Phillips clan, Ockels lauded at Sussex FB fall banquet

Staff Writer

BRIDGEVILLE, Del. (Oct. 18, 2016) — The family of Guy and Nancy Phillips of Georgetown was named Sussex County Farm Bureau’s Farm Family of the Year and Dale Ockels of Milton was honored with SCFB’s Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award at the organization’s annual meeting and fall banquet held Oct. 1.
The Farm Family of the Year was introduced by Herb Wright. Guy Phillips fell in love with agriculture at the age of 4 on the farm of his grandfather in Cogan Station, Pa.
He outgrew his first (pedal) Farmall tractor and helped with making hay, mending fences and other farm work.
His other grandfather in Hartly, Del., also encouraged his interest in farming. When his family moved to Georgetown, Del., in 1962, Phillips soon found a friend with a farm.
Thereafter, he spent any Saturday that he could helping on the Harold Short Family Farm. Wright said, “Guy became such a farming fixture on the Short Family Farm that when he went to ask Mr. Short for permission to marry Nancy, Mr. Short’s reply was, ‘I thought you were coming here for the farming, not my daughter!’”
Phillips graduated in 1975 with a degree in agriculture education. He taught briefly at Glasgow High School in New Castle County, but he and Nancy wanted to live in Sussex County.
For 19 years, Phillips worked for Townsend Farms as a poultry supervisor, while continuing to help his father-in-law and renting a few acres of farmland. Phillips realized his dream of becoming a full-time farmer in 1995, and in 2003 became responsible for the operation of the Short Family Farm.
The Phillips children, Sara, Mark and Dale, grew up helping on the farm. Dale “caught the farming bug” and has his own farming business, but he and his father work as partners with and for each other.
Phillips joined Delaware Farm Bureau in 1979 and has served as county and state director. He was SCFB president for six years and continues to serve on committees. He is active in the community, with Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., the National Association of Conservation Districts Soil Health Champion Network, his local tax ditch and the Wesley United Methodist Church. He received the Delaware Environmental Stewardship Award in 2006.
Dale Ockels, was in 11th grade at Seaford High School when his father, Reuben, was confined to bed with illness. Young Ockels had rented a 30-acre farm at age 15, and was already using his father’s equipment to farm it. While his father was sick, Ockels would come home from school and, with the help of his uncle, farm until dark and on weekends. In 1983, Delaware Jaycees named him their Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year.
With his two brothers, Gary and Dennis, Ockels operates a family grain and poultry farm, tilling 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans and small grains. The poultry operation has 135,000 capacity.
Ockels was on the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission during its formation, representing the state’s swine industry. He also served on the National Pork Producers Council.
He has served on the board of MidAtlantic Farm Credit since 1987, and was a Sussex County Farm Bureau director for a number of years. Ockels is a member of the Governor’s Council on Agriculture and the Sussex County Land Trust. He is also on the Board of Supervisors and serves as treasurer of Sussex County Soil Conservation.
Several tours have been hosted on the Ockels Farm, starting with those led by Dr. Bill Mitchell in the 1970s, as Ockels worked with the University of Delaware and Cooperative Extension.
SCFB Women’s Chair, Connie Fox, said her committee had taken food to the Ronald McDonald House at Kent General Hospital as part of “Food Check-off Day” and prepared dinner for 100 people. “The shelves had been empty,” Fox noted.
Fox also announced that Samantha Kirk was stepping down after two years as Youth Ambassador.  She does not have a replacement.
Scholarship recipients were Amanda Ritter and Erryn Smith, each receiving $500 Sussex County Farm Bureau Scholarships, and Zakary Keeler, who was awarded a $1,000 Sussex County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee Scholarship.
In rate of gain competition, there was a single winner in Sussex County, winning in two 4-H categories. Thomas Warren, son of Elizabeth and Tom Warren of Georgetown, raised a sheep that gained 0.7 pounds per day, while his market hog gained 1.7 pounds per day. Warren is a member of the Clover Knights 4-H Club.
In a brief membership meeting, directors and convention delegates were elected. Members also approved a proposed by-law change to have the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee elect their own chair, rather than selection by the entire county farm bureau.
Margie Chase of Nationwide announced that the Carey Agency, owned by Monty Carey, had, for the seventh time in the last eight years, brought the most new members into SCFB, adding 53 members this year.