All posts by jslusser

Building Sustainable Agriculture

Tuesday November 13th, Bill Cowser and Bill Northey came to the UD STAR Campus to discuss biofuels and modern agriculture. All majors were welcome to this hearing and as a bonus at the end there was free UDairy ice cream! On Bill Cowser’s farm he raises beef cattle and grows soybeans and corn. He mentioned that every third row of corn goes to produce ethanol. In Iowa, 39% of its corn crops is used for ethanol. Cowser also mentioned the three commodities that come from a corn field: stalk/corn, feed, and bedding. One thing that I thought was kind of funny was what Cowser calls “The Chase.” The Chase is one thing that he needs/ wants to control the most but is unable too. He would like to control the weather but it’s impossible. He even said that he knows he can’t be he’s going to try. This past summer Iowa got a lot of rain. More than Delaware which destroyed some of the crops there.

Both men talked about the main goals of the agricultural industry. For instance, farmers want renewable, sustainable, environmental friendly, and profitable products. If it’s not profitable then that’s a huge lost right there because no one will be able to afford it and therefore, no one would buy the product. They also talked about the VTA or the Vegetative Treatment Area. What this is, is an area of perennial vegetation, like grass or forage. It is used to treat runoff from either a barnyard or a feedlot by settling, infiltration, and nutrient use. And when the runoff has settled into the soil, natural processes allow plants to use those nutrients. To me, this presentation was really interesting to hear. Even though it went over most of the topics we covered in class there was more to learn from it which is pretty cool. It’s also nice to get an insight view of the production from a different area.

Industry and Academia in Ag

Dave Mavonado came to speak to the class about Industry and Academia in Agriculture and how much it has evolved since it all started. The main thing that he talked about was how much the agricultural business has changed and developed over the last century. The reason why it has changed so drastically was because of the four topics Dave spoke about: labor, mechanics, chemical usage, and biotechnology. Back in the day, it was all hands on deck. Farmers mainly relied on the use of animals for labor. Such as pulling plows. There would also be groups of people in the fields harvesting the produce by hand because they didn’t have combines or tractors like we do today. It wasn’t up until steel came about that helped the agricultural industry evolve the way it did. Tractors slowly started making its way into the business and helped the farmers produce a higher yield of crops because they were able to get through everything much faster. Next was the use of chemicals. This allowed protection of the plants to repel itself from pests that might damage or kill the crop. Finally, biotechnology. With biotechnology we are able to produce a much higher yield in a shorter time frame without harming the produce like GMO’s. There’s also CRISPR which allows scientists to take a certain gene out of the plants DNA and make it better so the farmer can produce more.

Dave also talked about the different grants that were and still are available today. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 established the raising of funds to create land-grant colleges. The Morrill Acts mission was to take kids who did not know a thing about agriculture and teach them about practical agriculture, science, and engineering. But in order for kids to learn about agriculture they needed the land. Hatch Act of 1887 lead to the creation of agriculture experiment stations to be affiliated with the land grants. If it wasn’t for these grants who knows what the agricultural industry would be like today.

UD Farm Final Field Trip

This past Saturday we had our final field trip which was located here at the UD farm and hosted by the farm superintendent Scott Hopkins. Even though it was a little cold and the wind was blowing it was still a nice day. Being a Pre-Vet major, I’ve had a couple classes on the farm such as the ANFS 111 lab and Organic and Sustainable Farming so I knew most about the farm but it stills amazes me that every time I step foot on it there’s always something learn. For example, last year I volunteered to help Larry Armstrong the Webb Farm Manager in vaccinating the ewe’s and help with the ultrasounds The farm is consisted of over 350 acres of land which is home to different types of animals such as Black Angus beef cattle, Holstein dairy cattle that get milked twice a day, Dorset sheep (which is my favorite), several varieties of chickens, bees, and seven horses. And even a field with hops for beer! On most Fridays there is a tent set up by the organic green houses that sells fresh produce to everyone including students plus the UDairy Creamery where you can buy more than just ice cream.

My favorite part about the farm is how hands on it is. Like during the ANFS 111 lab we get the opportunity to milk the cattle, trim the sheep’s hooves and have the ability to interact with the horses. The day of the field trip, Black Angus beef cows were loud but that was because they were separated from their young who are being weaned off the milk. The best part I like is that UD doesn’t just interact with itself. They have partnerships with other universities such as Rutgers (New Brunswick). For instance, when the dairy cows give birth UD keeps the bull calf for so long and then they ship them to Rutgers for research. UD and Rutgers share the cattle more or less to say which is pretty cool. There is so many career and research opportunities on the farm. If you talk to the right people you are able to be put on a wait list to be able to work with the animals although it is hard to schedule a break time within your normal class schedule to work on the farm but its most definitely worth trying. Also a huge thank you to Dr. Isaacs for treating everyone to ice cream and to Max as well for putting a performance on playing his fiddle!

Horse Racing Industry – Mark Davis

Growing up I always loved horses. When I was young my cousin brought my brother and I to Delaware Park and I was just fascinated to watch the races. I knew there was a lot more to the horse racing industry than what people talked about or knew but listening to Mark Davis was interesting. He started out by giving a brief overview of the industry such as William DuPont Jr. designed Delaware Park. He also told us about lower Delaware and during the late 1960s Harrington raceway and Dover Downs was built. Thoroughbreds race about 80 days a year while the harness racing has 180 days. I knew that before and after a race both the horses and the jockeys get series of drug tests to see if they had extra boosters in their system to help them perform better like EPO. There are approximately 23 EPO testing that can be done but the horses only get tested on three. There are also several people involved within the industry such as judges, investigators (people who are retired state troopers), veterinarians, breathalyzer techs, and etc., each with their own unique jobs. What I didn’t know was that in harness racing you need to have a license. These people consist of owners, trainers, drivers, groomers, vendors and track employees.

Livestock Industry

Dan Severson is an Extension Agent in New Castle County. He came in and spoke to our class about the livestock industry in Delaware. I was very interested in learning about the livestock industry because that’s what I grew up around. Growing up my neighbor had a farm and he raised everything from sheep, beef cattle, goats, chickens, and turkeys. From working on the farm I knew a lot about the meat consumption. In consumptions terms lamb, veal, and goat have gone down in America. Most people just don’t like certain types of meat or they never want to try but in other countries they are in huge demand like goat and lamb. So to learn the number history was intriguing. For instance, the average age of a farmer is fifty-eight years and in order to be considered a farm, it’s not based off of your acreage it’s based off of sales. A farm has to make $1,000 a year in sales. Dan also mentioned that the livestock has more to it other than selling meat and fur. Apart from the meat processing aspect of the livestock industry, we are able to produce more, such as soaps and lotions. One thing that surprised me the most was that in the United States only 6.6% of our money is spent on food.

Hoober Field Trip

On our third field trip we went to Hoober, Inc. At Hoober, they are more into the Case farm equipment but they still sell Jon Deere and Kubota. They sell everything from agriculture equipment to construction to personal utility. In their showroom they have the lawn and gardening tools such as Kubota lawn mowers and UTVs. We then went into the machine shop were we got see some combines and other equipment being worked on. The guys said that it was easier to pull out the motor on a combine and do work to it than it is to try and work around it while still connected to the combine. One thing that surprised me was that just the combine itself costs $400,000 and it’s another $100,000 for the attachments like a corn head. Also, with the upgraded technology, like satellite, that is available to us today if a farmer has a problem with their machine and they aren’t sure about it, they are able to call the guys at Hoober’s and they are able to get into the devices in the combine and see what’s wrong and how to fix it. Afterwards, we went on a tour around the property and got to see more combines and other purpose tractors and farm equipment. At the end of the tour my classmates and I had the opportunity to drive a sprayer or a Magnum tractor. We had the opportunity to learn about the drone and what they are capable of. A fact about the drone is that it is able to tell the operator how many plants (seedling) are in a certain field. We also got the chance to drive a couple tractors too.

Delaware’s Green Industry

Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak spoke about the Green Industry and Horticulture. They said that back in 2014 Delaware’s Green Industry came in at a whopping $21,774,000. There are many people involved in the Green Industry such as producers, retailers, landscapers/ managers, suppliers and even golf courses like Baywoods. They mentioned that there were two types of horticultural crop groups that they use. For instance, floriculture (bedding/garden plants) and nursery crops (broadleaf evergreens). On the retail end, it helps show people who don’t have much of a backyard, but have a patio, how to make it look nice and decorative without being a plant expert. Landscapers are a huge part to this industry. They do everything from mowing and irrigation to invasive control, fertilization, and the health of the plants. An interesting fact that the ladies spoke about was how most people weren’t spending their money on vacations and etc. they were putting that money towards renovation of backyards.

Mark Lynas and GMO’s

The video with Mark Lynas was about GMO and its uses and how people think it’s bad without knowing what it is due to the effects of social media and the lack of knowledge behind it. For instance, Lynas was originally against GMO crops but once he learn the benefits of it and how it can help people his opinion changed completely. One thing that surprised me the most was the fact that he apologized in front of everyone for talking down on GMO’s. He also mentioned that thanks to Norman Borlaug ad his “Green Revolution” countries such as India are no longer suffering from malnutrition. Borlaug was also worried about population growth but instead of sitting back and thinking of options of how to stop malnutrition he reacted. Lynas said that “Borlaug was a pragmatist because he believed in doing what was possible but also an idealist because he believed people everywhere deserved and had the right to eat.” It was mentioned that “biotechnology has not been stopped but has been prohibitively expensive to all but the biggest corporations.” On average it costs tens of millions of dollars to have a crop get through the regulatory systems through various countries.

My view on the genetically modified crops is that they are not bad to have, they are a greater influence. There are lots of people around the world who are starving each day and kids who are going to school and are worried that they won’t be able to eat lunch because their families just don’t have the money to afford it. With GMO’s farmers are capable of producing the right amount of food for everyone everywhere. Most people are worried that consuming a GMO product would harm them but in the broader scheme of things would the government really put out food that could potentially harm others. So to me, I believe that genetically modified food is a good thing to have. People are becoming influenced by people are posting on social media without having knowing or researching what it truly is. It’s like a saying I’ve heard, don’t speak until you know all the facts.


CRISPR/ Cas9 enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding, or altering section of the DNA sequence. It’s also considered to be some of  the simplest, most versatile, and precise method of gene manipulation. This system consists of two key molecules: an enzyme and a part of the RNA.

The value of CRISPR/ Cas9 compared to biotechnology is capable of increasing the number of chemicals and products for industrial production through the process of fermentation and can also broaden the diversity of strains. Also in the areas where tools for genetic manipulation are lacking, it can be used to complete pre-existing techniques as well as provide a set of capabilities for organisms.

Fifer’s Orchards Field Trip

For our second field trip, my classmates and I went to Fifer’s Orchards in Camden, DE. There we met Bobby who runs the farm and plant portion and his brother Kurt who handles the marketing portion of the business. At the orchards, they grow everything from apples, sweet corn, strawberries, cauliflower, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, and kale. They are not an organic business. Throughout the farm they use most varieties of irrigation. Some examples of the irrigation types consists of trickle, hard hoes reels, and center pivot systems. Kurt was talking about the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and how it benefits them. For instance, it benefits small farms, it gives farmers the ability to take in credit. Also an impact for the farmers is that the consumers provide the money up front to the farmers to help them get started and when time gets closer for the crop to be harvested the consumer has first grabs with no extra charge to them because they paid at the beginning. A challenge for the family operated farm is that it’s a seasonal job. It’s hard to keep employees because they only work about five months out of the whole year. Some of the people they hire is college and high school students but mainly retirees. The retirees have a little more experience and it also gives them something to do. Finally, for future notice always try and drive separately otherwise there is a mostly likely chance the bus will break down.

Iowa and California: Agricultural Giants

Ed Kee joined our class again on Wednesday 9/26, to talk about Iowa and California: Agriculture Giants. Iowa and California are ranked number one and two for agriculture production. He spoke about how 85% of Iowa’s land mass is used for agriculture and that 92% of cash farm income comes from corn, soybeans, pork, and beef versus Delaware’s land mass used for agriculture at 41%. Iowa is also the nation’s leading producer of eggs and hogs. The climate in Iowa is perfect for corn because it’s not super-hot during the growing season, the soil is very fertile, it has a high exchange capacity, and also moisture holding capacity. Ed also mentioned about the “dead zone” located in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s called a dead zone due to the excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus leaching into the Mississippi River from field drainage and watersheds. He also mentioned the Nobel Prize winner (1970) Norman Borlaug who the Father of the Green Revolution which also improved higher yield in crops. In California, water is becoming expensive. From when I travelled there I knew that the water near Long Beach is so polluted that people are not allowed to swim in the water. An interesting fact that I learned was that families who owned water rights from 100 years ago, their water is less expensive as others. A fun fact about California is that it’s the 10th largest general economy in the world and it grows everything from pistachios, strawberries, almonds, walnuts, and 95% of our tomatoes come from California.

Ed Kee also talked about the Port of Wilmington. The port has 7 berths and covers about 308 acres. It creates 5,900 jobs and sees over 400 ships per year. He mentioned that a ship carries pregnant cattle from Wilmington to Egypt and there is a vet on board that travels with them until the cattle reaches their destination which I though was pretty interesting. It is also the number one banana port in the US. And I can’t forget how he talked about the Disney movie McFarland USA!

Field Trip to Georgie’s Farm

On Saturday (9/22), we went on our first field trip to Georgie Cartanza’s poultry farm. From growing up on a farm I knew a little about raising poultry for consumption. On my neighbors farm where he grew broilers we had two watering stations for 20-30 birds and a box fan that was lifted off the ground to help regulate the temperature of the birds. But to be able to have an insight of it from a much larger standpoint like Georgie’s farm was a great experience to be a part of. What I didn’t know is how much more time, money, and research that goes into having a big poultry farm like hers. This includes everything from ways to compost the dead birds by also helping the environment, having mechanical/ gravity fed feeders and watering stations that are able to be raised up to the ceiling to have access to the birds when catching, and even having the ability to access a control panel that is linked to her phone to tell her what the temperature is of each of the houses. One of the most fascinating things that I found out was that when the birds are getting ready to be loaded into the creates to be brought to the processing plants, the workers who load the birds still have to catch them by hand. And when catching they are usually able to grab 3-4 birds per hand. I that’s what my brother, my neighbor, and myself do when we’re getting ready to prep the birds for slaughter. I figured with all of the technology we have today there would be a much faster and easier way to catch each of the 148,000 birds that Georgie has instead of doing it by hand. Another thing that is nice to know is that the poultry industry is a huge influence for the community. Georgie was saying that for every one job in the poultry business it creates seven jobs within the community which I thought was great. And we also had the opportunity to meet Georgie’s dog!

Ed Kee

On Monday, our guest speaker was Ed Kee. He talked about agriculture as an industry. Some things he focused on was the railroad system and boats and how the produce got from the farm to the stores back in the 1800’s. Also during that time canning goods was invented by Louis Pasteur so that we could store fruits and vegetables year round. But some challenges that farmers still face today is how to keep and make the produce that they’re selling profitable while maintaining and regulating the environment. Farmers are trying to clean up the environment while bettering the use of technology within the industry. They are creating new management practices such as pest and weed control, minimum tillage, and irrigation. Ed Kee mentioned something that intrigued me was the Mitchell Family (who owns Woodside Dairy in Delaware) is creating a robotic milking machine. This machine will not only let the cow get milked whenever it wants to but also tell the farmer how much milk the cow is producing each time it gets milked. I also enjoyed listening about the AgLand Preservation Program and how it permanently preserves farmland. In Delaware, there is approximately 110,000 acres or 20% saved land for farming.

Evolution of the Poultry Industry with guest speaker Georgie Cartanza

During class on Monday September 10th, we had a guest speaker at the Georgetown campus, Georgie Cartanza, who is a Poultry Extension Agent. She talked about her own poultry farm, which we will have the opportunity to tour later on this month, and the other poultry industries located within the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia) areas. Georgie Cartanza also talked about the evolution of the poultry industries on Delmarva including the six poultry processing plants which are: Allen-Harim, Amick, Mountaire, Perdue, Tyson, and Coleman Natural Foods.

Some of the other things that she talked about was the different types of ventilation systems and the types of coops and how they were evolved over the years. Examples include: natural ventilation (means that whatever the way that the wind is blowing that day will enter the coop from that side), open barn yards (chickens could come and go as they please),and the two story houses. I enjoyed learning about the different coops there are and was most impressed with the triple decker (aka chicken hotel). And one big issues that she talked about was for most consumers, when they see the weight difference between a broiler in the 1950’s compared to on from the 2000’s they instantly think that the farmers gave the chickens steroids or hormones. But in reality they did not. All the farmer did was select which genes they wanted to produce the biggest and healthiest chicken to meet the supply and demand set by the consumer.

Michele Walfred and Social Media


Recently, Michele Walfred gave a lecture about the positive and negative aspects of social media usage. Technology today is different than what it used to be 40 years ago. Having a Facebook and/or Instagram may be great to help your business grow or even get your name out there but what you post can affect interviews with future employers. One major thing that Michele talked about was watch what you post on social media. What you may think is funny at that moment can come back around and bite you. Kids today post whatever they want not knowing the consequences of their actions. There will be times when you go to a apply for a job that you may have more experience than the other candidates do, but when and if the employer searches for you online and finds a picture of you passed from drinking or something you said that they don’t agree with then they won’t hire you because it will fall back on them. Having a personal social media account is good but keep it at a certain level of professionalism. For instance, try and stay away from political posts because your view point may be different than the employers. Finally, social media is a good way to connect with people all over. But sometimes we get too caught up in the electronic world that we forget how to communicate face to face. When you connect in person it shows the other person you are interested and that you may have some similarities, its more personal.