All posts by cgibson

Mark Isaacs’s Lecture on Biotechnology in Agriculture

Biotechnology is so widely debated everywhere on our planet. He gave us a great overview and information into what biotechnology is and some of the concerns about it. It is crazy to think that biotechnology started thousands of years ago and people still have fears about it. Gregor Mendel helped figure out laws of inheritance. Biotechnology is a great tool to be able to make genetic changes to a plant and to put traits in them such as pest resistance. It can improve crop yield by being able to put a resistant gene into the plant to help the crops grow without damage from environmental conditions. Without biotechnology, our growing population would run out of food. Biotechnology allows farmers to improve yields with the same amount of land. People are just concerned because it is not a natural process. Hopefully, the world can resolve this issue in time to feed the next generations to come.

Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak’s Lecture on Delaware’s Green Industry

Most people go to the garden center and buy a plant or flower without even thinking about where it came from, myself included. In 2014, Horticultural product sales were at a whopping $21,774,000. A lot of water and time goes into growing each plant sold anywhere. A tree can take up to years to grow to the right height for it to be sold. I also had no idea that the medians in-between highways were maintained. I drive by nature all the time and never realize that someone made sure it looked that way to make it look presentable. Sometimes they even let it grow naturally and it may look overgrown but the plant is thriving. The land managers that control the sides of the highways just want to make sure there are no invasive species destroying our native plants. There is even a regulatory program called Delaware Livable Lawns that certifies homeowners and lawn care companies that apply fertilizer in an environmentally-friendly way while educating them. It is good to know people are still keeping in mind the potential impacts we could have on the environment and trying to prevent more chemicals going into the environment than what is needed.

Mark Davis’s Lecture on the Horse Racing Industry

Mark Davis gave us a great overview of how the horse industry got started and the logistics of the industry itself. I learned that horse racing is one of the oldest of all sports. Horse racing also used to be the second most attended US spectator sport after baseball in 1989. Shockingly to most, the horse racing industry is not just for the wealthy. In fact, most people involved in the industry in some way have a middle-class income. Unfortunately, with the many improvements in technology, horse racing is declining because people would rather gamble online or go to the casinos. To try to bring back the industry, they added casinos to the horse tracks in Delaware. But, other states adjacent to Delaware had their own casinos that caused competition with Delaware casinos at the horse track that takes a toll on the horse racing industry. It was good to see that they take the welfare of the horse very seriously with drug testing anyone that would be stepping on the track. They even drug test the horse to make sure they were not giving something to enhance their performance. I hope in the future people will return back to the horse tracks to gamble the old fashion way rather than go to casinos that don’t give you the same experience.

Michele Walfred’s Lecture on Social Media

Social media is a big part of our generation now that not many people realize that it is not only used for fun, it is being used professionally to brand yourself for future employment. Not only do employers look at your resume but since social media is used so frequently now, they look at how you portray yourself with anything you post on any platforms. Say you have a picture on social media with an alcoholic beverage and you are equal in academic performance with another person who posts pictures about volunteering at a children’s hospital. The company you are applying to would much rather take a chance on someone posting pictures about volunteering rather than someone partying every day. I like how Michelle put up a picture of Tom Brady and said, what do you think of this? It makes you think about how image means everything and if you ever get a bad image, it is hard for people to forget it. Michelle said to always make sure your social media is consistent and anything not appropriate is not attached to your real name that employers could potentially see when they google you before you are interviewed.

The Power of Words on a Food Label

Everyone that goes to the grocery store and reads food labels knows that there are so many different words and phrases that may sound good but do not actually know what it means. People choose to believe something written on a label that sounds good without looking further into what that exactly means. It could have no meaning or not have the positive effect on food production they think it does. For example, people believe organic is healthier and GMOs are harmful but in fact, organic is proven to be healthier and GMOs are not harmful. There is nothing wrong if someone chooses to eat organic but they should be aware of all the facts. The fact that a few words on a food label that may not have any meaning can influence many consumers into buying that product is mindboggling. Adding more words onto labels could potentially overwhelm the consumer even more. But, I do believe adding GMOs to the label could potentially be a good idea to give consumers complete transparency into how our food is produced. With adding GMOs, we must first set the record straight will all the other confusing words and phrases on labels to not confuse consumers even more. If more research is done by the consumers, there would be less confusion when it comes to purchasing everyday foods. Maybe the companies should also be more clear on exactly what their words mean so consumers are not misguided. Like with gluten-free or any “free of this” put on a label when they normally aren’t found in that product, to begin with, to cause people to think the product without those words on their label is bad.

Webb Farm: My Favorite Part of UD

This past Saturday was our last field trip that I, unfortunately, could not make it to. But, fortunately, I have been to the Webb Farm many times in many other classes over the past 3 years. The dairy, beef, sheep, chicken, and horse facilities are great for research and learning about the different livestock used today. My freshman year I was fortunate to be in a class that allowed us to visit every building and learn about each. I heard that the superintendent, Scott Hopkins, mentioned that the dairy cows are the most challenging animal to care for on the farm. It is very labor intensive to control such a large herd let alone milk them twice a day. They are also put on feed trails to conduct studies on how diet affects their milk production and even how pregnancy affects their diet and milk production. The beef cattle are also great for research and for studying the effect of being fed more grass rather than grain. The sheep facility is the most interesting to me because before coming to the University I had no previous exposure to sheep. It is very cool to know they use crayons on the females for mating to see when the sheep are in heat. They are very much herd animals that are hard to separate. My favorite part of the farm is the horses. They are very interesting animals that can even stop birth if they think the conditions are not right. Not only are they accident prone, but they are very versatile to use for things like therapeutic riding, and even weight pulling. I’m very grateful to be able to attend a university with such great resources close enough to walk to.

Mark Lynas Video

With the words, Genetically Modifies Organisms, comes heavy debate nationally. Mark Lynas started the lecture off great by saying that he used to believe GMOs were bad but admitted to not doing any research on the tropic. I believe most people against them today have not done the necessary research to see the benefits of GMOs. I have always tried to ignore what the political campaigns are doing to promote anti-GMOs because most of their arguments are scientifically proven, but I do need to do more research to absolutely understand GMOs to be able to educate others on what great ways they could help our growing population. Mark said to always ask for evidence and to go beyond the self-campaigning in anti-GMOs and that’s advice the general public should follow.

Mark Lynas brought up a great point about peaceful existence. Some many horrible things have happened where companies have destroyed or banning GM plants that had the potential to help the poor or children with deficiencies. For example, golden rice was stopped that was proven to help children with vitamin deficiencies. In Kenya, if anyone were to make a GM crop with high nutrition or high yield to help the poor, they would go to jail for 10 years that is a ridiculous regulation that has no scientific evidence to back up that GM is a health risk. I believe, just how Mark Lynas said, that farmers should have the right to choose what technologies they would like to use. The farmers that may be against GMOs do not have the right to stand in the way of people striving for doing things differently for the better. Everyone is entitled to their own views.

Another issue he brought up was that instead of helping the world by banning GMOs, people are actually doing more harm than good. With using GMOs for over a decade, there has been no harm from consuming them. I thought his statistic was comical that, you are more likely to be hit by a meteor than be harmed from a GMO. GMOs reduce chemical use like pesticides because they are made to be resistant by themselves. They would also help with raising yield because by 2050 we have to feed 9.5 billion in the same amount of land and GMOs are really the best way to do that. The people that are for organic are actually hurting us more than helping. Organic would require more land and is less productive. Organic is in the way of our progress by not allowing for innovation. If Biotechnology is stopped there might actually be famines that people predicted, not because of GMOs, but because farmers were stopped from progressing technology to help with the demand with increasing population.

My favorite part of the video that will always resonate with me is that the monster is not the GMOs themselves, it is our reaction against it that hurts us more.

Great Trip to Hoober Inc.

This past Saturday field trip to Hoober’s was an eye opener into the equipment side of agriculture. It really put into perspective the amount of labor and money that goes into each machine. It did make me appreciate the investment each machine really is and I do agree with Mark that whenever I pass by a machine again I will know more about it and appreciate how much money and time that farmer actually has put into that machine. Of course with technology, it is not perfect but lucky for people that own Hoober equipment they have a great repair shop with specialized mechanics to handle specific pieces of equipment. When a machine has to be fixed that is time and money wasted on repairs for the farmer. Having someone who is specialized for one machine is great for fixing it in an efficient amount of time because they know what they are doing so the farmer can get right back to using it.

I learned about a couple pieces of equipment they had like the combine, sprayers, and planters that I had never been that close to before. The tires were taller than I was! The best part was being able to ride and drive one of the planters. It was a lot smoother than I thought it was going to be and it even had a radio and air conditioning. The amazing technology allowed you to pick a straight line and the machine would straighten itself out and go along that straight line for you. They even had drones that could look at the whole field of crops and tell which plants were not growing efficiently. Drones are great for raising the farmers’ crop yield. Precision Ag is changing constantly to help farmers grow even more crops and faster.

Wonderful Family-Owned Orchard

This past Saturday, we had a great opportunity to tour a huge family-owned orchard named Fifer Orchard in Camden Wyoming, DE. With about 2,800 acres of farmland, you can only imagine how much time, energy, money, and manpower goes into running this orchard. Luckily for the Fifer family, it has been in the family for 4 generations. Bobby Fifer said he learned to farm at a very young age. He started us off with a tour to some of their fields to show us different irrigation systems like center pivot and drip irrigation, which is used for crops like strawberries with a raised bed. I thought it was interesting they had trial crops like cauliflower because there is a ready market for it.

These are the cauliflower trial crops that include different types like purple and cheddar

They grow and watch the crop for about 3 years to see if it is worth it. Like cauliflower, kale was also a trial crop that needs to be hand-picked. It is very hard to find people that want to do labor that intensive, so Fifer Orchard participates in an awesome program called H2A that gives nonimmigrant foreigners, who are willing to work, the opportunity to work for them. They get a work visa and Fifer provides transportation and housing for them to work for a period of time hand-picking the crops. Without hand labor, Bobby said they would not be in business. A big challenge they see in the future is being able to use robotics for harvesting every crop instead of hand-picking, but is it possible to pick strawberries or pumpkins with a machine?  With them being in business for so long and technology constantly improving I have no doubt they will continue to thrive for many more generations regardless of the constantly changing regulations and market.

This is the original store that has been there since the farm started. I definitely recommend the apple cider slushies!

My First Experience at a Poultry Farm

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting an organic poultry farm run by Georgie Cartanza. I was shocked to learn it was mostly a one-man business. Most of the technology producers use today saves a lot of physical labor older generations had to do. Luckily instead of turning the temperature up and down by hand, an automatic system regulates the temperature by itself as needed with fans, heaters, etc. Georgie’s goal in her chicken houses is for the birds to feel as little change in temperature as possible.

This is where the food is stored for the automatic feeders

As we saw in the houses, technology also allows them to be fed automatically. Once the food gets below a certain level a sensor alerts the system to put more food into the feeders. We could even hear the noise of the food going down into their feeders. Once we stepped into the houses for the first time I was pleasantly surprised. The chickens would move away when we stepped in but as we stood there long enough they would slowly get closer and more comfortable with us. For 37,000 chickens in one house, they were barely making noise. Despite some of the misconceptions I’ve heard, the chickens were moving with ease despite being a couple days away from being processed. Being an organic farm comes with certain requirements like having a door for them to come in and out freely to an outdoor space the same size as 50% of their inside space, and enrichments for them to play on. Most people think that the chickens with the access outside would be outside all of the time, but only a few

These are some of the organic requirements: the open doors with the enrichments

chicken at a time would step out for a few seconds and go back in. Georgie runs a wonderful farm with making an impressive number of 5 million pounds of chicken per year from all her hard work and previous experience helping other producers start their own farms. I learned a lot about the poultry industry that opened my eyes about possible careers in the future.