DOVER, Del. — Two Delaware women have been honored by Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee for lifetimes of service.
Laura Hill of Lewes and Barbara Sapp of Milton were presented with the Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Agriculture during the Delaware Agricultural Industry Dinner, Thursday, Jan. 23.
“Thank you. What an honor to be presented with this award from my peers,” Hill said.
“I have enjoyed every minute of it,” Sapp said.
They are the first women to receive the award.
Sapp is a grain and vegetable farmer who has been a member of the Delaware Farm Bureau since 1964 and is a past member of the Nutrient Management Commission.
“When you think of Barbara, you think of the Farm Bureau,” Kee said. “She is always, always ready to serve.”
Hill, a grain, vegetable and poultry grower, serves as second vice president of the Delaware Farm Bureau and is a member of the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission.
“Laura Hill and Barbara Sapp are two of the most outstanding leaders in First State farming we have today,” Kee said. “Both have served their communities and state with great distinction as part of the Delaware Farm Bureau and representing agriculture on the Nutrient Management Commission. Their hard work and dedication to promoting and advancing agriculture are without peer.”
“Agriculture is a critically important part of Delaware’s economy and no one has carried that message forward more than Laura Hill and Barbara Sapp,” said Gov. Jack Markell.
Hill owns and operates the 2,500-acre Deerfield Farm along with her husband, Roland, and sons Roland III and Jerad. Their daughter, Jamie, resides in Pennsylvania and holds an agriculture degree from Delaware Valley College. The family grow grain and vegetables and also operate a 105,000-capacity poultry farm, Roland Hill Poultry Farm, growing for Mountaire Farms.
Hill has served on the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission since 2009, representing Sussex County poultry farmers. A Farm Bureau member since 1977 and longtime 4-H volunteer, she was the first woman to be elected as a Delaware Farm Bureau officer, in 2012. She has previously served as Sussex County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee chair and also serves as chair of the Farm Bureau Food Booth and Legislative Committees, and on the Farm Bureau Executive Committee.
Sapp grew up on a poultry farm and now grows peas, lima beans, wheat, barley, corn and soybeans with her husband, Richard Sapp Sr., son Richard Jr., daughter-in-law Michele and grandson Richard III.
Sapp has served the Farm Bureau as Sussex County Women’s Committee chair, State Women’s Committee chair and as director of both the Sussex County and state Farm Bureaus. She is vice chairwoman of the Farm Bureau Food Booth Committee, serves on the ag literacy committee and is a past member of the legislative committee. She is a former member of the Nutrient Management Commission.
The annual industry dinner is a celebration of Delaware agriculture. Hundreds gathered to sip apple cider from Delaware orchards and hear Delaware’s governor and officials praise the efforts of farmers.
The dinner is attended by numerous Delaware legislators; perhaps more than any other local event.
It came amid news of record harvests and sales for the state’s largest industry, including a record corn harvest of 166 bushels an acre last year. Earlier this week, the state announced a record year for the state’s farmers markets with $2.1 million in sales.
“You keep doing your job, which is growing the best, safest, tastiest food in the world,” said Sen. Tom Carper.
Carper also said the nation needs to break down barriers to allow American agriculture to sell its products in foreign markets.
“It isn’t enough to grow the best food and the safest food,” he said.
“We want you here,” said Sen. Chris Coons, praising the state’s farmers. He said he hoped an amendment allowing a crop insurance study for poultry farmers would be included in a Farm Bill.
There was high praise for Delaware farmers, but the dinner was also an opportunity to speak about pressing, often controversial issues facing agriculture.
Markell made a point of pushing for approval a controversial Allen-Harim poultry plant to be located in the former Vlasic pickle plant in Millsboro.
Michael Scuse, former Delaware Secretary of Agriculture and current U.S. undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, expressed his support for immigration reform and a Farm Bill.
“If we get a Farm Bill and meaningful immigration reform, then agriculture will have a very, very bright future,” said Scuse. “We need a Farm Bill sooner rather than later.”
He said he was gratified that a federal budget had passed, but said immigration reform and a Farm Bill remain vital to farmers. He said a Farm Bill is needed to help farmers in dire need of help, reform the dairy industry and market a record $140 billion in agricultural trade produced by America’s farmers.
A Farm Bill will help “keep that juggernaut moving,” he said.
Immigration reform is a controversial issue, but shouldn’t be, he said.
“We are so dependent on that workforce ... Agriculture is in desperate need of immigration reform,” he said.
Kenneth Wicks, president of the Delaware Council of Farm Organizations, said, “We need to know that lawmakers have our back.”