All posts by cgclarke

More Than Just a Label!

I think the discussion we have had on food labels was both  really enlightening and educational. It is a real eye opener to think about how great of an influence food labels have, and how just one icon can change a consumer’s feelings and decisions on purchasing that item. As mentioned over and over, I think it is important that consumers across the country become more educated in the agriculture industry so they know what really happens to their food, and don’t just believe something they see on social media.

I think a pro to food labeling is easily finding a useful piece of information quickly without reading the details on the back of a package. A very good point was brought up in class today regarding the Gluten Free labeling. A classmate said that it shouldn’t be allowed to have the gluten-free label on a product that cannot contain gluten at all. I think this label is important  because some people do have gluten intolerance, so they do need to know if they are consuming it. But I think this should just be for products that can come in a form that does contain gluten and was just produced to not. For example, if 2 different companies produce a product and one says gluten free and the other doesn’t, the consumer might be inclined to purchase the gluten free labeled product, even if the other product doesn’t contain gluten either! So as a con, some producers can be hurt by not including this label while their competitors do, even though it is not useful information for that specific product!


Delaware’s Livestock Industry Lecture

The guest lecture we had from Dan Severson about the Livestock right here in Delaware gave us a deeper look into this industry which may be happening right next door to us. About 40% if Delaware’s land area is in farms, with more than half the farms being under 50 acres. 96% of these farms are family owned, which surprised me a lot. It is special to think that the food produced in this state comes from a majority and family operation on their farms, and not picturing some big commercial farm.

One fact that surprised me was the ranking of average annual per capita consumption of meat, with the top three being beef, pork, then poultry because I would have thought poultry would have been higher up as I have heard that people are switching away from red meat to poultry.

Another thing that was mentioned in this lecture was the other livestock besides beef, pork, poultry, lamb, goat, and veal. This includes bees, bison, alpaca, rabbits, water buffalo, deer, elk, and others. Something that I have not given much thought about until recently, which has led me to do some more research on my own, is the honey bee industry. I have been learning that not only do bees play such a tremendous role in our eco-system with their pollination, but some bee-keepers will actually have bees in a northern part of the country for half the year, then when it gets cold they will transport them to a more southern area. Additionally, something that I found out that relates to my major/career path is that as of last January, anything that may be sprayed on the bees such as an antibiotic, it has to be prescribed by a veterinarian. This also raises a question for me about crickets and if this will soon be a law for them, as they are being used as a food supplement for protein!

James Adkins Guest Lecture: Water is Essential for Life!

The lecture we had from James Adkins on irrigation was very enlightening for me, because prior to this class I did not realize the significance and intensity that irrigation has on agriculture which ultimately becomes food on our plates. It is more than just a simple watering system which I am guilty for once thinking. However, this may be how it once was when the Babylonians started irrigation. The first and most basic irrigation system is gravity irrigation, which needs elevation to allow the water to run down. There are also pressurized gravity systems which includes a gated pipe. We have also learned about central pivot as well as other systems including surface and sub-surface drip. All these different systems has pros and cons that should be taken into consideration with the type of crop needing the irrigation. Something interesting that he mentioned was how the solution for the Dust Bowl was irrigation so that there would consistently be crops to take away from the dust, which needed irrigation to have year round.

Another topic that James brought up in his lecture that I also did not realize was so major prior to this class was drones. In addition to all the benefits and enhancements that drones bring to the agriculture industry, he included that infrared with red green and blue spectrum being an aspect of the drone footage which allows predictions on the crops. This also allow people to analyze and pick up on stress in certain crops that may not be seen with the naked eye.

Overall this lecture was beneficial and relevant to the discussions we have in class and has increased the useful knowledge I have gained from this class and is another topic that people should be more informed about because it does eventually effect them from the food that they eat!

Dave Mayonado’s Lecture: Monsanto

Dave Mayonado’s lecture this morning was very interesting and gave me more insight on technology in agriculture. Before this class, I never realized how much research went into the agriculture industry and how that directly effects me personally with the food I eat. I think everyone should become more educated on this industry so they have full knowledge of what it entails, instead of some distorted views on certain topics that are misrepresented.

One example that Dave touched upon were GMO’s. This has been a topic brought up repeatedly in this class. Before, I would purposely buy food products that were labeled “nonGMO”, but now I see how beneficial GMO’s are and how they are a form of technology to help increase yields with less pesticide products but inserting genes. Another example of technology in agriculture that he mentioned (which I did not know was used in agriculture as well) was RNA interference. While you can add a gene to make a specific protein expressed, you can also turn off specific genes by introducing something the cell recognizes as a “threat” and is able to turn off that specific gene. These technologies are  useful, and the example he gave about the corn root worms painted a picture on how it is exactly used by having the protein the corn root produces, protect it from this worm.

I think with all the technologies and research we have, and how it is continuously improving, the agriculture industry is benefit tremendously. Crop yields are increasing, soil quality is way better, less pesticides have to be used, and overall we are able to provide all the food we have in this country, which is amazing. I really enjoyed this guest lecture and having my knowledge on this industry continue to expand!

From Cow to Cone!

Our last field trip to the UD Research Farm was very interesting and informative. There is so much that goes on at the farm that I had no idea about, even though it is right down the street! Scott Hopkins did a great job bringing us to all the aspects of the farm and giving us insight and explanations on what goes on in each section of the farm. Although I have been to the farm on multiple occasions for my major, I haven’t had as much of an overview of all the moving parts of the farm before this field trip.

An area that I learned more about was the sheep. It was interesting to know that there is no “job” for these sheep, such as the dairy or beef cattle. The sheep are just there to be raised and reproduced and grow wool, but mainly there for teaching. It was also interesting for me to learn that they are separated into groups at random (for the most part) and stay with their group which also contains a ram. This ram wears a belt that visibly indicates when he mounts the sheep, to be able to check for pregnancy in breeding season.

Another area I did not have much knowledge on was the horses. I was able to get a glimpse of the horses grazing on the field, but the barn where the horses may go was the most fascinating for me. I have been in there once before, but had no idea about the technology and special features the barn had, which makes it easier for handling the horse for whatever reason needed. I also found it interesting that the horse can “control” going into labor, and be able to stop if she chooses to do so. The fully gated sides of the pen, versus just a tiny section of grate, allows people to see the horse, and the horse to see the people as well as the other surroundings. So, if the horse does not want to foal while someone is there, people can still keep tabs on the horse with cameras, which is something I think would be so beneficial.

Overall, this field trip was a great last field trip. We were able to learn more about all the things that go on at the farm that is a part of our school! It was also really cool (and yummy) to get some ice cream after, because it shows an end product of the dairy cow production. For me, it was so neat to be able to see a calf in its hutch, and then see how that’ll turn into a large cow in a short amount of time. This cow will then eat hundreds and hundreds of pounds of feed a day to allow it to produce the milk it does, which ultimately turns into the delish ice cream we can enjoy. Personally, seeing this full circle was the best part of this amazing field trip!


Mark Lynas’s Video

Not only was Mark Lynas’s lecture about GMOs a very eye-opening, educational video, it also showed how one person who served so much time and energy being against GMO’s was so able to switch his views and be so promotional  due to his new knowledge on the topic.  He was a very passionate environmentalist who was originally against GMO’s. Now, he realized that even though the name genetically modified organisms turns people away because it doesn’t sound “natural” or “healthy”, the science speaks for itself.

The benefits of GMO’s include the ability to not use as much pesticides on the crops, have the plants able to withstand more drought like environments, and increase the yields of the plant. There is still no knowledge of these products being harmful to humans from consumption. If someone can be very open about there complete switch in thoughts about this topic, it is important that people are able to draw their own conclusions but only after receiving all the knowledge that we have accessible. I think with more time and information on this topic, as a country we will be able to get to a point where GMO beliefs are universal and not just misconceptions. Personally, I admit that I looked at GMO’s negatively simply because of the name and how unnatural it seemed so why would I want to put that into my body. However, through this course, this video, and some researching I have done on my own, I now am for GMO and think it will be a good way to provide food for everyone in our country. I feel like products that advertise that they are “nonGMO” is similar to the poultry companies that advertise that they are “hormone and steroid free”. They advertise this and consumers think it is a valid and prominent piece of information, when in fact if they just had more knowledge on the situation they would be able to look past the marketing strategies.

Overall I think hearing this video was beneficial and personally swayed some of my thoughts and grew my knowledge on this topic that I will continue to share with those close to me. With more education I believe the unknown will come to light and peoples views will shift on this topic, as Mark Lynas’ did.

Ed Kee’s Iowa&California Lecture

Ed Kee’s second lecture was a very interesting eye opening lecture on the two Agriculture Giants: Iowa and California. His lecture before he talked about Delaware’s agriculture, which was surprising to me how much goes on agriculturally in this state that I was not aware of before. However, his second lecture about the 2 biggest agriculture producers of our country taught me more about this industry relating to our whole country. I just recently visited California for the first time this summer and remember driving by tons of vineyards and farms but never realized the extent of the contribution this state had regarding food production. The most interesting fact to me, and the most important to California’s agriculture was how all the water comes from the mountains. I remember my dad saying countless times how there was such little rainfall in this state, but I never related that back to its agriculture production until shortly after when taught that all the water comes through aqueducts from the mountains and is able to provide all the water! Another thing that stood out to me was how milk and cream were the biggest commodities for California at about $6.3 billion, followed by almonds. California exports 26% of its ag production by volume, meaning that the majority is used within our own country, and was interesting to have some insight on this large industry that provides so much food that we eat!

Field Trip to Hoober!

This field trip that allowed us to not only see (and drive) some of their equipment, but also gave an interesting insight into the ever-changing industry and how that affects them as a business and their relationships with their customers. Before this class and being educated more about the world of agriculture, I never thought that the equipment used was so high-tech and complex and expanded well beyond a simple tractor, which is what I have always pictured. It amazed me how up and coming precision Ag is for this industry and all the benefits it provides. One thing that stood out to me was how complex this equipment was. There are mechanics that specialize in a single piece of equipment because there is so much in-depth things to know about how it is ran. It amazed me how there was a huge toolbox that contained $40,000 worth of tools, but the most crucial and main tool for a mechanic is his computer. I had no idea you were able to plug in a computer to a tractor, planter, combine, ect. and get a diagnostic reading on it to find out what is wrong with it. This just shows the advanced complexity of one of these machines. This goes to show the reasoning behind the large price tags on a machine, which was way more than I ever would have guessed. These machines are such a huge investment for a farmer, such as a $400,000 combine complex, which enlightened me on the importance of such a great relationship that is needed between Hoober and their customers, since it does go well beyond just the purchase. Learning about the precision Ag details and benefits was excitingly informative, but driving a tractor was the best part of the trip! Not only were the machine way larger and more expensive than I would have guessed, but the technological enhancements that even I was able to notice during my quick drive was amazing. This field trip was very enjoyable, and like the others, showed another side of agriculture that I was not familiar with prior!

The Amazing Fifer’s Orchard

I had such an amazing time on our field trip to Fifer’s Orchard. It was so interesting to see some behind the scene’s of such a big operation.  I have been to other orchards for apple picking and such that seemed similar to Fifer’s, but I have never experienced more than just the fruit picking and “fall fest” activities that have been offered.

There was so many interesting things that I learned on our trip, some of them specific to Fifer’s orchard and others about agriculture in general. The thing that stuck out to me the most was how a $14 million operation from 2800 acres relies mainly on hand harvesting. Every crop besides the sweet corn and wheat is hand picked. That amazes me that every crop is picked by someone, when I thought it was mainly by technology. It was fascinating to hear about the program that brought employees up from Mexico on a working visa to give them the work that they are willing to do, and is obviously so crucial to Fifer’s. Another interesting thing for me was seeing the cold crop trial; all the kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. I eat kale and broccoli on a regular basis and seeing them in the field growing (picture attached) and learning that the kale will keep growing and growing even after being harvested while the broccoli gets cut and doesn’t grow back again. Then, I was able to purchase the biggest head of broccoli I have ever seen, and a bundle of kale after seeing where it was grown not too long ago. (Also I had the broccoli tonight for dinner and it was delicious). The last thing that really amazed me was the information on the apple orchard. I had no idea that there were over 20 types of apples there, and how even though the holes for the apple trees are created by a machine, that even those are still hand planted. Lastly, Mr. Fifer explained how when he was a child they planted red delicious apple trees and 35 years later those trees are still producing fruit!

This was not only an educational field trip, but it was also very fun and interesting and I was able to bring home a lot of goodies from the store. I also am going to look into the CSA club because that is a great way to get fresh produce while supporting such a great business! 

Organic Poultry Farm

Although I was unable to attend this field trip, hearing the lecture and observing a classmates notes gave me insight into this industry. Learning the background of this industry was very interesting, especially how it all originated from a mess up in an order bringing 10X the amount of chickens was so facilitating to hear. The most fascinating part of this was learning more about organic chicken. Personally , I always would buy organic chicken because I thought it was better for me as a consumer, as well as the welfare of that chicken. But after hearing from someone who has been in this industry for over 10 years really opened my eyes to some of the misconception. The main thing that stuck out for me was how in order to be classified as organic, they need to allow the chickens access outside. At first, this thought seemed great to me and that it really would be a benefit to the animal. But after hearing how few chickens on Ms. Georgie’s own farm actually go outside, I started thinking differently. Also, these chickens are not allowed to receive antibiotics. So when they are sick and medically require antibiotics, they are not allowed to get them. Even if this doesn’t result in a death, to me, not administering these needed drugs is inhumane. Lastly, another thing that surprised me is how the “wellness” of the chicken is determined by the chicken paw and how that is the most expensive part of the chicken. Overall I enjoyed learning more about this industry and intend to do more research to distinguish my knowledge from the previous misconceptions I may have had.