Washington visitors tour Dempsey Farms

Staff Writer

DOVER, Del. (Nov. 17, 2015) — A big, white tour bus turned into Dempsey Fams on Nov. 5, bringing a group of about 30 USDA employees from Washington, D.C., to see one of several projects in Delaware that recently received support from USDA Rural Development programs. Dr. Bill McGowan, state director, served as tour guide.
Most of the visitors were from the South Building, McGowan said, “day-to-day folks (who) never seem to get out of the office.”
They were welcomed by Greg Dempsey and his son, Gregory.
Their family farm had recently received a grant from the Rural Energy for American Program in the amount of $47,117 to install a high energy efficiency grain dryer.
The grant covered 25 percent of the overall project. The new dryer handles 1,500 bushels per hour. This is the farm’s second REAP grant. Last year a $21,544 grant helped pay for a 50-kilowatt solar panel installation that totaled $135,000.
Kenton Yoder of Paradise Energy Solution in Salisbury explained that the program had almost run out of funds, otherwise the grant would have covered 25 percent of the cost of the project. Paradise wrote the grant applications on behalf of the Dempseys.
Installed in July 2014, the solar panels have produced 80,000 kilowatts to date, Gregory Dempsey said, saving about $10,000 per year on electric bills.
Delmarva Power & Light allows the farm to push surplus electricity onto the rest of the farm, but the grain operation uses most of what is generated. Manufactured in Germany, the panels have a 25-year power output guarantee.
Reading information provided by his grandmother, Dempsey shared the farm’s history with the visitors. His great-great-grandmother, he said, had been a mail-order bride.
She came — with five children in tow — from Wisconsin in May 1888 and married his great-great grandfather, a farmer. In 1940, the family bought land on one side of Fast Landing Road, and in 1965, Dempsey’s grandfather purchased the other side, site of the grain operation.
His grandparents operated with farm with the help of their three sons.
In the last 10 years, Gregory and his cousin returned to the farm to help.
Together the family farms 4,000 acres, growing mostly wheat, corn, soybeans and lima beans. They milk 350 cows with the help of eight employees who milk twice a day, starting at noon and 2 to 3 a.m. Each milking takes eight hours, he said.
The USDA staff had time for a few questions, including: How much milk does each cow give? (About 10 gallons.) How much of the price per gallon paid in the grocery store goes to the farmer? (About $16 per hundredweight, which required conversion from gallons to pounds, with 10 gallons weighing about 81 pounds.) How did the farmers get the crop in front of the grain bins to be so green? (It was triticale, a recently planted cover crop that will be harvested in the spring to feed the cows.) Was it a good year for crops? (Wheat averaged 80 bushels per acre, about average for Delaware, but some Europeans get 140 bushels per acre. It had been a good year for corn, grown for chicken feed, at about 200 bushels per acre, when a normal year produces 160 to 170 bushels.) Where do you get the water for irrigation? (The farm taps into a good aquifer at about 150 feet.)
Sticking to a tight schedule, the bus had visited First State Military Academy, Smyrna Police Station (a “drive-by” visit only), The Inn at Duck Creek, the Greater Smyrna-Clayton Boys & Girls Club (another drive-by) and Heron Run Apartments. It would drive by Cheswold Volunteer Fire Company and stop at Harvest Ridge Winery in Marydel before returning to Washington.
All of these sites sites had received funding from USDA in 2015. The USDA awarded loans and grants to help more than 1,100 rural small businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy usage and costs in their operations this year