Dulin joins Malfitanos, Bennetts as honorees

Staff Writer

HARRINGTON, Del. (Jan. 19, 2016) — Distinguished Service to Agriculture awards were presented to Bunky Dulin Jr. and to Joe and Audrey Malfitano at the 38th annual awards banquet of the Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association of Delaware on Jan. 12.
The FVGAD’s Farm Family of the Year Award was presented to Jim and Carrie Bennett.
David Marvel introduced Bunky Dulin as award winner.
Like his father, Dulin grew up on the family farm in Cordova, Md.
His farming resumé, Marvel said, includes milk cows, 12,000 layer hens, feeder pigs, grain crops, cereal crops, fruits and vegetables.
In 1975 Dulin started harvesting sweet corn by machine and continued to farm as he did custom spraying and harvesting.
When Jim Friel Sr. offered him the job of S.E.W. Friel cannery’s field man for tomatoes and sweet corn, Dulin accepted, following in his father’s footsteps. Friel contracts thousands of acres of sweet corn with growers in Delaware.
Dulin warned his bride, Althy, that “he had an addiction to dirt,” Marvel said. She married him anyway, 30 years ago, and they have three daughters “and four grandchildren, so far.”
Marvel added, Dulin is “part farmer, part field man, but 100 percent friend and family man.”
Marvel praised his love and dedication to his family and to growers in the industry he loves.
Extension Specialist Joanne Whalen presented the second Distinguished Service Award to the Malfitanos, owners of “Ma and Pa’s Market,” or “the Fruit Stand,” as they still call it. “An institution on the (Route) 404 produce stand strip,” the market is highlighted by the beautiful display of flowers for cutting growing near the highway.
Ma and Pa’s Market began in 1913, selling mainly peaches, apples, strawberries and asparagus.
The farming operation has diversified to include a wide variety of fresh market and processing vegetables, as well as corn and soybeans.
The 56-acre farm received the Century Farm Award in 2014.
Son Mike Malfitano is part of the operation with his own wholesale vegetable business.
Whalen said the family is “the perfect team... with attention to detail, always striving to be innovative and open-minded, evaluating new ideas, new varieties and new approaches...
Their market reflects their attention to detail — preserving a nostalgic air but at the same time bringing the aesthetic appeal that makes folks want to stop on their way to and from the beach.”
The Malfitanos are “folks you want to get to know, great family people and great ambassadors for agriculture,” Whalen concluded.
Retired Extension agent Derby Walker forgot his notes, but “winged it” in presenting the Farm Family of the Year Award to Jim and Carrie Bennett of Bennett Orchards in Frankford, Del.
“Thirty-five years ago, a guy wanted to get into the farming business,” Walker began. Jim Bennett had 50 acres, a good job and no equipment, but he wanted a career change. “He accuses me of getting him trapped in the fruit business,” Walker quipped. “He listened to me!”
Bennett was the fifth generation on the family farm; he knew the small farm could not grow enough grain to make a living. On Walker’s advice, he and Carrie planted peach trees in 1983 and opened a pick-your-own operation in 1987. In 2011, blueberries were planted on 8 acres.
Walker commented that the Bennetts had also followed his advice about doing their homework before starting the new venture.
The Bennetts’ sons, Hail and Henry, have joined their parents in the business. Hail is the grower and takes care of the pick-your-own operation. Henry takes care of marketing, supplying a dozen farm markets from Lewes, Del., to Berlin, Md.
Jim Bennett took the opportunity to thank all of those at the University of Delaware who have been so helpful through the years. “Farmers would not be able to do what we do without your support,” he said.
He also thanked other peach growers who had given him advice from the start. “They always treated us as equals, not competitors,” he said.
The evening concluded with an inspiring talk on marketing by Dr. Hamish Gow, professor at Massey University in New Zealand.
Gow met local farmers when the most recent LEADelaware class toured his country.