On 10/26/16 Mr. James Atkins visited our Delaware Agriculture class to give us a guest lecture about agriculture irrigation and its new and growing technologies. Mr. Atkins showed us different irrigation systems used in today’s agricultural farming practices. Some of these different systems of irrigation include the traveling gun, shallow surface and subsurface drip irrigation, and the most widely used center pivot system. He further explained that new technologies have been outfitted on center pivot irrigation systems to increase their efficiency such as zone and variability controlling and even corner arm extension pivot systems. Zone and variability controlling refers to specific control of each individual water dispensing nozzle on the center pivot irrigation system. Using variability irrigation, farmers are able to efficiently irrigate their crops without over watering or under watering in specific areas of the field, for example, if the farm is not perfectly level then some crops would get more water than others. These new technologies greatly increase the precision agriculture for everyday local farmers. The corner arm extension for the center pivot irrigation system really comes in handy when your farm isn’t a perfect circle. The extension arm acts as its own pivot system to get those hard to reach areas of your crop field. James Atkins also showed us new and upcoming forms of agriculture technologies such as the use of drones. He explained that drones are being used more and more in the agriculture industry for things like scanning and surveying farm lands. Using drones is another important aspect of becoming a more efficient and accurate farmer when it comes to planting, harvesting, and watering.
The last field trip from our Delaware Agriculture class was the tour of the 350 acre Newark farm. This was by far the most interesting and exciting trip we have been on and I truly enjoyed it. We explored all of the different animals and research experiments on the farm and learned a great deal about them. It was explained to us that the horses are the most challenging animal to take care of on the farm simply because they are very temperamental. Also, a great challenge to keep the farm running smoothly is the constant maintaining of the land and its resources. Resource rich farm lands are rapidly being sold off to developers and it is a constant struggle to keep our farm lands safe and resource rich. As a fight against this increasing loss of farm lands, University of Delaware has recently implemented a variety of research experiments dealing with entomology and wildlife conservation. New and exciting research is being conducted every day at the Newark farm to ensure the growth of many species, such as honey bees. One of the most interesting aspects of the Newark farm trip was when we took a tour of the farms milk pasteurizing center, I had never seen or been in a room set up for milking before and it was quite the experience. I am very happy to have taken a tour of the blue hen farm and I’m very excited to be up there participating in new research experiments next year!
One of the first guest lectures of our Delaware Agriculture class was when Secretary Kee came to class and explained the great importance and the vast responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture. Secretary Kee also explained possible career pathways that have to do with the many responsibilities of the department. Some of the significant roles the Department of Agriculture consists of the regulation of the horse racing industry, the maintaining of state parks and lands, and the responsibility of controlling invasive non-native species and diseases. Another important responsibility of the Department of Agriculture is the system of weights and measures. The system of weights and measures program of the department is responsible for gauging and testing the accuracy of gas station pumps. Every gas station in the state of Delaware must be certified by the system of weights and measures of the Department of Agriculture to ensure its accuracy. As Secretary Kee explained, there are many responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture and it his job to make sure that all programs and sub departments are running smoothly. Secretary Kee showed me a variety of successful jobs and careers all within the agriculture industry during his visit and I very much enjoyed his lecture.
The most interesting guest lecture from our Delaware Agriculture class was Mr. Mark Davis’s. Mark visited our class on 11/1/16 and gave us and in-depth history of the horse racing industry as well as its prevalence today in the modern agriculture community. We learned that horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world and that, today, the horse industry has a direct economic effect of about 39 billion dollars annually in the U.S. Also, we learned that there are two types of horses used in the horse racing industry as well as two types of racing. The first one is called thoroughbred, and that is the kind of horse that is raced with a rider on its back, called a jockey. The other kind of horse is Standardbred and these are horses used for harness racing. The biggest harness racing track in Delaware is located in Harrington at the state fair grounds. Mark Davis also explained to us the many working parts of the horse racing industry which is all regulated by the Department of Agriculture. Some of these parts include the horses, horse owners, jockeys, trainers, vets, suppliers, casinos/tracks, government representatives, commissions regulators, horse racing associations, and of course the betting public. Mark Davis’s lecture opened my eyes to huge industry of horse racing which I had previously known little about. I appreciate the time he took to inform us about this growing industry.
The trip to Georgie’s organic chicken farm was one of my favorite field trips from this class. I had never been to a poultry farm before and being on her farm and seeing her operation exposed me to some of the experiences of an American family farmer. Although Georgie owns a small family farm, there are still a lot challenges to overcome to be a profitable business. Some of the biggest challenges to running a poultry farm are the manual labor needed to run the day to day operations as well as the overhead cost of electricity to run the chicken houses. Also, another big cost to running a farm is keeping up with the regulations and technology requirements for both mountaire and the state of Delaware. To help with daily regulations of the chicken houses, Georgie has a high tech main control center that controls the temperature, humidity, ventilation, and the food and water supply for all three of her houses. There are, as well, requirements to become an organic chicken farmer. Before getting your organic business license your farm soils must be tested rigorously for three years straight to ensure that there are no harmful chemicals in the ground. Another requirement to becoming an organic farm is the installation of windows in your chicken houses as well as doors for the chickens to be able to go outside as they please, making them free range chickens. Overall, I really enjoyed learning about the organic poultry industry on Georgie’s farm and am very grateful of her hospitality and kindness.
One of the most interesting lectures from our Delaware Agriculture class was on 10/24/16 when Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak visited and enlighten us about Delaware’s booming green industry. But first, Tracy and Val gave us their personal backstories of how they chose successful careers and, indeed, ones they had a passion for, which was very inspiring. After they explained the paths they carved for their individual success, I was surprised to learn about the huge impact the horticulture industry has on the economy, bringing in over 21 million dollars nationally per year. This significant amount of economic flow can be attributed to multiple assets of the green industry, including the producers and retailers of horticulture, landscaping, land managers, golf courses, as well as equipment suppliers. Tracy and Val then further explained the types of plants you would find in a nursery and a floriculture crop production operation. Nursery crops are trees like evergreens, shade trees, shrubs, indoor fruit and nut trees, and even Christmas trees. Whereas floriculture crops are garden plants, cultivated greens, flowers, and foliage plants. The green industry is a growing and imprtant aspect of the large and plentiful Delaware agriculture community. I learned a great deal from Tracy and Val’s lecture and I am very thankful they took the time to share their knowledge and experiences with me.