History & Heritage in the 1900s

The Cooperative Extension movement has its roots at land-grant universities such as the Tuskegee Institute, teaching farming and running an experimental station. Extension departments continued conducting research, education and outreach for many decades.

The extension system was formalized with the 1914 Smith-Lever Act, which formed a partnership between the federal government and the agricultural colleges, focusing on applying research and demonstrating best practices in agriculture and agricultural technology. Extension services rose to the challenge during World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.

Smith-Lever: Today, Delaware State University and the University of Delaware are partners in Delaware Cooperative Extension, focusing on agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences and 4-H and youth development.

In 1941, the University of Delaware purchased the Tyndall farm west of Georgetown to develop an agricultural extension and research station, which for years was known as the "Substation." In 2006, it was renamed the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in honor of the former Delaware governor and his wife.

Elbert "Bert" Carvel married Ann Valiant, whose family owned a fertilizer company that served the Delmarva Peninsula. Carvel, of Laurel, ran the company, was elected lieutenant governor in 1944 and eventually elected governor in 1948 and again in 1960. Gov. Carvel served on the University of Delaware's board of trustees from 1945 to 1985.

The Kent-Sussex Fair
Discussions around a pot-belly stove in Harrington in the winter of 1919 led to the purchase of 30 acres for $6,000, and the opening of the first fair on July 27, 1920. Admission was 25 cents for children and 50 cents for adults. The fair prospered and grew to become what is now the Delaware State Fair, covering more than 300 acres and attracting more than 300,000 visitors a year. As an annual centerpiece of farm life, the fair is where children exhibit 4-H projects, compete in livestock contests, and make lifelong friends with others from around the state.

Poultry's Rise
The modern broiler industry had its origins with Cecile Steele's 1923 experiment on her farm near Ocean View. She and her husband expanded their business by using larger houses to raise their birds. Today, Sussex County is the No. 1 county in the United States for poultry production. Poultry accounts for more than 70 percent of Delaware's annual farm cash receipts. A substantial portion of the state's grain production (corn and soybeans) also helps support the industry.

Land of Holly
To supplement their seasonal income, many farmers began collecting holy from nearby woods to make Christmas wreaths and other decorations. This led to a boom in the 1920s and 1930s that saw Delaware become the center of a thriving industry that lasted until plastic imported wreaths flooded the market. Holly's commercial importance spurred the General Assembly to name it the state tree in 1939.