On September 28th, the Understanding Today’s Agriculture class was given the privilege of visiting Fifer Orchards. This company has been family-owned since 1919. That’s 100 years of producing delicious fruits and vegetables for people all across the United States! We were greeted by Bobby Fifer, the current owner of the establishment. He gave us a tour of the majority of the farm and showed us the different methods he uses to sustain his company. This brand alone sells apples, peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, sweet corn, asparagus, pumpkins, and more. They are currently in the Delaware Community-Supported Agriculture program, which connects producers and consumers by letting custom to subscribe to harvested items from local farms. This allows for farming operators to offset the expenses of cultivating their products, and consumers are provided with fresh produce in return.
The class was also shown different methods Bobby used to grow his crops. High tunnels are a good example. They use the heat from the sun to increase fruit and vegetable production in earlier and later seasons, and since they are covered by plastic canopies, the crops have a lesser chance of becoming diseased because they are never rained on. He also showed us the drip irrigation he uses for his strawberry fields. This method reduces water waste and energy usage whilst directing water directly toward the root system, which prevents disease among the plants as well.
Lastly, the class met with Kurt Fifer, the owner of the sales management side of the company. We learned that he sells apples and other businesses such as Walmart, Giant, and even small-scale grocery stores such as Redners. He talked about the pressures of food safety in the passing years and how farming has become far more difficult because of it. I now definitely understand from the first-person point of view how difficult being a farmer really is, as well as the phenomenal technologies that are being used to facilitate the safety of our environment and the quality of the produce we eat every day.