All posts by jeck

LABELING: What’s in my food?

The discussion of what to and what not to label is very controversial. There are many positive and negatives about labeling to the farmers, the public and the businesses.

As a fourth generation farmer myself, I believe that labeling promotes and hurts the agriculture industry. It hurts our industry by making consumers believe that without the label, it is not qualified. For example by adding a label that says “no added hormones” on a chicken breast, people believe that some ccommercially grown birds have hormones added in them. But since 1960’s the Food and Drug Administration put a regulation on the industry and we have not been able to use hormones on any bird commercially raised since then. Yet, the positive is that labeling allows farmers to be transparent in their practices.


For the public, labeling positively impacts them by allowing them to know what is in their food. It also helps with those who have allergies because they know what to avoid without having to do research themselves. But negatively the consumers are hurt because they are misguided with the labels. An example is have gluten free water or non-GMO bacon. Both of these obviously cannot contain that ingredient, but our consumers are uneducated about where their food comes from and what it takes to produce that product.

Some businesses truly take advantage of labeling. They know that the public is interested in being healthy, local, fresh, and much more. Therefore, they over label their item to grab the consumer’s attention, and once that consumer buys their product once, they typically will keep buying it. However, labeling restrictions that people are encouraging, such a labeling GMO or non-GMO on everything produced will hurt an industry. This will hurt them by billions of dollars, simply by the packaging.

I personally believe that labeling may be necessary for some labels, but I believe over labeling should be illegal as it is a marketing gimmick to consumers. With that in mind, I believe consumers should be required to take an agriculture class and learn more about their food, therefore they can be aware about what contains gluten and GMO’s for example as well as the practices farmers do to grow a safe and sustainable product.

Monsanto: A company that is better than what your friend told you.

Science and agriculture together do seem scary but really that is how we learn, practice, study and much more for everything we create and discover. Monsanto is a large company that does a lot of science work for the agriculture industry.

Science based research and development over the past 100 years have resulted in a huge increase in US crop production via improved agronomic practices, the adoption of ever improving mechanical, chemical and biological tools. This science has allowed Mid-Atlantic farmers to provide steadily larger crops while at the same time improving soil quality and fostering an environment that supports a thriving wildlife population.

The changing tools for agriculture pest management began at hand and animal labor. Then it went to mechanical labor by the use of steel. Next is chemical labor that used small molecules such as no-till. And today biological which uses proteins and RNA through GMOs. “What are GMOs? Biotechnology in plant agriculture has come to mean the process of intentionally making a copy of a gene for a desired trait from one plant or organism and using it in another plant. The result is a GMO (genetically modified organism).” Some commercial products of biotechnology are RoundUp Ready Corn which allows growers to be more effective and efficient in the control of weeds. YieldGard Corn allows growers to manage yield robbing insects without the need to spray. DroughtGard Corn enhances drought tolerance in corn for tough environments. Lastly, Vistive Gold/Plenish Soybeans are soybeans that provide a vegetable oil that is more healthy for consumers.

To date, more than 2,000 scientific studies have assessed the safety of these crops in terms of human health and environmental impact. These studies together with several reviews performed on a case by case from regulatory agencies around the world, have enabled a solid and clear scientific consensus: GM crops have no more risk than those that have been developed by conventional breeding techniques.

Who doesn’t love horses?

In Delaware, the horse racing is a large industry. Horse racing dates back to 1760 where the first racing facility was built in Newark, DE. Today, Harrington Raceway is the oldest continuously operating harness racing track in the country. In Delaware we race Harness and Thoroughbred.

Harness racing is when there is a cart and rider behind the horse. Harness racing in Delaware happens about 200 days of out the year, with approximately 2,300 races. Whereas thoroughbred is when there is a jockey on the back of the horse and is typically raced 80 days out of the year, with about 600 races.


This industry is highly regulated. You must have a license to race and they only hand out 2,000 a year in Delaware. These licenses go to owners, trainers, drivers, groomers, vendors and track employees. Regulations include overseeing the race, tracks, paddocks, safety, welfare, and testing on both the racer and the horse. Testing can occur at any time and any substance can be tested.

Now we are talking money. In 2014, the horse racing industry total contribution to the Delaware economy was nearly $182 million, including the support of 1,540 jobs. It is great to know that every $100 spent by a horseman, tracks, agencies and associations results in $182 of total spending in Delaware. For each race the 1st place owner receives 50% of the purse, 2nd place owner is 25%, 3rd place owner gets 12%, 4th place gets 8% and 5th place gets 5%. While the driver of the winning horse get 5% and trainer gets 5%. The average purse for harness racing is $50,000. Be sure to stop by a local raceway and see a race for yourself!

Livestock: Beef, Pork, Poultry, Lamb, and Goat

In the United States 98% of farms are family owned and operated while 2% of the U.S. population produces your meals. Livestock is animals that are raised for meat for human consumption. Dan Severson, New Castle County Extension Agent educated my class about the diversity of livestock.

In Delaware, we have 296,380 head of beef cattle. These cattle are raised in a cow/calf, feedlots or stocker operation. We also have people who raise beef to show and for direct market. It contributes $6 million to our economy.

Hogs are raised on a farrow to finish, farrow to feeders, or feeders to finish farm. They have $2 million industry with 59,580 head of hogs grown in Delaware annually. Hogs can also be raised for show, direct market or in a pasture.

Sheep contribute $92,000, with 69,104 of them. They are typically raised in a backyard, as a part-time job, and for show, hair or wool.

Contributing $125,000, goats have three different kinds – meat, milk and Angora. Goats are grown for direct market, show or because they are a niche. We typically use goat milk for soap and lotion.

We do have a large population of poultry grown in Delaware and were spoke about in depth with Georgie Cartanza. Other livestock in Delaware include bees, bison, alpaca, rabbits, water buffalo, deer and elk.

Delaware’s Green Industry

On October 18th, Tracy Wooten, Master Gardener State Coordinator and Valann Budischak, Executive Director of Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association, spoke to our class about Delaware’s Green Industry. The green industry in Delaware has a total cash receipt of $13.8 billion in 2014 and is a growing industry.

What and who make up the green industry? Producers, retailers, landscapers, land managers, and suppliers. Producers are those you grow the variety of crops and sell to retailers. Retailers in Delaware specialize in different categories and Delaware is the home to the biggest garden center on the East Coast – East Coast Garden Center. Next there are landscapers, they have a variety of jobs that design, build and maintain anyone’s landscape. Land managers typically work for the state and maintain the roads, railroads, open area and state parks. DELDOT is the largest land manager in Delaware. Lastly, suppliers do not directly work with plants, they are those who provide the tools and equipment needed to grow and maintain the crops.

I found it very interesting that when you buy plants, it is typically at its third home. It begins at one location that plants it and grows it to a seedling. Then the second company will grow it to a pot size, that then is sold to a Garden Center to sell to the public. Now in the Green Industry there are two crop groups; floriculture and nursery crops. Floriculture Crops are bedding/garden plants, cut cultivated greens, cut flowers, potted flowering plants, foliage plants, and propagative floriculture material. Whereas Nursery Crops are broadleaf greens, coniferous evergreens, deciduous shade trees, deciduous flowering trees, deciduous shrubs and other ornamentals, fruit and nut plants for home use, cur and to-be-cut christmas trees, and propagation material or lining-out stock.

Lastly, some organizations that you should look into if you like landscaping and the green industry are Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association, Livable Lawns as well as Master Gardeners. Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association is a non-profit trade organization serving Delaware’s horticultural related businesses and the companies that supply them. Livable Lawns certifies homeowners and lawn care companies that follow environmentally-friendly best practices in fertilizer application while educating homeowners on these best practices. Master Gardeners is volunteer educators whose mission is to provide residents with information to make the best possible choices for managing their home landscapes in ways that are environmentally responsible.


Research Leads to New Discoveries

Just like every other industry, research allows scientists to learn new discoveries. In the past decade think of everything that has improved; your phone, car, house, medicine, the list goes on and on. One things that has improved tremendously in the past decade is agriculture. From our seeds, pesticides, animal genetics and even equipment. At the University of Delaware Newark Research Farm, I was able to learn and understand some current research to benefit our future.

In the dairy industry, different cows are receiving different feeds. They record how much they eat each day and how much milk they produce. By this study we are able to learn what to feed our cows to keep them healthy, to continue to produce milk. This milk is used for consumption, ice cream, cheese and much more. This was Mr. Hopkins most exciting research because he is able to see a direct effect, whereas other research projects take time.

In the poultry industry, research of vaccines is being done non-stop. This is because chicken reproduce so quickly, they can become immune to the vaccines. Therefore, we have to stay ahead of the game. Poultry receives vaccines just like humans do, to stay healthy and stay away from harsh sickness.  

Now, there was a lot of other research being done; from crops, to bees, to greenhouses and everywhere in between. But, these two projects stood out to me. As a consumer, I know it sounds scary to hear that they are doing research, but keep in mind the amount of research being done for ourselves. Research on medications to everyday needs that we have, research is required to understand how and why things work before they affect us because research allows for new discoveries.

GM is Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly

GM, otherwise known as “Genetically Modified,” is a term consumers fear. Mark Lynas a spokesperson for the Environment bashed GM for years and created many movements on this topic. One day, he took it upon himself to research climate change and later GM. Later realizing the numerous benefits GM had to offer our growing population. In a video “Mark Lynas 2013 Oxford Farming Conference” ( he touches on this very topic.

GM crops not only allow our generation to be sustainable while feeding the hungry and poor, it also benefits our environment. GM’s allows for less pesticide use, while saving producers seeds because of they hybrid use, they are safer than conventional breeding and are roundup ready which means that less chemicals are being spread, just to name a few benefits.

Environmentally we are producing more with less. This means a smaller need for greenhouses and their emissions. Therefore, rainforest’s and other natural areas will not be destroyed and used for agriculture. GM offers a better way to manage nitrogen, furthermore keeping pollution to a minimum. Another benefit to the environment is the ability to make drought-resistant seed, as a result we can use less available water.

We as consumers need to be proactive and interested. GM is how we will feed our growing population; do you want people to starve? Research has proven no harm, sickness or diseases to animals or humans who have consumed GM food. Now you must do your part to educate yourself with scientific research to stay sustainable and save the environment.


Technology is OUR Future

Technology has evolved in every aspect over the years. Today, we all own some form of technology to benefit our lives. I mean who else ever imaged having a computer at their fingertips? Even our farms have evolved with technology. From the structures to the sprayers to the seeds, technology has benefited not only the farmers life, but every person on this Earth. Technology has allowed farmers to grow more food with less land.

According to Hoober’s Employees, it all begins with the seed. Seeds are genetically modified and selectively bred to produce a better product. This process will was discussed to our classes previously and will have a post of it’s own in the near future.

Next, technology benefits begin with a seedling to the end product that is harvested. In the beginning a planter, which plants the seeds, has evolved in a variety of ways. Today a planter can turn off rows that are already planted and the tractor can drive itself with an operator in the seat to have straight rows. Then, the sprayer has changed. A sprayer puts herbicides, pesticides and other products that plants needs. 99% of the liquid coming out of a sprayer is water! Technology has allowed no overlap to occur which economically keeps the exact amount of products needed on the field, which allows for no runoff. Lastly, combines which harvest the crop has the same monitor as the planter and it can harvest the same exact way it is planted with the GPS system. My classmates and I experienced this first hand on our field trip to Hoobers in Middletown, DE.

Now these are only a few changes that has allowed technology to change our lives. Many other pieces of equipment allow farmers to feed our growing population, such as drones, computers, soil types, etc. From now on think about how well technology has benefited you from all aspects!




Produce: From Delaware to Florida

September 23rd, “Understanding Today’s Agriculture” Class enjoyed a field trip to Fifer’s Orchard in Camden-Wyoming, Delaware. This fourth-generation family farm tills 2,800 acres, producing a variety of produce and field crops. They have 160 people on payroll, benefitting the area with jobs.

On our field trip we were able to see a field with a variety of cauliflower and kale as well as Apple Trees. On the farm they also have high tunnel, which is where they grow tomatoes, start to finish. Growing tomatoes in high tunnel, allowed for a controlled environment. It was really interesting to not only see a center pivot irrigation system in the grains fields, but they also have a drip irrigation system for other products. They also have a store, where they can sell to local consumers. Every Saturday until Halloween, they have a Fall Fest on Saturday’s, be sure to check out their social media and join the numerous activities and venders.

Without today’s technology Fifers Orchard would not be able to have grown as they have today. They are thankful for the science and technology they have available to keep their business running. They are looking forward to what the future has to offer. Yet, they face a challenge with labor-intensive jobs. Most of their produce is hand picked and packaged.

Fifer’s Orchard works with a Community Supported Agriculture club (CSA) that provides a variety of produce weekly to locations throughout Delaware. They also sell locally at their country store, to schools and to restaurants. Not only does their produce travel locally, it travels all the way to Florida because it is too hot in the summer for Florida to grow produce, we supply Southern States with produce and in the winter they provide us with produce.

Be sure to check Fifer’s out located in Camden-Wyoming Delaware.

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