All posts by cassbest

The UD Farm Experience

Before coming to the University of Delaware one of the major things I have always heard about was the farm on campus, so I was beyond thrilled to get to see it on my tour before I chose this school. In not being able to see it while on tour I briefly rode by it while I was leaving, but I had no idea I had only seen 5% of what it had to offer. In having the ability to ride through and walk across the farm may seem like something simple to most students in the agriculture field, but it was something brand new and eye opening to me. In getting to walk through each building and see each different department was something I never thought I would get to see the ins and outs of. In going to the dairy part of the farm first, I was extremely honored and proud of how clean and organized everything was, and I experienced this in each new section of the farm. Every pasture or barn was neatly cleaned and cared for and exemplified how much the people in this field care about what they do. Getting to learn about the body language of the holstein cattle, how horses can stop their own contractions if they feel threatened, and the bellows of the beef cattle when being weaned away from their young were all new eye opening facts I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. My favorite part of the tour however, was getting to see all of the sheep. Growing up around the livestock industry in Delaware, I was more custom to seeing horses and cows, but sheep was a new territory. Learning about the rules put in place to allow sheep to give birth on their own and the process of selecting the best ones to keep and breed on the farm was something brand new to me, and I really enjoyed being in that environment. Overall, this was my most influential field trip because it hit the closest to home, not to mention the amazing UDairy ice cream and the wonderful fiddle entertainment by my fellow classmate Max afterwards, I was really impressed!


Changes in Ag in the Monsanto/Bayer Company

In listening to Dave speak on all that has changed in agriculture and in the company he works for, Bayer, he focused on four main topics as the beginning of that change. This change was based around tools used to control agricultural pest and managing them. The first of these changes was labor. In the beginning of agriculture labor was highly reliant on animals to pull the tools they needed to plow the fields, followed by someone pushing the tools. In order to collect these crops large groups of people, often families, went out to their crops and would pick one plants that were ready to be harvested. In todays world we are heavily reliant on machinery and fewer people in order to harvest crops. The second main step in this change was mechanics. Steel was a main part to this change, as it became more of a reliant for farmers and their families and yields to the increase of agriculture during the early days. This is what evolved the industry to become more reliant on machinery and allowed the industry to begin the era of tractors. The third piece that impacted early agriculture was the use of chemicals, where they would use small molecules in order to aid to the crops. This allowed chemicals to protect the plants and repel the pests that may be ruining or have the potential to ruin a crop. This was also a time point of no till and chemicals greatly affected this. The final piece to impact agriculture pest management was the biological aspect, where we began using things like GMO’s to give us higher yields using less input. This was also a time of CRISPR (where you can isolate a certain gene) and RNAi (when you could shut off certain genes) which greatly impacted the ability for a farmer to produce more food and to gain higher yields, all to benefit the consumer. Without listening to Dave speak on how important these factors became in the field of agriculture, it could be difficult for one to think back on crop production and to realize just how far it has come. 

The Race Horse Industry with Mark Davis

Listening to Mark Davis talk about horse racing really hit home for me. I have grown up around horse racing and have loved it each and every time I go to the track to watch a race. One thing I did not know about the horse racing industry is that it is on the decline. Not only are less people getting into the racing community, but people seem to be less interested in it. As of 1989, horse racing was the second most widely sports attended event right behind baseball. At one point in time the economic effort of horse racing was a 39 billion dollar industry. This effects each and every part of the industry, from purses to amount of horses actively racing. In the recent years, all of these statistics have been decreasing. Mark began telling us about some statistics done in 2004, and at that time there were 9.2 million horses in the United States alone, and over 2 million people owned horses. One stigma in the US is that only people of wealth have horses but according to this 2004 data, 75% of horse owners make 25,000 to 75,000 dollars annually. Now that less people are entertained by the idea of the horse racing industry effects not only the drivers, owners, and horses but the economic activity in Delaware as well. In the near years a big hope according to Mark, is to not only slow the decline but to hopefully turn it around and increase all things in the economic activity and all that are involved in the horse race industry.

Dan Severson and and GMO’s

Following the topic of Livestock in which Dan spoke about, he gave us a homework topic. Our job as a student was to research and find out how many crops are actually made with GMO’s. As soon as we were given the task, I began to wonder, did he ask because there actually aren’t any crops made with GMOs? Or did he ask because in reality all crops were made with GMO’s? As soon as I got the chance I sat down to think about it for myself, and come to find out there are 10 crops in the United States that are grown using GMO’s. These crops consist of; corn, soybeans, cotton, potatoes, papaya, squash, canola, alfalfa, apples, and sugar beet. This came as a surprise to me, because even though I didn’t really know what to expect I was intrigued to find out that a lot of the crops grown locally and frequently in Delaware are grown using GMO’s. I am glad I was given this homework because it gave me a chance to dive into GMO’s which as a class we have talked about recently as well as going deeper into the make of the crops that are grown around me.

Livestock Industry with Dan Severson

Livestock has always been something I have been quite passionate about, I enjoy showing animals at the Delaware State Fair and experiencing the responsibility of caring for these animals all throughout the year. One piece in listening to Dan speak was his section on hogs. It wasn’t a very lengthy topic or one we went into detail on, but it was the pure numbers that really interested me. My great grandfather was a hog farmer. He had a rather large piece of his farm dedicated to raising and selling his hogs. Today however, there is a staggeringly low number of hog farmers still around in Delaware. Another thing I found interesting while listening to this specific topic were all the different ways hogs are classified for selling and disbursement. These categories include farrow to finish, farrow to feeders, feeders to finish, genetics and show, direct market, and pasture; which all require many different processes in order to maximize profit in the industry. I never realized that there were so many different ways to raise hogs and it is sad to see the dwindling number of farmers in this industry in Delaware. I am glad, however, that Dan made this an apparent and memorable part of his presentation, it allowed me to carry this information past the classroom and apply it in my own life.

Hoobers Field Trip

When I was younger, I used to ride the combine with my great grandfather or the tractor with my dad. Back then, it was a combination of a lot of peddles and even more gear shifts. When I got the opportunity to drive a tractor for myself this weekend at Hoobers, I got to see just how much technology has changed over the years. Now, when sitting in the tractor, it can drive itself. Upon first sitting in the tractor, I noticed that the seat adjusted to whoever may be sitting in it. Before that however, I was only used to the little springs under the seat that only bounced you up and down as you went through the field.

Another new thing I learned upon getting in the tractor is you reliance in technology. With the many screens in front of me showing me my speed, where I was going, and much more I realized how much enjuxnuity goes into these new tractors. In letting go of the steering wheel and allowing the machine to drive itself was the weirdest feeling, I felt as if I was still in control but at the same time I had no control. I was basing my trust in a big machine off of a little computer screen keeping me updated on pace and direction. The amount that technology has changed over the years is so eye opening. Instead of having to pay attention to each and every little detail while in the tractor, you now rely on the tractor to tell you when something is wrong or when something is going well. In relying so heavily on this technology not only opens new doors for future improvements but allows the industry to keep taking huge steps forward in becoming more advanced for the better of all involved. I am really glad I got this experience and was so interested in sharing the details about the newest technology.

Delaware’s Green Industry

When I go to pick out plants and shrubbery for my house, I never think about how it is set up in the nursery I go to or how it got there. I also don’t take into account how the business marketed people like me to encourage business. In listening to Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak break down the industry was an eye opening experience. In talking about the different types of crops, floriculture and nursery, gave me a breakdown of what is housed where and why. Floriculture crops are those that are bedding and garden plants; those of cultivated greens, cut flower, potted plants and so forth. Nursery crops are those in which are broadleaf evergreens, shade trees, flowering trees and many others. To even think about having a job of deciphering these plants and finding the best homes for them not only has to be difficult, but also seems very rewarding. They also talked about the different ways businesses put themselves out there. It may be through posters and signs or events based around a certain age group. The main goal of these businesses are to expose as many people to the wonderful Delaware green industry. In hearing about all the work that goes into keeping our roadsides trimmed and beautiful is just one more example of the hard work that Tracy, Valann, and so many others put into their jobs in order to keep Delaware beautiful and appealing to its visitors.

Mark Lynas and GMO’s

To start off the video, Lynas wastes no time apologizing for talking poorly of GMO’s. He then begins to talk about how he has completely changed his mind, based off of science, and how everyone has their own right to believe what they wish. The main thing he said that interested him was the fact that GMO’s were banned in many countries, therefore he believed they were not good for anyone and were unnatural in anyones diet. His degree in politics didn’t help him in his ability to understand the science world, and it wasn’t until he did his own research and read things on science that he realized the benefits of GMO’s. One of the main factors that changed his mind was how much good GMO’s could do in aiding relief to those that otherwise might not get it. In many countries that don’t have access to proper nutrients and such, it is the development of GMO’s that give the people the proper food they need in order to survive. For Lynas, he realized how important this was and began to see GMO’s in a different light. Lynas realized that many people that were against the idea and use of GMO’s were those that were plentiful in both food and money. It was people of this status that never had to worry about going without the proper nutrients, and because of that Lynas rethought about his take on GMO’s. He now works around the globe in attempts to change peoples minds on GMO’s. Lynas was once a man who went around speaking negatively on the matter, but now he wants to shed light on the subject and the benefits of GMO’s around the world.

I too would’ve said a while back the GMO’s were not beneficial and were against what I believed. However, in my senior year animal science class my teacher had the room debate on GMO’s and why we thought they were ineffective or beneficial to society. It wasn’t until this day that I realized all the other reasons GMO’s need to remain relevant in society. It hit home for me in one of the same ways it hit home for Lynas, the other people. In living with my parents, and growing up in a stable home I never had to worry about food on the table or the resources around me. It was the others however, that I didn’t think about at the time. The families and children in other places that don’t have access to the proper needs benefit so greatly from the use of GMO’s. It allows them to thrive on what they have and gives them an abundance of what they need in the moment. This allows them to grow stronger and continue their lives in happier healthier ways. Therefore, I too have changed my mind on GMO’s, and next time I consider an idea, I will remember to first think of everyone everywhere and how it might effect them.

CRISPR and the Cas9 System

The CRISPR, which is a short section of bacterial DNA, and the Cas9 system are tools that edits and manipulates genes in plants and animals. CRISPR is a vital part of immune response in bacteria and fighting off foreign DNA. This system repeats a base set of DNA to replicate a wanted gene.  When bacteria is detected it creates two strands of the same DNA, the enzyme that is produced in this strand is called  Cas9. This cuts out the viral DNA in the strand. Through this process the Cas9 nucleus will not bind with the DNA if the correct sequence isn’t followed, which allows the enzyme to detect if it is dealing with a viral DNA, which reduces the chances of bacteria effecting that specific plant or animal. In going through this process, it stores the current knowledge, allowing the enzyme to better detect the different types of DNA strands for the future.

Fifer Orchards Field Trip


Traveling to Fifer Orchards is something I look forward to doing every fall. The many activities, pumpkin patches, wagon rides, goodies in the store, and the ultimate corn maze are just a few reasons I love going to Fifers each year. However, I was very naive to the process it is to run the large business and farm, and was unaware of the work so many people put in around the clock.  In starting off the trip in our trusty bus, Bobby Fifer took us around the farm and showed us the many sides of the farm I had never seen before. From growing apples and pumpkins, to corn and tomatoes, we got to see how they are planted and all the ingenuity it takes to keep the crops healthy. Rotating crops is an important part of running Fifers. I wasn’t aware, but before each season they have to sit down and assess what crops can and need to be rotated and where they should be placed. In doing this is reduces risk of diseases in the crops and increases the chances of doing well. Another thing I found interesting about Fifers was the way they planted their strawberries. A tractor went down each isle and poked holes equal distance apart, then the men sitting on the back of the tractor unpacked and placed the strawberry plants. This is a time efficient and successful way to plant crops that I had never seen before. I was very intrigued and thankful to see all of the hard work they put into the business, it was nice to see a family farm run that way. My favorite part of the trip however was getting to spend an extra hour and a half with some classmates enjoying the scenery of the farm from our broken down bus. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience with my classmates, as well as the ride back to campus, and the DQ. This has been my favorite field trip so far, and definitely one to remember.


Irrigation with James Adkins

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is ride around with the sunroof open, and my least favorite thing is to accidentally get drenched by the irrigation system that is stretching out to the road. However, I never took into account the importance of these tools and how vital they are to the success of crops. One of the biggest things that stood out to me while listening to James was that only 20% of the worlds farmland is irrigated and of that 20%, we get 40% of our food supply. To think that such a great portion of the world is reliant on this small amount of crops signified to me just how important irrigation is. When I think irrigation, the only one I can think of is overhead pipe irrigation. This system moves on its own in a circular motion, allowing nozzles to disburse water evenly as possible onto the crop. This also can result in water being spread onto the road, and flying into your car if you aren’t careful. To my surprise however it is not the only type that is used. Another type of irrigation used is furrow irrigation which is a system in which water flows from one end of the crop to the other, but was deemed ineffective when one side of the crop was getting greater access to water than the other. Some parts of the world still use it, mostly successful in areas that have hills so water flows down at a greater rate. A third type of irrigation is called side roll pipe irrigation, which was used mainly by manual labor where it waters a certain area for a length of time and then it is up to someone to move it. In learning about the older and newer forms of irrigation not only goes to show the difference in technology but goes to show how evident irrigation has becoming in successfully growing crops. Without it we would have more failures than successes, in which could be detrimental to not only the farmer and the area around him, but has the potential to impact worldwide.

The Ag Giants of the US by Ed Kee

In listening to Ed Kee speak, I realized just how big the world is. In being from Delaware, I have never been able to grasp what a “large state” might look like or what it is capable of. Attempting to grasp the pure size of not only crops but livestock production in the state of Iowa was eye opening. Iowa is huge. The only category in farming that it falls behind California in is cash farm receipts, but in all else it reigns supreme. Delaware has roughly 6,500 farmers according to Ed Kee, while Iowa on the other hand has 87,500 farmers. These farmers have the capability of farming 30.5 million, yes million, acres of farmland while Delaware farmers till roughly 490,000. By no means am I saying that Delaware needs to go bigger or needs to do more, because for anyone to have a job in the farming industry is something to be quite proud of, but Iowa’s capabilities blow my mind. Iowa harvests 13.1 million acres of corn, 9.8 million acres of soybeans, raises roughly 20.9 million hogs, along with producing 12.5 billion eggs in a years time. The pure numbers Iowa is able to put up not only makes heads turn, but feeds our nation and parts of the world. Yes, Delaware makes a difference on our coast, but by the information Ed Kee delivered to me shows that we aren’t the only big dogs running this empire.

Poultry Farm Field Trip

The amount of respect I gained from understanding the amount of time, effort, and money that goes into the poultry industry is endless. When we arrived and Georgie gave us a brief overview of her farm and how she got to where she is now, allowed me to see that farming is a journey and doesn’t have an exact destination. Starting a farm from the ground up takes serious dedication and finances. It cost Georgie 1.5 million dollars to put up her chicken houses, just thinking about investing that amount of money in hopes your business works is a risky move. Another thing I found interesting in the financial aspect of farming was the constant investing in order to stay on top of business and to be successful. Georgie has had to invest in things such as the eco drum, in order to better her biosecurity, but won’t ever receive money back on her purchase. In buying the eco drum she bettered her farm, but won’t see money pay off. She has also already planned to have solar panels put in place once she has payed off her houses, in order to cut her current electricity bill of about 35,000 dollars a year. Overall, the insight we were given on this field trip was not only informational, but beneficial to students like me who are hoping to one day have this career. The knowledge gained from this experience was phenomenal, and I loved getting to look around the farm as well!

Delaware Foodshed by Ed Kee

To think that this small state, composed of three counties, has the potential to feed so many states, cities, towns, and people, is not easy to wrap my head around. In listening to Ed Kee, I realized how important farming was in Delaware. It fascinated me to learn that things grown and produced in Delaware does not only ship nationally but globally. Imagining produce grown locally being distributed all around the world is mind boggling. To learn that this all began with man made labor in the 1900’s was humbling, especially hearing how every basket of produce was handled at least 10-15 times before it was delivered to where it would be sold. In hearing about all the produce sold followed by the booming chicken business, which 500 farmers picked up by the year 1940, humbled me to understand how those before me lived. To know that generations before me farmed and sold everything by hand grounds me and allows me to be very thankful for the evolution of the farming industry. With the help of Ed Kee, showing me that Delaware is a wonderful place to call home, gave me the insight to see Delaware is often underestimated, but is a state and foodshed that feeds the world.

Michele Walfred on Social Media and Branding

Parents raise their children with the intent for them to become the best person they can be. When it comes time to be independent, however, parents have to hope that their child was given all the knowledge needed to become that great person. In listening to Michele speak, it hit home that what many parents drive into their kids about social media isn’t just a scare tactic. My dad is an administrator and has always said that before hiring someone they look at their social medias, or the brand they have created for themselves. As a teen I thought this was just one of the ways they tried to keep me humble and well rounded. To my surprise, it occurs everywhere and it happens all the time. One of the major points I took from Michele’s speech is that nothing is ever erased and with that your face is attached forever. No matter how many times you hit the delete button on a device, somewhere on the internet can be the post you thought was gone forever. What you see is what you should get, in other words, what you post is something you should want your family, friends, bosses, and colleagues to look at and be proud of. Posting things of importance to you, things with value that show your ethics, and that are a direct reflection of your best is what anyone should see upon searching your name. I took into great consideration what I learned in this lecture, understanding that just because my friends may post things that look cool now, could come back to hurt them later and I have been better off keeping my name at my own face value.