You’ve probably heard about Monsanto or one of its products called “Round Up” also known as glyphosate. Dave Mayonado came and talked to our class about the ag chemical industry and some of its misconceptions. Dave works for Monsanto which was recently purchased by Bayer, a German chemical company which has products such as Aleve and Claritin. Like most chemical companies they make ag products too. Monsanto was a small company that was a leader in the industry with products such as Round Up. Round Up also known as Glyphosate is one of the most used herbicides. It is a non-selective post emergence herbicide that the media likes to bash and accuse non-organic farmers of using to poison the food supply which couldn’t be further from the truth. All ag chemicals are thoroughly tested before getting approved to be used. For the example of round up it disrupts a process that is only found in plants that kills the plants. Chemical ag products allow for higher yields in less space, grown more efficiently.
Our last trip of the year was at home on the UD farms in Newark Delaware. We all loaded on to the brand-new UD shuttle bus with the farm superintendent, Scott Hopkins. The first stop was the milking parlor where we learned a little about the dairy industry, how cows are milked and even a little bit about how the NAFTA trade agreement could help the dairy industry. Next to the milking parlor was a feed area used for research. It was equipped with feed boxes that could identify different cows and feed mixer to make a balanced ration. The cows were bedded the next building. We saw them laying down and chewing their cud. Next, we headed on over to the Webb farm. Scott Hopkins pointed out the chicken huts and their silage rows and explained what some of the other building were used for. We toured the sheep barn, looked at the black angus cattle and the sand arena for the horses. There’s a lot that UD packs in to its 350-acre Newark farm. After getting some ice cream from the creamery I played my fiddle for my class mates. This was good last field trip and I’ve had a lot of fun on all of them.
Mark Davis is the head of Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission at the Delaware Department of Agriculture which regulates and enforces rules on all aspects of horse racing. He started off by telling us about the history of horse racing starting with people proving their who’s horse was faster to the knights bringing back Arabian’s to England. The American settlers brought their horses and racing with them. The first American race track was established in 1665 on Long Island. In 1989 Horse Racing was a multi- billion-dollar industry and the second largest attended sport after baseball. Currently there’s about 9 million horses in the USA and just over 10,00 in Delaware. The Thoroughbred Racing Commission Regulates and enforces rules to keep the sport safe and fair. Mark Davis explained the different ways many people and teams try to cheat financially or physically. There are many chemical ways to make horses run faster for longer. Horse betting and gambling are parting of the commission and keeping track of money. We were then showed how to read the pamphlets about horses at races.
Dan Severson came in and told us about livestock in Delaware. Dan is the New Castle County Ag Extension Agent and a specialist in ruminants. Livestock in the United States is a lot lower than what it used to be. He showed us the decline started around 1920’s after World War 1 and during the great depression. People were leaving the farms for factory jobs which was just reinforced by the dust bowl and World War 2. The decline in livestock has leveled off but is lower than what it was. Did you know the USA has the most affordable, safest, and abundant food in the world? Delaware is a chicken state, growing chickens and the feed for them, so other live stock is not that big here. 296 of 2,500 farms in Delaware have combined total of 3,800 head of beef cattle. From the 28 dairy operations, Including our own UDairy, there’s 4,800 head of dairy cattle. There’re 5,800 hogs from 59 farms, 1040 sheep from 69 farms, and about 2,000 goats from about 175 DE farms. Dan who has his own herd of goats explained niche industries for livestock. There’s more live stock in Delaware than what you may think but we’re definitely more focused on chicken production.
Just off route 301 in Middletown is a tractor and farm equipment dealership called Hoober Inc. On our field trip here we met two employees who showed us around and told us about what Hoober Inc does. In 1941 Charles “Bud” Hoober started selling International Harvester tractors and equipment in Intercourse Pennsylvania. As tractor technology expanded so did Hoober’s company. Hoober Inc. currently has 9 locations and is still owned and operated by 3rd generation of Hoobers. The show room in the dealership and the parking lot had many Kubota products such as zero turn mowers and RTV buggies. While they do sell land scape equipment Hoober is a Case IH dealer. We got a tour through the shop and saw sprayers, tractor, loaders, and combines being worked on. After seeing the shop we walked outside to all of the tractors, sprayers, combines, planters, and more. We got to see how a combine works, from the different kinds of heads to how it grinds up and spreads the unwanted parts of a crop. Did you know a new combine with new heads can cost over half a million dollars? Tractor driving was up next. The group was split in to two groups, one for learning about drones and the other got to drive the sprayer or tractor. The tractor was a Case IH 315 Magnum with duals front and rear. The sprayer was a Case IH 4430 Patriot. The tractor had auto steer which allowed the operator to remove their hands from the steering wheel and the tractor would steer its self. The drone demonstration showed how drones are used in precision ag for birds eye view observation. At the end of the trip we all got Hoober hats and got on the bus, It was a lot of fun.
Yesterday Dan Severson the New Castle County Extension Agent came in and talked to us about livestock production in Delaware. He left us with an assignment to find a list of all the GMO crops in the united states. According to GMOanswers.com these are the commercially available crops in the United States: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash, and sugar beets. Take a look at this website there is a lot of information about why each crop has been modified and disproves many myths and misconceptions about GMO’s.
Last Monday Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak came and talked to us about Delaware’s green industry. The $20 million industry is made up of producers, retailers, landscapers, land managers, golf courses, and equipment suppliers. They started off by talking about the producers. Producers and growers grow anything from flowers to bare root plants and grass plugs. They sell their products to a broker or wholesale nursery who act as a middle man and sell the products to the landscape companies, big box stores, and garden centers. The end users will get the products from one or more of those three sources. Part of the green industry is land management and conservation. We learned how important vegetation is for filtering water run-off from roads and parking lots. In fact Del DOT has started only mowing margins rather than whole areas along roads so that the vegetation will filter run off. Another big part of land management is controlling Invasive species which is a huge problem in Delaware.
Have you ever drawn a conclusion on something you didn’t know anything about and it turned out to be completely wrong? Have you ever formed an opinion without researching facts? Many people are doing this with GMO’s. Mark Lynas did and even started a movement that made genetically modified foods and crops sound really bad. But once he started doing research to back up his opinion that GMO’s are bad he found that there was no evidence and in fact his conclusion changed, he now is a big advocate for GMO’s. The population is supposed to be 9-10 billion people by 2050 and the amount of food produced will have to increase by 70%. Without GMO’s it will be impossible to do this. GMO’s mean more food produced on less land with fewer resources. Mark Lynas is doing is best to correct misconceptions he started. GMO’s are the future of agriculture and without them the world population will not be able to be sustained.
What is CRISPR/ CAS9? CISPR/ CAS9 is a gene editing technology that has great potential in the medical and agricultural fields. Scientists are able to customize the genomes of any organism now. By editing DNA, using proteins and RNA, scientists can edit genetics of organisms and in the long run species. Medically, genetic diseases such as cancer or Sickle- Cell Anemia could be cured forever. In the agriculture field editing genetics of plants or live stock could mean more draught resistant and nutritious crops, more meat with the perfect marbling and fat. With a growing population and a prediction of 9-10 billion people on earth by 2050 having food with genetic qualities that makes them more productive with less resources could be really important.
CRISPR/ CAS9 and bio technology in general brings up a moral side. Should we mess with the genetics and evolution of a species? Should it only be used on specific organism, such as a human or dog with cancer? Should it be allowed to be used on populations and species as a whole?
Our second trip of the year was to Fifers orchard down in Camden- Wyoming, Delaware. Sitting on over 3000 acres the Fifer family has been farming here for four generations and what it looks like now is different than how it all started out when it was 1/10th the size. Bobby Fifer gave us a tour of the orchards and around the property. While we were looking at the various crops of pumpkins, apple, kale, where the tomatoes, and straw berries being planted Bobby told us about the management and labor practices they use. Disease and pest prevention and eradication is a big part of their operation and a big challenge they face. After looking at the packaging line and the giant refrigerators, Bobby’s brother Kurt joined us and talked to us about how they market their product.
The Fifers produce is sold at many locations. Some is sold in their store on the farm, some is sold to grocery distributers such as Giant, some is sold to a third party distributor, and some is sold through a Community Supported Agriculture program.
After our learning we stopped by the farm store and enjoyed some apple cider donuts, apple cider, apples, kettle corn, and pickles. When it was finally time to go we loaded on to the UD bus and got all of a quarter mile from the entrance when the bus broke down. We all ended up making it back to UD eventually. It was a eventful ending to the end of a fun trip.
James Adkins came and talked us last week about Irrigation systems and why and how they’re used. Have you ever flown across the country and looked out the window and seen circle on the ground? Those circles are crops being watered by pivot irrigation. Pivot irrigation, we learned, was invented after WWII using aluminum pipes. The pivot system allows for a customizable accurate application of water. Pivot Irrigation is expensive and each span costs about $11,000. Drip irrigation is the most efficient way of irrigation. Drip irrigation puts water right in to the soils which also means less disease on the plants. The oldest and most inefficient way of irrigation is flood irrigation. This is when water is diverted off a source off a water source and channeled in to the field that is being irrigated. The fields usually have a slight slope so that the water covers the whole field. Irrigation is important and without it we would be un able to sustain and grow the population we currently have. Over 40% of the worlds food comes from irrigated land.
Ed Kee came back to talk to us about agriculture in Iowa and California. Did you know California and Iowa are the most valuable states in agriculture? Just the state of California its self has one of the top economies in the world. California and Iowa are different in many ways. Iowa, we learned, has some of the best growing conditions in the world. Iowa has very rich soils and almost perfect climate. The soil called “loess” has been blown into Iowa and is light and fluffy. It’s made from wind erosion of silt and clay making very small particles. The great soil and climate means farmers don’t need to irrigate which means crop production is cheaper.
California grows vegetables and lots of them. 95% of U.S.A. tomatoes were grown in California. When you think of California you probably think of the beaches or the desert, you aren’t thinking of rain. Water management is a big part of California agriculture. Because California is so dry they’ve had to build aqua duct bring water from the north part of the state south. Even with water problems California ranks first in milk & cream, almonds, grapes, lettuce, and strawberries just to name a few.
You’ve probably seen the long, low chicken houses that seem to be along every two lane road in Delaware. You’ve probably smelled them driving by, and then rolled up your windows. On Saturday we went and visited Georgie Cartanza’s poultry farm in Dover. Ms. Cartanza, who gave a us a lecture not too long ago, has been in the industry for over 25 years. Starting off as a flock supervisor withPerdue she’s worked many different jobs in the industry before deciding to start producing broilers herself. With four 65’x600’ chicken houses, Georgie produces over 5 million pounds of USDA approved organic broilers. Each house took about $1.5 million to get up and running. Chicken houses aren’t state of the art architecturally but the technology in them is. The cooling system can cycle air through a length of 2 football fields in under a minute, that’s faster than we walk and does a good job with eliminating the smell, and that’s just the cooling system!
Being on the farm and standing in the chicken house was a very cool sight. In our funny looking “marshmallow suits” (pictured)as some students called them we went in the houses. The suits are for bio-security and to protect the birds from us and anything we could spread to the poultry. Upon entering the chicken house, the birds closest to the door got up and walked off to find a different place to lay around. Being an organic chicken house along the sides of the house were doors so that the chickens could wander in and out as they pleased, but the birds tend to prefer to be inside we noticed. While we were there was about 5 chickens that came outside, the flock size in a chicken house 37,000.
At the beginning of this week former Delaware Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Kee, came in and gave us a broad idea about Delaware’s agriculture industry and its history. He covered everything from technological advances to the advantages of being a Delaware farmer. Did you know 41% of Delaware’s land mass is farmland and agriculture its largest industry? We learned that Delaware’s location is great for farmers. In the old days being close to cities meant that processors weren’t too far away. For example, in the mid 1800’s Baltimore companies were large buyers of Delaware crops for canning. Canning allowed the preservation of the products and nutrients which helped reduce scurvy. In modern days 1/3 of the United States population lives within an eight-hour drive of Delaware giving farmers here a lot of opportunities in the market. The completion of the Delaware Rail Road in 1859 allowed the shipment of Delaware products to go further and faster. Being a large poultry state, Delaware farmers don’t need to send their feed grains very far and receive a premium.
While as Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee started a program that helps young farmers get in to farming. The program gives up to $500,000 to assist in the purchasing of land. This helps preserve Delaware farmland because the state ensures it will be used for farming. So far this program has assisted almost 30 young farmers buy over 2,300 throughout the state.
This past Wednesday Michele Walfred gave us a lecture that I found very interesting. It was about social media, employers, and setting yourself up for success. She emphasized the importance of self-branding throughout her presentation. At the beginning of the power point she went through the logos of numerous brands and told us to say what was the first thing that came to mind. For the BMW logo people thought luxury, expensive, and fast. The John Deere logo received thoughts like dependable, tough, and work horse. The Craftsman tool logo was thought of as high quality and precise. After a few more logos we were shown pictures of people and quotes off of Facebook. The pictures were selfies, pictures from parties and bath room selfies. The quotes included people complaining about their jobs. Ms. Michele explained that when companies are going through the hiring process they are looking up the applicants and looking for more than good workers. They are looking for people who can represent them well. These photos and quotes would be negative towards the posters personal brand. It would brand them as party animals, trouble makers, poor literacy, and not great under stress. These are things companies do not want to represent them. The main idea taken away from this lecture was to be smart on social media and to think about your personal brand. Market yourself so that you are competitive on the job market and companies want you to represent them.