I have recently started learning about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) as much as possible. I am starting to realize how important it is to do your own research about a topic instead of passively taking in information. Before learning about GMOs in this class, I thought they must be terrible for you. I would walk into a super market and see the non-GMO label on as many products as the producer could place the label on to. I assumed that if a non-GMO products were being sold at a higher price, then I should try and avoid GMOs at all costs. Dr. David J. Mayonado discussed in his lecture that GM crops present no more risk than those that have been developed by conventional breeding techniques. This was definitely something that has stayed with me. This part of his lecture reminded me of the speech we had to listen to that was given by Mark Lynas about GMOs. Mark Lynas talked about how he assumed that the GMO crops would increase the use of chemicals, when in fact pest-resistant crops need less insecticide. There is still so much for me to learn about GMOs, but I am excited to gain the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about my food choices.
I am really glad that I was able to attend this field trip. I feel as though it is something that almost every student in the college of agriculture does. With absolutely no farm background growing up, I always love being exposed to everything that agriculture has to offer. I usually only step foot on a farm if they are hosting an event that’s open to the public. I hope that in the future I can keep being exposed to the busy lives people in the agricultural industry. I saw how organized the farm has to be to be able to run smoothly. I was sort of surprised when Mr. Hopkins told us that his house is located on the UD farm. As I thought about it more, I realized just how important it must be for Mr. Hopkins to live on the farm. He is able to take care of anything on the farm that doesn’t go as planned. This can include caring for a sick animal or being around to milk the dairy cows twice per day. Hopefully I will get to spend more time around the farm in the future.
I have only briefly been exposed to the horse racing industry when I went to one race as a little kid. I’ve never thought that the industry could have such a huge impact annual impact on the U.S. economy ($102 Billion). I think that it was smart of Delaware to revitalize the horse racing industry by passing the Delaware Horse Racing Redevelopment Act, which authorized slot machines at some horse racing facilities. Something that stuck out from his lecture was that not everyone who owns horses is very wealthy. In reality, approximately 34% of horse owners have a household income of less than $50,000. I definitely was part of the population who thought only wealth people had horses because of all the costs associated with owning one, such as feed, any needed medicine, immunizations, and so on. This industry so important as it not only contributes to the Delaware economy, but it also supported 1,540 jobs in Delaware in the year 2014.
Dan Severson gave us an overview of the livestock industry in Delaware. I love learning about Delaware and its agricultural industries. I found it amazing how Delaware farms have an economic impact of $7.9 Billion. Even though it is a small state, it plays a big part in the agriculture industry. He gave us the statistic that the value of Delaware’s agricultural products sold directly to consumers is $3.5 Million. Delaware’s location seems to be helping out the state in many ways. Delaware can easily get its meat to big cities such as Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. These cities have ethnic districts, which means they are able to sell meat to cultures who require certain types of meat and certain parts of the animal. I was intrigued to learn about the recent dairy trend. The number of dairy farms is decreasing, and herds are becoming large within the remaining farms. I really enjoy being able to learn about so many different industries within the field of agriculture.
I am really glad I had the opportunity to be exposed to and drive important machinery used in the agricultural industry. Since I grew up in a suburb not too far outside of New York City I haven’t been around farm equipment for a substantial part of my childhood. I am constantly being impressed by the knowledge of people I’m surrounded by. I was also impressed by the fact that the tractors are able to be programmed so they can self-steer themselves. I also felt a strong sense of community while being at Hoober, Inc. Especially when learning about how the company handles customer service. Unlike some bigger companies, you have the opportunity to get to know the support team on a more personal level. It is important for farmers to get their machinery fixed fast, so they can get back to what needs to be done. Customer support is so important, especially as precision agriculture continues to be become more advanced.
After Dan Severson’s guest lecture on the Livestock Industry in Delaware, he wanted us to find out how many crops are made with GMO’s. I find out that there are actually ten crops that are grown with GMO’s. The ten crops are alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets. Honestly, I didn’t know this was possible but am glad I do now. I will think more about the crops I will possibly buy the next time I go to a supermarket or farmers market.
I’m really interested when our guest speakers decide to tell us about their experience through college and what has led them to where they are today. Valann Budischak’s past experiences have definitely stuck out to me as I was reflecting back on their presentation. She majored in business while in college, which led her to work her way towards being a regional account manager for Dewalt Black & Decker. Her career path changed once she had two kids and didn’t want to live on a train or a plane anymore commuting for long hours. She took a chance and was accepted to be an executive director for the Delaware Nursery & Landscape Association. I am definitely starting to believe that you just need to pick a path and life will lead you where you are meant to go. In regard to their speech about Delaware’s Green Industry, I never realized how big of a market it is. It makes a lot of sense as many homeowners, restaurants, golf courses, all want to look presentable and plants have always been a great option. This creates so many possibilities within this market. Some of these jobs include producers, retailers, landscapers, land managers, suppliers, etc. I am glad I was exposed to an industry that I previously didn’t give much thought or attention to.
Mark Lynas started his speech off by apologizing for his past where he spent a considerable amount of time bashing GMO’s. Back in 1995, when Mark Lynas first heard about Monsanto’s work with GMO’s, he ran a very successful campaign that banned GMO’s in Europe, Africa, India, and the rest of Asia. But once Mark Lynas started to learn about GMO’s through science, his mind was changed quickly. He started out with some assumptions such as that GMO’s only helped big corporations. One point he brought up is how GMO’s are safer than some more conventional breeding such as mutagenesis.
It is becoming important to be able to grow more food with the growing population and with the same amount of land. This means that we need to be able to produce enough food for the current population but also keep up with it as it continues to increase. And even with the current population, about 800 million people go to bed hungry. A point that stuck with me was when we talked about rainforests and other natural habitats. It made me realize that if we aren’t able to keep up with the population then people might want to chop down the rainforests and use the area for growing food. I am still going to learn about GMO’s but because of the reasons listed above and others Mark Lynas talked about, I am not against the use of GMO’s.
The CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a genome-editing tool. Cas9 is an enzyme that is produced by the system. When the target DNA is detected, the CRISPR system uses Cas9 and “binds to the DNA and cuts it, shutting the targeted gene off.” (Broad Institute- broadinstitute.org) This allows researchers to look at a gene and study its specific function. Using Cas9, researchers are able to activate specific gene expressions instead of cutting the DNA. Compared to other systems, the CRISPR-Cas9 can cut DNA strands itself. This is beneficial, as the system doesn’t need to be paired with separate cleaving enzymes. This system is valuable to scientists as it allows them to create cell and animal models quickly. Researchers then use these models to study diseases such as cancer and mental illnesses. The improvement of these systems, allowing for faster research, is important especially as the population continues to increase.
Our class took a field trip to Fifer Orchards in Camden Wyoming, Delaware. I’ve only really ever gone Apple Picking and I’ve never thought about all the behind the scenes work that is required to make an operation like Fifer’s possible, especially since they have around 3,000 acres today. Bobby Fifer, a 4th generation owner/operator, took time out of his busy day to speak with us and give us a tour of his farm. I learned about how hard it is for them to find labor. Fifer’s is usually needs a lot of workers in the summer and fall since it is their busiest time. Most people need full time work year round. Bobby said that retirees are a good option since they don’t need a full time job and just wants to do something they enjoy and that is helpful. I am grateful Bobby and Curt took time out of their hectic day to speak to us.
James Adkin’s lecture on agricultural irrigation taught me a lot about irrigation. Every lecture that we have heard has taught me so much about the topic. Not only did Mr. Adkins discuss irrigation in Delaware, but also irrigation around the world. I found it interesting to learn that Delaware gets around 44 inches of rainfall a year, and just corn alone requires about 22 inches of water.
I knew that humans are using the earths water at an unsustainable rate for agriculture, but I was surprised to learn about actual percentages. Mr. Adkins said that globally 15-35% of irrigation withdrawals are estimated to be unsustainable. One example he talked about was the Ogallala Aquafer. According Virginia McGuire, a USGS scientist, the “Change in storage for the 2013 to 2015 comparison period was a decline of 10.7 million acre-feet.” It is going to be important for people to be able adjust if/when this vital water supply runs out.
For our second lecture, Ed Kee discussed the agriculture industry in Iowa and California. Before this class I didn’t know much about agriculture. All I knew was that California and parts of the Midwest grew a lot of crops. I found it interesting to learn about the soil in Iowa. Ed Kee said that Iowa gets around 24-36 inches of a year. Also it has a nice climate throughout the year. Ed Kee also discussed the importance of the Port of Wilmington in Delaware. In the U.S., It is the number one seaport for imported bananas. One reason is because Delaware is within eight hours of one third of the U.S. population. With railroads and highways, such as I-95, it is easier to get products to many different parts of the country. The port creates 5,900 jobs and creates an annual business revenue of $436 million. I enjoyed learning about the importance of Iowa’s and California’s agriculture industry.
I was excited to go to Georgie Cartanza’s farm. I’ve only seen the inside of a chicken house on the internet. A few summers ago I worked at the camp for the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture & Food. The campers were allowed to hold a chicken if they wanted to. They lived in chicken coops out in the fields. The campers were allowed to run around with the chickens without having any sort of protective gear on. I was caught off guard a bit when we were required to wear the suits. Once I heard the reason was because it was to protect the chicken from any diseases we could bring in, I understood why it was a good precaution.
I learned that her poultry farm creates one ton of manure per 1,000 chickens, per flock (4 and a half flocks a year.) Considering there are so many poultry farms around the U.S. I became curious about what they did with all that manure. Specifically, Ms. Cartanza sells her manure to a nearby dairy farm that uses it for nutrient management. I’m glad she gave the advice now, while I’m still in college, to take some business classes as she has realized how important it is to at least have a basic understanding of business.
Ed Kee’s lecture discussed the importance of Delaware’s Agriculture Industry for being a “FoodShed for the Eastern U.S.” The fact that one third of the population lives within eight hours of Delaware helps make this possible. Ed Kee also talked about the importance of the rail road. The completion of the Delaware Railroad encouraged a market driven agricultural economy. The railroad faced competition with trucks when the DuPont Highway was completed. All the transportation options for food made it worthwhile to farm in Delaware. Ed Kee also discussed the importance of technological advances. An example he gave was about Woodside Farm Creamery. They will be using a robotic cow milker. With the steady increase in world population, efficiency in agriculture is going to become a much more pressing issue. Hopefully as time passes, the industry will be able to use technology to keep up with feeding as much of the world as possible.
I’ve never really given much thought to how social media can be so powerful in helping to create a positive image for myself . I’ve always seen it as an advertising technique for companies as a way to hopefully gain more recognition. Ms. Michele Walfred’s lecture exposed me to another way to look at social media. We are all brands. We should be using platforms to be positively improving our own image of how we want to be seen. The internet has made so many aspects of our lives easier, but with this power comes responsibility. Today, companies will most likely search your name on the internet while in the interview process for a new job. The company is investing in you when they decide to hire you. They want to know as much as they can before making any kind of commitment. When you work for a company, you are also representing the company and its values. If customers see that they hire well-rounded people, this could greatly improve the company’s image as a whole. One important piece of advice that Ms. Walfred gave is that it is always a good idea to reply to people on social media. People will know that you are paying attention to them and your presence will soar.