All posts by kschmitt

Thinking about the TTP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we have all heard so much about it in this election cycle, but most people don’t know what it truly entails.  It is an agreement among 12 nations that have an attachment to the Pacific Ocean, however, this does not include the major export hub of China. Nothing is official yet with this agreement yet people are ardently in either support for or against it.

There is an awful lot to talk about what is in this agreement and in my humble opinion I do not have much knowledge of multinational trade deals so I will try and interpret what I can and give some of my opinions. From a human rights standpoint, this agreement would be good since it outlaws child labor. It also offers minimum wages, benefits, and worker safety programs. I think those are great things and I can’t believe that child labor is still allowed in countries. However, I have also discovered something that the critics of it have also pointed out: if a country decides to try and change policy to help favor their our nation it could give the major corporations the right to sue them. I am afraid that this might give big businesses too much power.

I think that the TPP has its flaws, but also has some pretty good benefits as well. With our near-future U.S. administration being anti-TPP as a platform I have serious doubts about the TPP actually happening, but I have faith that an agreement could be made in the future that will carry some of the positives from the agreement in the future. I recommend trying to learn as much as you, the reader, can about it and making your own well-informed decision.

The Delware Horse Racing Industry

Mark Davis, the executive director of the Delaware Horse Racing Commission , came into class to talk about…you guessed it: the horse racing industry.  Being from New Jersey and pretty much unfamiliar with horse racing pretty much everything he talked about was new to me.  He talked about the general history of horse racing from the 12th century all the way up to modern day. An interesting fact is that in 1989, horse racing was the second most attended sport after baseball in the U.S. One of the most important pieces of legislature to the racing industry in Delaware is the Delaware Horse Racing Redevelopment Act which sought to revitalize the industry. Horse racing in Delaware is a major part of the state economy accounting for at least 4,200 jobs and contributing $182 million as of 2014. Now with an industry that large it is also heavy regulated for the safety and well-being of the horses. The horses can only race a certain amount of times a year and some owners have their own private veterinarians. Horse racing is also very profitable for owners and all involved so it looks like the horse industry will be one that will continue to last for a very long time.

Agricultural Irrigation by James Adkins

This guest lecture about irrigation was a fascinating one just due to all of the advances that have been made in this field practically as old as farming itself. Water is essential to all life and the conservation and proper efficient use of it is what irrigation is all about. We learned about the most common kind irrigation were the traveling gun, sub-surface drip, surface & shallow sub-surface drip, and the most common: center pivot. Center pivot is nice because you can easily control the distribution of the water although a bit expensive. One of the most recent advances in irrigation technology is zone control which is basically turning the water on and off as the center pivot pipe goes around the field to prevent too much water from being sprayed. With water being a scarce commodity in certain parts of the world it is important that we learn to manage our water supply carefully and use it intelligently and proper irrigation is vital to that goal. However,  I think the most important lesson I learned from this lecture is: don’t park your car in the wheel track.

Technology In Agriculture

A guest lecture by David Mayonado, who was a technology development rep from Monsanto.  He briefly talked about some of the advancements in agriculture throughout history and that land grant universities are a big part of the innovation in the ag industry. On such universities, various research experiments can be carried out. However, a lot of technological advances also come from the private sector and corporations like Monsanto. He discussed what he does and the pros and cons of working in his industry, but he enjoys it because it is an exciting field and he gets to work with a variety of people.  David talked about some of the recent projects and advancements that his company was working on like applications for RNAi technology and gene silencing. He also talked about the regulations and safety measures that have to be met by companies before these technologies can be used widespread. Also, that some of these advances come with their fair share of controversy, a good example would be the GMO debate. These advances in the agriculture field are sure to be the way of the future in dealing with our increasing demand for greater crop output in the decades to come.

The Green Industry in Delaware

Our guest lecture on the green industry by Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak was a very informative one. We learned a variety of things and one thing in particular that I hadn’t know was that the grower sales alone was a $13.8 billion industry.  We learned that just over half of people get their lawn and garden supplies from a garden center. The thing I found most interesting is all of the different jobs that a landscaper does. I had thought that they just cut grass and general yard maintenance, but they have some other jobs that one would not expect like: lighting, tree health, and irrigation management. One important thing that the green industry tries to tackle is invasive species. They routinely look for and remove the harmful plants from our local ecosystems. The last thing they talked about was the Delaware Livable Lawns program that certifies homeowners & lawn care companies in using the best environmentally safe practices for application of fertilizer. The green industry could definitely be a career path for someone who cares about the environment.

Driving a Tractor at Hoober’s

Dr. Issacs talked about the trip to Hoober’s from the first day of class and that we would b able to drive a tractor (some of us, myself included, for the first time ever). He told us of how they sell and specialize in precision agriculture. While there we got a tour of their facility and learned some of the history of precision and the machines using in farming. One of the newest advances in precision agriculture is drones. Drones can be used to look over the fields in a timely manner without having to walk all over the farm. The possibilities with drones could be endless as the technology for them gets better.

I grew up in a semi-rural area and I have seen my fair share of farms, but I never drove a tractor before so I was looking forward to it from the moment I was told about it. Interesting enough this wasn’t just any old tractor is was a relatively new one that was self-guiding. It used a satellite track that the driver has the tractor record and it replicates that exact track, in some tractors down to a few inches. So while driving the tractor and recording a path with a few turns we just basically flipped a switch and the tractor used the satellite map to follow our path. I was really cool thinking about seeing old rusted up tractors back home (and one at Hoober’s) and seeing how far technology has come for precision farming in the recent decades.


(Our class at the end of the day)

University of Delaware’s Research Farm

Learning about composting.
Learning about composting.

For our class’s final field trip , we went to none other than our university’s own research farm that consists of multiple farms. Due to my major I had been to the farm before. We started at the dairy farm and learned about some of the research being conducted with dairy cows at the university. Then we traveled to the horse stables where I learned that horses could stop labor and then proceed to run away from any danger. After that ,we walked over to the sheep and talked about the lambs there. Among other things, we learned about manure/ composting and how the farm takes care of it and other wastes. Having been to the research farm and various parts of it before I thought that I knew pretty much everything that was on the farm, but I was surprised to learn that there was an apiary (beehives) on the farm. I guess it just goes to show that even if you think you know everything you can still learn something new every day.

Fifer’s Orchards Field Operation

Fifer’s is a local produce farm in Delaware. It is a family owned and run operation spanning multiple generations. We got an inside look at their apple portion of their production. Fifer’s uses camera imaging to sort their apples and then hand packages them. They then ship them to local schools and even to some major stores that want locally grown food like Walmart. We learned that Fifer’s has a Community Supported Agriculture program in which they box up a bunch of local grown produce and ship it all over the state. It was really interesting learning that apple trees are no longer the tall ones from when I went apple picking as a child, they resemble bushes more in my opinion. Fifer’s also has a farmer’s market right on site that anyone can shop at and I gladly took advantage of that to buy some apple cider and cider donuts. Fifer’s was one of my favorite field trips.

Employee's sorting and packing apples!
Employee’s sorting and packing apples!


An Inside Look at a Poultry Farm

Suited up walking on the farm
Suited up walking on the farm

Our first field trip as a class was to an organic chicken farm. I had never been to a chicken production farm before but had seen some on tv so I was interested in seeing one in real life. Ms. Cartanza’s poultry farm consists of multiple houses in which she grows approximately 160 thousand chickens at a time. As we were still on the bus we put on sterile shoe covers and jumpsuits to prevent us from bringing any diseases into the chickens’ living area. We learned that modern technology allowed Ms. Cartanza to operate her farm on her own with some help from a few hired staff or her children.

Being an organic farm the chickens had some things that non-organic ones would not have. The organic chickens have bully boxes, ramps, and other enhancements to entertain themselves. They are allowed outside and have shade while out there. Some of the things they share with their non-organic counterparts are a constant wind tunnel of air creating a nice breeze and keeping the chickens cool. They also get unlimited 24/7 food and water.

I learned a lot from going to Ms. Cartanza’s farm and I hope to go on to teach others the things I discovered on this field trip.

Mark Lynas and The GMO Controversey

Genetically modified organisms are a very controversial topic and many people have very polarizing fews based off of feelings and factual evidence. Mark Lynas is one person who has been on both sides of the argument. Mark Lynas started off his lecture at the 2013 OXford Farming Conference with a humble apology and an admittance that he believes he was wrong about GMOs. He used to think that they would bring chaos to the natural world due to man’s interferance with the genetics of plants. He goes on to say he is bascially a man of science and he tells of how that his fears about GMOs were unfounded in the current views of the research into GMOs. Mark makes the case that genetically modified crops are going to be essential to help keep up with the population growth and being able to preserve land.

I personally agree with his views that GMOs are going to be necessary for maintain mankind’s  population growth into numbers around 9.5 billion in the next few decades. Mark tells of how GMOs can actually benefit the world and are not harmful like some environmentalists would like the average person to believe and that some of their arguments are just fear-mongering. I believe that he makes a good case about his change of heart and that GMOs aren’t something that he necessarily wants, but something that the world needs. He was caught up in emotions and what he wanted in the environment that he lost his sense scientific inquiry and checking the facts, something that all to many people still do today. I believe it takes a brave person to admit that they are wrong. GMOs are still being debated to this day, but I think someone like Mr. Lynas being on the Pro-GMO side of the debate is a very powerful player.