Delaware welcomes three new Century Farm families

Managing Editor

DOVER, Del. (Nov. 22, 2016) — Three Delaware families which have owned their farms for at least 100 years were honored as Century Farms last week.
With the new inductions Tuesday of the Joseph, Warfel and O’Neill families at the Delaware Agricultural Museum, there are now 133 Century Farms in Delaware, said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee.
Offering perspective of the passage of time, Austin Short, deputy agriculture secretary, said 100 years ago, gasoline was 22 cents a gallon, bread was seven cents a loaf and a postage stamp was two cents.
The light switch was invented in 1916 and the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld legislation establishing a national income tax.
The changes in agriculture over that time has been more staggering, said Kee, but Century Farms are a testament to families who have been able to keep and pass down land through the generations.
“It all boils down to the farms and the farm families that make it work,” Kee said. “I can’t say that any stronger than for these three families here.”
The Joseph family was inducted for its 162-acre farm near Milton, Del., which has been in the family since 1915 when Harry T. Joseph purchased the farm for $8,000.
Then the farm raised cows, chicken, hogs and horses. In 1937, the farm was passed on to Harry T.’s two sons, Gilbert and Clayton Joseph, who operated a dairy with home delivery, until 1969.
A house, two milk houses a barn and other structures that date back 100 years or more still stand on the property.
Now the farm’s main crops are grain, baby lima beans, black eyed peas, sweet peas.
Harry E. Joseph, Harry T’s great grandson, said the Century Farm desgination was “huge” for him adding good stewardship of the land was passed down from ancestors along with the land’s deed.
With the fourth, fifth and sixth generations of the family present at the ceremony, he said he’s confident it will remain in the family for years to come.
“That’s the motivation to keep it going,” he said of his children and grandchildren. “That’s a sign we can go another 100 years.”
The Warfel family was inducted for a 115-acre farm near Greenwood, that’s been in the family since 1915 and is now managed for timber.
The original 350-acre parcel was purchased in 1915 for $2,500 by Marlene Warfel’s great grandparents, L.J. and Naomi Swartzentruber, and was passed down to relatives until Marlene and her husband Everett took ownership in recent years. The house L.J. Swartzentruber built on the farm was used as an early meeting house for the newly formed Greenwood Mennonite Church.
“It does mean a lot for our family history,” Marlene said. Everett, who took on the task of establishing the deed trail to prove family ownership back 100 years, called the honor “very rewarding.”
The O’Neill family joined the Century Farm families with a 183-acre farm near Smyrna, in the family since 1916 and now producing corn, soybeans, wheat and barley. The land had been also used to raise dairy cows, horses, produce and wine grapes. Current owners, Francis “Bud” and Linda O’Neill and children Michael and Kelly have had the property since 2004.
The O’Neill family has a long history in education as well as in agriculture. Five women in the family have been or still are teachers.
Bud’s grandmother Margaret O’Neill was first female school principal in Delaware, a state and nationally recognized educator and named 1964 Delaware Mother of the year.
The O’Neills lease the cropland to neighbors but remain involved in agriculture with Bud owning a turfgrass agronomics consulting service and serving on the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission and the Delaware Pesticide Advisory Board.
The O’Neill family also received the Historic Structures Award for buildings built prior to the 1916 purchase, including the main farmhouse, a milkhouse, smokehouse, and storage building. The original dinner bell is still in use today.
The families received an engraved pewter tray, Century Farm Sign and legislative tributes from local state legislators.
Century Farms must have been farmed by the same family for at least 100 years and must include at least 10 acres of the original parcel or gross more than $10,000 annually in agricultural sales. The Century Farm Awards have been presented annually since 1987.