Ethan Mayes, interning with the garden department this summer, writes about Winterthur’s agricultural history and present:
When H.F. du Pont inherited Winterthur in 1926, the property could have been divided into two parts, the residence and farm. At the time, Winterthur farms not only supplied Henry Francis and the Winterthur community with food, but also supported the Winterthur livestock. In 1929, over 560 acres of alfalfa, ensilage, wheat, corn, and beets were planted purely with the intention of providing feed for the livestock. Winterthur livestock included 250 Hereford cattle, 100 hogs, 100 Dorset sheep, 45 horses, and 2300 poultry, and the renowned 450 head of Holstein.
Unfortunately, the farming operation was discontinued at the time of H. F. du Pont’s death, but in recent years farming operations have returned to Winterthur. Winterthur, in association with Greenbank Mill/Philips Farm, is participating in a sheep program. The sheep are located in the Negandank barn and surrounding pasture (visible from the main gate off Rt. 52).
Along with the sheep program, Winterthur has several fields of soybean and hay crops. The nitrogen-fixing soybean was planted at the end of May and will be harvested at the end of September. The hay is cut and baled twice a year. Although agriculture at Winterthur is limited to two crops at the moment, wheat, ornamental corn, and various vine crops such as pumpkins and gourds are in the works.
For more history on Winterthur Farms, check out the Winterthur archives in the library or leave a comment here.
Each Wednesday, Winterthur members may enjoy an estate tour to further explore Winterthur’s agricultural history.
Members-Only Estate Tour
Wednesdays, May through September, 4:30 pm
Visit the former dairy and farm while exploring the ever-changing estate landscape on this narrated tram tour. Hear accounts of estate history as you see how we have repurposed historic work areas. Glimpse behind the scenes on this members-only tour led by a specially-trained guide. The 45-minute tour will leave from the east circle near the Dorrance Gallery. Members only. Reservations recommended by 4:00 pm, $5 per person, capacity of 40, weather permitting, handicapped-accessible, family friendly.