Smyrna family among 3 in state honored for ‘Century Farms’

DOVER — Family tradition speaks loudly when it comes to passing down farmhouses, equipment and farmlands from generation to generation.

In fact, Francis “Bud” O’Neill said that he feels a certain degree of responsibility to his forefathers’ and their dreams for keeping his family farm up and running near Smyrna.

It is that combination of tradition and responsibility that helped the O’Neill farm as well as two others in Sussex County gain recognition as Century Farms.

They were honored by the Delaware Department of Agriculture on Tuesday at the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village.

The O’Neills, Lewes’ Joseph family and Greenwood’s Warfel family brought the list of Century Farms in Delaware up to 133. The Century Farm Awards have been presented annually since 1987.

2016 Century Farm Award for the O'Neill family from Smyrna, from left, State Senator F. Gary Simpson, Frances O'Neill lll, Linda O'Neill, Michael O'Neill, Jase Michaud,3, Kellie O'Neill Michaud, Rick Michaud, Luke Michaud, 10, and State Rep. Charles 'Trey' Parade at the Delaware Agricultural Museum on Tuesday.

2016 Century Farm Award for the O’Neill family from Smyrna, from left, State Senator F. Gary Simpson, Frances O’Neill lll, Linda O’Neill, Michael O’Neill, Jase Michaud,3, Kellie O’Neill Michaud, Rick Michaud, Luke Michaud, 10, and State Rep. Charles ‘Trey’ Parade at the Delaware Agricultural Museum on Tuesday.

To become a Century Farm, a property 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.

Keeping the family tradition up and growing is something that Mr. O’Neill said he doesn’t take lightly.

The O’Neills (Bud and his wife Linda) own a 183-acre farm near Smyrna that has been in the family since 1916. It is currently producing corn, soybeans, wheat and barley.

“When my grandmother got the farm she used to comment that it was a beautiful farm and she said, ‘It’s not my farm, it’s my father’s — I’m just a steward,’” he said. “So we kind of carried that on with the same thing and we’re just stewards of my great-great grandfather’s vision and dream. It’s historical, too.”

The trio of families all received an engraved pewter tray, a certificate, legislative tributes and a nice blue-and-white Century Farm sign to place on their properties.

The Joseph family (Harry E. and Cheryl Joseph) owns a 162-acre farm near Milton that has been in the family since 1915. It is now producing grain, baby lima beans, sweet peas and other products.

Meanwhile, the Warfel family (Everett and Marlene Warfel) has owned a 115-acre farm near Greenwood since 1915 that is now producing timber.

“This is always one of our favorite events of the year,” said Austin Short, Delaware’s deputy secretary of agriculture. “Anytime you can recognize family business on a state family farm that’s been operating continuously for 100 years in the same family, that’s quite an accomplishment.

“These farms are all active and working, producing fruit, vegetables, grain, livestock and poultry and contributing to Delaware’s $1.3 billion agricultural economy.

“We look forward to adding even more farms to this distinguished list in the years to come and for all of our Century Farms to thrive and become 200-year farms.”

As Mr. Short discussed how amazing it was for a family to operate a farm for 100 years or more, he also noted that in 1916 — 100 years ago — that Woodrow Wilson was president, gasoline cost 22 cents a gallon, bread cost seven cents per loaf and the Chicago Cubs played their first game at Wrigley Field.

The O’Neill family also received the Historic Structures Award for buildings constructed prior to the 1916 purchase, including the main farmhouse, a milkhouse, smokehouse and storage building.

The original dinner bell remains in use today.

“The main farmhouse is beautiful,” Mr. O’Neill said. “Whoever built that was way ahead of their time. It’s still a beautiful farm and we’ve been thinking about 100 years coming up for a few years now. It’s quite an honor. Hopefully, we can keep it going until we reach 200 years.”

Those are the kinds of words that Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee likes to hear.

“Our children and grandchildren depend upon farm families such as these to ensure that we are producing enough food to feed our nation,” Mr. Kee said. “These farms are a shining example of how our heritage, ingenuity and family spirit can truly make a difference in our culture and economy.”

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