Local landscape artist Mark S. Reeve has completed his paintings series of Century Farms throughout Delaware. The paintings are on display at the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village until June 30, as a special event on May 14 helped to kick of the celebration. Partnering with the Delaware Department of Agriculture on a year-long project to preserve the images of historic First State farms, Reeve has aimed to preserve the history of some of Delaware’s oldest agricultural families and lands. Through interviews with these farming families, he tells 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.
“This project has allowed me to gain a perspective of the role of agriculture in Delaware and to fully understand the relationship it has with our economy,” said Reeve. “These enduring operations and how they were innovative and diverse to meet new challenges over the past one hundred years is amazing.”
The Delaware Century Farm Portraits Project features 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, as Mark interviewed owners and researched historic materials to tell their stories.
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 also received the People’s Choice award at the MAL’s summer show, pARTners, in 2014.
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.
“On these farms, it has been a personal choice for each generation to continue to preserve the way of life and take that mission on,” said Reeve. “They are a fundamental piece of Delaware history and these families are stewards of our history in Delaware. [The project] has allowed me to understand the investment these farmers have made as they bring farms into the next century.”
Hopeful for a successful exhibit 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 from May 1 to June 30, will allow for a greater discussion about the importance of continuing a focus on Delaware’s agricultural heritage.