back to days when she used to haul lima beans from the farm to Saulsbury Brothers in Ridgely, Md., where sweet potato growers from Virginia also brought their harvest. “They always had a bucketful waiting for me,” she said. In return, she brought them pies. Her father-in-law also grew sweet potatoes, so “we had them all winter,” she said.
She started taking two pies to each county or state Farm Bureau banquet she attended. They have always been well appreciated by the recipient. At auctions, ”Olin Gooden would run the bidding up to $20 or $30,” she recalled.
A few years ago, Richard’s ticket was drawn for one of the pies as a door prize, and since Barbara usually makes three pies at a time — that’s what fits in her oven — he said he had one at home and challenged auctioneer Dave Wilson auction it off. Bidding was intense, mounting to $200. Then Wilson turned to the second higher bidder and said, “We have another pie. Both of you can have a pie at $200 each!” Proceeds went to the scholarship fund.
Many members of the Sapp family were on hand for the award, including the Sapps’ first great-grandchild, two-week-old Payten Sapp.
The business portion of the meeting was quickly dispensed with, as Mark Davis was elected to a three-year term on the State Board, county directors were elected for a two-year term and delegates approved for the state convention in December.
In the Rate-of-Gain competition, for youth raising livestock for the Delaware State Fair, Sussex County winners were Thomas Warren, whose 4-H sheep gained 0.5 pounds per day, and Brock O’Day, whose 4-H goat gained 0.41 pounds per day. Parents of these youth, respectively, are Elizabeth and Tom Warren of Georgetown and Billy and Robin O’Day of Seaford.
The Sussex County 2019 Youth Ambassador was chosen as State Ambassador. Introduced by SCFB Women’s Chair Connie Fox, she is Shannon O’Hara, who got a good start as representative of the Delaware Farm Bureau by meeting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue at the state fair.