Delaware Receives an Additional Round of Specialty Crop Grant Funds from USDA

DOVER, Del. (May 6, 2021) — The Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) received an additional round of funding to enhance the competitiveness of Delaware-grown specialty crops through USDA’s Pandemic Assistance Program. USDA awarded each state department of agriculture an allocation based upon their most recent available value of specialty crop cash receipts and acreage of specialty crop production in the state. As a result, Delaware received an additional $465,433 under H.R. 133 – the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 133 Stimulus Funding) to distribute through a competitive grant process.

Specialty crops cover agricultural products, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, nursery crops, and floriculture. Projects should benefit the specialty crop industry as a whole, sustain the livelihood of Delaware farmers and strengthen Delaware’s economy. Applicants should look to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops through:
1. Leveraging efforts to market and promote specialty crops;
2. Assisting producers with research and development relevant to specialty crops;
3. Expanding availability and access to specialty crops; and
4. Address local, regional, and national challenges confronting specialty crop producers.

DDA is prioritizing applications under this funding that respond to needs relating to COVID-19 impacts that address local, regional and national challenges confronting the specialty crop industry. This may include projects to assist farmworkers, projects to fund farmers, food businesses, and other relevant entities to respond to risks and supply chain disruptions, and other projects.

For this specific funding round, DDA is offering grants between $5,000 and $100,000 for projects that may last one to nearly four years in length. Grant applications are due no later than 4:30 p.m. on May 26, 2021.

Agricultural producers, nonprofit organizations, government entities, for-profit companies, or educational institutions based in Delaware or with a business or educational affiliation based in Delaware can submit applications. Funding cannot be used for field crops, such as corn and soybeans, or animal agriculture. DDA’s 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program – H.R. Stimulus Funding Request for Proposal outlines priority issues affecting the industry and needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that applicants should consider when putting together a submission.

The grant evaluation team will review submissions, with selected projects included in the Delaware State Plan for USDA review and approval.

Past Delaware projects have included research on biological control of spider mites in watermelons, developing and testing lima bean varieties, agricultural literacy projects to increase consumption of specialty crops in youth, and growing consumer awareness of Delaware’s specialty crop industry.

The focus of many specialty crop grant projects in Delaware has often been on fruits and vegetables. However, qualified applicants should also consider projects related to Delaware’s horticultural, floriculture, and nursery crop industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program contact DDA’s Marketing Specialist, or visit online at to obtain an application.


Delaware Leaders Highlight Mental Health Month, Resources

WILMINGTON – Delaware leaders are putting a spotlight on mental health and wellness as the coronavirus pandemic persists one year later.

Though we have made much progress since March 2020, research shows that pandemic-related worry and stress are still impacting individuals in their everyday lives. That’s why officials are using Mental Health Month in May to encourage Delawareans to prioritize their mental health and reach out for resources.

“For so many of our neighbors across the state, the COVID pandemic has been a traumatic experience. Creating opportunities for hope in challenging times has never been more critical,” said Josette Manning, Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, also known as the Delaware Children’s Department.  “By prioritizing our mental wellness, we can overcome obstacles and build resilience. Please know that prevention, early intervention, and treatment services, even for children, are only a phone call or click online away. Call Delaware’s 24-hour Child Priority Response Hotline at 1-800-969-HELP (4357) or go online to to find support and resources. You never have to go through difficult times alone.”

In a time where social isolation and lack of social support has clouded families, breaking down barriers to care is crucial. There are support services that individuals can utilize at any time of the day, such as the Delaware Hope Line.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is difficult for all of us physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Molly Magarik. “During this period of uncertainty, it’s not unusual to feel anxious, stressed out, depressed or lonely. What’s important is that we confide in someone we trust about what we’re feeling. It’s also one of the reasons that DHSS created the 24/7 Delaware Hope Line (1 (833) 9-HOPEDE) staffed by trained counselors who are ready to listen and to offer connections to resources, supports and services as needed.”

While there has been an increase in reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic, it’s important to know that treatment options exist, whether in person with precautions in place or through telemedicine. In addition, we can all do our part to recognize the signs someone is struggling. For example, children may show signs of distress through unusual changes in mood or loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.

“Each year in May we take the opportunity to focus on the critical issue of mental health. We highlight how mental illnesses can impact our lives and our community. The pandemic has really emphasized how important focus on our mental health is and why it is important to ensure there is education about these disorders and how they are treatable conditions. We encourage everyone to help raise awareness during Mental Health Month and beyond and to let people know it is OK to ask for help and support,” said Dr. Josh Thomas, CEO/Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Delaware. 

Research shows that 1 in 5 people experience a mental illness during their lifetime, and in Delaware, more than 1 in 5 children have mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral problems. As we look to rebuild from the collateral consequences of the COVID pandemic, experts urge to erase the stigma by prioritizing your mental health and having the tough conversations.

“May is Mental Health Month, and the Mental Health Association in Delaware believes that with the unprecedented increase in the numbers of people experiencing mental health problems during the past year, information and resources around mental health are needed more than ever before. While 1 in 5 people experience a mental illness during their lifetime, the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on the mental health of people of all ages, ethnicities and genders,” said Jennifer Seo, Deputy Director of the Mental Health Association in Delaware. “While the statistics and our current situation of being in the midst of this pandemic can seem grim and discouraging, mental illnesses are common and TREATABLE illnesses.  One way to check in with yourself is to take a mental health screening at From there, seek professional help if you need it. Seeking professional counseling or mental health treatment is not a sign of weakness, but rather strength! And remember, mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being.”

Please see the below resources and events:

Delaware Building Bridges Conference 

Sign up for the Delaware Building Bridges Conference on May 12 and May 13. This free, virtual conference is a collaboration of the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services and the Delaware Afterschool Network. It offers speakers on a variety of topics, such as family engagement and support, fostering social justice and cultural humility, LGBTQAI+ healthcare, prevention practices and more. Register here: Spots are limited so make sure you register today!

NAMIWalks Delaware 

This virtual event will be held on Saturday, May 22. It is free to register, but fundraising is encouraged. Register at and follow on Facebook @namidelaware for day of live streams from inspirational speakers and a warm-up stretch.

Mental Health Association in Delaware’s Empowering Community Wellness Symposium 

The symposium will be held virtually on May 6 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The keynote will be Lisa R. Savage, LCSW, and Lisa will be speaking on “Disrupting Systems that Reinforce Trauma and Racism”. There will also be a panel discussion that focuses on the impact of the Coronavirus Health Pandemic on a number of supportive services industries that directly relate to mental health. There is no fee to attend, but please register at

  • Delaware’s 24-hour Child Priority Response Hotline: 1-800-969-HELP (4357)
  • Crisis Text Line: Text DE to 741741
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)
  • Delaware Hope Line: 1 (833) 9-HOPEDE or (833) 946-7333
  • Mental Health Association in Delaware: Statewide: (302) 654-6833
  • Find support groups, resources and treatment services

Media Contact: Jen Rini,

The Mezzanine Gallery to Exhibit Sculpture by Jack Knight

On view through May 7-28, 2021
Visit the Gallery in-person or view it online

Wilmington, Del. (May 5, 2021) – Combines: The Andromeda Series, an exhibition of wall sculptures by Jack Knight, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 7–28, 2021. Knight is the recipient of a 2021 Artist Fellowship in Sculpture from the Delaware Division of the Arts.

Knight calls these works “combines” because he combines canvas, wood, and masonite into sculptural painted constructions that hang on the wall. The exhibition features thirteen combines, each measuring approximately 3 feet by 3 feet. The Andromeda Series was inspired by the 1971 science fiction thriller film, The Andromeda Strain, and the Andromeda galaxy.

These colorful three-dimensional works are created based on triangular forms that Knight builds at the beginning of the work. He then adds hand-painted round canvases and wood shapes to the form. Afterwards, he adds small embellishments to the composition for visual interest and balance.

This work represents a departure from Knight’s easel paintings in which he created the illusion of three-dimensional shapes by overlapping forms on a flat canvas.

“The combines are more free-spirited and exciting to execute. The approach is still creating a composition in three dimensions. All the items, objects, colors, and textures need to harmonize to be successful.” – Jack Knight

Knight lived and pursued his studio career in New York state, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Philadelphia before moving to Long Neck, Delaware. Throughout his busy career, Knight has had 17 solo exhibitions and has participated in more than 100 group shows. His work is found in the collection of ten institutions and three museums.

Image in banner: Andromeda #33 (detail), painted canvas, wood, and masonite, 32 x 32 x 4 inches

The Mezzanine Gallery is open to the public weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is located in the Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French Street, Wilmington. Visitors must wear face coverings and maintain 6 feet distance from other individuals not in their household.


The Delaware Division of the Arts, a branch of the Delaware Department of State, is dedicated to cultivating and supporting the arts to enhance the quality of life for all Delawareans. Together with its advisory body, the Delaware State Arts Council, the Division administers grants and programs that support arts programming, educate the public, increase awareness of the arts, and integrate the arts into all facets of Delaware life. For more information about the Delaware Division of the Arts, visit or call 302-577-8278.

May 4, 2021: COVID-19 Briefing

Governor John Carney will hold a virtual press briefing at 1:45 p.m. about Delaware’s response to COVID-19.



Murder charges added in Smyrna child remains case

Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced Tuesday that Kristie Haas has been reindicted for her role in the abuse and death of Emma Cole, a child whose remains were found at a Smyrna softball field. Haas, 28, will now face two counts of Murder by Abuse or Neglect First Degree under a superseding indictment, in addition to existing charges.

“Today we are closer to justice for Emma,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Few towns in America are as tight-knit as Smyrna, and this murder shook the community to its core. From the beginning this case was not only deeply disturbing, but incredibly challenging to investigate; it was through sheer force of will and collaboration that Smyrna PD and the FBI cracked this case and that we were able to indict. Emma’s abusers and her murderer will be held accountable. We owe that to the excellent police work that went into this case.”

“While Brandon and Kristie Haas’ initial arrests provided some relief, we knew that the mission was not complete until we were able to bring a homicide charge in this case,” said Lt. Brian Donner of the Smyrna Police Department. “Today culminates all that hard work and investigation. On behalf of Chief Torrie James and the members of the Smyrna Police Department, we would like to thank the Attorney General’s office for staying the course with us and seeing this case through.  We would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their expertise and resources that made these charges possible.  Finally, we all owe lead investigator William Davis of the Smyrna Police Department our thanks for his tenacity and hard work throughout the course of this investigation.”

“Emma Grace had a full life left to live and that life was taken. At just three years old she was taken from her friends, her loved ones and her sisters and brother,” said Rachel Byrd, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “When the most vulnerable of our citizens – our children – are victimized we will do everything in our power to hold the perpetrators accountable and to protect others from harm.”

Haas will still face the following charges included in an April 5 indictment:

  • One count of Child Abuse First Degree, a felony
  • Three counts of felony Endangering the Welfare of a Child, as well as three counts of misdemeanor Endangering the Welfare of a Child
  • One count of Assault Second Degree, a felony
  • One count of Hindering Prosecution, a felony
  • One count of Abusing a Corpse, a misdemeanor
  • One count of Reckless Burning, a misdemeanor

Haas could face a life sentence if convicted. Her husband, Brandon Haas, is also facing charges of Child Abuse, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and Hindering Prosecution, and could be sentenced to a maximum of 45 years for his role in Emma’s death.

On September 13, 2019, officers of the Smyrna Police Department responded to a report of a child’s remains being discovered at the Smyrna-Clayton Little Lass Softball fields.  The discovery sparked a multijurisdictional investigation into the child’s identity and the circumstances surrounding her death.

After more than a year of investigation, the child was identified as Emma Grace Cole, who was three years old at the time of her death.  At the time of her death, Emma resided with her mother, Kristie Haas, her stepfather, Brandon Haas, and her siblings in Smyrna, Delaware.

The original indictment alleged that Emma was the victim of child abuse before her death.  Both Haases are alleged to have deprived Emma of sufficient food and needed medical attention and subjected Emma and her siblings to excessive forced exercise and inappropriate physical discipline. Kristie Haas is now formally charged with causing Emma’s death after engaging in this abuse and neglect.

Both Haases were arrested in Pennsylvania on October 2, 2020, as part of a joint operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and multiple state and local law enforcement agencies.

The investigation has been led by the Smyrna Police Department with significant investigative support from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Also assisting the investigation were the United States Secret Service, the Delaware State Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Delaware Division of Forensic Science, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Delaware Department of Transportation, the Delaware Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Newtown Township (Pa.) Police Department, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The DOJ reminds the press and public that an indictment is a formal accusation and that the defendants are presumed innocent until convicted at a trial, at which the State will bear the burden of proof.