All posts by kgmilew

DE Livestock Indsutry

Dan Stevenson discussed the livestock industry in Delaware, however, one of the most shocking statistics he shared was that only 9.7% of a person’s income is spent on food, I expected that number to be higher because food prices seem to be so high and the rate that people go out to eat is also pretty high. In contrast, though, cheap fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s or the increase of smart shopping could offset the prices. In the future, I would expect to see that number increase because as we learned from our professor, studies have shown that millennials care more about their values (choosing healthy foods, ethically sourced, etc.) than the bottom dollar when it comes to food choices.

Dan also talked a lot about the differences between family and commercial operations.


Family Labor, Smaller Herd  Sizes, Less Profitable


Hired Labor, Larger Herd Sizes, More Profitable (Less input per unit)

The buzz about the UD Farm Tour

The University of Delaware farm consists of 350 acres and is more diverse than one might think just driving past it. It’s remarkable to note how space can be utilized in an agricultural setting. The common misconception that to have a farm or land in production, you can’t live in a city or you need a lot of land is clearly debunked during this lab. The Universities operation includes research, dairy, beef, sheep, poultry, equine, acreage for tomatoes, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and more. My favorite part of the tour was seeing the beehives miss Delaney works hard on, as the hives play a major role on the farm. I think it’s truly amazing how even the smallest and sometimes immobile lifeforms are perhaps the most intricate of our ecosystem. Understanding the various reproductive parts of a plant is helpful especially in agricultural seed and fruit production, I think it would be interesting to see more integrated crop/ agricultural practices in the future. Bees are the cheapest employees a farmer could have. Crops from nuts to vegetables and as diverse as alfalfa, apple, cantaloupe, cranberry, pumpkin, and sunflower all require pollinating by honey bees.

Hoober Farm Equipment

I think with the growing use and perhaps reliance on technology that agriculture is encountering, it was really important to visit Hoober Equipment. This field trip allowed students to drive tractors first hand and have a better understanding of auto-steer and GPS coordinates which includes using and locating two points on a map, helping keep tractors/farm equipment in a straight line throughout a field. Combines, designed to efficiently harvest a variety of grain crops, are one of my favorite tractors. The name derives from its combining three separate harvesting operations—reaping, threshing, and winnowing—into a single process.

Delaware Horticulture

Horticulture and greens remains an important agricultural industry, Tracy Wootten—Horticulture Specialist and Valan Budischak—UD Director of Botanic Gardens, discussed its impact. In 2014 alone there were a reported $21 million dollars in horticultural sales, and it continues to trend upward.

DelDOT is the largest landholder in Delaware and the company works towards enhancing the roads with native vegetation to lower driver fatigue, increase the beauty, decrease landscape maintenance, and decreasing emissions from reduced mowing. The railroad industry requires specific rail—plant maintenances as brushes, shrubs, and plants left unkept are the number one fire hazard. One of the biggest industries in Delaware is the Christmas tree industry. Sposato is a Delaware landscape company that remains in the top 100 in the country.

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Irrigation | James Adkins

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Water has become one of the most valuable resources in agricultural practices. Irrigation is the controlled application of water to crops at determined intervals. Irrigation aids in growing agricultural crops, and maintain landscapes, and revegetate disturbed soils in dry areas, such as Colorado and California, and during periods of less than average rainfall.


James Adkins emphasized the importance of this water management strategy and even suggested irrigation practices are not new concepts. Many ancient civilizations including the Mayans, and Babylonia, terracing, hanging towers, and planting on hills with step-like plots were the very beginnings of irrigation concepts. The foundations from ancient agricultural practices helped guide us to today.

Adkins expressed that thirty percent of American agricultural utilizes flood irrigation. Flood irrigation is mostly used in the west where three to four inches of water are applied at a time, to be effective, the soils for this application much be heavy unlike some of Delaware’s sandy soils. Thirty percent of Delaware’s land is irrigated equivalent to 150 thousand acres. Following World War II, sprinkler irrigation systems became widespread because aluminum became available to use for things other than aircraft.

Confessions of an Anti-GMO environmentalist | Mark Lynas

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One of the world’s greatest challenges now has the opportunity to become a model for developing genetic techniques that could help save the global food supply and ultimately combat world hunger. Knowing the value of GM technology, helping farmers sustainability increase yields to feed a predicted 9.5 billion people with less land, water, and facing climate change—is at the forefront of the public’s moral responsibility.

Norman Borlaug, the father of the green revolution, died in 2009 however left an important message, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years”. Mark Lynas, a world-renowned pro-science environmentalist, was supposed to be a voice of reason much alike Borlaug. At the 2013 oxford conference he, unfortunately, began with an apology, he let us down. Lynas spent his life using science to prove the implications of climate change, in fact, he stated he was determined to make his first book on global warming scientifically credible.

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Lynas later led a life of contradiction, holding that he was strongly opposed to genetically modified organisms on the basis that it was marketed by big corporations later questioned by a critic, “Are you also opposed to the wheel because it is marketed by the big auto companies?”. It would be unfair to judge someone based on one single mistake however, it is challenging to overcome such hypocrisy. Perhaps his apology is acts as a greater reflection of today’s society—fake news, quick judgment, and serve apprehension of technology that doesn’t include the latest iPhone releases.

Mark originally argued that GMO’s were “living pollution” and ultimately unhealthy for people and the environment. He argued that GMOs meant increased pesticide usage and more pesticides meant an ecological crisis. In the following years and further research, Lynas discovered that GMOs require fewer pesticides, herbicides and produce higher yields with less land. Agricultural producers would be able to feed the global population with less harm to the environment and surrounding ecosystems.

Although Mark argued against GMOs initially with the concern for food safety and environmental implications, he supported organic agricultural practices and organic foods suggesting they were a healthier alternative and better to grow. In fact, many consumers run for the organic food section these days which is troubling. Lynas later found that organic crops grow slower, require more labor, more land, and are less eco-friendly and organic practices supply less food to the global supply than traditional methods.

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Lynas made a final plea that, “The GMO debate is over, it is finished, we no longer need to discuss whether or not it’s not safe…there has been a substantial amount of meals that have caused no harm”.

His foolish mistake to ignore science serves as a lesson for others to consider, are we willing to watch the world starve over the unnecessary fear of technology and opinions driven by emotion, not facts?

Fifer Orchards: 100 years of farming!

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Fifer Orchards is a Delaware century- farm in operation from 1919 celebrating its 100 years of operation this season. The Fifer family strives to grow and sell high-quality produce while preserving the environment, serving the community and maintaining family values.

Fifer Orchards is a 3,000-acre farm growing a large variety of produce such as but not limited to: Asparagus, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Peaches, Sweet Corn, Pumpkins, and Strawberries.

Sweet corn is their number one profit bringing crop where this year they shipped sweet corn to New Mexico and Colorado where a shortage occurred.

Tomatoes are their most abundant crop on a per-acres basis and recently the Fifer family included high tunnels in their tomato growing plan.

Image result for black v white plastic on strawberriesOne of the most fascinating techniques Fifer Orchards is testing out this year is the use of black vs. white plastics on their strawberry crops in an effort to offset harvest time for the white covered crops so they don’t have an oversupply during the initial harvest period.  This allows them to, hopefully, increase their profitability.

Fifer Orchards is a beautiful farm with a lot of history and diversity I certainly plan on visiting again soon. 

Ed Kee: Iowa & California Agriculture

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Delaware’s former secretary of Ag, Ed Kee, lectured about the two leading states in agricultural production and value. California ranks number one with Iowa a close second.


Leading Agricultural Crops: Corn, Soybeans, Meat

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Iowa Agriculture is particularly interesting, according to Ed Kee what makes Iowa so successful is their location- river transportation, moisture-holding capacity, rainfall, not super hot during the growing season, silt and clay soils, and naturally fertile soils.

Although Iowa is second overall in agricultural professional it is first in:

  • Corn Production
  • Soybean Production
  • Ethanol Production
  • Table Eggs
  • Pork/Hog Production


California Agriculture 

Leading industries: Horticulture, Milk and Cream & Cotton Agricultural: Milk and Cream, Almonds & Grapes

Although California agriculture is successful, they face a major challenge, water.

On average,  California farmers irrigate more than 9 million acres and use about 40 percent of Californias available water. Farmers in California pay for water using roughly 34 million acre-feet of water typically diverted from surface water,  rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

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  • Exports 26% of its Ag production
  • The minimum wage for farm laborers was increased to $15/hour & over 40 hours = time and a half
  • 95% of tomato products in the U.S comes from California

Delaware Agriculture: Ed Kee

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Ed Kee is the former Delaware Secretary of agriculture and perhaps one of the most profound influencers on Delaware agriculture to date, his work helped initiate farm programs and bring a processing company to the state.

The Young Farmer’s Program offers a 30-year, no-interest loan to help young farmers between the age of 18 to 40 years old purchase farmland. This opportunity works to minimize arguably one of the greatest limiting factors in farming. As someone who dreams of someday operating my own cattle ranch in Montana, I can’t help but be fascinated by the opportunities in my home state. In fact, Ed Kee explained that 41% of Delaware is farmland where 24% of the land is permanently preserved farmland through the AgLand Preservation Program. Urbanization and urban sprawl are major challenges facing Delaware agriculture, however, this program gives the opportunity to farmers that enroll their land to permanently ensure the land stay in production even if they choose to sell the land.


Michele Walfred: Social media branding

Social media sites such as facebook, twitter, and Instagram have become an outlet for many millennials, this virtual world can often leave us forgetting about its true power. The internet has become a space to quickly share news, pictures, and opinions, however, it has also become an unfortunate space where if used negatively it could permanently rob you of your dreams. Sounds dooming right? Michele Walfred shared a few helpful tips to keep us mindful of what we share and don’t share on these sites.

As a young adult, I found myself falling into the trap of sharing less serious posts until I realized how many employers use social media as a way to “check up on their investments”.  Michele added that deleting your internet footprint is in fact not necessary rather tailoring how you promote yourself is key in establishing your value. LinkedIn is a great professional online resource to interact with business professionals and Michele urged everyone to join.

Sharing posts specific to your career interests and writing insight on what you are sharing shows that you care and are timely with news or important industry updates. Michele  noted LinkedIn as the best place to showcase this. She also suggested that maintaining a public Instagram account is essential and should share pictures of things that either relates to your career/interests or showcase who you are in a positive light. This advice was particularly interesting as I recently altered my feed to showcase wildlife, traveling, and pervious work experince as shown below:


                       So what should you do:

          1. Do not post offensive content such as politics
          2. Do have a social media footprint especially on LinkedIn
          3. Do have a public Instagram
          4. Do not post pictures of partying or doing illegal activities
          5. Get a professional headshot

An inspirational woman in Agriculture: Poultry

It is a truly rare experience to encounter someone in life that inspires you. I have been to many states, I have seen some great wonders in this country but a visit to Georgie Cortanza’s organic poultry farm places high on my list of lifechanging opportunities. I have always dreamed of being a farmer, merging my love for animals, wildlife, and a hard day’s work, however, I didn’t grow up in an agricultural family and believed that being a rancher in Montana was far out of reach for me. Many posts will discuss the countless information Georgie showed us but perhaps for me, the story about an average woman following a dream stood out to me. Not only did Georgie embark on the journey into poultry farming as a woman having not grown up in a farming family, but she continues to be an inspirational figure in Delaware agriculture and beyond. Despite the intimidating initial investment, Georgie stuck to her goals where she now manages four flocks of about 156,000 chickens a year equal to 5.5 million pounds of meat, feeding families all over. Georgie became the first and only American to receive the Nufeld scholarship where she traveled to numerous countries including Brazil and New Zeland. She continues to use modern-day approaches to poultry farming and extension outreach to help improve the public’s perceptions about the poultry industry.