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Electricity and agriculture may — at first glance — appear to be two entirely unrelated industries, but the pair shares a history dating back as far as Depression-era America. This lesser-known history is currently being brought to light in a new DEC-sponsored exhibit at the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover.

The exhibit, “Then One Day the Lights Came On,” tells how rural Delaware was electrified in the 1930s as a result of the passage of the Rural Electrification Act. Delaware farmers were able to start the Delaware Rural Electric Association (REA) in 1936 to bring electricity to areas of the state that for-profit utilities, at the time, did not recognize as profitable investments. It may surprise some of our readers to know that the Delaware Rural Electric Association provides electricity to Delawareans in Kent and Sussex counties to this day. Only now, you know it by a different name: Delaware Electric Cooperative.

“DEC has a proud legacy of providing reliable electric to the people and places we power,” says President and CEO Rob Book. “It’s a wonderful feeling to know that the Co-op’s founders were as integral to the growth of their communities and as committed to their progress as the Co-op and its employees are today. It’s great to be able to partner with the museum on this exhibit to share this part of our story with our members in a new, interactive way.”                                                

According to DEC’s manager of public relations and community affairs, Lauren Irby, the exhibit is important because it allows visitors to look back in time — to see what Delawareans gained through electrification.

“It’s always good to know your roots, to know how far we have come as a community and to see all that our ancestors had to live through before access to electricity,” Irby says. “It’s exciting to see the progress and how electrification has really benefited people’s lives.”

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