All posts by kgorrell

Guest Lecturers: Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak

Who knew that on horticultural product sales alone Delaware’s Green Industry brought in over 21.7 million dollars. Horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers and any other plant life. Unlike agriculture, horticulture does not include large-scale crop production or animal husbandry. Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak delivered a beautiful presentation on Delaware’s Green Industry. They captured our attention with a variety of pictures and laid out their information filled lecture in a way that was easy to follow along. Throughout the lecture they went into depth about what and who the green industry consists of; producers, retailers, landscapers, golf courses and suppliers. After learning about the different aspects of Delaware’s Green Industry, Ms. Wootten and Ms. Budischak spoke to us about a couple of organizations that Delaware is a part of. Their goal is to educate horticultural related businesses as well as homeowners to promote the use of products in the green industry, enhance the quality of those products and to protect the environment.

Before this lecture I didn’t realize how much our state is involved in managing and improving the area around us. The next time you’re on the highway, look at the grassy median, most likely there have been specific flowers planted to enhance the sides of roadways and to bring some of the native plants back to Delaware! Horticulture never meant a lot to me before this lecture but after hearing Ms. Wootten and Ms. Budischak speak I have a new-found appreciation and respect for all the work that goes into this industry, it’s not all roses and daffodils!

Guest Lecturer: Georgie Cartanza

Our first guest lecturer in class was Ms. Georgie Cartanza and what a way to start off this awesome semester! Ms. Cartanza came to present to us the evolution of the poultry industry in the Delmarva area. She started off by talking a little bit about the Delmarva Poultry Industry itself and the economic impact it has on Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. For every one job in the poultry industry it creates 7 jobs in the community!

If there was one part of this lecture I think everyone should see it would be the progression of poultry growing facilities especially since the agricultural industry’s biggest challenge is maintaining a positive image to the public. Ms. Cartanza talked about additions to poultry houses like, changes in heating, tunnel ventilation, nipple waterers all of which improve living conditions for poultry. Today’s consumer wants to know if their food is humanely produced, if it is safe to eat and if the environment has been harmed in the process. This presentation is great for anyone who doesn’t know much about the poultry industry and the agricultural industry. Ms. Cartanza was so personable, she talked to us about her own story and how she ended up owning her own organic poultry farm! One thing she stressed is you never know where you’re going to end up  so work hard but don’t pass up opportunities to learn, she never imagined herself running her own poultry farm!

Guest Lecturer: Dave Mayonado

When you think of the Monsanto, an American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, what is the first thing you think of? Many people think of the documentary Food Inc. where Monsanto is portrayed as thugs of the agricultural industry. The problem is this is where people stopped doing their research. Most people don’t consider Monsanto’s point of view. This is why I think having Dave Mayonado as a guest lecturer was so important! We got to hear Monsanto’s side straight from the company. Mr. Mayonado gave a history about Monsanto and how they became the agricultural giant they are today. He then went on to talk about Genetically Modified Organisms and new techniques like RNAi technology which allows gene silencing. Gene silencing presents the possibility of turning off specific genes, which might have many practical agricultural applications. The most exciting part about this new technology is how it can be presented to consumers. This technology doesn’t involve inserting new genes into a different plant which is a scary thought for consumers. Throughout his presentation Mr. Mayonado made it a point that GM crops are the most thoroughly studied foods in the world and that their safety has been consistently demonstrated. Seeing both sides for every argument is always important so you can form your own opinion on the matter. I felt as though this lecture was one of the most beneficial because it allowed us as students to grasp more information and so as we go out into the world we can educate others.

Guest Lecturer: Dan Severson

Dan Severson, a New Castle County Extension Agent, presented to our class an overview of the livestock industry in Delaware. When I signed up for this class I thought it would be heavily livestock based and to my surprise this was only the second-time animals were the main focus. Mr. Severson started out talking about Delaware farms. Did you know Delaware ranks first in the U.S. in value of agriculture production per acre? Me either! He then concentrated on the beef, pork, sheep, goats and dairy industries and went into depth about each one. Mr. Severson was extremely interactive and had an abundance of pictures to balance out the graphs and numerical data. The information I found the most interesting about this presentation was how much our livestock industry is going to change in the future. The average age of a farmer is becoming younger and younger so my generation will soon have control over what happens to the livestock industry. With advancements in technology and robotics hopefully we’ll be able to make it more efficient. As always we will need to continue to educate others about the livestock industry since the media and activists make it difficult for the industry to be seen in a positive light.

Should genetically modified organisms/ingredients be labeled for consumers?

A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, corn etc… One of the biggest controversies in the food world today is determining whether food products containing genetically modified ingredients should be labeled so. The argument for labeling comes down to the right to know: Consumers should be well informed of what’s in their food.

One of the cons of labeling food products that contain genetically modified ingredients is that the majority of consumers have no idea what GMO means or they see other products that are labeled Non-GMO so they think if a product is genetically modified it must be some terrible thing. Therefore, food manufacturers hesitate to label their products in fear that sales will go down. There needs to be outreach and educational programs for consumers to learn more about GMOs. This is tricky for food producers to do because consumers might not believe information that is coming directly from them.

Another reason food producers advocate for keeping GMO labels off food products is how expensive it would be for them to change their labels for maybe one or two states that require it. Also, adding genetically modified to a label suggests that the food might cause health problems. This is exactly what anti-GMO and organic food marketers want consumers to think. Labeling food products genetically modified will be more expensive for the company and if consumers don’t know what GMO means it provides no useful information to them

All the disadvantages aside, consumers should be well informed of what’s in their food. I firmly believe that food producers need to be open and honest about what they are putting in their food, it’s the first step in creating trust between them and the consumer. However, I do understand their hesitation, with so many consumers being uneducated it wouldn’t be a smart move, financially. Labeling genetically modified products might be what food producers need to show consumers that they want to create a stronger relationship by being transparent with the public knowing that it might affect their sales negatively.

Last but not least: University of Delaware’s Research Farm

As a pre-veterinary student I felt as though I knew all there was to know about the amazing research farm we have here on campus. Every semester so far I have had a few classes down on South campus and if I wasn’t directly on the farm for class, I got to smell it! Even though I had seen the dairy farm, Webb farm and the poultry houses prior to this field trip I learned so much about what goes on at each of these facilities. Scott Hopkins, University of Delaware’s farm superintendent, took us around and went in depth about experiments both successes and failures, different classes that are offered on the farm to target non-agriculture students, new technology that’s been included in each facility to help advance research, management practices and so much more! Even though it’s a close runner-up playing with the calves wasn’t my favorite part of this field trip. Scott Hopkins shared a ton of information with us about the research farm and I took a lot away from it that I can’t wait to share with others but if there was one thing overall that I took away from this trip is, there is always more to learn! I went into this field trip thinking I was going to know everything he talked about and I was pleasantly surprised. I found myself amazed with all of the new things I learned about the farm after the field trip was over! 


How much do you know about GMOs?

“We need to produce more food not just to keep up with population but because poverty is gradually being eradicated, along with the widespread malnutrition, that still today means close to 800 million people go to bed hungry each night.” Mark Lynas’ talk was packed full of facts and knowledge about Genetically Modified Organisms are beneficial to us. Out of all the things he said, this statement resonated with me the most. The issue of world hunger has always been the reason I’m for the use of Genetically Modified Organisms in production. It amazed me that so many countries like Africa and India, who are overpopulated, had a different opinion. Why wouldn’t you want to use a technique that could bring us closer to solving world hunger? I don’t think it’s because they don’t care about those in food deserts. The lack of education is the real problem.

Mark Lynas is the perfect example. After doing a lot of research into GMOs he changed his viewpoint from defaming GMOs to being a gigantic proponent for them and the positive changes they can bring to our world. If we could find ways to bring that education to those countries and even to those in our country, I think we would find a lot of people changing their views. After watching this video, I asked my roommate what her opinion was on GMOs, she said “I don’t know that much about them but aren’t they bad? Doesn’t that mean they’re putting chemicals on our food?” This just shows the impact our media and society has on the uneducated. She knows nothing about Genetically Modified Organisms but because of the labeling she sees on groceries or commercials she sees on TV she just assumed they were bad. I wish everyone was required to watch Mark Lynas’ speech, even if they don’t agree with him by the end at least they have had a chance to see both sides and form their own opinion. Lynas’ speech was passionate and intrigued my interest in being a part of educating others in hopes that one day we can lower the number of those going to bed hungry each night.

Hoober Inc. Field Trip

Hoober Inc. is a three-generation family-owned farm equipment company. With 9 locations in the Mid-Atlantic, Hoober Inc. is the region’s leader in precision farming. If there was one thing I took away from this awesome field trip it would be that technology is take the agricultural world by storm. Efficiency makes money, and when money is being made everyone is happy. For the farmers finding ways to collect data more efficiently is key. Drones are the perfect solution. You can set the drone’s route and they fly high above the farmer’s field while taking pictures so when it comes back down the farmer can see if there are any problems with his crops. Drones cut out a lot of time that the farmer would have to spend walking through his field looking for damage. Technology plays a significant role for companies like Hoober as well. When farmers come in to have their equipment worked on they expect it to be done quickly because the longer they have their equipment in the shop the more money they are losing. Technology and the specialists that work for Hoober allows there to be a quick, efficient turn around. Just like with any piece of technology, it doesn’t always cooperate so that is why Hoober incorporates specialists into their company. If a diagnostic tool break down, they can rely on a specialist to be able to figure out the problem faster than someone who has just a general knowledge of all the farm equipment. A job in precision agriculture doesn’t necessarily require a college degree but it does demand patience and common sense which may prove to be more difficult than acquiring a college degree.

My first time on a tractor!

Fifer Orchards

“To grow and sell high quality produce, while preserving the environment, serving the community and maintaining family values.”

In its fourth generation, Fifer Orchards located in Camden-Wyoming, DE exemplifies every aspect of their mission statement. Despite it being the first week of their annual Fall Fest, Bobby Fifer and his brother Curt Fifer took the time to give my class and I an in depth tour of the their farm. Starting out with a trip out to the fields, we got a little taste of what Bobby Fifer has been doing for 25 years. He talked to us about their harvesting practices, improved technology and challenges him and his family constantly face.

With the consumer trend these days leaning towards local grown produce and environmentally safe practices, I was really interested in what role they play in the community. The Community Supported Agriculture club is something that the Fifer family started to get their produce out to consumers all over Delaware who may not be able to make it to their family farm in Dover, or secondary location in Dewey Beach. Each week they deliver handpicked produce to 10 different locations across Delaware and into Maryland. This is so awesome!! Not only are they getting their product out there and bringing in revenue but it is also giving families the opportunity to support local farmers and eat healthy, a win-win for both parties.

Soybean fields at Fifer Orchards.

Fifer Orchards preserves the environment with modern harvesting techniques, serves the community with various events and programs, and sells high quality produce, to which I can personally attest to after trying their peach pie! There is no other way I would have wanted to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Organic Poultry Farm Tour

One of the four chicken houses on Georgie Cartanza’s family farm.

Georgie Cartanza has been growing organic chickens for eleven years, but organic wasn’t always the direction she planned to go. Before Mrs. Cartanza’s transition into the organic poultry she worked for Perdue growing roasters. Chickens that are termed “roasters” will eventually be sold for their meat. Over the years the consumer market for chickens has changed dramatically. Requirements for growing organic chickens are a lot stricter including: certified feed and soil, access to the outdoors and enhancements to keep the chickens entertained. Georgie, being extremely passionate about what she does, felt like the benefits would outweigh the risk and went ahead and made the switch. On the farm there were four houses 65’ wide by 600’ long. Georgie produces about 5,000,000 pounds of organic meat per year, which approximately feeds 59,808 people per year. Our society has such a concrete image of how they think chickens are produced and if more people had the opportunity to see how technologically advanced and modern our agricultural industry has become I think it would be valuable to everyone involved with the chicken industry. My interest in poultry has grown during my time here at the University of Delaware and this experience at Georgie’s family farm has intensified the interest I have.