The Man We All Called Pop-Pop Bob

Everyone who knew him, loved him. He was so personable, loving, and outgoing. He smiled all the time. He loved his community, baseball, church, fire hall, 4-H, the DE State Fair, and family. But above all, he loved his grandkids. For almost 35 years, he was a second dad to me. I loved to hear him talk about growing up in Hickman, making scrapple with his dad, and his time working on base.

Even though he wasn’t a farmer, Pop-Pop had a love for agriculture and farm crops. This stemmed from his dad (Floyd Messick), owning a produce stand in Hickman and driving truck crops to the city with Mom-Mom’s dad (Hugh Vincent). This may help explain Pop-Pop’s role as Superintendent of the Farm Products building at the DE State Fair each year. One of the ways I connected with him more recently was through the Milford Farmer’s Market. For the past 10 years, he showed up on Saturday morning in Milford to help my Mom sell produce. He would sit in a chair in the back and cup vegetables, while customers sat with him. He loved the conversation, hugs, and smiles from so many familiar faces he saw each week. I joked that I’m not sure who was more popular-our sweet corn or Pop-Pop Bob. But in recent weeks I know for a fact now, it was Pop-Pop. Thank you so much for all the concerned questions about him from customers in recent weeks.

So here’s to the man who painted my bedroom Punky Brewster colors (each wall was a different color), took us grandkids to the beach every Labor Day and taught me how stand a wave, let us celebrate the last day of school by inviting friends over to swim in his pool, taught me how to drive on the Nine Foot Road well before I was 16, came to all my high school ball games, drove me to Springfield, MA for a FFA contest when no one else would, loved to hug and squeeze me, and danced with me at my wedding. No matter what I did, he loved me unconditionally and made me feel important. He will never be forgotten and I’m proud to call him mine. Baby Wright may never meet him but I will be sure to teach him about the loving man we all called “Pop-Pop Bob”.

Robert Eugene Messick

April 8, 1930 – June 28, 2014

This sailboat was filled with sand and had our names on it.

This sailboat was next to Pop-Pop’s pool in his backyard. He filled it with sand and had our names on the side.

This pretty much sums him up.

May 1984. This pretty much sums him up.

Sitting on the top row of Woodbridge Elementary School bleachers. I have no idea what we were watching. I am the one underneath the pom-pom. (Christy, Derek, Pop-Pop, Devon, Danna)

Sitting on the top row of Woodbridge Elementary School bleachers. I have no idea what we were watching but doesn’t he look like a big kid sitting there with us? Can you guess who is underneath the pom-pom? (Christy, Derek, Pop-Pop, Devon, Danna)

In the old 4-H Building at the fair. Janelle and I just gave our sewing demonstration. (Pop-Pop Bob, Janelle, Christy, Mom-Mom Ruth and Mom-Mom Ann)

In the old 4-H Building at the fair. Janelle and I just gave our sewing demonstration. (Pop-Pop Bob, Janelle, Christy, Mom-Mom Ruth and Mom-Mom Ann)

This was at Girl's State in 1997. He came to see me sworn in as Girl's State Auditor. (Danna, Pop-Pop Bob, Christy, Pop-Pop Bill)

This was at Girl’s State in 1997. He came to see me sworn in as Girl’s State Auditor. (Danna, Pop-Pop Bob, Christy, Pop-Pop Bill)

He recovered well from heart surgery in 1999.

He recovered well from heart surgery in 2001.

Delaware State Fair in 2002. He loved to stick his tongue out at us.

Delaware State Fair in 2002. He loved to stick his tongue out at us.


He loved the DE State Fair.

He loved the DE State Fair and served as Superintendent of the Farm Products building.

The was at the Milford Farmer's Market one year. He loved to help us every Saturday morning. And the customers loved him.

This was at the Milford Farmer’s Market in 2008. He loved to help us sell produce every Saturday morning. He helped Mom initially, when she started at the market 14 years ago. The customers loved to see him and often sat down with him or gave him hugs. Thank you to all the customers who have asked for him this year.

Dec. 2008. Our annual shot of all the grandkids.

Dec. 2008. Our annual shot of all the grandkids at Christmas.

Sept. 22, 2012. At our wedding, right after the anniversary dance, which they won. It's one of the only pictures I have of all 4 of us together.

Sept. 22, 2012. At our wedding, right after the anniversary dance, which they won (they were married for 64 years). It’s one of the few pictures I have of all 4 of us together.



Plug for Annie’s Project 2013

Annie's Project 2012-Georgetown, DE graduates

Annie’s Project 2012-Georgetown, DE graduates

This is a picture of the 2012, Georgetown, DE “Annie’s Project” graduates.  This time last winter, I signed up for the short course and it was a great decision and time well spent. The course is held one night a week, for 8 weeks, with locations in Delaware and Maryland. The closest location for me was at the UD Carvel Research Center in Georgetown, DE, which it will be held again this year. Topics ranged from estate planning, tax considerations for farm businesses, farm transfers, farm insurance, and credit reports. It’s a great starting point for anyone who is potentially interested in starting or operating an ag-related business. I also walked away with a large binder of information, new friends, and a wealth of information. This year’s class starts on Jan. 30 and the cost is only $75. This includes dinner! Winter is the perfect time to do something like this. Just do it!

Even better news is there is a “Annie’s Project II” being offered as well; focus will be on retirement, succession, and estate planning. I plan to wait a few years to take this one.

Any questions? Call Tracy Wootten at 302-856-7303 or see UMD link for Annie’s Project here.

New Year, New Session, & New Ag Committee Assignments

Another election year has come and gone. It was a big one for our state legislature, as every seat was up for grabs due to the 10 year census and the redrawing of district lines. In addition, many long-time incumbents retired, including former Senator George Bunting (D) who was the long-time chair of the Senate Ag Committee. These changes have definitely altered the face of our legislature and I’m not referring to party affiliation but more so age. New leadership has been chosen in each chamber and committees assigned. Here’s a rundown, relative to Agriculture, of course.

The Senate: 13 Democrats, 8 Republicans

New Leadership:

  • President Pro Temp: Patricia Blevins (D)
  • Majority Leader: David McBride (D)
  • Majority Whip: Margaret Rode Henry (D)
  • Minority Leader: Gary Simpson (R)
  • Minority Whip: Gregory Lavelle (R)

Senate Ag Committee Members:

  • Bruce Ennis, Chair (D)
  • Bethany Hall-Long (D) (new to committee)
  • Robert Venables (R)
  • Gary Simpson (R)
  • Gerald Hocker (R) (newly elected; previously served in House) (new to committee)

The House: 27 Democrats, 14 Republicans

New Leadership:

  • Speaker of the House: Pete Schwartzkopf (D)
  • Majority Leader: Val Longhurst (D)
  • Majority Whip: John Viola
  • Minority Leader: Dan Short
  • Minority Whip: Deborah Hudson

House Ag Committee members:

  • John Atkins, Chair (D)
  • Quinn Johnson, Vice-Chair (D)
  • William Carson (D)
  • W. Charles “Trey” Paradee (D) (newly elected) (new to committee)
  • Rebecca Walker (D)
  • Micheal Mulrooney (D)
  • Dave Wilson (D)
  • Harvey Kenton (R)
  • William “Bobby” Outten (R)
  • Harold Peterman (R)
  • Jeffrey Spiegelman (R) (newly elected) (new to committee)

Important to note: The 147th General Session begins on January 8, 2013. The House Ag Committee plans to meet every Wednesday from 4-5:30 pm when in session. Other committees to watch, relative to ag, would be the Natural Resources committee. See a list of all House committees here. See a list of all Senate committees here.

Granted, I know Ag isn’t the most popular committee and in past years it hasn’t seen much legislation introduced but you never know what 2013 and this new session will bring. Plus there are many things going on federally that may impact state budgets and regs. I will say that I was hoping newly elected Sen. Ernie Lopez would be on the Senate Ag Committee; however, I’m happy he landed on the Education and Natural Resources committees. Better luck next time, I guess.

Here’s to 2013 and what this new session will bring………Happy New Session & New Year!

Honoring Heroes of the Past, Present, & Future

As my first guest blogger, Ms. Stefanie Ralph, originally wrote the following blog at the end of October, during the infamous Hurricane Sandy.  I asked Stef to simply share her thoughts on the honor of being teacher of the year as an agriscience teacher. Because of several other themes and events going in November, I was planning to post this around the week of Dec. 10 which is when another terrible event with the name “Sandy” took place in Newtown, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary. I couldn’t even watch tv all weekend, as my stomach and heart ached for those little kids and educators who were victims that day. I’m sure you felt the same way.

There are many lessons learned from that day, even in our own state, as I’ve noticed legislators have begun to pay attention and may propose related legislation to improve safety in DE schools.  But hopefully everyone just realized that educators play such a significant part in the upbringing of our future generation. Many teachers sacrifice so much to give students an opportunity to learn. Stefanie is one of those teachers. But too often, many teachers are the unsung heroes. So, I dedicate this post to all teachers and the memory of those lost on Dec. 14, 2012.

Ms. Stefanie Ralph, Agriscience Teacher and 2012 Smyrna School District Teacher of the Year

Ms. Stefanie Ralph, Agriscience Teacher and 2012 Smyrna School District Teacher of the Year

Biography: Stefanie is the 2012 Teacher of the Year for Smyrna School District, as an Agriscience teacher for Smyrna Middle School. I was so happy to see her in the running for the overall DE Teacher of the Year not only because I know her personally but because I’m so proud to see Agriscience represented among 19 top-notch candidates. Stefanie went to Lake Forest High School and was a respected student, field hockey player and FFA officer. She later went to University of Delaware and majored in ag education. Stefanie is also a familiar face at the DE State Fair and loved to show goats. You can now find her in the sheep barn, ag commodities building, or the FFA building. Did I mention she was one of my first students when I taught ag Lake Forest? I’ll skip to the next part…..Although Stef did not win the overall DE Teacher of the Year Award, she represented her district and ag well. I’m sure she’s looking forward to 2013 as she will no longer be a bachelorette! Good luck and thank you for teaching ag to our future generation! Please also see this great article on Stef by UD College of Ag & Natural Resources and a nice Q&A format from the Smyrna-Clayton Sun Times 

By Stefanie Ralph:

It’s an incredible honor to be selected as Smyrna School District Teacher of the Year.  Being chosen as the District Teacher of the Year is unquestionably the most extraordinary honor of my career, and I wish to express my gratitude.  I think, at some point, every teacher begins to question if they’re doing a good job, especially since the work often goes unrecognized. Being selected restores my confidence as a teacher, and it’s encouraging to know that my colleagues believe that I’m doing a good job. The entire faculty at Smyrna is highly qualified and all go above and beyond the call of duty; so I’m truly ecstatic I was even nominated. I’m deeply humbled and pleased to receive this honor. Teaching is a profession that serves all aspects of a community and I’m appreciative of all that public education has given me over the years, and I’m honored to have this opportunity to serve others in the same way.  When the district called my name, I was in true disbelief and did not ever imagine that my name would be called.  Again, I am very thankful for the district believing in me and recognizing my passion for teaching and serving the community.

Teaching is my passion and I have been fortunate to have been given this opportunity to engage in what I love doing for 5 years.   Becoming a teacher fulfilled my lifelong goal to educate, promote awareness, and share my compassion of the importance of agriculture to those students who are unaware of the impact it plays on their everyday lives. My greatest contributions and success as an educator is the ability to effectively communicate with my students and my commitment to ensuring student interest in agriculture.  I have been challenged to develop ways to relate and inspire my students who come from various backgrounds and life circumstances.  I reinforce to my students that dependence on agriculture knows no boundaries. Urban and rural, wealthy and poor, white-collar or blue-collar, young and old, developed nation or developing nation, any culture, any race . . . no matter how society is classified, agriculture is the lifeline that supports them all.  Agriculture provides all of our food, clothing, and shelter.  Throughout my course, students ultimately learn that a healthy agricultural system is vital to everyone’s daily life and at the conclusion of my course, students are able to answer the age-old question, “where would you be without agriculture?” Can you guess what the answer is….Naked and hungry of course!  Students also learn that chocolate milk does not come from brown cows, their food does not come from a grocery store, and FFA does not stand for Future Farmers of America. As a middle school Agriscience educator, teaching ceases to amaze me.  I tell my students often they are the ones who drive me to continue in the educational field and their spunky-ness keeps me going.  I empower my students to become contributing, successful citizens in today’s society all while they are actually empowering me to enhance my teaching strategies and to adapt to changes to become a role model in the classroom.

I’m so privileged to teach and while I’m delighted to accept this recognition, it is my students who deserve recognition.  I have been fortunate to educate some of the best students and witnessed former 7th graders blossom and bloom into leaders in the school and community who are beginning a new chapter in their book, graduating high school and attending college. As an educator who has kept in contact with former students, this is an amazing feeling and sense of accomplishment.  So, I share this honor with them, for without them, none of what I do would be possible.

Overall, teaching has good years and costly years.  There are times that teaching is so hard and success seldom, teachers find themselves hanging on by a thread.  Attached to that thread are students who just maybe you will reach out to and make a difference.  Those are the students who keep you motivated and that inspire you to continue in the educational field. Some of us continue in this profession because we have a heart for young people and a belief that we can impact the world, one child at a time; others come into this profession and find that children impact us in much of the same way.   No matter how long you have been teaching, everyone in this profession became a teacher for the same reason as did I, to make a difference in a child’s life.

You can reach Stefanie at or on Facebook.

From the Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit Blog- Support Your Local “Team Ag”!

I’ve been blogging, it’s just been for someone else! I was asked to write for the Mid-Atlantic Blog in September but I was so busy with the wedding. So here it is the end of October already. Where does time go? Fall is a busy time for everyone, but especially our youth! See how you can support your local “Team Ag” this winter!

Up next, find out how school lunches have changed and if they’re better or worse???! 🙂

Memories Made at the 2012 DE State Fair

Well, another DE State Fair has passed. Some of us are sad. Some of us are glad. Some of us are just flat-out exhausted. But the “memories made” and lessons learned, especially for the youth, are priceless. My family has always been involved and even though we don’t take many dairy cows anymore, it was fun to try to keep up with my nieces and nephew as they begin their 4-H and DE State Fair careers. Here are a few highlights:

My sister and I helped Mom lay out a lot of vegetables for her entries in the Garden Vegetable Department in the Dover Building the Wednesday before the fair starts. It’s a long stressful morning but for some reason, we keep doing it. Farmer Dan hates it mainly because it’s very challenging to find multiple kinds of one vegetable that are perfect and match.  Most of the veggies are thrown out on Tuesday night of the fair and we do it all over again on Wednesday morning.

We start by laying all the veggies out on tarp and wiping them down. This allows us to compare them and pick the most uniform ones.

Then we pick the best ones and lay them in a yellow try with a towel, so they don’t get bruised. Many classes differ on the number required (i.e. best 4 green tomatoes, best 12 snap beans, best 3 yellow squash).

And our sweet corn won a blue!

Mom received the Superintendent’s Award for the most blue ribbons in this department. She’s only won it 2 times. She was recognized here by the Governor on Governor’s day.

On Sunday, my cousin Bethany Killmon was named “Sheep & Wool Queen”. She spent the rest of the week dressed up and hanging out with important people, such as the Governor on Thursday. What a nice way to end her summer as she gets ready to start her senior year at Sussex Tech High School this fall. My Aunt Vi also came up from Georgia. She loves the fair and catches up with all of her Harrington High School classmates. My grandmother even came up one night with her. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Mom-Mom Ann strolling in the barn.

Our cousin, Bethany Killmon (on right), crowned Sheep & Wool Queen. She had to apply and give a public speech on what her sheep project has meant to her.

Hangin’ out in the sheep barn!
From Left to Right:
Bethany, Mom-Mom Ann, Uncle Charles, Aunt Vi, Wendee, Christy, Aunt Carla

I could barely keep up with all of my nieces and nephews activities. Maci and Brielle were in the 4-H talent show. Bethany & Alanna presented their 4-H demonstration on raised gardens. Maci & her friend gave their demo on recycling. All four of them won their divisions. Maci showed her Boer goat. Brielle showed her two market hogs. And the list goes on and on. I could barely keep up with Scott either. He loves the fair and spends as much time there as possible. He helps his Mom with her Suffolk sheep.

Maci showing her Boer goat, Patches, and speaking to the judge.

Alanna helping Mom with her big vegetable display.

Oh and by the way, I had a few reasons to be there, too. The DE 4-H Foundation sponsored their Donor Appreciation Brunch on the first Sunday. With the help of a fellow board member, Marian Harvey, we coordinated and moderated the event. Nemours sponsored Healthy Kids Day, which was all day Tuesday. I worked the free health fair, which was in the entertainment tent all day. I also gave a little demonstration in the Ag Commodities Building on Wednesday. I teamed up with Cara Sylvester (see her blog, …story worth telling) for CommonGround to educate fair go’ers on food safety tips for summer. More to come on this later! And on Saturday night I enjoyed the end of it all by going to see Miranda Lambert with some friends. It was a really good show-her voice sounded great and she looked awesome! I loved her skirt and boots!

Miranda Lambert in concert.
July 28, 2012

So, we will all try to catch up on sleep this week and wait another 355 days for next year’s fair come around. Can’t wait to see what is to come and look forward to the memories made next year!

How Will We Feed & Fuel Ourselves?

The brisk temperature didn’t keep many away as friends of Delaware Agriculture trickled into Harrington Fire Hall last Friday morning for an early morning breakfast. It was nice to see so many youthful faces present from 4-H State Teen Council representatives, and DE FFA State Officers, to Del-Tech FFA members.

Jan Seitz, Director of Extension, jumped right into the program by introducing the 2012 George M. Worrilow Award winner, Dr. Jack Gelb. Known for his poultry research and publications, he is the Department Chair and a Professor for Avian Virology at UD. Seeming very humble, Dr. Gelb spoke about his interest in agriculture without coming from ag roots. Noting a strong interest in science, he rode the “1st green wave” of ecology and attracted to ag because of the inspiring people in faculty and extension areas. He also felt he could make a difference in ag. His comments really resonated with me, especially after the recent Yahoo article which cited agriculture as the number one most useless degree. The author obviously never met Dr. Jack Gelb and most likely has never bit into a juicy tender chicken breast grown on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Scheduled to headline the program was the Governor, Jack Markell and our senior U.S. Senator, Tom Carper. The Governor was a no-show and the Senator was late but the show went on. Replacing the Governor, DE Secretary of Agriculture-Ed Kee, spoke on the new programs recently initiated for DE farmers such as DRIP and the Young Farmer Program. He also announced that the recent CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) regulations DE proposed were officially approved. Senator Carper finally arrived and reminisced on the environmental woes of the Inland Bays, which occurred during the Castle administration and derived the need for a Nutrient Management Commission. The members of this commission were to represent various sectors of all involved in nutrient management processes; requiring all to have a seat at the table and collaborate on a state plan. With the recent CAFO proposal being approved, Carper called this a huge accomplishment and wanted to honor the chairmen of the board, who have served since its inception. He presented a “Congressional Record” to Dave Baker, Vice-Chair and Bill Vanderwende, Chair (and my grandfather).

From Left: Sen. Tom Carper, Dave Baker-New Castle County Farmer, Bill Vanderwende-Sussex County Farmer

He ended by mentioning economic prosperity and that our economy is rebounding; not due to the usual consumer buying and housing industries but instead due to manufacturing and agriculture industries. He said he is hopeful about our future and we should only be concerned with 2 questions going forward: How will we feed ourselves and fuel ourselves? He stated agriculture has the answer in biofuel and efficiency. Isn’t it a shame the Yahoo author wasn’t sitting in the audience….?