U.S. Census of Agriculture data to assist decision making

DOVER, Del. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Delaware office today announced the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture with new information about 2,302 Delaware farms and ranches and those who operate them, including first-time data about on-farm decision making, at the state and county level.

“Agriculture continues to play an important role in Delaware’s economy. I want to thank all of our family farmers who took the time to participate in the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “The information our farmers provided in the Census will help local and federal legislators, businesses, and others make informed decisions, especially on federal programs, that will directly impact our farms.”

Census data provide valuable insights into demographics, economics, land and activities on U.S. farms and ranches. Some key state highlights include:

  • The average age of all producers (a person involved in making decisions for the farm operation) was 57.4 years of age.
  • The number of female producers increased by nearly 12 percent from 2012.
  • The per farm average net income increased from $130,842 in 2012 to $277,316 in 2017.

The new Census data also shows that agriculture remains Delaware’s largest single land use, with 42 percent of Delaware’s land (or 525,324 acres) in farms, up from 508,652 acres in 2012. Poultry production ranked first in the state for market value of agricultural products sold with more than $1.1 billion, with grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas; vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes; nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod; and milk from cows rounding out the top five commodity areas.

“The Census shows new data that can be compared to previous censuses for insights into agricultural trends and changes down to the county level,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “We are pleased to share first-time data on topics such as military status and on-farm decision making. To make it easier to delve into the data, we are pleased to make the results available in many online formats including a new data query interface, as well as traditional data tables.”

For the 2017 Census of Agriculture, NASS changed the demographic questions to better represent the roles of all persons involved in on-farm decision making. As a result, in 2017 the number of all producers in Delaware was 3,907 up from 3,789 producers in 2012.

Other demographic highlights include:

  • New and beginning producers with 10 years or less of farming comprised of 851 producers.
  • Published for the first time, producers with military service encompassed 390 producers.

The Census tells the story of American agriculture and is an important part of our history. First conducted in 1840 in conjunction with the decennial Census, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. After 1920, the Ag Census happened every four to five years. By 1982, it was regularly conducted once every five years. Today, NASS sends questionnaires to nearly 3 million potential U.S. farms and ranches. Nearly 25 percent of those who responded did so online. Conducted since 1997 by USDA NASS – the federal statistical agency responsible for producing official data about U.S. agriculture – it remains the only source of comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation and is invaluable for planning the future.

Results are available in many online formats including video presentations, a new data query interface, maps, and traditional data tables. All Census of Agriculture information is available at www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus.


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, (302) 698-4542, Stacey.Hofmann@delaware.gov

Delaware has record soybean harvest in 2017

Dover, Del. – Last week USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the final crop production summary for 2017. Overall, Delaware farmers had a good year with some of the crops breaking records.

“When we look at the USDA’s production summary it confirms what we saw as we moved throughout the state. We had good weather and Delaware farmers were able to get into the fields at key points throughout the season,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “Yields such as we had in 2017 are good news for our farmers, and for poultry growers and processors who use much of the grain grown here for feed.”

The Mid-Atlantic region including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia all saw record high yields for soybean production. Much of this was attributed to the weather and proper planting time. Delaware was one of nine states to break record high yields for soybeans with yields of 51 bushels per acre, up 22.9 percent from 2016. Delaware produced more than 8 million bushels of soybeans in 2017.

Delaware corn growers produced 32.3 million bushels in 2017. This past year’s corn crop was the third highest yield with 189 bushels per acre, up 11.2 percent from 2016.

Other notable crop records for Delaware included winter wheat up 8.9 percent at 73 bushels per acre from 2016. All hay area harvested produced a yield of 3.28 tons per acre with 59,000 tons produced.

2017: 51 bushels/acre
2016: 41.5
2015: 40
2014: 47.5
2000: 43
2004: 42.5
2012: 42.5
2009: 42
2013: 40.5
2015: 40
2011: 39.5
2001: 39
1994: 36.5

2017: 189 bushels/acre
2016: 170
2015: 192
2014: 200
2015: 192
2013: 166
2000: 162
2004: 152
2001: 146
2009: 145
2006: 145
2005: 143
1996: 143

The full Crop Production 2017 Summary is available online at www.nass.usda.gov/Publications. The report contains year-end acreage, yield and production estimates for grains and hay; oilseeds; cotton, tobacco and sugar; dry beans, peas and lentils; and potatoes and miscellaneous crops.


Fifer Orchards honored for service to Delaware agriculture

Dover, Del. – Fifer Orchards recognized for their overall contribution to agriculture at the Delaware Agricultural Industry Dinner on Thursday evening were presented with the Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Delaware Agriculture.

“There has never been a time that I have asked to bring the Governor, local and U.S. legislators, government officials, or farmers from other states and countries out to visit, that Fifer Orchards has told me no,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “This is a Delaware family farm that is able to showcase their operation and it is always exemplary.”

More than ninety-nine percent of Delaware’s farms are family owned and

Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse presents Fifer Orchards with the Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Delaware Agriculture. Pictured (L to R): Bobby Fifer, Secretary Michael T. Scuse, Carlton Fifer, Mary Fennemore, Curt Fifer, and Governor John Carney, Jr.

operated. Fifer Orchards, located in Camden-Wyoming, was founded by Charles Frederick Fifer nearly a century ago. Currently farmed by the third and fourth generations, Fifer Orchards continues to focus on their commitment to the community they serve and maintaining family values.

Farmers make their livelihood on the land and have a strong commitment to the environment. The land that encompasses Fifer Orchards is home to many species of wildlife, native plants, forests, ponds, and of course the agricultural crops. Dedicated to being good stewards of the lands, Fifer Orchards focuses on safe, sustainable farming practices that preserve the environment, reduce waste, and promote healthy growing systems. Through crop rotation, integrated pest management, drip irrigation, planting cover crops, reduced tillage, and reduced pesticide usage, the farm is a showcase for environmental stewardship.

Fifer Orchards continues to use the vision of Charles Frederick Fifer to focus on diversification to help reduce risk. From the main farm, to the farm stores, to selling to local grocery stores and wholesale, to supporting Delaware’s Farm to School initiative, to developing a successful agritourism operation, to growing their community supported agriculture program, the farm has been able to minimize risk to weather the ups and downs involved in farming.

Consumers have become more and more interested in where they get their food from. Increasingly, this means going local – either buying directly from a farmer or knowing the food in the grocery store comes from local family farms that utilize best practices. As a Global Good Agricultural Practices certified farm, Fifer Orchards produces safe, sustainable food using safe production methods, responsible use of resources, while ensuring the welfare of their employees and protection of scarce resources. The consumer wants to know they are getting the best and that they are helping to keep local farms viable.

Delaware family farms continue to boost our economy through job creation. Over the years, Fifer Orchards has offered positions to high school students involved in agriscience education and college students in agriculture. These opportunities have helped the younger generation developing an interest in farming and to consider agriculture as a future career.

The Agricultural Industry Dinner, in its 47th year, was attended by more than 400 people, including farmers, business leaders and elected officials. It is sponsored by the Delaware Council of Farm Organizations.

Past recipients of the Secretary’s Award include brothers Richard and Keith Carlisle of Greenwood (2017), former MidAtlantic Farm Credit senior vice-president Kenny Bounds (2016); Farm Service Agency official Robin Talley (2015); Schiff Farms of Harrington (2015); farmers Laura Hill of Lewes and Barbara Sapp of Milton (2014); dairy farmer Walter C. Hopkins Sr. of Lewes (2013); then U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Michael Scuse, a former Delaware secretary of agriculture (2012); Delmarva Farmer Senior Editor Bruce Hotchkiss (2012); James Baxter of Georgetown (2011); brothers David, Ed and Robert Baker of Middletown (2010); Bill Vanderwende of Bridgeville (2009); and Ed Kee of Lincoln (2008).


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, (302) 698-4542, Stacey.Hofmann@delaware.gov

2017 Delaware Century Farm families recognized

Media: Hi-resolution photographs are available on Flickr.

Dover, Del. – Six Delaware families which have owned their farms for at least 100 years were honored as Century Farms on Thursday.

“Today we are recognizing farm families that have made a commitment for 100 years or more to keep their land in agriculture for future generations,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “It’s in the true spirit of farm families who weather the ups and downs of farming that Delaware agriculture is able to remain strong.”

Delaware Century Farm families received a sign for their farms, an engraved plate, and legislative tributes.

The six families recognized Thursday at the Delaware Department of Agriculture were:

  •  The Merriken family (Mrs. Leslie Smith Merriken and nephew John W. Merriken), which owns a 404-acre family farm located in Harrington. Solomon Layton Sapp of Harrington purchased 292 acres in 1916 and an adjacent tract of 112 acres in 1917 which is now known as the “California Farm.” The cost of this acreage 100 years ago was $4,405. Over the last 100 years, the California Farm has yielded wheat, corn, soybeans, loblolly pines, and oaks. In the mid 1980’s Calvert Merriken, Jr. transformed 260 acres of forestland into a working pine plantation. Today it is a model for conservation practices to promote wildlife enhancement, clean air, water and recreational opportunities. The farm generates income through grain crops, timber sales, and hunting leases with an emphasis on quality deer management.
  •  The Mitchell family (Mrs. Luray Mitchell McClung), own Fox Chase Farms in Millsboro. In January 1917, Mrs. McClung’s grandfather, Mr. Lorenzo Burton Mitchell, completed the purchase of the farm’s original 99 acres. An additional 110 acres were added in 1932. The family grew blackberries and made holly wreathes during the 1930’s and 1940’s and raised poultry. Today, the primary crops are corn and soybeans.
  •  The Ross family (Mrs. Alice T. Ross and son Charles B. Ross, Jr.) started with 72 acres in Clayton, purchased by Mr. George Ross in 1915. In 1960, the farm passed onto George’s son, Charles B. Ross, Sr. had grown to 185 acres. Charles Sr. and his son, Charles Jr. continued to work the farm together, which included a dairy farm until 1973. Alice Ross worked alongside her husband and son in the fields, often running the tractor and hay baler. Over the years the farm has yielded corn, wheat, barley, soybeans, alfalfa and clover hay. Christmas trees were just added this year.
  •  The Smith family (David and Dorothy Smith, Donna Smith-Moore and Alan Moore, and Margie Lee O’Day) has been farming in Bridgeville for nearly 200 years. In May 1821, Mr. David Smith purchased 300 acres at a Sheriff’s sale for $476 – only $1.59 per acre. Through the years, the land has changed hands in the family and they currently farm 55 acres yielding corn, soybeans, trees, poultry and livestock, and various other vegetables. David and Dorothy have passed the majority of the land down to their daughter, Donna Smith-Moore and son-in-law Alan Moore to keep the land in agriculture.
  • The Webb family (Mrs. Helen Mae Webb) own a 72-acre farm in Frederica, adjacent to Route 1. In July 1916, Liston H. Webb, Sr. of Milford Neck purchased 85 acres. In 1930, Liston Sr. and his wife Eva opened a roadside produce market, now known as L.H. Webb’s Market. The Webb’s had five sons: Liston, Jr., Jackson, Charles, James, and Samuel. In 1952, their son Samuel and his wife Helen Mae purchased the farm and roadside stand. Over the years the farm has produced potatoes, soybeans, corn, grapes and peaches. Helen Mae’s grandson Kyle still tills the land today.
  •  The Wilkins family (Wayne and Doris Wilkins) 80-acre farm in Georgetown was purchased in 1913 by Wayne’s great-uncle, Mr. Asher B. Wilkins. In 1981, the farm was officially passed down to Wayne and Doris. Over the years the farm has produced timber, corn, soybeans, poultry, and livestock.

Legislative tributes were also presented from local state legislators.

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. The Century Farm Awards have been presented annually since 1987 with 139 farms now recognized.


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, Chief of Community Relations, (302) 698-4542, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov

Delaware Department of Agriculture warns Delawareans about pesticide application scam

DOVER, Del. — Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse and Pesticide Administrator Christopher Wade are warning Delawareans of people impersonating farmers and agricultural pesticide applicators coming door to door.

In the scam, the homeowner is told that they must leave their house for a period of twelve hours while the individual sprays crops in the nearby vicinity.

There are some indicators that these visits are a scam in an attempt to get the homeowner to leave their house unattended. There are currently no agricultural pesticide spraying practices in Delaware that would require one to leave their home. An agricultural pesticide applicator is required to prevent drift when spraying.

The Department of Agriculture cautions homeowners to be vigilant by:

  • Not opening your door to unfamiliar persons;
  • Take notice of your surroundings; and
  • Report suspicious people in your neighborhood or on your property to the local authorities.


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4500, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov