Sunday, March 12, 2017





The Indian Nations of the 1600's planted corn or maize, several types of beans, and squash before the first Dutch settlers arrived in 1631, followed by the Swedes in 1638, and the English in 1664.
The first of the European settlers that arrived cultivated crops, wheat, barley, corn, peas and raised livestock such as pigs, sheep, goats and cows for meat and milk which were critical to their survival and sustenance.
Early Delaware had perhaps 110 plantations tending 2000 cows, oxen, thousands of pigs, plus horses and sheep. William Penn's colony produced the political and economic stability enabling the “three lower counties” to prosper in agriculture.

In 1704 the “three lower counties on the Delaware” of Pennsylvania had formed their own legislative assembly, planting the seed for Delaware's emergence as an independent state during the American Revolution. It kept Philadelphia as its major trading center to which it sent 'tobacco' that was commonly used to settle debts and obligations, and 'beef ' being raised in the marshes and forest. The 'beef' production was a four year venture at the time, compared to the ten month birth to market span of today.

By 1770, tobacco had declined in its significance and other grain crops, wheat, corn, oats, rye and barley. Became Delaware on the Delaware's agricultural trade through the last part of the century in the Philadelphia markets.

By 1750 the grain milling industry had been established on the Brandywine River and the Delaware grown grain had a market supplied by the river boats and over land Conestoga wagons powered by oxen and later mules. The mostly Quaker families of Tatnalls, Canbys, Shipleys, Leas, Morton and Pooles, opened grain milling ventures in New Castle on the Delaware.

'Soft Red Wheat' became the most important crop, bringing fame and prosperity to the new state of Delaware.

In 1790, Oliver Evans, born in Newport in 1755, was granted one of the very first 'patents' which were signed by President George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, for an improved grist mill .
James Tilton, Delaware resident and Surgeon General of the United States, remarked that Delaware had the largest and most perfect manufacture of flour known in the world.


The farming in the area benefited with the transportation improvement, ships sailed the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays moving farm products to the major northern cities. Railroads eventually connected farmers produce to their city cousins kitchens.

Milk from the lower three left Nassau for Philadelphia every day. Railroad's took peaches from the farms of Delaware to cities north, and west. 1832 saw Issac Reeves and the first fruit trees and by 1840 Major Phillip Reybold of New Castle on the Delaware was the 'peach king' shipping by sail and steamboat to the old world. The 1890's had more than 4 million peach trees, Delaware was called the Peach State, the Peach Blossom was the state flower , then a disease, “Peach Yellows”, destroyed the entire industry. Strawberries became a principal crop.

Canning soon became a major industry , 1885 saw a factory, Richardson & Robbins, in Dover producing fruits and vegetables, meats, and a special “Plum Pudding”. Thirty years later Delaware had 50 or so canneries, shipping canned tomatoes, sweet corn, peas. Lima beans and most other vegetables , to the rest of the country. The consistently high quality of vegetables and fruit grown in the soils of Delaware brought nation wide processor like, Green Giant, Van Camp, Stokley, Campbells,
and Libby, McNeil & Libby, to the state for many years.

One persons influence had a major impact on Delaware agriculture, that of John Gillis
Townsend. In 1894, while a telegraph operator on the railroad, he began involved in timber, fruit and vegetable production, both fresh and canned, The University of Delaware's Agriculture School Building is in his name.

The Dover based Delaware State College is a land grant college for agriculture and mechanical arts.


Today, Delaware State University and the University of Delaware are partners in Delaware Extension Cooperative which was formed in 1914 by the Smith Lever Act, a partnership of the government and land grant schools to practice research, technology, consumer service and 4H Youth Development.
!941 saw the development of the “Substation” on the farm of the Tyndall Farm, west of Georgetown.
1919 saw the start of the county fair, now the Delaware State Fair, held once a year for one week and holds exhibits , livestock contest, entertainment, etc.
1923 the broiler industry had it's beginning when Cecile Steel of Ocean View received a triple order of layer chicks by mistake. Poultry production is 70% of the Delaware farm receipts.
1920's and 1930's there was farm activity in the Christmas decoration business as the Holly Man of Milton furnished the major northern cities wreaths and buntings until the birth of plastic.


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