For this post I will be discussing the importance of the topic on global climate change because, as discussed in class, it has and will continue to affect not only the agriculture practiced near my location but also the agriculture practiced in a difficult setting already such as California- regarding their water problems. I would like to discuss the water shortages faced in California and why global climate change would heavily affect them. Water shortages in California are normal- they face this problem and with the weather increasing over time, this problem becomes a bigger deal because the more heat expressed in this environment means more production. But this also means there will be a bigger demand for water to grow these plants for production. With the current shortage of water for agriculture, the demand will not be able to be met because there simply isn’t as much snow being melted to reach the increased capacity they would need to grow more. So not only is the rising temperature a problem, by 2050, the population will have exponentially grown and we are still working with the same amount of crop production that will need to produce more and with less resources- such as water in the process. So because we are getting heavier rain intensity rather than more snowfall, less snow melts for the plants to grow and utilize that melted snow for water as a negative impact of the changes brought upon agriculture due to climate change. This can be supported in Food Security’s Fragile Balance article, specifically the Long-Term Outlook portion that said, “Increasing temperature is putting strain on crops, specifically water, because more droughts which has a direct impact on agriculture…”
Additionally, with the higher temperatures comes a readjustment on the way farmers are able to plant and harvest their crops. Even a few degrees higher every few years makes a difference because farmers ultimately have to change the way they use their technology to get the most optimal yield from their crops. This means having to find a newer source of technology to use through innovation in order to still make a profit but also give consumers what they want whether it be traditional or organic crops. A positive aspect involved is that there is CO2 that is absorbed by plants to produce oxygen. Overall, climate change affects everyone presently and in the future because we all will have to find ways to utilize the limited resources available to us in order to meet the hunger demand of people.
During this presentation, Tracy began the lecture by discussing the annual sales for horticulture which was $21,774,000 in 2014. Most of the money is related to the industry- producers, retailers, landscapers, land managers, golf courses, and suppliers for equipment/ other items. Specifically, crop groups that are being produced are: floriculture crops and nursery crops. Floriculture crops are bedding/garden plants, cut flowers or greens, potted plants, etc… Whereas nursery crops are evergreens, cacti, deciduous flowers/trees… In 2014, the total grower cash receipt was a total of $13.8 billion because grower sales for nursery crops totaled $8 billion and floriculture crops totaled $4.8 billion.
Additionally, landscapers have pretty important jobs because they manage, build, and maintain the land around them such as plants and trees. For instance, their job includes mowing grass that has grown too tall, fertilization of crops and/ or the bedding for the soil, pond maintenance, and tree health. Tracy also mentioned that people like to choose the plants that are being raised in their yard so they do their research and see if a particular plant is a domestic plant from the area or if their plant is from another location and if it will survive and thrive in another environment. Its vital to plant the plant in the correct place at the right time as well because if a summer plant is planted during the wintertime, it will not be prepared to grow correctly due to the environment not being its ideal location to grow. Overall, I learned a lot about horticulture and the work that goes into managing nature during this presentation than I did before listening.
During Mark’s presentation, he brought up a really important fact- Delaware has 2,500 farms which makes up about 40% of Delaware with 33% of the land in Agriculture preservation districts. This means that even if land is sold to someone new, the land will not be able to be used for building news homes because it is specifically land used for growing crops. With the number of people in our population increasing growing exponentially, it will become difficult to feed more people if land is not conserved to do so. Therefore, the importance of producing more food with the land we currently have to feed even more people demands innovation through technology. For instance, Delaware produces peas, lima beans, and sweet corn that currently yields 27,600 dollars out of the 35,600 average.
This presentation also brought up the importance of the fresh market being local and shipping (Walmart, Giant, etc..) Typically fresh market vegetables are lima beans, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, etc… By shipping through large brand names such as Walmart and Giant, people from within an eight hour distance can have the vegetables we have even though their area may not produce that vegetable anymore or at all. Another great source in selling food is the farmers market. At the farmers market in Wilmington DE, the grand total revenue pulled in is $155,070.00. I would also like to bring up another point in the presentation about teaching children in school about the importance of “Farm to School” which allows students to learn how to manage and produce their own vegetables through hands on experience. The benefits included: marketing opportunities, nutritional enhancement of diets, and educational opportunities. Overall, there are many aspects in the agricultural field in Delaware that I was previously not aware of and I learned a lot about how agriculture in Delaware, as small of a state as it is, plays a part in a larger picture of agriculture as a whole.
During Michele’s presentation about Making Social Media Work for Agriculture, for your Career and Brand, she discussed a lot of vital points that may not come across many individuals minds as they post on multiple forms of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. The first point that really stood out in her presentation was “Due diligence” because it means being held responsible for one’s own social media posts and is important to keep business professional with the occasional cute kitten video because possible employers will look at social media accounts in the process of hiring. Additionally, using a consistent picture for all social media accounts demonstrates the sense of control over what you make available to the online public and creates a brand- for marketing yourself to those who view your profile.
Speaking about creating a brand and marketing yourself, specific forms of social media such as LinkedIn and Indeed.com are two forms in which people can offer insight into the skills they are able to perform for employers looking to hire workers. Additionally, through LinkedIn, employers can find people to hire better because the site automatically directs the employer to accounts that match the skills that they are interested in. Not to mention the importance of keeping all photos on business and personal accounts of social media appropriate at all times. If an employer had to choose between someone in a party picture with a red solo cup or a well dressed business attire, they would most likely go for the business attire because it is more professional. Overall, Michele’s presentation was refreshing and insightful because I personally use over four forms of social media and its always to keep these factors in mind before I post.
During Georgie’s presentation, before we went on the first field trip to her poultry farm, she gave a brief overview of historical points such as the Steele family’s market that began to grow young meat birds for the consumers. Growing up, I was always aware that a chicken was slaughtered in order for me to eat my meal but the history of how the meat production company began was new to me entirely and I really liked learning about the historical aspect. Additionally, the Delmarva area produces 6% of the National Production (566 Million birds annually) which is a lot of birds being bred, raised, and processed but makes sense because Georgie mentioned that having so many jobs available to the community is beneficial so the more work, the more jobs available to support more employees- a very important aspect in the agriculture field. Georgie’s exact words, “For every 1 job in the poultry industry, it creates 7 jobs in the community.” These jobs branch from the processing plants, the hatcheries, and to the feed mills.
Something else I was not aware of was that this process is “vertically integrated” which means the industry has complete control over all steps of production. Meaning, there is a company/ grower contract that entails the company provides: chicks, feed, litter, health supplies, etc… Whereas the grower (farmer) provides: housing, labor to raise said chicks, electric for heating/conditioning, and overhead.
I also learned that another well known grower of chicken products such as Purdue began their operation in 1920 through the efforts of Frank Perdue. I’ve always seen this name in the market when shopping for a chicken product but never knew the history of the company until I started this class. Overall, there are so many interesting facts about the poultry field that Georgie brought to my attention that I felt I absorbed all of the information she shared because it was new and enriching to my agricultural studies.
As I was researching the benefits and the downfalls of enhanced, I came across a few interesting points. For instance, some benefits of having enhanced labeling on food products can improve specific niche markets such as growing organically based on what the consumer is demanding. On the other hand, this is not always the best financial option because organic products tend to have a higher price but for good reason because it takes different handling and regulations to grow. Because organic products aren’t allowed to be treated with chemical pesticides, it takes a different method to deal with pests than traditional growing. Additionally, enhanced labels increase the trust between the company who is selling the farmer’s crops to the consumer through open communication on how the food was grown, what went into the process of growing the crop, the process it goes through to get from the farm to the market, and so on. This goes hand in hand with the ability of making a larger profit because consumers nowadays trust companies that explain more about their product- especially products with labels that clearly state what is in the food.
Whereas the negatives I researched about enhanced labels included losing profit because sometimes the consumers do not like how the product is being grown or processed which results in the consumer refusing to buy the product until a change is implemented that suits their demand. For instance, consumers do not like caged chickens producing their eggs, they request cage free eggs. So the farmer must keep up with demand by changing their operation to cage free in order to keep a profit because it is what the consumers will purchase, even if the consumers do not see that it may negatively impact the animal. Additionally, the label may be difficult for some people to understand. For instance, a lot of individuals do not know what GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) are so they do not understand how that will help their purchasing choice. Because of not being aware that genetically modified products can increase their storage time without perishing, some consumers believe GMO’s are bad for them because they have been “tampered with” and it isn’t grown organically. Moving on to my last point, some people may just not want to know what is in their food even though a large portion of people do like to know as research has shown in 2017. Overall, the reaction of the consumers will not share the same opinions when it comes down to the idea of enhanced labels but it will lead to different forms of discussion as to why it may or may not be beneficial to some.
During the field trip the farm superintendent of University of Delaware, Scott Hopkins, gave the class a tour of the agricultural field’s mechanical devices, identified the poultry houses and how they are used for research, demonstrated another form of research students focus on for dairy cows regarding a controlled ration being fed, explained the high tunnel and it’s purposes in operating as organic even though it is not verified organic, etc…Additionally when we rode the bus to Webb Farm, the research farm for UD students, Mr. Hopkins took us into the equine building and we briefly discussed how the mares could easily stop giving birth if there was the slightest disturbance during this time such as a student talking while waiting. I personally enjoyed the part of the tour where Scott picked up a handful of the ration being fed to the dairy cattle in controlled research classes because it smelled nice- I believe the ration was a cut up hay forage. Next we moved on to the sheep which I felt was the coolest part of the research farm because I’ve taken classes and learned about equine, poultry, beef and dairy cattle, but learned very little about sheep over my time at UD. During this part of the field trip, Mr. Hopkins talked about the male sheep having a device attached to his body that would spray paint on the back end of the females he would mount in order to check if the population was successfully impregnated. I found this interesting because he would change the color of the paint after a number of days which demonstrated if the first round of sperm was a hit or miss- if the first round impregnated the sheep, it would not have the new paint color demonstrating that the first attempt did not work.
Next we looked at the black Angus beef cattle in which Mr. Hopkins talked about the factors that come into consideration when he decides whether or not to cull a cow. For instance, if a cow decides it no longer wanted to mother a calf, he would remind this cow of it’s protective instinct to protect the cow, as a second chance before considering culling. Also, he briefly mentioned why the bulls were castrated before slaughter and why this was important for a consumer point of view. The reason being that a bull produces testosterone and when the bull is being slaughtered for it’s meat, the stress is shown in the meat because testosterone is produced which causes the color of the meat to turn into a dark blood red color, which is not favorable to consumers when they purchase the final product. I also learned that UDairy Creamery sells the meat that was raised on Webb farm, which is pretty cool because consumers of this generation care about factors such as how their food was raised by the farmer and what went into the process of making their product. Overall, this was a fun field trip and I learned a little more about how the animals are raised than I knew before.
As I was taking notes on Mark Lynas’ video presentation, I noticed he kept reiterating the fact that he did no academic research into the study of biotechnology or plant science before making his political and ideological opinions against crops of GMO origins. He also explained why big companies get such a bad image when it comes to farming with biotechnology- the individuals, such as himself before, would complain about how bad this new approach would be versus the conventional way crops have been grown with fears that were more like myths. For instance, in this presentation, Mark mentioned that he read corn needed less insecticide versus his initial thought process that believed GMO crops would need more. It is important to remember a statistic he mentioned, that by 2020, agricultural producers will need nine billion people with the same size land, water available, and less materials to accommodate feeding more. Without agricultural innovation being created by people like Norman Borlaug who focused on the genome of domestic crops, there will not be enough time or crops available to feed the population- this makes biotechnology the only way to stay on track.
Additionally, there was an explanation about why it is that biotechnology can only be utilized by big name companies. The reason being that many people, much like how Mark Lynas used to be, have false or uneducated ideas relating to what the biotechnology has to offer and complain with myths that could potentially harm the consumers without any scientific proof. Mark mentioned, “…$139 million to discovering a new crop trait to go to full commercialization…” It costs more time and money with more complaints without scientific research because people against the idea of using biotechnology do not like this way of producing crops versus the conventional way. It was said that there are more chances of an individual being hit by an asteroid than to get harmed from a GMO product. This goes to show there is only fear in those who do not use scientific knowledge to back up their concerns. Overall, the farmers should be allowed to choose their preferred way of growing because they have a better insight in how the food can be grown productively, optimize the results when harvesting, and are open to biotechnology for a better future in providing food for people in the end.
On Saturday October 7th 2017, our class went on a field trip to Hoober. During this trip, we learned about Hoober’s most popular choice in precision Ag equipment- the sprayer. (I have a picture attached of the sprayer I operated) The reason this is an important piece of equipment is due to it’s purpose of spraying pesticides or herbicides. This is a vital job that helps maintain the well being of a farmer’s crops from bugs consuming their crops or a foreign weed from taking nutrients/and or any other beneficial factor away from the crop. As far as what is new and emerging for precision Ag, they mentioned that a laptop is used to conduct many tests before equipment is operated such as soil conductivity, field data that could not be seen before… This is focused on data management; for instance, nutrient control is done this way because the farmer needs to put nitrogen down only where it is needed. A fun fact about Hoober: approximately 15% of their customers know how to utilize these specific features on their equipment.
Considering how much fun everyone had watching the two drones take off into the sky, we learned a considerable amount of information too. Such as the fact that one needs a license to fly drones. I believe Mike, at Hoobers, said he had a hobbiest license and some of his limitations are to fly below 400 feet high and to operate the drone within their eyesight. Drones have many purposes other than taking pictures of the fields and deciding how it should continue to be taken care of or where improvements must occur. It is used in real estate to sell the hotel rooms to military usage. In my opinion, precision Ag technologies have indefinitely changed the way farmers operate their farms because of precision planting- this is the usage of seed meters, wiring, controllers, and hardware. Mark made it vital to note the importance of the combine machine and how it can harvest corn, soybeans, lentil crops. It has many moving parts that need to be well contained. Mike and Brian commented that to work in the precision Ag field, one must have an Ag background, patience,and mechanical experience.
Overall, I’d like to say that I learned a significant amount of information from the field trip and learned how to operate (with instructions) a sprayer tractor. Also, Mark noted the extreme importance in the need for people who specialize in particular parts of the processes.
When visiting Fifer’s Orchards on the field trip, I was very interested in the types of products they grew to meet consumer demand. One of their popular items is the sweet corn, strawberries, and tomatoes. The reason being for this is that, “Florida’s “winter” is too hot to grow corn whereas here in Delaware during this time is harvest season.” Thus making Fifer Orchards a lot of money earned because the individuals in Florida are willing to buy the product which makes the product move up and down the east coast. This is important to show that the food grown does indeed travel a decent way to get to the consumers to enjoy throughout the states.
Additionally, he mentioned that there is diversity in the plants that are grown in the fields such as cauliflower. Customers can make special requests for a particular product to be grown. In this case, consumers have asked for a variety of colors from cauliflower such as orange, purple, and green. I’d also like to make a note of the raised plasticulture rows the strawberries were planted in have many advantages to this type of growing. For instance, the plastic heats up from the sun, keeps the plant from being drowned by water, and has better frost control with the water being provided through the tubing with small holes. I like learning about the different way some food products are being handled and how they are grown versus other growing techniques. Mr. Fifer also made a note that the plasticulture is great for management due to great pest control. Having the water on top instead of underneath allows water to be utilized better than wasted. Also, this keeps the foliage dry better because the plants typically enjoy water but not being showered in it.
At the end of the field trip, I explored the shops and purchased a very big pumpkin, an apple pie, apple pie cider, and apple cider donuts. I loved how the goodies smelled and enjoyed the donuts with cider at home with my family later that day.
NOTE: Mark/Michele, I originally blogged this on September 26th incorrectly. (before this specific blog deadline) Will I still receive full credit?
On our first field trip for AGRI130, we visited Georgie’s chicken farm located about an hour or so drive away. During this field trip Georgie gave a detailed overview of her farm’s own numbers regarding the 37,000 chickens growing per house, her personal history regarding the “roasters” she used to grow for Perdue, and her experience in growing cornish, broiler, and roaster chickens. I immediately liked that Georgie made an effort for the students to understand just how many chickens were in one of her four chicken houses and how comfortable they were living indoors versus the negative image the media drives toward factory farms. She demonstrated that the sound, much like a typewriter’s, was a good sound to hear due to the fact that it demonstrated that the birds were thirsty and drinking from the nipple nozzels. I want to note how effective this piece of technology is because not only does it provide the birds with 24 hour access to feed and water, but the water is contained so the floor does not become wet. This is good for the birds because they need comfortable places to lay and a wet area is not ideal.
During the field trip, one of the most interesting things I learned that I was unaware of before was the speed of laws changing for farmers regarding building structures as Georgie mentioned. By luck, she had more than enough room for the birds to roam free range when the laws changed that the space needed to be larger and implemented by 2018. I find this fascinating because farmers already have a lot to deal with regarding the health of their livestock, maintaining good relations with their neighbors, and managing money to keep the operation going so to keep changing with a changing consumer demand seems challenging. Additionally, I learned the difference between “Antibiotic free” meaning antibiotics were given before but have been weaned out of the animal’s system entirely now versus “No antibiotics” which means the animal has never been administered antibiotics. This caught my attention because as a consumer, I support cage free eggs, which is more labor intensive and costly for the farmer to produce. As a consumer, the farmer has to provide what is demanded of them so the argument that sometimes the consumer is hurting the welfare of an animal by choosing not to administer antibiotics when it’s sick is important to think about. It is a question most consumers do not consider but is very important because the two labels seem similar but varies depending on how the animal is treated when faced with a cold.
Overall, I’d like to conclude my blog post and say I had a great time on the farm and learned a few things I did not know before stepping into the chicken house. Georgie was very informative and I would look forward to hearing more from her again in the future.