Sussex County Farm Bureau honors agricultural excellence

November 6, 2023

The Sussex County Farm Bureau recognized several top honorees Oct. 7 at Memorial Volunteer Fire Department. A statewide winner will be announced during the Delaware Farm Bureau’s annual banquet in December.

Paul Parsons and his family in Dagsboro were honored as this year’s Sussex County Farm Family of the Year by the Sussex County Farm Bureau. He started his farm business in 1989 at age 10 with a simple roadside card table and umbrella. It has become one of the largest agritourism businesses in the county, offering field trip opportunities year-round, fall festivities, U-pick fields in the summer and Christmas trees in the winter. The farm has grown to include almost 250 acres, a farm store and a cafe.

The farm store is surrounded by fields of blueberries, pumpkins, peaches, apples, corn and strawberries as well as livestock, offering a peaceful reminder of farm life in the middle of the beachside bustle. Parsons also focuses on bringing ag to the larger community and helping build a community of farmers in the area. He often sells locally made or grown baked goods and other products in his store. His Delaware Farm Bureau membership has helped him network with other farmers and have a voice in legislative matters.

Jackie King of King Crop Insurance in Georgetown was recognized as this year’s Sussex County Distinguished Service to Agriculture honoree. She grew up on a family farm in Laurel and earned an agribusiness management degree from the University of Delaware, with an eye toward joining the crop insurance business established by her mother in 1967. King had many mentors on her journey, including her high school ag teacher Willis Kirk and then-extension agent Ed Kee at the Georgetown Research Farm. She gained experience working as a crop insurance agent recruiter, a processor at the regional office in Winston-Salem, N.C., and a loss adjuster in the Northeast. Finally, with her mother’s full support, she joined King Crop Insurance Inc. in 1987.

Thirty-six years later, she is still advocating for Delmarva farmers and is an active member and volunteer with the Delaware Farm Bureau. She currently serves on both the DEFB Foundation board of directors and the DEFB Promotion and Education Committee. King also also supports the Delaware FFA and 4-H organizations. Recently, King and her sisters created the King Foundation of Sussex to capture audio and video stories of Sussex County farm legacies to share with the public. Jackie and her husband, Kevin Rogers, reside in Rehoboth Beach, and Jamesville, Va.

The Sussex County Farm Bureau’s first Young Farm Family Achievement for Excellence in Agriculture recipient is Cory Atkins. With the help of his father Rudy, he started selling produce grown in his garden from a farmstand at the end of their lane at age 10 or 11. Eventually, he was farming 600 acres of corn, soybeans, green peas, snap beans and lima beans in addition to squash, watermelons and various other crops.

As a first-generation farmer, Atkins never let challenges dull his passion for the land and desire to keep learning, and with advice and guidance from mentors, friends, family and colleagues, he built a successful farming career. He graduated from Delaware Technical Community College with an associate degree in production agriculture, then joined a team in the Midwest for a sink-or-swim stint during the wheat harvest. That experience taught him how to combine knowledge and skills as a farmer, mechanic and agronomist with a focus on time management and relationship building in order to achieve success.

Atkins is a graduate of LEADelaware, a past member of the National Bio-Diesel Board, and currently serves as a Sussex County Farm Bureau director and the Delaware representative for the United Soybean Board. He is also a member of the Mid-Atlantic Soybean Association and chair (past president) of the Delaware Soybean Board. Over the years, he has worked with Southern States as a commercial applicator and Pictsweet as a field representative, seed dealer and community builder. He continues to farm in Sussex County with his wife Kate and their 3-year-old son Connor as his biggest cheerleaders and advocates.

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