Handy farm has long history of crossing ‘t’s, dotting ‘i’s
SEAFORD, Del. — In a few weeks, or even days, Irvin Handy will plant his 54th corn crop.
As he works his way across the fields, he may think about a corn crop of his grandfathers’ planted more than 100 years ago.
What he knows about that crop raised by Thomas Whitby White in 1916 mainly comes from the fragile yellowed paper White used to record his production methods for entering into the county’s corn contest.
Handwritten on White’s Newstead Farm stationary (which notes the farm’s specialties are White Leghorn Eggs, Chester White Pigs, Stock and Fruit) he describes marking off the the area for the contest entry, using a two-horse team to spread manure and lime, plow the land and harrow it twice during the growing season.
“Then I took a marker and set the spikes three-foot, three-inches apart and went across the acre both ways, making the hills three feet three inches apart each way,” White wrote. “I took a hand planter and planted my corn. This was on May thirteenth, nineteen hundred and sixteen.”
“I think about this every once in a while, the planning of it and writing it down,” Irvin said, carefully handling the pages. “It’s interesting to note that as a part of our history.”
The pages came in an antique desk that his mother, Mary White Handy, had in her home for years.
It was originally owned by James A. Freeman, Irvin’s great grandfather who ran a general store in Philadelphia in the late-1800s. Irvin moved it into his house about 10 years ago.
As it moved from home to home in the family, the desk has kept several unique and now treasured items along the way.
Farming-wise, Irvin discovered old farm receipts, some implement manuals, a 1810 Poor Richards Almanac along with his grandfather’s crop notes.
But there were also some old Spanish and American coins, and two antique pistols.
“As soon as we brought it up here I started looking through it,” he said. “Of course I’ll never sell any of it. This is just like part of the family to me.”
Irvin joined his father full-time on the farm in 1965 after service in the U.S. Army concluded. Like his grandfather, they were diversified, growing tomatoes and operating a cannery for time in Rhodesdale, Md.
He remembers his first corn crop after his Army service was a good one, averaging about 80 bushels per acre in 1965.
“We thought we’d done great and we had done great,” he said.
The success that year helped his father, William I. Handy, pay off the farm mortgage and buy another farm, Handy said.
In his now 101-year old note, White also detailed his harvest in early September. He cut the tops of the plant and let the plants dry until it was time to pile them up.
“When it was piled up it wasn’t long before I started in to husking it out,” White wrote. “When I came across a well filled ear I kept it out. I got a great many ears to pick my best ears from for exhibit.”
White noted “it turned out seventy-nine and nine-tenths pounds of shelled corn from 100 pounds of ears.”
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