FELTON, Del. — The Delaware Farm Bureau held its annual banquet Tuesday, Dec. 4 in Felton.
The banquet was a chance to honor some of the people and events that have highlighted a busy and successful year for the organization. The bureau honored its Farm Family of the Year, presented a Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award and recognized retiring board of director members.
The approximately 7,000-member organization also heard a nearly breathless Cassidy Cook read her winning Ag in the Classroom essay. Cook, a middle school student, visited a dairy farm and wrote about her experiences to the delight of an appreciative audience.
There was a silent auction to raise $1,600-plus for the Young Farmers program and a $2,500 scholarship awarded to Jason Morris of Newark by the Women’s Committee.
Farm Bureau President Gary Warren spoke briefly about the importance of agriculture, saying the group had been briefed on various legal challenges to agriculture.
Warren drew applause when he reminded the audience that an average farmer feeds 155 people per year, adding that people taking farmers to court will eventually “have to go home or go hungry.”
The student essay contest focused on a day in the life of a farm. Students could interview a local farmer or visit and spend a day on a farm. Cook, who attended with her teacher Stefanie Ralph, wrote about feeding, watering and tending to the animals on the farm. Ralph is the Smyrna School District Teacher of the Year.
Cook visited her family’s dairy farm in Kenton, where she spent most of the day with her great-uncle Sam.
“I realized a day in the life of a dairy farmer isn’t so typical!” she concluded. “I can truly say this was an amazing adventure and an experience I will never forget; but for now it’s time to take my boots off!”
Education Committee Chair Stewart Ramsey said the essay contest “helps them (students) understand what agriculture means in Delaware.”
Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Pamela Bakerian was honored with the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. A tribute from Gov. Jack Markell read, in part, “Pam became executive director at the Delaware Farm Bureau in January 2010 and has been a tireless advocate in the promotion of agriculture issues. During her brief tenure she has advocated relentlessly on behalf of the Delaware Farm Bureau and the agriculture industry, supporting more than a dozen pieces of legislation that became law ... Another significant bill prohibits farm trucks from being delayed by police and escorted miles off their route to be weighed. She successfully negotiated an exemption for farms and effectively opposed a dog-tethering bill and has been instrumental in efforts to reduce the registration rate for trailers and the elimination of the state’s capital gains on monies received from farmland preservation.”
“This is an incredible honor that I will cherish. This really does mean so much to me,” she said.
The Fred West family in Frankford was honored as the Farm Family of the Year.
“It’s a basic Sussex County farm,” said West, who began farming at the age of 14. “We never thought of ourselves as anything special.”
The West Farm includes a capacity of 140,000 broilers, as well as 2,500 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat.
“Fred and Betty have always expressed the opinion that our farmers and farming community are the greatest asset to Sussex County,” according to a tribute read during the banquet. “They were raised to look out for, and offer help to neighbors and friends. When Fred talks about people he admires, the conversation goes to how hard a worker they are and how they continue to work when everyone else has gone home.”
Retiring board of director members Burton Messick, Ted Bobola Jr., Bruce Dempsey and Robin Blendt were also honored.