Historical Info About Delaware Farming

Delaware farming has a rich history and the Townsend family story is to some extent intertwined with it. Farming has always played a central part in the Delaware economy and the Townsend family companies. Every year Sussex County harvests over 200 million broiler chickens and Townsends, Inc. is among the top ten broilers producers in the nation.

Other Crops Produced

While chickens are quite significant to the state’s agricultural economy, fresh produce including fruits, vegetables also play a part. Thousand of acres of fresh market vegetables harvested every year including watermelons, cantaloupes, potatoes, soybeans and sweet corn.

Advent of the Railroad

Small towns like Laurel were virtually put on the map in the 1800s because of their strong agricultural ties to crops like watermelons and cantaloupe. Those melons historically traveled by train to be consumed by people across the eastern seaboard residing in the big cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and even New York.

The railroads revolutionized life in the late nineteen and early twentieth centuries. Realizing the late 19th century need for rail road ties, John G. Townsend Jr. (a direct relative of Paul Townsend) went from being a simple Telegraph Operator for the Pennsylvania Railroad to opening a sawmill in Georgetown, Delaware. This launched his future as a leading Delaware businessman. Although the sawmill is gone, today tree farming is still a 50 year crop in lower Delaware.

John G. Townsend Jr.

Moving to the town of Selbyville just before the turn of the century, Townsend began growing strawberries and became known as the “Strawberry King”. He was also involved with apple and peach orchards. Peaches had been grown in Delaware since the 1600s and were at one point so abundant that some farmers actually fed them to their hogs.

He incorporated Townsends Inc. and expanded his business to include corn, soybeans, and grain production. With a growing business, he knew he needed to keep track of his finances, so with an entrepreneurial spirit he setup a bank known as the Baltimore Trust Company. The Townsends Inc. is most famous now for their fully integrated poultry and agribusiness operations headquartered in Georgetown, Delaware.

Public Service

John G. Townsend Jr. became involved with our growing state and politics. He was elected to the Delaware State House of Representatives, then to the office of Governor or Delaware and later served for two terms as a United States Senator for Delaware. His love for the state of Delaware lives on today with the work and dedication to our communities instilled in Paul Townsend.

Paul’s Ties

Paul Townsend, REALTOR® and land developer, currently serves as the President of J. G. Townsend Jr. & Co. Contact Paul if you are buying or selling a farm in Sussex County, Delaware. He will travel anywhere in Sussex County to meet with you.