All posts by ecmill

Mark Davis and the Horse Racing Industry

Horse racing is one of the oldest known sports to men and is spread all throughout the World reaching many different audiences. In the United States there are 9.2 million horses where 844,531 horses are involved in racing. There are then 4.6 million people involved in the industry that do not necessarily own horses and then there is tens of millions of people watching. Within the horse racing industry there are two different events that include thoroughbred and harness racing. These two events believe it or not impact the United States economy hugely generating $39 billion just within the industry and $102 billon around the industry. Here in Delaware the horse racing industry dates back to 1760 when the first racing facility was built in Newark. Since then there has been many different race tracks built and many horse raisers try to join in on this booming industry. One reason many people are trying to get involved is the large winnings that are possible. With 2,300 harness races and 600 thoroughbred races a year in Delaware there are many opportunities for a racer to win. But when horses cost $16,000 too $19,000 on average per head it makes it quite difficult for a racer to make a profit.

Dan Severson and The Livestock Industry

Dan Severson’s guest lecture on the livestock industry covered all species of livestock used for production in Delaware. Growing up on a dairy farm and being very active in 4-H showing my dairy cattle I knew a little bit about the livestock industry. However Dan taught me some pretty interesting facts such as there’s a water buffalo farm in Delaware and that people raise rabbits for food production. I found these facts very eye-opening to how diverse the livestock industry in Delaware is and how many different opportunities there are for young people to get into the industry. I also learned that to be considered a farmer all you have to do is make a profit of $1,000 off your production. This surprises me because virtually anybody could be considered a farmer if they have a garden or a pasture because $1,000 is not really that much when you think about it. While Dan’s lecture was very informational it was also sad because when he talked about the dairy industry it really hit home. Coming from a farm that had milked cows for 150 years and sold out just 5 years ago I understand the sadness these dairy farmers are feeling. Luckily my family had diversified in agriculture and had expanded our grain operation but for many of these farmers their source of income is gone and their left helpless once the cows are sold. Overall I found Dan’s lecture to be very informative and I hope it helped some of the students in the class realize how hard farmers have it in the livestock industry.

Hoobers Inc. and Precision Agriculture

Picture of the class with our two guides in front of a Case IH 4430 Sprayer.

Hoobers Inc. a well known agriculture equipment dealership among the East Coast is one that has seen technology change over the years. Our class was toured around the Middletown dealership by two employees that are excellent in the precision ag. field and taught us the broad history of Hoobers and what they do on a daily basis. Hoobers Inc. was first started in 1941 in Intercourse, Pa where Charles Hoober sold International Harvesters. Since 1941 the company has expanded to 9 locations covering 4 different states and continues to adapt to the new technology available to farmers. One aspect that really stands out compared to other companies today is that Hoobers is still owned and operated by the same family that means they really know and believe in their product. After the two employees taught us some history they took us on a tour of the Middletown facility where we got to see the products and services they provide to farmers.

Growing up on a large grain farm I was familiar with Hoobers Inc. and precision agriculture for my family is a huge customer to the company. However I did not realize that this company was a 3rd generation operation, which appeals to me and gives me a sense of trust towards the company. I also thought that the drone was quite interesting because while my family uses precision ag. for our equipment we do not currently take-advantage of drones. I believe this technology could save my family money in the future because we currently use two different agriculture consultant companies to scout our fields but with the technology of drones we could scout ourselves, which could possibly reduce or eliminate the scouting cost.


Dan’s GMO Assignment

The controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms has become a common discussion among just about everyone in the world today. With this wide discussion there has been many false accusations toward this technology, especially around human consumption. One reason these accusations have become widespread is because people believe that every crop farmers produce are genetically modified, which is again false.  According to (approved by Dr. Kevin Folta) there is currently only 10 crops that are approved for production in the United States. These 10 crops include: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, squash, arctic apples, and innate potatoes. The three most used in the United States are corn, soybeans, and cotton because of the great demand for these commodities.

The demand for these commodities is one of the biggest reasons that GMOs were invented and with the demand ever growing they will continue to emerge. However people must understand the science behind these products and all the research that is done before a crop is approved because farmers really are trying to produce what’s best for the consumer because in fact farmers are consuming these products as well. This is what brings up the topic of agvocacy because in order for the misconceptions of GMOs to clear up there has to be a push to clarify them with scientific facts, which is something I believe is going to become bigger in bigger in everyday life.


Mark Lynas and GMO’S

The misconception of genetics and the important role they play in everyones life is huge. In Mark Lynas’s video I had the chance to view both sides of the argument “are GMO’s bad” which helps me understand the reason people tend to have different opinions. Mark was originally against genetically modified organisms because he did not know the actual science about them at first. But once Mark learned how important this technology is he quickly changed views. With the world growing at a rapid place Mark realized that there would be no way to feed everyone if farmers were not growing GMO crops, which was truly the reason Mark changed sides.

As a 4th generation farm boy I understand the importance of this technology and 100% support the use of GMO’s. I do believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but lets be honest there isn’t any proof that GMO’s are harmful to humans and as a matter of fact their good for us because their supporting our ever growing population. I thought Mark’s video was a good video to kind of open my eyes to other ideas but also teach me that people do not like GMO’s because they are ignorant to the subject and just need to be taught the facts just like Mark had to.

CRISP/Cas 9 Gene Editing

CRISPR/Cas9 is a system that has just recently been discovered around the early 2000s and is taking the science world by surprise. This system is much more accurate compared to early gene editing systems, which makes it the new technique scientist are using. The way this system works is by targeting a specific genome and altering it. While you may think it sounds simple you might be surprised because quite frankly working with DNA sequences is very complex and hard. When looking further into the process there are two molecules used one being the Cas9 and the other being RNA. Now when a scientist picks out what DNA sequence they want to cut out in order to alter the genes they first need Cas9. This molecule is an enzyme that is inserted into the DNA sequence and cuts at a specific location in order to alter the DNA sequence where the scientist pick without harming the whole gene. Though in order for the enzyme to cut out the specific location it needs guide RNA to show it the right path. That means that the RNA is responsible for leading Cas9 to an exact spot in the DNA sequence and then performs the cut. Once the cut is made the cell recognizes the change in the DNA and tries to repair itself. However before the cell can repair itself the scientist uses a DNA repairing machine to introduce changes which will then become part of the gene. Once this process is complete the gene has the desirable trait the scientist picked out and now the process is done.




Field Trip 2: Fifer’s Orchard

When thinking of Delaware Agriculture generally poultry and grain are the first two commodities I think of. However Delaware Agriculture is way more than that, which was something I learned on this field trip to Fifer’s Orchard. This family farm is one that is very diversified and one that heavily relies on each family member to do their job in order for the operation to be successful. I knew that produce farms were not uncommon in the Delmarva, as a matter of fact there’s quite a few but I never imagined that one farm could hire over 200 people and till around 3,000 acres of produce with occasional grain for rotational crops. This farm is unique by the variety of produce they grow and sell. Their number one crop for income is sweet corn growing around 1100 acres but strawberries and tomatoes make the most money per acre. They also produce apples, asparagus, kale, pumpkins, and peaches, which is a lot of different products per one farm, but targets a wide variety of customers. We also learned that this produce farm is not organic because without pesticides there would be no way they could be profitable because with environmental pressures such as humidity and the pest pressures they forced to spray their fields once a week. That is one thing that really surprises me because on a grain farm the crop might get sprayed at the most 3 times a year but obviously the produce industry is very different. Then this orchard is quite fascinating because they ship products as far south as Florida and as far north as Maine and everything east of the Mississippi river; which is a huge area to sell products too. In the end this field trip taught me the different processes within the agriculture industry and how different farmers make their income.

James Adkins and Agriculture Irrigation

Last week our class had the opportunity to listen to James Adkins from the University of Delaware who gave a guest lecture on different aspects of the irrigation industry. James gave a very informational lecture with lots of facts that the average person or even farmer would not know. For instance I surely did not know that 20% of the World’s farmland is irrigated and that it produces 40% of the World’s food supply. I also did not know the overall history and how many advances in the technology of irrigation over the years. Living on the delmarva I was familiar with center pivot irrigation but I did not know about the overall variety of the different irrigation systems around the World. I also learned that Asia has the most irrigation in the World and that specifically India uses 90% of their freshwater for irrigation alone. Then looking at the United States I found it very interesting to learn that in the midwest they are extracting more water from reservoirs then can be replaced, which is going to be a huge problem in the future. Overall I found this presentation very eye-opening to a part of agriculture I did not know before.

Ed Kee’s Second Guest Lecture

Listening to former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee last Wednesday Sept. 26, I realized that the United States has by far one of the most diverse agriculture industries in the world. This diversity is due to our various climates and soils from coast to coast that allows farmers to grow the crop that will best grow on their farm. As for California and Iowa they have excelled in finding what best grows in their state allowing these two states to hold the top two positions in the U.S. agriculture industry. Iowa is a state that really catches my attention because they grow many commodities that we grow here on the delmarva but they achieve unthinkable yields. Kee taught us that because of their high yields Iowa leads the country in both corn and soybean production, which is an astonishing accomplishment if you ask me. But then I realize that they have a huge advantage compared to little Delaware because they have 30.5 million acres in farmland compared to 450,000 acres here. Then when I look at California the top agriculture state I’m just amazed how they cope with only 10 inches of rain a year by using aqueducts that bring water to their crops. California also amazes me by ranking number 1 in 9 different commodities in the U.S. and being the 10th largest general economy in the world! That means out of all the countries in the world just one state has enough economic activity to rank 10th, it just takes me by surprise. Overall I could talk about these two states for days because the information that Ed Keeps taught me was very interesting.

Georgie Catanza’s Poultry Farm

Dressed in our biosecurity suits and then after the great field trip.

On this field trip our class had some prior knowledge to the poultry industry from Georgie’s guest lecture, but going to her farm and seeing the actually process is the best way to learn something in my personal opinion. I have experienced chicken farms all throughout my life and have had the opportunity to go into to chicken houses multiple times, but never have I seen the chickens at 8 weeks of age getting ready to leave the farm. This is one reason I really enjoyed this field trip because I had the chance to see the chickens at full age and better understand what they look like and how they act when they are full grown. I also learned a little more about the process of disposing of the mortality and I had the chance to learn about how much liter 4 houses produce a year. The ecodrum that Georgie invested in to compost her dead chickens I thought was very interesting and efficient. Then coming from a family farm where we spread around 1000 tons of chicken manure a year I thought it was interesting to learn how much her chicken houses actually produce, which showed me how many chickens are needed for my families farm production needs. Overall I thought Georgie’s farm was top quality and really enjoyed the first saturday field trip.

Ed Kee’s Guest Lecture on Delaware Agriculture

Delaware the first state; located on the eastern side of United States is one of the smallest states in the country, but has a huge impact on the countries agriculture economy believe it or not. During our guest lecture from former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, I learned a lot about the small state of Delaware that I thought was quite interesting.

One thing that stood out to me was this state brings in $1.2 billion in Ag Sales annually which then stimulates $6 to $7 billion of economic activity throughout the state that is not necessarily agriculture but does have some connections. Then there is around 510,000 acres of farmland in Delaware that makes up 41% of the land in farms. Another thing that is interesting is how Delaware is focusing on preserving their farmland and trying to help young farmers start up. The state currently has 110,000 acres preserved strictly for the use of farmland and has a program called Delaware’s Young Farmer Program that helps with the transition to the next generation. This lecture really showed me that Delaware is trying to do everything they can because the world’s population is constantly growing and needs agriculture for support.


Social Media Do’s and Don’ts

Today social media is involved in everyone’s life from the business world to recreational use, everyone is using it in some form another. Though with all trends there are always negative impacts that need to be considered and understood with social media. Michele Walfred a well known Communication Specialist and Agriculture agvocate gave our class a presentation on social media and how we need to be aware of all its impacts because just one post can make you go from company CEO to unemployed. During her presentation a concept that really stood out to me was having two accounts with one not being linked to your name and having one that is professional. This way when applying for jobs an employer will only be able to see your professional account and will not find anything that influences them to not hire you. Another point that Michele made was post things or share things on your account that relate to your job interest and explain what is going on in the post especially if you are a part of the agriculture community because there is a lot of misunderstood information that can easily be cleared up with some explanation.

Georgie Catanza Guest Lecture

Growing up around the Delmarva Farming community I have had the opportunity to experience many different branches of agriculture, especially the Poultry industry. That being said I had quite of bit of prior knowledge to Georgie Catanza’s speech; however I did not know about the consumers views the way I do now. In the agriculture community there is a lot of different perceptions of production and specifically around animal production; from nutrition to animal treatment. With these different views Georgie did an excellent job of explaining the ignorance and how farmers can help teach the public that in reality the farmer wants best for their livestock just like the consumers because a happy animal is a productive animal. Georgie explained that most technology in the poultry industry has been developed for the welfare of the chicken such as tunnel ventilation to reach a comfortable environment for the chickens to live in. Then from the nutrition side technology has helped improve the efficiency of growing the chickens healthy with no exposure to hormones. Georgie’s lecture explained that the farmers really do care for their livestock and want to produce the best products for the consumers which is what the consumers want.