W.B. Simpson student takes home the green with Delaware grown cabbage

Third grade boy with winning cabbage
Delaware State Winner Latrell McGinnis with his prize cabbage that weighed in at 8 pounds 4 ounces.

DOVER, Del. – W.B. Simpson Elementary School 4th grader Latrell McGinnis spent last spring tending to his cabbage in hopes of growing the best-looking cabbage in Delaware. After all the judging was completed, McGinnis’s hard work paid off when he was announced as the state winner during a presentation at his school this week.

More than 1,300 third grade classes in 300 elementary schools in Delaware participated in the 2019 Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. Each teacher selects the best-looking cabbage and submits a photograph with the student and their cabbage for judging to Bonnie Plants. Judges are looking for the best cabbage based on size and appearance, not just on how big it gets. They take a close look at the leaves for damage, look for head splits, and flowering stalks. Once the national judges select the top finalists, the Delaware Department of Agriculture randomly selects the state winner.

Regional Bonnie Plants’ Station Office Manager Trish Drury presented McGinnis with a $1,000 check in front of all the 3rd and 4th grade classes at W.B. Simpson Elementary. He also received a certificate, shirt, the book, Katie’s Cabbage, and a Delaware Grown hat. School principal, Ms. Jennifer Martin received a plaque to hang in the school.

Large check presentation
Bonnie Plants Trish Drury presented Delaware’s Cabbage Program State Winner Latrell McGinnis with a check and W.B. Simpson Principal Ms. Martin with a plaque.

When asked by his principal if he was going to Disney now to celebrate? McGinnis replied, “No, I will be putting my check into savings so one day I can buy a car when I am old enough to drive.”

Started in 1996, Bonnie Plants started the 3rd Grade Cabbage Program to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people so that children can learn with their food comes from and engage them in gardening as a hobby. By 2002, the program grew to the 48 contiguous states. The company has trucked free O.S. Cross, “oversized” cabbage plants across the country and has delivered over 18 million plants since this program began.

Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Chief of Community Relations Stacey Hofmann praised McGinnis for his hard work. “It’s not easy to grow a cabbage when you are faced with pests that want a chance to eat that cabbage more than you do. It also takes a lot of hard work and persistence to keep the area weed free, maintain soil health and fertilizing, and not overwatering cabbage.”

When asked if he had any issues growing his cabbage, Latrell responded that he had one snail and one caterpillar trying to eat his cabbage, but he removed them before they could do much damage. He also encouraged third graders looking for tips to make sure to water their cabbage, but only until the soil is just feeling wet. A cabbage only needs one inch of water or rainfall a week.

Third grade teachers interested in having their class participate in the program can register online at https://bonniecabbageprogram.com

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Delaware Farmers’ Markets Continue to Grow in Popularity

Governor Carney declares Delaware Agriculture Week January 13 through January 17, 2020

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney and the Delaware Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced Delaware farmers’ markets hit an all-time high sales record of $3.28 million in 2019. The announcement comes during the 15th Annual Delaware Agriculture Week held at the State Fairgrounds in Harrington, a week-long conference that covers agricultural operations in Delaware and provides critical updates, research, and training for members of the industry. Governor Carney issued a proclamation declaring the week of January 13 to January 17,  2020 as “Delaware Agriculture Week.”

Click here to view the proclamation.

“Delaware has a rich farming history, and agriculture remains our number one industry. It’s no surprise Delaware’s farmers markets continue to gain popularity with Delawareans and visitors to the state who want to purchase local, Delaware grown foods and farm-fresh products from family farms,” said Governor Carney. “Agriculture contributes $8 billion to Delaware’s economy, and we’ve permanently preserved 25 percent of Delaware’s farmland so that agriculture will continue to be the backbone of our economy.”

Delaware’s Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse said in a time when ordering groceries using an app and picking up curbside is popular, these figures are indicative of how much people value the connection with the farmers growing their food.

“Looking at 2019, the weather was cooperative, and our farmers had a lot of great produce to sell at our local farmers’ markets,” said Scuse. “Delaware produce is seasonal and changes from month to month, week to week. The variety of Delaware grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and other items provides a lot of options for consumers who want to eat healthy.”

Sales from all 19 Delaware community-run farmers’ markets this year totaled $3,277,788, up more than $394,086 from 2018 – an increase of 13.7 percent. Sales have increased more than elevenfold since the Department of Agriculture began tracking them in 2007.

Fresh produce made up 57 percent of total sales, with the remainder coming from products such as meats, cheeses, jellies, breads, salsa, eggs, or honey.

In 2019, there were 14 markets that participated in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Women, Infants, and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Both programs had their highest participation since Delaware began offering these benefits. There were 9 markets that participated in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). These programs help expand access for low-income residents to be able to purchase fresh local produce at Delaware farmers’ markets. 

Delaware farmers’ markets are all run at the local level, by municipalities, business groups, farmers or market associations, with the Department of Agriculture providing support and marketing assistance.

The 2020 market season will begin in April; most markets start their operations in May, June, and July. A list of the 2019 markets is online at Delaware Grown, and will be updated in late March for 2020.

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Celebrating Delaware’s agricultural diversity, linking producers to consumers

Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse kicks off Delaware Grown Week at the Rehoboth Farmers' MarketRehoboth Beach, Del. – Delaware Grown Week – a campaign highlighting the fruits, vegetables, and value-added agricultural products produced in The First State – officially launched with a kick-off event at the Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market including Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse, state legislators, and other officials.

State Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Camden-Wyoming, authored the legislation creating Delaware Grown Week in 2015. He said one of the goals of the partnership between the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) and the Delaware General Assembly is to facilitate closer relationships between farmers and local consumers.

“Fresher food translates into better nutrition, better taste, and the potential for creating healthier eating habits,” Rep. Yearick said. “And when consumers spend their food dollars locally, they support Delaware’s family farms and spur our economic activity.” While fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are a highlight of farmers’ markets, about half of Delaware farmers’ market sales are typically tied to agricultural products such as meats, cheeses, jellies, breads, salsa, eggs or honey, facilitating small business start-ups.

purple and green kohlrabi bulbs on wood crates at farmers' market “We know consumers – both Delawareans and visitors to our state– are seeking out local food options because they are more and more interested in where their food is produced. Having an array of locally grown, fresh in-season produce encourages consumers to try new fruits and vegetables and eat healthy,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “With the kickoff of Delaware Grown Week today, I am pleased to announce the release of the new Delaware Grown website. Through the use of an interactive map, DelawareGrown.com helps consumers find local products from fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey to Christmas trees and other value-added products. This is also a resource where citizens can go to learn how to cook using locally grown produce, meet many of our farm families, and learn neat tidbits about the specialty crops we grow here in Delaware.”

Elected leaders and agricultural officials will conduct smaller, targeted activities throughout Delaware Grown Week emphasizing the numerous ways citizens can connect with local farms and enjoy Delaware farm products, such as:

  • Shopping at one of the more than 90 onsite farmstands throughout the state.
  • Visiting and purchasing locally grown products at one of the 20 community-run farmers’ markets operating in Delaware this year.
  • Enjoying time with family and friends at a Delaware “u-pick” operations that offer a satisfying experience for patrons to get the freshest fruit and vegetables possible by harvesting it themselves.
  • Participating in a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, providing shareholders with fresh produce weekly during peak harvest seasons.

Take the opportunity to stop off at a local farmers’ market or on-farm market where there is a variety of fruits and vegetables in season. This is an opportunity to connect with Delaware family farmers that take pride in growing the freshest produce. Many farmers’ markets accept Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) transactions, the Women Infant and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program – expanding the availability of healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables.

For more information, visit https://delawaregrown.com.

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State Fair highlights Delaware’s agriculture industry

More photographs from the 2018 Delaware State Fair are available on Flickr.

DOVER, Del. — Many Delaware youth and adult exhibitors are ready to showcase their agricultural exhibits at this year’s Delaware State Fair. Along with rides, food, and games, the state fair is a great opportunity for fair-goers to learn more about agriculture – Delaware’s top industry.

“I encourage everyone to join our staff down at the Delaware State Fair – one of the best fairs in the United States – to learn about Delaware agriculture and all it does for our consumers and our economy,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse.

More than ninety-nine percent of Delaware’s 2,500 farms are family-owned. Delaware farmers produce a variety of agricultural products on 500,000 acres of farmland, including corn, soybeans, wheat, poultry and livestock, and fruits and vegetables. All of the state’s agricultural commodities can be experienced simply by visiting the barns and buildings along Holloway Street, from the front of the Fair by Quillen Arena all the way back to the 4-H/FFA Building (The Centre) and The Delmarva Building.

As a long-time participant at State Fair, Secretary Scuse offers this advice to newcomers attending this year:

“If you have never been to the Fair, you really need to step inside the 4-H/FFA Building to see

Members of the Delaware FFA Association join Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse, Delaware State Fair President Ron Draper, and other fair board members for a ribbon cutting to open the brand-new FFA AgVenture Exhibit.

how truly talented our young people involved in these organizations are. At some point, you are going to want to stop into the Department’s Ag Commodities building to learn how to cook with Delaware Grown produce, try your hand at plowing a field on our interactive farm games, and talk with people who are involved in agriculture. Finally, walk through the livestock barns to see the wide variety of animals that our young people are showing. Take time to ask questions and learn where your food comes from. Getting to see a dairy cow up close helps make the connection that milk comes from a cow and doesn’t start its journey to your table at the grocery store.”

Attendees can also get a glimpse of the equine industry throughout Fair. Exhibitors will be participating in English and Western classes, showmanship, showing horses in hand, and driving. Harrington Raceway is one of three tracks in Delaware that offers horse racing. On Thursday, July 26, fair-goers are invited to attend harness racing in the M&T Bank Grandstand with a 7 p.m. post time. With more than $550,000 in total purses, the race program will be headlined by four $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund final events for 3-year-olds as well as program staples like the Governor’s Cup, which features some of Delaware’s top horses, ages three years and older. Governor John Carney will be on hand to present the trophy to the winner.

There is so much to see and do at State Fair, but do not let that be your only summer destination. More than 127,000 acres of farmland is permanently preserved throughout the state for future generations. Hop in the car and take a road trip to explore some of the quaint towns and villages to see the beauty agriculture brings to our landscape.

Take the opportunity to stop off at a local farmers’ market or on-farm market where there is a variety of fruits and vegetables in-season. This is another opportunity to connect with Delaware family farmers that take pride in growing the freshest produce. There is nothing like getting sweet corn or a peach that was just picked first thing that morning and is in your hand to eat just a few hours later.

“We want to continue to build a connection between our family farmers and the residents and visitors who enjoy eating Delaware Grown produce,” said DDA spokeswoman Stacey Hofmann. “I know I look forward to eating my share of fair food during the ten days, but including healthy food options in the mix is important to your well-being. Eating fresh fruit as a snack in between shows can help fuel your body. Try a light salad for lunch or dinner to stay refreshed during the hot days that we tend to experience during Fair.”

Planning on purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables ahead of time or even stocking up mid-fair is as is as easy as clicking on http://de.gov/buylocal to find a local farmers’ market or on-farm market. There will be plenty of Delaware-grown watermelon, peaches, berries, sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and more available in July. And if you are wondering what to make with all this good food, stop by the DDA Agricultural Commodities Building during fair to pick up our brand-new recipe collection.

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Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, Chief of Community Relations, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov, 302-535-6757