LAUREL — With the COVID-19 pandemic taking food off many families’ tables over the past year, the Vincent family of Laurel decided to lend a hand by participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
“Being a part of this program was extremely rewarding for us as a family and for our business, to know that we were making a difference,” Ray Vincent said. “All of the employees stepped up, as well as the family members, because we explained what was going on, what we were doing and what the consequences were if we didn’t do this for the people.
“It was absolutely remarkable. My wife uses the term ‘astonishing,’ but that probably is an understatement. But it was astonishing how we were able to get it all done, but it was bigger than just the Vincent Farms team, and it was because everyone knew what the overall objective was.”
After hearing about everything the Vincent family has been doing to help those suffering from food insecurity, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse recently made a surprise visit to the family farm.
It was there that Mr. Scuse rewarded the Vincents with the Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Delaware Agriculture, which he began giving to deserving individuals and families involved in the state’s agricultural industry in 2008.
Mr. Scuse recognized the Vincent family for its commitment to Delaware through agricultural production and equipment sales, for providing gainful employment to community members and for continuing to alleviate hunger through its participation in the Farmers to Families program.
“The Vincent family has a truly outstanding family-farming operation that has contributed tremendously to Delaware agriculture,” Mr. Scuse said. “The Vincent family is very deserving of the 2021 Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Delaware Agriculture, and it is my pleasure to present them with this honor.”
The Vincents are a fifth-generation farm family with a long history of growing food sold in retail markets up and down the Eastern seaboard and even into Canada. They grow watermelons, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and cantaloupes.
While the sixth generation is beginning to grow — currently, two young granddaughters are waiting their turns to get roles on the farm — the fourth generation, brothers Clay and Ray Vincent, along with their children, Jonah, Haley, Nathaniel, Josh, Connor and Erin, and even their mother, Carole, are all involved in the day-to-day operations of Vincent Farms.
“We are really blessed to be operating in the state of Delaware because there are a lot of states that don’t have the support at the state level that we do in Delaware, and that’s a testament to our Department (of Agriculture),” said Mr. Vincent. “We see it as a partnership, not a regulatory agency. I think everybody benefits when there is a partnership.”
When presented with the opportunity to participate in Farmers to Families, the farm applied because they recognized this was about directly feeding people struggling because of the pandemic.
In addition, Vincent Farms also helped boost the local economy by hiring more staff to process boxes, contracting with truck drivers to deliver food boxes in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions and providing more sales to their box supplier to meet the demand.
All the people who got the food out to individuals and families in need were involved in agriculture directly or indirectly. However, the production side is a very small part of the grand scheme of what agriculture is about today.
“There is demand for motivated, dedicated people in agriculture. We need young people in agriculture because there are plenty of opportunities,” Mr. Vincent said. “As digital technology gets more mainstream, the caliber of people we need in this industry will increase dramatically.
“We need to encourage education, and while many people like to go away to school and there are opportunities elsewhere, there are many opportunities right here in Delaware between the grain industry, the poultry industry and the vegetable industry.”
He added, “We are fortunate to be able to grow just about anything here that farmers can grow elsewhere in the country, and we are so close to the markets that there are so many opportunities for young people to get into agriculture and, ultimately, to help feed the world.”