Farmers asked to keep irrigation water off the roadways, motorists should be cautious

Even after all the rain this spring, soils in Delaware are dry, particularly sandy soil which cannot hold the moisture. With temperatures hovering at the 100-degree mark, water evaporates more quickly, too. So farmers are likely irrigating longer and more often.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture is reminding farmers to make sure their irrigation systems are not spraying water onto state highways and roads. DDA asks farmers to check the end guns on their pivots and make adjustments, if necessary, to minimize spraying the road.

Wet roadways reduce pavement friction, which could create a hazard for motorists, especially for motorcycle riders. A splattered windshield limits visibility, also creating a hazard, however briefly.

Richard Wilkins, Delaware Farm Bureau president, said, “As farmers, we try to optimize the quantity of inputs such as water we apply on our crops. We also should avoid unnecessarily putting water on the roadways where it could cause safety concerns for motorists. We will all be much better off by voluntarily avoiding situations that stimulate complaints rather than seeing regulations created that restrict our reasonable use of end guns near roadways.”

Sussex County Farm Bureau President Dale Phillips, who farms in Georgetown, said it is possible to turn irrigation systems off and back on at will, no matter what kind of system a farmer has.

“You used to be able to do it with a mechanical switch,” Phillips said. “Now most systems are controlled electronically, and you can program them, even with your phone, to stop the end gun at a given point and restart after the irrigation system has moved on.”

Paul Cartanza, Kent County farmer, agrees. “Farmers who have irrigation really need to be cautious, and so do drivers. Water on the road is dangerous for a car or motorcycle. The end gun should be turned off before it gets to the road and back on after it clears the road.”

University of Delaware Irrigation Engineer James Adkins said some older systems didn’t have a mechanism to turn the gun off.

Some systems use a ramp mechanism at the pivot point to control the gun, he explained. These ramps are not perfect. “They are usually slightly curved with the direction of the curve changing with system travel direction.  As a system ages, the curvature increases as the joints and alignment cams wear, causing the reduced accuracy of the end gun shutoff based on pivot point angle,” Adkins said.

“Some systems use a digital shaft encoder to control the gun. This method has the same susceptibility to wear as the ramp, with the added error of an encoder that may slip slightly on the shaft combined with gear train backlash. I recalibrate the shaft encoder on the Warrington (Irrigation Research) Farm system yearly and it is currently off by 3 to 4 degrees. That 4 degrees of error is 50-plus feet on a four-span machine and over 100 feet on an eight-span pivot.”

Adkins continued, “Center pivots are magnets for lightning.  Oftentimes a lightning strike will fry just the shaft encoder, leaving the pivot operating but with no end gun control.  I have had the shaft encoder electronics struck three years in a row, leaving me with a functional irrigation system without control of the end gun.”

Wind can also cause irrigation water to hit a road. “End guns throw water from 100 to 150 feet,” Adkins said. “The long range, combined with the 12-foot high mounting of the gun, makes the water very susceptible to wind drift 100 feet or more off target.”

Adkins added there is no warning if a part fails.

Motorists should be aware that farmers are using irrigation systems at this time of year, even after dark, and should practice caution if roadways are getting wet.


DFB, Nationwide and Schiff Farms present Grain Bin safety equipment to Harrington Fire Dept.

Harrington Volunteer Fire Company now has a grain bin rescue tube, thanks to Delaware Farm Bureau, Nationwide Agent Billy Staples and Schiff Farms Inc.

On July 11, some members of Harrington Volunteer Fire Company learned what it feels like to be trapped in a grain silo up to your waist in corn while other members were trained in how to use a grain bin rescue tube to safely get the victim out. The department was awarded a grain bin rescue tube, a portable cordless drill-powered grain auger and specialized training from Dan Neenan, director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.

The equipment and training have been offered for six years as a prize in a “Nominate Your Fire Department Contest” hosted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company in collaboration with industry leaders and agricultural professionals. Bridgeville Fire Department was one of the winners in 2017.

Of the 77 units distributed as of last year, four have been used to rescue someone.

When Delaware Farm Bureau learned that Nationwide had opened its program up to those who could raise $5,000 for the equipment and training, officers took steps to secure the life-saving equipment for a fire department in Kent County.

Volunteer Firefighter Makayla Parson is sunk “to her belly button” in corn, awaiting rescue.

Billy Staples, a Nationwide agent with offices in Salisbury and Harrington, agreed to put up half of the funding necessary. Staples said, “If we can help save or protect one life then that benefit is much greater than the investment into the equipment. We are happy to help a community and a way of life that does so much for us.”

T.J. Schiff of Schiff Farms Inc. in Harrington agreed to provide the other $2,500. Schiff Farms has several grain silos at its location on Route 13 and had several employees on hand for the training at the fire company. “I hope my guys get the idea of what risk is and that they will be scared to death. And I hope this tube gathers dust!

Delaware Ag Secretary Michael Scuse admitted, “I’m just as guilty as anyone of crawling into a grain bin. This is something that is desperately needed.  I hope we never have to use it, but if it’s needed, it’s there.”

Neenan brought a state-of-the-art grain entrapment simulator and rescue tube from Iowa to conduct the training session. He emphasized that one should never enter a grain bin when grain is moving and should use the “lock out, tag out” system to prevent equipment from being turned on accidentally. He added there should always be someone on the outside whose sole responsibility is to watch the person inside the tank.

Margie Chase, Nationwide Sponsor Relations Account Executive, serves as willing volunteer as Harrington firefighters learn how to assemble a grain bin rescue tube around a victim. It’s more difficult to accomplish while standing on a soda crate on top of a pile of corn!

“It takes 15 seconds to sink to your knees with an auger going,” he warned. “In 30 seconds, you can be in up to your waist.”

Never try to use mechanical devices such as a harness to pull a victim out of grain, he cautioned.

The rescue tube comes in 25-pound panels which are interlocked in a circle around the victim. Grain is then removed from inside the tube. If the victim is conscious, he can help. A small, portable grain auger powered by a cordless, brushless drill can help empty the grain more quickly.

Once the grain is down below the knees, a conscious victim can work his way out of the grain. Rescued victims should be taken to a hospital for evaluation, Neenan warned, even if they insist they are fine. Effects of “crush and compartment syndrome” appear even an hour later and can be fatal.

Neenan also discussed how and where to cut holes in the side of a grain bin if someone is completely submerged in grain. There is also a right way and a wrong way to move the spilled grain away from the area.

Firefighters use a portable grain bin auger to extract grain from inside the rescue tube where Cody Rash awaits rescue. Instructor Dan Keenan, right, keeps a close eye on the trainees.

He predicted that this year will be a bad year for grain engulfment in some areas of the country because of flooding. Wet grain gets moldy and clumps, clogging the auger.

Impressed by the demonstration, Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph Poppiti said, “Next year we would like to raise the money to place a rescue bin in northern Kent County or southern New Castle County.”

Anyone interested in helping with that project may call Poppiti at the Delaware Farm Bureau office at (302) 697-3183.

19 vie for privilege of kissing a pig at Delaware State Fair

Current Kent County Farm Bureau President Jacob Urian participated in the Kiss the Pig Contest in 2016.

“I’d do almost anything for 4-H,” asserted Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph Poppiti, who now finds himself heading the list of 19 volunteer fund raisers who are willing to kiss a pig at the Delaware State Fair, should they raise the most money for the scholarship program.

The event was initially started in 1993 and coordinated by the Harrington Business Association, explained Doug Crouse, state 4-H program leader, who has been involved with the contest from the beginning.

The purpose was to recognize youth exhibitors at the Delaware State Fair.

That first year, Crouse said, “we raised enough monies to support one $500 scholarship.  We have raised as much as $10,000.

“My goal is always in the $5,000 level each year and our participants have done well in meeting this goal.  During the past 25 years, we have given out scholarships totaling more than $136,500.”

Three years ago, the Delaware 4-H Foundation took over coordination of the contest. Crouse remains chairperson under the new group.

He said, “Each year I recruit 15 to 20 ‘willing’ participants (or potential pig kissers) to go out to raise monies to support college scholarships for deserving Delaware State Fair Junior Exhibitors.  These exhibitors are youth who exhibit in 4-H, FFA, Livestock and in Open Class Departments at the fair. One hundred percent of the monies raised by our participants each year is given back out in scholarships.”

Crouse also solicits business sponsorships each year to cover any expenses from the event. Anything left over from sponsorships are added to the scholarship dollars awarded.

The event is held each year on the free entertainment stage at the Delaware State Fair on the second Thursday of the fair, at 3 p.m. This year’s event will be held July 25.

Crouse said all the participants come to be interviewed and participate in fun activities on stage as part of the event. The event is well attended each year by those who come to support their candidate as well as the general audience who look forward to the event each year.

Earlier in the day, Crouse said, “we hold a reception for the participants and provide them drink and dessert. This is a requirement by the pig — candidates must be sweetened up in order for the pig to agree to kiss them!”

At the event, the individual who raises the most money gets to kiss the pig. Crouse said, “If we have corporate participants, we also have the top corporate participant kiss the pig. In addition, in order to not just let anyone not get involved, we started having the person who raises the least amount of money also have to kiss the pig.  Finally, based on their interviews and actions up on stage, we also have the audience’s favorite, chosen by applause, kiss the pig.”

Last year’s winner of the honor was Tammy Schirmer, Sussex County 4-H Administrative Assistant, who raised $2,700.

Schirmer said, “I was thrilled to kiss the pig at the state fair last year. I set a goal of $3,000  and I was overwhelmed by the response I received. Collecting so much means a great deal, as the funds went directly to college scholarships for Junior Exhibitors at the fair. One scholarship was awarded to our Sussex County youth. Supporting the program here at the University of Delaware, I have to pleasure of watching youth come out of their shell and blossom. 4-H is a wonderful program for our youth! I am so heartened to see other people share and realize this as well.

So, yes, this year I set a higher goal and for 4-H this year I will be glad to once again pucker up for a pig!”

Contest participants this year include: Joseph Poppiti, executive director of Delaware Farm Bureau; Chad Robinson, 150th City of Harrington Anniversary chairperson; Robert Brode, chief of Harrington Fire Company; Richie Smith, Farmington Mayor and deputy chief of Farmington Fire Company; Kelly Willey of Shore United Bank; Corporal Brad Reed and Corporal Shawn Jacobs of Harrington Police Department; Corporal Juanita Huey-Smith, Delaware State Police Community Outreach Unit and Mounted Patrol Unit; Angie Gooden, Kent County 4-H Livestock Committee; Ashley Gouge of New Castle County 4-H; Christina Gallo, 2019-20 Teacher of the Year, Lake Forest School District; Joseph Menard, Kent County 4-H Leader; McKenzie Ivory and Emily Emerson of Delaware FFA; Paige Davison, Delaware State Fair; Steve Walters of Harrington Raceway & Casino; and Jim Eastman of Harrington Senior Center. Last to enter the race are Donna and Jackie King  of King Crop Insurance.

Delaware Farm Bureau works to secure donation of grain bin rescue tube to Harrington Fire Company

On July 11, Harrington Volunteer Fire Department will be awarded a grain bin rescue tube, a portable cordless drill-powered grain auger and training in how to use them. Unlike Bridgeville Fire Company, which won those things in Nationwide’s Annual “Nominate Your Fire Department Contest,” in 2017, Harrington Fire Company will receive them through the generosity of Nationwide agent Billy Staples and Schiff Farms.

This year, in addition to the contest, Nationwide opened its program up to those who could raise $5,000 to be able to secure a grain bin rescue tube, grain auger and training. Through the first five years of this annual contest, rescue tubes have been presented to 77 fire departments across 24 states, but more are needed.

Brad Liggett, president of Nationwide Agribusiness, said, “Deploying a grain rescue tube is the only way to safely remove someone trapped in grain. Rescuers should never try to use mechanical devices such as a harness to remove a victim from grain.

He asserted: “Until we can convince all farmers and other grain handlers to develop a zero-entry mentality, we will continue to make tubes available.” 

Margaret Chase, Nationwide sponsor relations account executive, spread the word to Nationwide agents in her service area and mentioned it to Delaware Farm Bureau President Richard Wilkins. From there, Wilkins said, raising the $5,000 was a collaborative effort.

Chase, and then Joseph Poppiti, DFB executive director, contacted Billy Staples, a Nationwide agent with offices in Salisbury and Harrington, to see if he would be willing to put up half of the funding necessary. Staples responded, “If we can help save or protect one life then that benefit is much greater than the investment into the equipment. We are happy to help a community and a way of life that does so much for us.”

Staples’ Senior Associate Agent Michael Howard added, “We feel it’s very important for Harrington Fire Department to have a grain bin rescue tube since we are dead center in a very large farming area. It’s the perfect location to house such important safety equipment. Harrington is considered the Hub of Delaware as well as the farming community.”

Wilkins and DFB Past President Kitty Holtz were instrumental in securing the balance of funding from Schiff Farms Inc. in Harrington. Holtz and her husband, Dave, have been loyal customers of Schiff Farms since 1971.  “We have had a great business relationship with all three generations,” Kitty said. “We started with Walter Schiff, then Jim Schiff and now with T.J. Schiff.  I contacted T.J. Schiff about the grain bin rescue tube to see if they would be interested and he said yes.  This is a great community effort between Schiff Farms and Billy Staples Nationwide Agency to bring the equipment and training to Harrington.”

Dan Neenan, director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, will conduct the training on Thursday, July 11, at 6 p.m. at the fire department in Harrington. Farmers, grain handlers and emergency responders are welcome to attend. The fire company is located at 20 Clarke Street.

Neenan travels with a state-of-the-art grain entrapment simulator and rescue tube to conduct the training session. Loaded on a 20-foot trailer and able to hold approximately 100 bushels of grain, the simulator is the perfect training ground.

 When Wilkins approached Robert Brode, Harrington’s fire chief, about the training, Brode responded, “Yes, absolutely! We are more than willing to train with Dan Neenan and to keep the rescue tube on our apparatus to respond to any emergency involving grain silos.”

Brode expects about 20 of his 50 active volunteers to be on hand for the training.

DFB’s Poppiti said, “Next year we would like to raise the money to place a rescue bin in northern Kent County or southern New Castle County.”

 Anyone interested in helping with the project may call Poppiti at the Delaware Farm Bureau office at (302) 697-3183.

Beware of Asian Longhorned Tick

The Asian longhorned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, was first found in the United States in 2017. Since then it has been found in nine states: Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennesee, Virginia and West Virginia. If found in every state bordering Delaware, will it be long before one is found here?

The tick is native to Asia and is not normally found in the western hemisphere. In other countries, bites from these ticks have made people and animals very sick. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, as of the end of May no harmful germs have been found on the ticks that have been collected in the United States.

The first of the species found in the United States was on a sheep in New Jersey two years ago. It has since been found on people, wildlife and domestic animals, including cattle in Virginia. Virginia Cooperative Extension cautions that infested animals could lose weight and become anemic, and that milk output may be lowered and wool production reduced.

The hard tick species is small, about 1/8 inch in length, and is reddish-brown with no distinctive white markings. Photos of the Asian longhorned tick and preventive measures can be found online at

Female longhorned ticks can reproduce without the aid of a male, laying thousands of eggs.

The CDC recommends that any tick be removed from people or animals as quickly as possible. Save the tick in rubbing alcohol in a jar or ziplock bag. Then:

• Contact your health department about steps you can take to prevent tick bites and tickborne diseases.

• Contact a veterinarian for information about how to protect pets from ticks and tick bites.

• Contact your state agriculture department or local agricultural Extension office about ticks on livestock or for tick identification.

Delaware Farm Bureau groups present $13,000 in scholarships

J. Taylor Davis

Scholarships totaling $13,000 have been awarded to seven students by various groups within Delaware Farm Bureau.

The one-time Kenny Moore Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $2,000 was presented to Jonathan Taylor Davis of Smyrna. Son of Jay and Cindy Davis, this Smyrna High School graduate plans to attend Del Tech to major in energy management.

Hunter Willoughby

Hunter Willoughby received two scholarships, $1,000 each from New Castle County Women’s Committee and New Castle County Farm Bureau. Son of Michelle and Robert Willoughby Jr. of Middletown, he graduated from MOT charter school this month. Willoughby was active in 4-H for 10 years, started an FFA chapter at his school and served as president for four years. He will pursue a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources from University of Delaware, then perhaps go to medical school at Penn State.

Helena Kirk

Helena Kirk, the 2018-2019 DFB State Youth Ambassador, also received two $1,000 scholarships, one from the Young Farmers & Ranchers and one from New Castle County Farm Bureau. Kirk plans to attend East Carolina University to study construction management — a goal that started as a joke, that she might one day be her brother’s boss, but became something she really wanted to do. A graduate of Middletown High School, Kirk holds a Delaware FFA State Degree, was a U.S. Presidential Scholars Candidate and was a delegate to the Global Youth Institute.

Leslie Webb

Leslie Webb, daughter of Elaine Webb of Greenwood, won a $1,000 scholarship from Young Farmers and Ranchers and the Roland Garrison Scholarship from Kent County Farm Bureau in the amount of $1,000. A graduate of Lake Forest High, she plans to attend University of Delaware to study Environmental Engineering. She is the recipient of the Delaware FFA State Degree, Michael Everline 4-H Leadership Award and a number of impressive honors, including serving as Delaware Dairy Princess.

Taylor Cartanza

The Women’s Committee $2,500 scholarship was presented to Taylor Cartanza, daughter of Paul Cartanza Jr. and Kristin Dixon of Dover. Cartanza plans to attend University of Delaware to study Agriculture and Natural Resources, then return to the farm to work with her father and her extended family. The family’s membership in Delaware Farm Bureau dates back to her great-grandfather.

Spring Vasey

The Sussex Women’s $1,000 scholarship was presented to Spring Madison Vasey of Lincoln.

Vasey graduated from home school studies in May 2017 and has been attending Del Tech,  majoring in dairy science and animal science. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in those fields with an emphasis on animal reproduction and biology in order, perhaps, to work as an embryologist. Daughter of Jody and Dean Vasey, she has been active in 4-H for 14 years, served as president of the Delaware State Fair Junior Board and Delaware Dairy Princess.

Gabriella Morelli

The Sussex County Farm Bureau presented a $500 scholarship to Gabriella B. Morelli, daughter of Joseph and Farrah Morelli of Delmar. A graduate of Delmar High School, Morelli plans to attend Louisiana State University to study landscape architecture.

Kathryn Simpson

The Kent County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee gave a $1,000 scholarship to Kathryn Simpson of Houston. She is the daughter of William Timothy and Michele Winkler Simpson. Having graduated from Lake Forest High School June 2017, Simpson graduated from Del Tech this May with a 4.0 average. She will be enrolling this fall in Wilmington University to study agriculture business and organizational management. Simpson was a class officer all four years of high school, was active in FFA, the Delaware State Fair Junior Board and assistant show secretary for State Fair Beef Department.

Grant expedites Delaware Farm Bureau ‘Book Barn’ project

Forest Oak Elementary - Stewart.jpg
Stewart Ramsey, far right, New Castle County farmer, read to a class of third graders at Forest Oak Elementary in Newark one of the “ag accurate” books being placed in elementary school libraries across the state by Delaware Farm Bureau. On hand for the kick-off of the Book Barn project partially funded by a USDA grant, were, standing at back, from left, teacher Martha Eldreth, Ashley Melvin from Delaware Forest Service, Principal Erin NeCastro, Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph Poppiti, Jo-Ann Walston of Delaware Department of Agriculture and Laura Simpson, Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation Manager. Seated with the students are Delaware State FFA Vice President Jillian Cannon, left, and President Tim Mulderig.

The Delaware Farm Bureau will be placing more than a dozen “ag accurate” books into every elementary school library in the First State within the next three years. In addition, to house the books in each library, DFB will provide a custom-made set of shelves called a “Book Barn.”

The Book Barn project was begun in New Castle County, according to NCC Farm Bureau President Stewart Ramsey, who chairs the Promotion and Education Committee. At an American Farm Bureau Convention several years ago, the Delaware delegation saw a similar project undertaken by another state Farm Bureau. Ramsey’s father-in-law made the first Book Barn. Another NCC farmer, Jimmy Correll, built a few more that winter, and since then Smyrna FFA has built additional barns, with materials paid for by the Farm Bureau. Gradually, as funds were available to purchase books, these have been placed into schools.

The project now has been accelerated, thanks to a “specialty crop” grant from the USDA, administered by Delaware Department of Agriculture. Specialty crops are, in general, fruits and vegetables as opposed to “row crops” of grain such as corn, soybeans and wheat. Christmas trees and honey bees are included.

With the grant funds, the DFB has purchased more than 1,000 copies of “ag accurate” books appropriate for children about crops grown in Delaware, such as apples, cranberries, grapes, green beans, peas, spinach and zucchini. A few of the books cover multiple crops, including “How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?” and “Who Grew My Soup?” Also included are several of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s “Book of the Year,” selections, including this year’s “Right This Very Minute” by Lisl H. Detlefsen. This book follows children through a day of meals, snacks and dessert to explore what farmers and ranchers are doing “right this very minute” to put food on our tables.

The expedited effort to place a Book Barn in every school began last month at Forest Oak Elementary School in Newark. DFB representatives, FFA state officers and guests from the Delaware Department of Agriculture were on hand as Ramsey read aloud the book “Green Bean! Green Bean!” to Martha Eldreth’s third grade class assembled in the library.

Ramsey questioned the students about their experience with growing plants and surveyed them on which vegetables they liked to eat. He shared information about his farm and told the students how technology helps farmers. As an example, he described how robots are used to milk dairy cows on a neighbor’s farm.

The children were full of questions for Ramsey, too. They all agreed they had learned something new about agriculture and would be willing to try a new food that they have not eaten.

Ramsey said later, “It is of paramount importance to engage with young folks at an early age, to help them understand what happens on a farm and where food comes from. Hopefully, they carry that home and educate their parents. That sounds crazy, but in today’s age and our area of world, a lot of folks have lost touch with where food comes from and don’t think farmers and farms are all that important, or even a necessary part of the food process. They think food comes from store or factory.”

Ramsey added he hoped the students would be interested enough that their parents would look for new fruits or vegetables at the store, or better yet, at a farmer’s market or farm stand.

He described how he loves seeing “the light come on” when children touring his farm watch him go into a corn field and pick an ear of corn, then pull back the husk. It’s then that they realize they’re looking at a field full of corn on the cob!

Book Barns were delivered to Rehoboth Elementary on March 28 and to Shields Elementary in Lewes on April 2. At Rehoboth, 72 fourth graders went outside on a beautiful spring day to hear Sussex County Farm Bureau’s Women’s chair Connie Fox read “Right This Very Minute.” At Shields Elementary, Nancy King of King Crop Insurance in Georgetown read “Green Bean! Green Bean!” to 95 fourth graders as they ate lunch in the cafeteria. The students each were given a packet of green bean seeds and recipes using spring crops to take home.

Agriculture is an $8 billion industry in the First State, accounting for 30,000 Delaware jobs. There are 2,500 farms in the state, covering some 500,000 acres. Delaware Farm Bureau feels it is important for students to learn about agriculture, and these colorful books are a good introduction, Ramsey said.

Principals of elementary schools may call Heather Kline at the DFB office, (302) 697-3183, to schedule delivery of a Book Barn during the next school year.