King Foundation of Sussex

Preserving the rich agricultural heritage of Sussex County through audio and visual recordings of stories told by our farmers and farm families. Everyday memories of everyday people have historical significance when these stories are told in their own words.

Preserving Sussex County Agricultural History

Sussex County has a rich agricultural history...

The early inhabitants of our county were hunters, trappers and gatherers. Few crops were grown to sustain their diets. As the European settles moved into the region they depended more on livestock, grain crops and vegetables for survival/ The fishing industry and trade markets helped the local economies grow. The farming operations adapted to the new market activity. Farm products were transported by wagon, by water and then by train. As our road systems were developed the trucking industry rapidly expanded the farm markets.

Canning facilities were built to preserve food for additional markets throughout the country. The canning facilities were eventually replaced by frozen food facilities. Our thriving dairy industry has dwindled to only a few producers.

When the poultry industry was created many of our vegetable growers rotated to field crops such as soybeans, corn, and wheat to support the growth of the industry. The western part of our county continues to prosper with watermelon and cantaloupe production. Sweet corn, lima beans and peas remains important crops for our farmers throughout the county.

Our Sussex farmers have become more efficient and market driven. They have partnered with agricultural scientists to become more resourceful and better stewards of the land. They have embraced new technologies to boost production yet preserve the soil.

Agriculture continues to face considerable challenges as our county grows in population and we lose our valuable farmland to commercial and residential development. Global and regional agricultural competition, rising input costs and climate changes are also constant threats to our local farm economy. Our farmers continue to be successful despite the challenges they face.

The Sussex County farming community has a story to tell. It is important to archive these stories for future generations.

Sussex County Ag Statistics

Agriculture dominates in Sussex County as the market value of the ag industry exceeds $1.2 Billion. Approximately 45% of the county’s land (270,000 acres) is comprised of 1,374 farms where the average farm size is 196 acres. Sussex County is the #1 broiler and lima bean producing county in the U.S. Sussex County is in the top 2% of counties nationally in value of vegetables produced while more than 35,000 acres in farms are permanently preserved for agricultural use. Agriculture employs 15,000 people. 

Source: Sussex County Office of Economic Development