Local landscape artist Mark S. Reeve will be partnering with the Delaware Department of Agriculture on a year-long project to preserve the images of historic First State farms. Through oil paintings, Reeve will aim to preserve the history of some of Delaware’s oldest agricultural families and lands. Through interviews with these farming families, he will tell their stories of how they sustained and advanced their agricultural heritage through generations, even through challenges in the economy and the increase in local development.
“The picture of sustainability of these farms is heroic on the part of the families under the stress of development and the hardships of the economy,” said Reeve. “It is great to see the stories behind the farms and how they built the economy of this state.”
The Delaware Century Farm Portraits Project will feature approximately 10 paintings of the First State’s oldest Century Farms, agricultural properties that have been owned by the same family and farmed continuously for more than 100 years. The painting series will highlight some of Delaware’s oldest family farms, with Mark interviewing owners and researching historic materials to tell their stories. The original oil paintings will be exhibited May 1 through June 30, 2015, at the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village, with a special event scheduled for May 14 at the museum.
“These paintings will showcase and highlight Delaware agriculture’s rich economic and cultural heritage,” said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. “We look forward to seeing how Mark’s research and vision explores and portrays farming’s long history in the First State.”
Reeve has been represented in galleries throughout Maryland and Delaware since 1998. In 2001, he had 27 paintings depicting northern Delaware’s wetland and agricultural beauty accepted into the University of Delaware’s permanent art collections. A member of the Mispillion Art League (MAL) in Milford, DE, he has won two Best of Show awards in its members’ shows and most recently received the People’s Choice award at the MAL’s summer show, pARTners.
In addition to highlighting the historical aspects of agricultural life in Delaware, Reeve will also showcase how many farm families have adapted to modern challenges to create a unique, sustainable future. Reeve believes that the Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin, DE is a testament to this ability to evolve. Purchased in 1796 as mainly a dairy operation, the Woodside Farm produced milk and butter. In 1961 the dairy herd was sold, and from that point the farm produced various crops, eggs, poultry, sheep, beef, flowers and pumpkins. Today the farm produces alfalfa, clover, orchard grass and rye grass to create lush, green pastures and hay fields where Jersey cows can graze and live in a clean and low stress setting. The Woodside Farm Creamery opened in May of 1998 joining the farm’s operations, serving fresh premium ice cream made with their milk as families now visit the farm as an attraction.
“There is still a lot of opportunity for agriculture in this state in the sense of economic development,” said Reeve. “There are many farms that have retooled their operations as they have moved from producing their commodity crop to a tourism and community focus.”
Hopeful for a successful inaugural year of the Delaware Century Farm Portraits Project, Reeve sees the partnership as a way to connect the arts to economic development. He believes that the exhibit at the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village, scheduled for May 2015, will allow for a greater discussion about the importance of continuing a focus on Delaware’s agricultural heritage.
“Art is a compelling medium, people become more engaged with the conversation than would before,” said Reeve. “Telling the stories visually and literally through people’s lives, can tell us so much about our society. Their successes can inspire us and I hope that this will.”
Corporate sponsorships will be available as part of the Delaware Century Farm Portraits project, proceeds from which will help defray exhibition costs as well as support the Department of Agriculture’s Young Farmers Program. For more information regarding project details, individuals are encourage to contact Mark Reeve at 302-841-8379.