All posts by lgedney

Horse Racing Industry in Delaware

Mark Davis visited the class to talk about the impact and history of horse racing in Delaware. Horse Racing in Delaware Dates as far back to 1760s but it wasn’t until 1934 the Delaware Racing Commission was established, with the creation of Delaware Park following shortly after in 1937. Ten years later, “the Harrington Raceway was established and stands today as the oldest continuously operating harness racing track in the country” in 1946. Only 20 years later the horse racing industry took an impact and the Delaware Horse Racing Redevelopment Act was passed to help support the racing industry. The act allowed slot machines present at racetracks with part of the Casinos revenue going toward to purses for horse racing. When it comes to Harness and thoroughbred racing, Delaware regulates around 2,000 licenses a year for harness racing. Harness racing has 145 days with 2,000 races. Delaware also regulates around 5,000 licenses for thoroughbred racing. Thoroughbred has only 80 race days a year with 600 races.  One fact which stuck with me was the economic impact the horse racing had to the Delaware economy. The horse racing industry contributed $182 million and supported 1,540 jobs.  For every $100 spent in the industry, resulted in $182 of total spending in Delaware.

Industry and Academia in Agriculture

David Mayonado, a Technology Development Representative for Bayer (formally Monsanto) came to class to talk about the partnership between the industry and academia of agriculture. A few Acts came about in the late 1800’s early 1900’s to make this partnership possible. Some kay Acts include the Morrill Act, raising funds to establish land grant colleges and the Smith-Lever Act, creating Cooperative Extension services. These Acts are what allow the University of Delaware’s very own Cooperative Extension program. This partnership sparked the start of a revolution for agriculture. By “applying rigorous scientific principles to the development of agricultural technologies and techniques has allowed farmers to produce larger crops all while improving soil quality”, David said the industry is helping farmers not only save money but help improve environmental impact. Finally, David talked about his time with the company. He talked about Monsanto history, including when Roundup Original was created (1976) and when they started Genetically modifying plant cells (1982). David ended on a very positive message to the audience and made it very clear Roundups’ main ingredient, glyphosate, should not be considered harmful by the consumer and is backed by multiple government agencies.

Livestock industry in Delaware

Dan Severson talked to the class about Delaware’s specific livestock. In Delaware the number one livestock production is chicken. Out of beef, pork, lamb, goat, and veal, chicken is the only industry to see an increase in average consumption per capita since 1985. The need for lamb, goat, and veal has been decreasing due to less demand from the consumer. Within the state, there are 33 hundred hogs and 21 dairy farms with a total of 4500-5000 cows. Goats located in the state are mainly used for meat production. Other goat products are not a high market demand and there is no certified milking facility for goats or sheep in Delaware. When it comes to sheep production in Delaware, there are less than 25 sheep per farm. Meat production sheep are easier to raise compared to raising sheep for wool mainly due to sheering. Only a handful of people can properly sheer a sheep within the state making the wool industry hard to get into.

Dan was also very adamant about the consumers’ ability to control the livestock and overall food industry. In the United States, 97% of a household income is spent on food and businesses know this. Businesses in the food industry deploy marketing tactics and techniques to allure consumers to buy. Labels such as “organic”, “all-natural”, and “GMO-free” are used to persuade consumers into thinking what they are buying is the “best”. Dan challenged the class to look at food labels at our next grocery visit to see if there were any absurd labels on packaging. For example my trip to the store I found a “veggies on-the-go” squeeze pouch for babies advertising it was gluten-free, even though the only ingredients were zucchini, spinach, and banana.

Delaware’s Green Industry


Tracy Wootten and Valan Budischak came into class to talk about Delaware’s green industry. This industry includes producers, retailers, landscapers, land management and everything in between. As of 2014, the horticultural product sales totaled to almost 22 million dollars, needless to say, it is a popular and still growing industry. Producers in the industry produce floriculture crops, which include bedding and garden plants, cut and potted flowering plants, foliage plants and other propagative materials. Producers also work to provide nursery crops like evergreens, shade trees, shrubs, ornamentals and fruit, and nut trees.  These can all be found in nursery productions, commonly seen in greenhouses and high tunnels. A growing niche is the use of greenhouses for cut flowers for local florist sales. A major growing market for florists right now is orchids.

Delaware’s green industry is also helping in aid of land management such as removal and prevention of invasive species. Not only is this done in state parks and forests, but Delaware’s Department of Transportation also helps in managing land along highways. A new initiative is pushing for more native wildflowers to be planted along roads to help with driver fatigue. A healthy ecosystem with native species is the first step in preventing invasive species and other unwanted pests. The green industry does so much more, such as helping businesses set up rain gardens, help create green industry education in schools and even helping to keep golf courses fresh and green. The industry is working hard to make Delaware green again.

Starting the conversation… genes in agriculture

The Center for Food Integrity released an issue on gene editing and how to engage in the conversation about gene editing to consumers. Throughout there were interesting statistics such as the opening statistic of 2 out of 3 consumers want to know more about how food is produced and who’s producing it and more than half of consumers want to know more about gene-editing technology. Out of half of those consumers, 1/3rd have a limited understanding of genes and food. For example, 32% of consumers think vegetables do not have DNA but 2/3rd of consumers think gene editing in humans is okay. This makes it the perfect place to enter the conversation about the world of genetics and agriculture. By being able to connect the population’s understanding of gene editing to agriculture makes the topic more understandable. The journal goes on to give more steps and tips about informing the public about gene editing in agriculture. For example, one should talk about evolution not the revolution of genes; this could also link to another talking point about yield improvements. Many consumers want more environmentally friendly agriculture, by linking gene use to agriculture this educates consumers on the environmental benefits of genetically modified organisms. The most important thing to remember when talking to consumers about genes in agriculture is values are 3-5 times more important than facts. Connect consumers to agriculture by explaining how agriculture is, in fact, meeting consumer values.

Hoober Inc

Hoober inc has been around since 1941 with locations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Delaware, their main focus is on maximizing their customer’s productivity. They do this by selling new and used farm equipment, providing part support and services and helping with growing precision agriculture technologies.  The Middletown Hoober Inc branch offers in-field services as well as an on-site shop for troubleshooting and repairs. Many of the technicians at Hoober are very skilled and love to work in the outdoors. The shop space still contains older work manual books for tractor models which the technicians say come in handy more than you would think. Out of recent technological improvements, Hoober’s popular item are technologies in automated steering for farm equipment. The main farming brand they support is CASE IH agriculture. This is what they feature because they believe the company has better durability, longevity and is cost-effective in parts replacement compared to other brands. Hoober has been there to support farmers and homeowners since 1941 and will continue to do so while keeping up to date on technological advances.

Agricultural Irrigation

James Adkins’s opening statement of “while only 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated, it produces 40% of our food supply” really makes one think about the huge importance of water. India uses 90% of its freshwater supply for agricultural irrigation. That means almost 1/5 of their electricity supply is used just for irrigation. In the United States, almost half of the farmland is irrigated with flood irrigation. Flood irrigation is a method used in ancient cultures and could be considered a very primitive way of irrigation; it uses pipes or ditches to move water through the ground to crops. This method is effective but not efficient nor sustainable. However, 43% of California’s farmland still uses this method rather than drip irrigation. Here in Delaware, 30% of farmland is irrigated. A few popular methods for irrigation would be drip irrigation or center pivot irrigation. Drip irrigation is easy to control and monitor but is hard for large fields. Drip irrigation is best for smaller fields or orchards. In large fields, center pivot irrigation is most commonly used. With center pivot it is harder to control the amount of water and accuracy leading it to a less sustainable and efficient option; research and technology updates help to increase the accuracy of center pivot irrigation. Water, of course, is vital to all living species and it is not a renewable source, so we must figure out how to use it most efficiently and effectively. The technology of irrigation has done just that and will continue to grow and improve.

The Future is GM

In his farming conference speech at Oxford, Mark Lynas opens with an apology to the crowd for being anti-GM and working against all of the GM company’s hard work. He goes on to say as a politician he went more in-depth into the science behind many topics like oceanography and climate, and eventually GM crops.  His viewpoints of being anti-GM before were all due to his lack of knowledge. Now armed with knowledge he comes to say he believes in the future of GM crops and continues to go on stating why GM crops will be vital. One of his main points was about land use; without GM crops it would take about the same landmass as two Africa’s worth just to produce food for India’s population; one could only imagine how much resources would be needed for the rest of the world’s population. This statement then segways into the amount of pesticides and herbicides needed to maintain that enormous crop size or even our crops today. To have a technology which would allow plants the ability to genome switch to help fend off disease and pests and not use it would be wasteful. Thus, going into why organic farming should allow GM products to be considered organic. The amount of organic pesticides, time, and money people could save from GM crops being organic is also too significant to ignore. Finally, a harsh reality point Mark used was how without the world accepting GM crops, we are no longer moving forward. Since many of the higher income populations support farming practices stuck in the 1950s, the market for GMs have been in decline and rejected. For example, Ireland completely turned away a GM potato with genes from a wild potato with the ability to fight blight. A country that suffered a massive population loss due to a potato famine because of a fungus refused a new option. Without GM technology we could start to see a whole new potato famine and other famines across the globe.

Fifer Orchards

Fifer Orchards is a 3,000-acre farm providing fresh produce to the Delmarva area since the 1920s. They currently grow a large variety of produce such as asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, sweet corn, strawberries, peaches, apples and much more! Sweet corn is their number one profit on a whole scale, shipping it out as far north as Boston, Massachusetts and as south as Miami, Florida. A new milestone for the farm happened this year, shipping sweet corn all the way to Mexico since Colorado took a hit in their corn production this season. On a per acre bases of profit; tomatoes and strawberries are their top contenders. Fifer Orchards has partnerships with local stores such as Giant to be able to sell local produce in supermarkets around the peninsula. They also do a great job marketing with the main farm store in Camden- Wyoming, Delaware and a produce stand in Dewey Beach, Delaware. While those two stores can only reach a limited population, they also offer a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) club. This program allows consumers to pay upfront at the beginning of the season for a Delmarva Box full of local goodies with pickup every week. Next time you’re in the area, stop into Fifer Orchards to pick up some local treats or sign up for a CSA box!

The agricultural Giants: California and Iowa – Guest lecture by Ed Kee

When you think of California, warm sandy beaches are probably the first thought which comes to mind. However, California ranks first in a wide variety of produce for the nation including almonds, walnuts, grapes, lettuce, strawberries and much more. California exports 26% of its agricultural production making it the 10th largest generated economy. This economic stance is only due to the California valley of which most of the produce is made. Many farmers grow crops which generate the most yield relative to water use. As perfectly temperate California can be water usage is a growing concern; farmers have combated this by the use of canal networks and other irrigation systems. Following California in a number of agricultural products and exports is Iowa. When someone thinks of Iowa, more often than not, corn is the first thought coming to mind. Iowa is the number one corn producer in the United States, but it also ranks first in soybean, egg, and pork production. Iowa is the leading producer of eggs providing almost 970 million dozen eggs for the nation. In summary 13% of corn, 12% of soybean and 32% of pork production happens in Iowa. This is all thanks to Iowa’s soil! Much of the farming land is composed of loess which is deposits of silt and clay creating rich soil able to hold moisture; perfect for growing corn and soybeans. If it wasn’t for California and Iowa, populations across the nation would be without these many agricultural commodities.

Delaware: the small but mighty food shed – guest speaker Ed Kee

What most of the Nation doesn’t know about Delaware (if they even know we exist) is the state’s ability to grow and supply food for up and down the East Coast. Delaware can reach 1/3 of the population within 8 hours, making it the perfect place (and soil) for families to settle down to tackle the job of feeding a population. Before a highway system was established, Delaware farmers relied on waterways and railroads to export produce. The town of Felton became a popular railroad site of export while Wilmington became one of the larger ports for boat and railroad trade goods. The construction of the DuPont highway allowed for faster transportation of produce, ensuring the freshest product to the consumer. With the ability to provide so much for the population, the state had to make sure it would always be a contributor to the Delmarva area.  Currently, 30% of Delaware’s farmland is protected under the Agricultural Land Preservation Program, meaning the land cannot be sold to be developed or commercialized; it is only for the use of farmland. This program helps to provide fresh local produce to Delaware and the surrounding population for years to come.

Branded for life- professional leadership for agriculture in the social media era

Michele Walfred, a communications specialist, talked to the class about the importance of growing social media and how it can affect us in future job searches. One of the main take-home messages I got (which has stuck with me long after the lecture) was all about personal branding and how we needed to project a clean and professional brand. As a senior taking the class, it was refreshing to be reminded of how companies choose their employees and the tactics they use to do so. Growing up in the social media age, it has always been reinforced to being mindful of what gets posted to social media. Michele’s presentation was spot on reminding the class social media sticks to us and can never fully go away.  It is important for us as young adults to watch what we post on public accounts since many companies turn to social media when scouting information on potential new hires. On the flip side, public social media accounts are a great way to form a network with graduate schools, potential employers, and volunteer opportunities. We should start working on our public profiles now, showing interests in future endeavors, and have professionalism in our social media usage to help create a bright career.

What does it Mean to be an Organic Poultry Farmer? – A visit to Georgie Cartanza’s Poultry Farm

Georgie Cartanza welcomed the class to her Organic Poultry Farm in Little Creek, Delaware; ran under Perdue’s organic branch Coleman Natural Foods. She has been raising broilers for almost 15 years now and has seen how the organic sector has changed throughout the years. What does organic chicken mean? The United States Department of Agriculture declares poultry organic if it is GMO and hormone-free, has access to the outdoors with enrichment toys and shade, plus has significant space in the chicken house with access to natural sunlight. These environmental requirements were all set and pushed for by the consumer in order to provide chickens with a “happy” lifespan since the number one questions consumers ask about their food is if it is humanly produced. However, many of these requirements may or may not be the best option for the health and safety of the chickens. Biosecurity is a top priority for any food system. Chickens having open access to the outside affect the biosecurity of the chickens. Pests, predators, and diseases have a higher chance of affecting the flock.  In a few years, Georgie will have to plant tall grasses, trees, and other natural plants to provide shade for the outside pasture to meet updated organic standards. While the tall grasses can be planted in front of the house fans to help control air quality, the trees could attract predators and welcome other vectors of disease. As Georgie best puts it: raising chickens is a balancing act between consumer wants and what is best for the chicken.  It is very clear how much she cares and loves for the chickens and wants the best all-around.

Evolution of Delmarva Poultry Industry can Help Feed the Future- Guest Lecture by Georgie Cartanza

Georgie Cartanza a Poultry Extension Agent of the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension visited the university at the Georgetown branch to talk about “The Evolution of the Poultry Industry on Delmarva”.  Delmarva is made up by Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia; providing almost 10% of national poultry production. These production rates help to provide for employment; one job in the poultry industry creates seven jobs in the community and help feed families up and down the east coast. As of now, Delaware’s poultry industry could provide one chicken to 253 million families. That is all due to the evolution of chickens; hormone and steroid free. Improvements in understanding genetics, nutrition, and technology of the poultry industry are the sciences behind feeding a large population. Technology in feeding and watering has helped farmers save time, money, and resources switching over to automatic pan feeders and nipple drinker systems. With understanding better nutrition and genetics, it has been found chickens have a 2:1 ratio of feed and water needed to produce one pound of meat. Thus, making them a very efficient source of protein. By 2050 the world population will reach to nine billion people, in which Delmarva will confidently be able to help feed.