Delaware January 25, 2017
These 11 Rare Photos Show Delaware’s Farming History Like Never Before
It might surprise the rest of the country to learn that Delaware is one of the most important farming states in the history of America. Once, we produced more peaches than anywhere else in the world. Since the 1920s, the entire Delmarva peninsula has been a major player in the poultry industry. Even Delaware’s horses have made history, with famous racehorses Afleet Alex and Barbaro each getting their start in
Wilmington, of all places! Take a look at these rare photos from the early 20th century that show Delaware agriculture like you’ve never seen it before, and take a minute to appreciate the longstanding history of farming in the First State.
1. Throughout Delaware's history, agriculture has been a tremendous part of the state's economy.
This aerial photo of a Delaware farm in the 1970s shows just how open the land once was.
2. These apple trees in Bridgeville are Loaded with Fruit!
Delaware's proximity to major cities made it a big fruit basket of the northeast. Newton Farm in Bridgeville was a thriving orchard when this photograph was taken.
3. Caulk Farm in Woodside was one of the most important dairy farms.
Even to this day, dairy farms are important to Delaware! Our state is home to some of the best creameries in the nation.
4. In fact, this was the typical Sussex County scene in the early 20th century.
Sprawling land and grazing cattle in Laurel show just how prevalent Delaware agriculture was.
5. At one point, Delaware grew more peaches than anywhere in the world.
These important fruits are what launched Delaware agriculture into the international spotlight! To this day, Delaware's orchards produce amazing peaches, and peach pie is our state's official dessert.
6. None of Delaware's agricultural success would be possible without dedicated farmhands, both migrant and local.
The influx of migrant workers to the state's farms is evident even today - take a look at the diversity of Georgetown for a present day example!
7. Picking crews helped small time farms expand into gigantic operations that supplied food for the region.
These pickers at Mifflin Farm in Dover helped Walter Mifflin's property become one of the premier produce farms in the state. Delaware agriculture relied heavily on manual labor at the time, and the majorty of workers were migrants.
8. Delaware's chicken industry is just as well known as the fruit products the state grows.
Delaware's expansive broiler chicken industry started accidentally in 1924, when small-time farmer Celia Steele ordered 50 chicks to her Ocean View farm. Due to a mistake in the order, 500 chicks arrived. Celia, never one to give up, decided that she would keep and raise these chicks, and let them grow until she sold them in 1924. From there, her operation continued to grow, and it wasn't long before Delmarva was the chicken capital of the United States. By 1925, Celia Steele was raising 10,000 chickens a year!
9. In fact, at one point, Delmarva supplied chicken to the entire East Coast.
George Ellis of Delaware created the "Delaware" breed of chicken in 1940. The Delaware quickly became the broiler chicken of choice for this part of the country. As chicken breeds evolved, the Delaware was replaced by Cornish-Rock hens, though the Delaware was still popular nearly 30 years after it was created. Now, the breed is considered "critically endangered."
10. Cattle and Chickens were not the only livestock that was important to Delaware agriculture.
Horses, like these two at Massey's Farm outside of Dover, were once working animals that carted Delawareans up and down the state. In present day, Kent County's Amish population still uses horses and buggies to travel around. Of course, horses are the foundation of the state's large equine industry, which supports the standardbred and thoroughbred racing worlds, as well as other disciplines like reining, dressage, and hunt seat riding.
11. This 1930s photo from the Kent County Fair shows just how important Delaware Agriculture was to life in the First State.
County and State Fairs alike always featured the latest in agricultural technology, with hopes to improve Delaware's industry year over year. The focus on farming certainly helped the state take hold of a brutal industry and helped the First State thrive in the agricultural world.
From small corner farms to major poultry operations, Delaware agriculture has been a large contributor to the state’s economy, though it has often been overlooked by people who see the First State has just a stretch of highway. Do you have any childhood memories of local farms? Share them in the comments!
If you’d like to reminisc more about Delaware’s farming past, check out these
mesmerizing Delaware farms.