Fry family, Wilkins recognized at KCFB banquet

Staff Writer

FELTON, Del. (Oct. 7, 2014) — With reminders inserted in the program that the old-style farm tags will no longer be valid in Delaware after Oct. 7, members of the Kent County Farm Bureau gathered for their annual meeting at the Felton Fire Hall on Sept. 29.
The traditional dinner of fried oysters and chicken salad was served and cleared by the Ladies Auxiliary in record time.
Delaware Farm Bureau President Gary Warren offered special thanks to KCFB President Kitty Holtz, the first woman to head the county organization, and to Jonathan Thompson, Mary Bea Gooden and Marty Ross for their time and commitment serving on committees. Warren also had a message for the EPA: “Land is not water,” he said. “When a duck quits walkin’ and starts swimmin’, that’s where the water starts.”
Warren also spoke about a bus tour of Coastal Zone areas in New Castle County last month sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Delaware Wild Lands. One of the sites visited is being considered for a new port which would bring 2,000 jobs to the state, just as a starter. “Opposition to this is already out there,” Warren said. The port would be a boon to agriculture as an export facility, Warren said, adding he had recently visited a huge export facility which had created thousands of job. “Delaware desperately needs something like this,” he said.
Richard Wilkins presented the KCFB 2014 Farm Family of the Year, Doug Fry and family of Milford. Wilkins said, “The Fry family members are lifelong farmers, advocates of preserving farmland for future generations and innovators of irrigation.”
The Fry Farm started in the 1950s with Doug Fry and his son, Ernie, and Ernie’s wife, Doris. In 1967, they expanded their operation to include a 45,000-bird capacity poultry house which earned them prestigious top poultry producer awards.
The farm expanded again in the 70s and 80s when Ernie’s sons Mike and Jeff joined the operation and then again when Jeff’s sons, Jason and Chad, joined. The farm was turned over to Mike and Jeff years ago.
On Aug. 18, 2012, tragedy struck the Fry family when Mike was killed while cutting trees down. The family said, “Mike was the backbone of our family operation.”
Mike left behind his wife of 33 years, Selena Fry, and two daughters, Erin and Jennifer. He had been chairman of the Kent County Farm Service Agency, treasurer of the board at Milford Grain and past member of the board of directors at Southern States Milford Cooperative.
Fry Farms Inc. now consists of 2,300 acres, including 1,500 acres of tillable land on which they grow barley, wheat, corn, soybeans, cucumbers, sweet corn, string beans and lima beans.
The tillable acreage has 21 pivot irrigation systems, which earned the Frys the distinction of having one of the first farms to have self-propelled irrigation east of the Mississippi River.
Jeff and Chad both earned associate degrees in ag production from the University of Delaware.
Ernie served on the board of directors for Delaware Electric Cooperative for several years.
Jonathan Thompson then took the podium to turn tables on Wilkins and honor him with the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. Wilkins began farming in 1972 with 3 acres of soybeans on rented land. By the time he graduated from Milford High School in 1976, it had reached 65 acres and he was also raising beef and growing hay and straw for horse farms.
Wilkins had a double major at the University of Delaware, earning bachelor degrees in ag business management and ag education. He and his wife, Donna, purchased their first farm in 1992.
It had soon grown to more than 1,000 acres of cropland, 800 acres of rented cropland and a direct marketed beef enterprize.
In 1998 Wilkins became a Vermeer retail hay equipment dealer, which grew unexpectedly into a full-service machinery and equipment dealership, B & W Farm Supply.
Wilkins’ list of service to the ag industry is quite long. He was FFA Chapter president and state vice president, past chairman of the Delaware Young Farmers and Ranchers committee, and member of the Delaware Council of Farm Organizations.
He and his wife were Delaware YF&R Young Farmers of the Year. Wilkins is KCFB vice president and treasurer, state Farm Bureau director, and a member of several other ag committees and associations.
He served five terms as president of the Mid-Atlantic Soybean Association, was a member of the 2020 State Advisory Group and is now a national director and treasurer of the American Soybean Association.
Wilkins said, “The only reasons I can do what I do is that Donna and my nephew Christopher are the backbone of our farming and business operation. My older brother, Bill, also helps when he is able... It is an extreme, extreme honor to be recognized by my peers.”
Ted Bobola Jr. presented a special recognition to Wayne Dill for his many years of service on the KCFB board of directors.