Delaware Gov. John Carney and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long were on hand Oct. 14 at the New Castle County Farm Bureau banquet in Townsend to see state Rep. Quinton Johnson accept the NCCFB’s 2019 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, and to salute NCCFB’s Farm Family of the Year, the William Walther family, for continuing the farming tradition despite pressure from developers.
The Walther family is testimony to the idea that farming is a family affair and a passion, said NCCFB President Stewart Ramsey in his presentation. Five generations in the Walther family have farmed in Bear, and William “Bill” Walther has been on the family farm all his life.
The farm was purchased in 1876 by Walther's grandfather. His son, William, took over from him, and then Bill Walther took over on the passing of his father. Walther and his older sister, Sylvia, farmed together until she passed away in 2014. They also farmed three family members’ properties on Walther Road until they were sold. After that, the Walthers discontinued the dairy business and turned to beef cattle and produce. About this time, Walther’s nephew, Wally Gott, and his sons, Fran and Matt, came onboard to help with the operation.
About 10 years ago, Walther turned over the cattle and field crops operation to Wally and his oldest son; Walther continues to run the produce business.
The Walthers have been involved with 4-H since 1929 when the Bear 4-H Club was started. It still meets on the farm. Club founder Sylvia Walther, “a pillar in the 4-H community for 65 years,” was inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame.
The Walthers have allowed 4-H kids to house livestock projects on the farm and leases cattle to Bear club members to work with and show.
“The Walthers have done more in teaching urban people about agriculture than just about anyone in the state,” said Bill Powers, Delaware Farm Bureau second vice president. “Most people don’t open their farms like that, and the family is still doing it.”
The Walther family and their outreach to the non-farming public makes them a valuable asset for New Castle County and Delaware agriculture.
Powers introduced Rep. Johnson, recipient of the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. Johnson was elected in 2008 to the Delaware House of Representatives for the 8th District, which includes the greater Middletown area. In the past 11 years he has served as a member of many important committees and chaired some of them.
Johnson has sponsored or cosponsored more than 20 legislative actions that demonstrate his broad commitment to the county and state’s agricultural industries. His actions helped keep agriculture economically viable and protected our most valuable resource, farmland. The list of bills and bond actions covers farmland preservation, aquaculture, horseracing, seed viability regulations, research and others.
Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science from the Salisbury State University Perdue School of Business. A former farmer, Johnson and his wife, Julie, started Tender Loving Kare Child Care and Learning Center in 1994. They now have three locations.
In his county president’s report, Ramsey invited the audience to the state Farm Bureau’s 75th Anniversary gala on Dec. 7. He also addressed the need to preserve farmland and the fact that a farmer often depends on the value of his or her land for retirement. Property value heavily depends on the ability to develop it, he said. A moratorium on septic tanks being discussed in the county would “rob some farmers of their 401K,” he said. “We will do everything we can to make that not happen,” he added.
His final point was the present challenge in New Castle County wherein farm structures are being taxed 700% higher than in Sussex County.
“This is something we have to get fixed,” said Ramsey. “If Farm Bureau cannot fight to the death on an issue this important, it shouldn’t be an entity.”
“It is wonderful that we in Delaware have one of the leading ag land preservation programs, one of the best. It is so popular and so many farmers want in that a bidding process was begun, in which farmers donate a percentage of their farm’s development rights value in order to preserve their farm,” said Delaware Farm Bureau State President Richard Wilkins. “I commend Gov. Carney on what he has done to help keep Delaware agriculture profitable. There’s a decent living to be had, but we have to maintain a viable ag sector.”
In a brief business meeting, Ryan Greer was elected to a three-year term on the state board; a slate of seven were elected to a similar term as county directors; and 55 delegates were chosen to attend the Delaware Farm Bureau annual convention on Dec. 3.
Powers presented certificates and a cash prize to Rate of Gain winners: Liam Phipps, son of William and Robina Phipps, for his 4-H sheep; Grace Vallely, daughter of Marjorie and James Vallely, for her FFA sheep; Anna Holloway, daughter of Josh Holloway, for her FFA swine; and James Seward, son of Ashley Seward, for his FFA goat.