All posts by jlhay

Industry and Academia in Agriculture (Monsanto Lecture)

Throughout this course, we have heard names of the big agricultural companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, and more.  I understood that they played key roles in the industry, but I actually had no idea what exactly they entailed. Mr. David Mayonado’s guest lecture helped me have a better understanding of not only what Monsanto is, but delved deep into the nitty gritty of GMOs and today’s pesticide industry.  He began his lecture by walking us through agriculture’s past and its evolution of pest management, from hand and animal labor, to the beginnings of mechanics, to the introduction of chemicals, all the way up to the present day’s ability to utilize biotechnology. He helped further break down what exactly GMOs are and how they worked, and talked about various crops that are genetically built to naturally fight pests, rather than requiring a heavy application of chemicals.  He then switched gears a little bit and focused on explaining to us exactly what Monsanto is, and how it was recently bought out by Bayer. All in all, I now have a much clearer understanding of pest management and the companies and minds behind it

UD Farm Tour

We had an awesome opportunity to get an in-depth tour of the Newark farm on November 10th.  While I have had class on parts of the farm in the past, I hadn’t had the chance until now to see every part of the farm.  Learning about the various projects going on was super cool, like the apiaries and rice patties. We also got to tour the insides of the dairy facilities and learn all about how the cows are trained to just walk into the parlor when milking time rolls around, and how tedious and time consuming it can be to care for them.  Our tour guide Scott Hopkins, the farm superintendent, was full of so much knowledge and information, I didn’t lose focus once listening to him talk about the farm and his passion for it. He had a particular passion for the horses, and he showed us the horse barn and the different tools within it, such as the teasing wall, as well as the small indoor arena that I didn’t know existed. I was also amazed to learn that horses can stop contractions during labor if they feel threatened.  As a whole, the tour was super fun and interesting, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn as much as I did.

Horse Racing with Mark Davis

One of the oldest sports known to man, and once one of the most popular sports in the United States, horse racing is nothing less of a lost art in today’s society.  Mark Davis came in and talked to us about the industry, which surprisingly has a direct economic effect on the US of $39 billion annually. Of the 9,222,847 horses in the United States, 844,531 of them are dedicated to racing.  In the state of Delaware today, horse racing remains a relatively popular sport. Dating all the way back to 1760, the first racing facility was built in Newark, and the industry took off from there. It was super cool listening to Mr. Davis talk about his direct involvement in the industry, and his call to action in getting involved and educating ourselves and the people around us about horsing racing.  He went into detail about how the catalogues are read, ways of betting, and the different kinds of racing and horses involved. He shared tons of statistics with us and it was all around a really interesting lecture, one that I had no previous background knowledge on.

The Livestock Industry with Dan Severson

Dan Severson’s guest lecture on the livestock industry was right up my alley.  Growing up showing market animals in 4-H, I knew a lot of the information he gave us, and had the opportunity to build upon my prior knowledge with some new facts he shared.  Severson shared data on beef, hogs, sheep, goats, and dairy, and of course touched on poultry. For each species, he talked about the different kinds of productions. For example, for beef there are cow/calf productions, feedlots, show/genetic breeders, and more.  He also explained that even the smallest productions can be considered farms, as long as they sell $1,000 of farm products a year. That was something I was previously unaware of and definitely surprised to learn. Having focused most of my years in 4-H on market sheep, I knew pretty much all of the facts he shared about them, as well as the goats.  I was also aware of the huge catastrophe that is the dairy industry, and it always makes me sad to hear about it, having known many dairy farmers personally that have been forced to sell their farms and animals. I was absolutely shocked to learn that there are only 28 dairy farms in Delaware. Despite it being a small state, it had surprisingly large numbers for most of the other industries with the exception of dairy.  All in all, Severson’s lecture on livestock was definitely right up my alley and I enjoyed listening to him come in and speak.

GM Crops – Dan Severson Lecture

Despite popular belief that GMOs are taking over the food industry within the United States, there are actually only ten crops that are approved to be genetically modified and produced within the country.  These ten crops include corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, potatoes, papaya, squash, alfalfa, and apples. More than 90% of acreage dedicated to soybean, cotton, corn, canola and sugar beet is GMO, but most of these commodity crops aren’t sold directly to consumers anyhow, but to other disciplines such as the production of ethanol.  While only ten crops are approved and produced by GMO, there are over 120 varieties of GM crops, and it can be difficult to find processed foods that don’t include a GMO ingredient. Furthermore, while many people are under the impression that these ten GM crops pose a threat to their health, it is actually the exact opposite; the most recently approved GM crop is the potato, which was approved due to its resistance in bruising and the fact that it produces less of a cancer-causing chemical than non-GM potatoes.  A lot of these facts come as a surprise to many people who aren’t well-educated about genetically modified crops, including myself, but are vitally important to learn and understand.

Hoober’s Field Trip

On October 20th we had an awesome opportunity to go and visit Hoober’s in Middletown.  We got the chance to chat with two of the workers there and learn a little bit about Hoober’s background and how the company expanded over time.  They told us they also had locations in Mifflintown and Chambersburg, PA, both towns I am familiar with and live within a couple hours of; this painted a better picture of just how big of a company Hoober’s is.  We toured the shop as a group and got a chance to have some up-close looks at the equipment they were working on. From combines to tractors to sprayers, we got a good overview of just how expensive and meticulous all of these machines are, and how big of an impact precision ag has had on the evolution of machinery used within the industry.  Hands down the neatest part of the trip was the chance for everyone to either drive a tractor or a sprayer. Everyone got to drive at least one of the machines, and they both had auto-steer which was super neat. While others drove the machines, we got a chance to learn about drones and their use in agriculture. All in all, this trip gave us a unique opportunity to see precision ag up close and personal, giving us a broader perspective of the industry as a whole.

Delaware’s Green Industry

When I hear the words “Green Industry” my mind naturally goes to flowers and plants.  These two general categories, however, only scratch the surface of what the Green Industry entails.  From horticulture to landscaping to golf courses, Delaware’s Green Industry was responsible for $21,744,000 of sales in 2014.  It has a huge impact on the economy and plays a vital role in agriculture in general. The Green Industry breaks down into many categories and subcategories, including two specific crop groups: Floriculture crops and Nursery crops.  Floriculture crops are your general garden/bedding plants, flowers, potted plants, and foliage: the pretty stuff. Nursery crops include trees, shrubs and other ornamental plants for home use. There are so many job opportunities within this industry, and the revenue is far more than one may guess.  From small, locally owned greenhouses and landscaping companies, to economic giants such as Lowes and Home Depot, the economic impact is unreal. Tracy and Valann’s lecture threw so much new, valuable information at me that I had a hard time retaining all of it; it was a super education and eye-opening lecture that I enjoyed learning about.

Mark Lynas and GMOs

Holding a super unique perspective of the agricultural industry, Mark Lynas’ speech was an enlightening and encouraging one that strongly supported the use of GMOs.  Once a man who was entirely against GMOs, Lynas believed he knew enough based on information he simply heard about GMOs to come to the conclusion that they were “Frankenstein’s monster”, and actively campaigned against them.  However, after educating himself, he realized that the real “Frankenstein’s monster” was the movement against it. He discovered that GMOs did not in fact increase chemical use, but actually required less of it. He was also under the impression that the billions of dollars of profit went to the corporate companies, when, in fact, much of the money goes to farmers, especially ones from developing countries who need it.  He thought no one wanted GMOs, that everyone was anti-biotechnology in the realm of agriculture; meanwhile, farmers in places such as Brazil and India were pirating them, eager for the many benefits GMOs actually have. Most of all, however, he thought the mixing of genes from different species was an unnatural process. What he didn’t know was that this mixing of genes, called gene flow, occurs in viruses, plants, insects, and humans alike.  All in all, Lynas had previously entirely misunderstood the idea and science of GMOs, and once learning the truth, he did a complete 180, and began advocating for them. During his speech, he went into how necessary they are for the future, and disproved other theories of ways to feed the growing population such as organic farming. His change in perspective and understanding was a drastic but promising one. As someone who has a basic understanding of GMOs, I personally agree with Lynas that they are a necessity and extremely beneficial to all of those who support and use them to their advantage.  I do not believe that organic farming will sustain our rapidly increasing population, albeit it being a great way to produce crops. It simply won’t be enough, which is okay, because GMOs will be, if society is willing to accept them.

Fifer’s Trip

On October 6th we visited Fifer’s, which was a super educational and fun trip.  It was crazy to learn just how large and in depth their production was; they farm over 3,000 acres of land, harvest multiple crops for all three growing seasons, and manage to do so as one large family unit.  Some of the crops the Fifer family grows includes pumpkins, apples, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, cauliflower, and sweet corn. All of these products are then sold to grocery stores, farm stands, or in the store they have on their property that they also have fall festivals at.  Fifer’s is a conventionally run farm that uses multiple forms of irrigation and growing methods. They have conventional fields as well as high tunnels; they grow their tomato plants out of the tunnels using drip irrigation.  We learned that their crop yield and success heavily depends on crop rotation, and a lot of time goes into deciding where to put everything each year.  We also had the opportunity to see some of the farm hands implanting some strawberry crops from the back of a tractor, which was super neat to see.  We got the chance to speak to two of the Fifer brothers, both of whom handle totally different ends of the business, so we got to learn about the actual farming end as well as the food safety and handling end as well. All in all, this trip was super neat, and we got to go home with lots of goodies (albeit the trip home was a little longer than anticipated).

Agricultural Irrigation with James Adkins

Due to my personal interest in sustainability and natural resources, James Adkin’s lecture on agricultural irrigation was definitely the most captivating one so far this course.  Quite honestly, I had no idea there were so many different methods of irrigation in use today. Even ones that date back as far as Babylon’s ancient gardens are still in use today in parts of China.  As Mr. Adkins walked us through the many methods of irrigation, it was clear how development in technology and our understandings of the environment have both contributed to more efficient ways of providing crops with proper water and nutrients.  Irrigation can be found in a variety of methods all over the earth; surprisingly, most irrigation occurs in Asia, in countries that oftentimes fail to meet water needs for their citizens. In fact, in India, 90% of all of their freshwater goes directly to irrigating their crops.  Meanwhile, their citizens are dying of thirst and diseases from poor water quality. It was definitely interesting to learn all of these staggering statistics and facts. Another super intriguing part of the lecture was about California’s water war. The idea that the farmers and agricultural industry are in a battle with the humongous population of California cities for the water source that comes off the Sierras is crazy to think about.  California agriculture has no chance of winning this battle, so they struggle for other sources to maintain their yields. Overall, this lecture was one that kept my attention from start to finish, and certainly peaked my interest in water quality, sources, and sustainability.

Iowa and California: Agriculture Giants

Ed Kees gave an interactive and entertaining lecture on Wednesday 9/26 as he discussed Iowa and California agriculture.  It was a super informative lecture for me, as I was previously very unaware of the agriculture in both of these states, and just how largely they impact the economy.  The idea that 85% of Iowa’s land mass is dedicated to agriculture is mind-blowing, and I was also surprised to learn that they are the number one producer in corn, pork and eggs.  The fact that Iowa alone produced 12.5 billion eggs last year is hard to wrap my head around. Iowa is a sweet spot for agriculture due to its rich soils and plentiful rainfall. California, on the other hand, has less than ideal rainfall, but makes up for it in its lack of humidity, which makes growing vegetables an easy task and it greatly reduces the risk for disease.  In fact, California ranks number one for the production of multiple vegetables, fruits and nuts. For being a state that only receives about 10 inches of rain per year, it’s amazing to see how productive they really are. California is somewhere around the tenth largest general economy in the world; that in itself is extremely respectable. The adaptations farmers have come up with in order to produce so much are amazing, especially the enormous aqueducts that run through the fields in order to get water to their crops.  Our country depends heavily on the agricultural industries of Iowa and California, and it was interesting to hear all of the incredible facts about both.

Poultry Farm Field Trip

Growing up heavily involved in 4-H, I have been on my fair share of farms.  However, the trip we took to Georgie’s organic poultry farm was entirely new to me. It was amazing to see the five house farm and the insides of the hen houses.  I was shocked to see how clean, smooth and hands-off the whole process was. Despite the fact that the hen houses are only entirely cleaned annually, the inside was far tidier than I had imagined.  I also found it amusing that due to consumer demands and society’s perception of poultry farms, all organic productions are required to allow the chickens outside; and yet, the hens have absolutely no interest in leaving the houses.  Perhaps the most interesting part was that Georgie does what she can to keep her farm as environmentally friendly as possible.  She composts all of the deceased chickens, either traditionally or by using an eco drum. The eco drum cost every bit of $50,000 and is a more environmentally sensitive way of disposing of the chickens.  Furthermore, she hopes to invest in solar panels in the future, which would not only help the environment, but her finances as well, potentially cutting her electric bill that is currently about $35,000.  All in all, the visit to Georgie’s farm was a highly educational experience that I enjoyed very much.

Delaware Food Shed – Ed Kee

A well-knowledged, experienced man, Ed Kee’s’guest lecture was rich with interesting facts about the Delaware foodshed, dating from George Washington’s presidency to the present.  Once the State Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Kee had loads of information to share with us about just how heavy in agriculture Delaware truly is. He shared with us some staggering statistics, such as 41% of Delaware’s land mass is strictly farmland, and that 25% of it is permanently preserved for farmland.  He also informed us that agriculture always has been and continues to be extremely prevalent in the state’s economy, totalling to a whopping $7.9 billion in economic activity. He walked us through the evolution of Delaware agriculture, which started as a strong vegetable producer, then became a large participant in the fruit and canning industries, and eventually became the poultry powerhouse it is today, producing astronomical numbers in poultry and corn, which helps feed the millions of chickens present today.  He informed us of the various challenges agriculture faces today as population continues to grow exponentially, emphasizing that agricultural production must grown by 70-100% before 2050 in order to feed the planet. But with these challenges comes an exciting time to be in agriculture, and he is confident in the upcoming generation and its abilities.

Michele Walfred and Social Media Today

In today’s world, image is everything. With social media trending and encompassing every aspect of our lives, it’s important to be mindful of what we post and how we portray ourselves. This was the overlying theme of Michele Walfred’s lecture about presence, and building a professional persona or “brand”. She walked us through vital information that will help us as we work our way through college, landing internships and eventually jobs in the workforce. She described building yourself up in the same way as a brand or company; what do people think when they see you? She explained key ideas to using social media to build our brand in a positive way, such as having a professional twitter page, which is trending particularly in the agricultural industry.  She broke down the dos and do nots, emphasizing professional pictures, proper language, and to stay away from political banter. In the end, she came full circle and explained how to agvocate successfully. She showed us how to avoid fake news, how to express the facts in a professional manner, and how to create a positive brand for agriculture as well as ourselves. Ms. Michele’s lecture was a necessary one that impacted me greatly; given her background and well-rounded experience, I will be sure to hold onto her advice as I begin my journey through college and eventually into the workforce.

Georgie Cartanza and Organic Poultry

Born and raised just outside of Pittsburgh, PA, the term “Delmarva” was foreign to me. I was unaware that Delaware, Maryland and Virginia all played such prevalent roles in the production of poultry. Georgie Cartanza shared this, along with many other facts regarding organic poultry farming and sustainability, in her presentation. She laid a solid foundation of the history and understanding of today’s poultry farming, leading right into issues involving sustainability and organic farming. She fact-checked many myths for us, and it was interesting to hear her disprove so much false information from the internet. Perhaps the most interesting part of her presentation was when she got into supporting a population of 9-10 billion people by the year 2050. She explained that organic farming will simply not be efficient enough to support everyone. Furthermore, she got into how poultry is one of the more efficient food sources: the feed conversion ratio for chickens is a mere 1.7 in comparison to beef cattle’s whopping 6.8. As a whole, Georgie painted a bold argument in support of chicken farming across the world, and proved just how big of a role it will play in the future.