DOVER, Del. — Richard and Keith Carlisle of Greenwood received the Delaware Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award at the recent Delaware Agricultural Industry Dinner at Dover Downs.

More than 400 people attended the dinner, which brings together the farm community for a night of food and fellowship.

“Keith and Richard Carlisle have been actively serving and leading Delaware’s farming community for five decades,” said former Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. “They have been involved in almost every agricultural organization in the state, helped their fellow farmers selflessly and tirelessly worked to promote agriculture. They have been innovators and supporters of research, and have always stood ready to lend a helping hand.”

Kee reminisced about going to visit the Carlisle farm early in his career and returning early in the morning to his sleeping wife.

“‘Where have you been?’ she’d ask. Oh, I’ve been out with the Carlisle boys,” he said.

The Carlisle brothers grew up in a family whose farming roots in Delaware date to the Civil War. They have grown corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, lima beans, sweet corn, peppers, cucumbers and watermelons on the farm.

The brothers have also earned the Distinguished Service Award from the Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association of Delaware.

Richard Carlisle has served on the Delaware Soybean Board, held offices in the Delaware Farm Bureau and been active with the University of Delaware’s Ag Alumni Association.

Keith Carlisle has served as Delaware’s representative on the board of directors of Agway and on the board of directors for the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village. He also earned the University of Delaware’s Agricultural Alumni Award for Outstanding Service, the Worrilow Award.

This year’s dinner was the last for Kee as agriculture secretary. He served as ag secretary for eight years under Gov. Jack Markell. He said his first job was pulling weeds from okra for Halsey Knapp, who owned Nassau Orchards near Lewes for decades. “It has been a great run. I will not be a stranger,” he said.

Kee will be succeeded by Michael Scuse, former acting USDA secretary, who served as Delaware secretary of agriculture for Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

Kenny Bounds and Austin Short, deputy ag secretary, are expected to be deputy secretaries.

Numerous state legislators, Gov. John Carney, Lieutenant Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Sen. Tom Carper and State Auditor Tom Wagner were in attendance.

Carney told the audience that agriculture “really is a way of life” in the state.

Carper compared Delaware’s farm community to a small boxer who knocks out a much larger opponent.

“We punch way above our weight,” he said.

That’s because despite it’s small size, 30,000 people in Delaware work in agriculture or forestry. Sussex County is the nation’s leader in broiler chicken production and the state leads the nation in number of acres of lima beans harvested, according to Delaware Department of Agriculture statistics.

Ken Wicks, president of the Delaware Council of Farm Organizations, said the recent election helped make rural America feel like it had a voice again.

He said he saw a little girl wearing a shirt that read, “I farm. I vote.”

“That said it all for me,” Wicks said.

Wicks called for an updated Farm Bill, regulatory relief, improved immigration policies and changes in trade policies in order to help farmers in Delaware and across the nation.

The evening also included a spirited auction of a lithograph of the Delaware Blue Hen signed by the late artist Richard Sloan. The art was signed by six living Delaware governors: Jack Markell, John Carney, Dale Wolf, Tom Carper, Ruth Ann Minner and Mike Castle.

It was also signed by former Gov. Dave Buckson, who died just two days before the annual dinner.

Sloan has traveled across the country to paint each of the country’s 50 state birds. The attractive print quickly paired two determined bidders against each other. Farmer, auctioneer and state Rep. Dave Wilson auctioned off the lithograph to benefit the Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation.

Mark Collins won with a $5,100 bid. The Farm Bureau Foundation helps educate schoolchildren on agricultural careers as well as teaching them where their food comes from.

At one point, Michael Scuse chipped in another $100 to encourage the bidding to go higher. Wilson then urged him to contribute money to the other bidder.

Collins accepted the print and graciously donated it to Kee.

“I am overwhelmed by that,” Kee said, joking that the best part was that some of the money came from Scuse.

Michael Short is a freelance writer in Delaware. He can be reached at michaelshort1

Photos by Michael Short

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This lithograph. signed by the late artist Richard Sloan, was auctioned off for $5,100 during the annual Delaware Agriculture Industry Dinner on Jan. 19. The lithograph is signed by six of seven living Delaware governors and former Gov. Dave Buckson, who died earlier this month. The print was bought by Mark Collins.

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Mark Collins, left, bought this signed lithograph at auction on Jan. 19 to benefit the Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation. Collins paid $5,100 for the lithograph of a blue hen, Delaware’s state bird, and then proceeded to donate it to outgoing Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee Kee. From left are Mark Collins, Dawn Collins and Ed Kee.

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