All posts by nbounds

Mark Davis Guest Lecture

Mark Davis gave a guest lecture on the horse racing industry in Delaware. He began by providing some basic history of horse racing, which is considered one of the oldest sports, dating back thousands of years with almost no alterations. He then talked about the history of horse racing in America and the current state of American horse racing. Horse racing in America has a direct economic impact of $39 billion annually, while the economic impact with spending by industry suppliers and employees totals $102 billion. There are 9.2 million horses in the U.S., of which around 850,000 are used for racing.

In Delaware, the first horse racing facility dates back to 1760, when it was built in the town of Newark. Horse racing in Delaware has continued to thrive ever since, with harness racing being particularly popular in Delaware. In 2013 Delaware paid out $28 million in purses for harness racing and $13.5 million in purses for thoroughbred racing. The horse racing industry in Delaware accounts for approximately 4,200 jobs. In 1994, the Delaware General Assembly decided to allow horse-racing tracks to utilize slot machines to help boost their economic activity.

David Mayonado Guest Lecture

Last Wednesday, David Mayonado gave a guest lecture on agricultural technology, his experiences working for Monsanto, and the current status of the litigation surrounding Round-Up. He discussed the history of agricultural research stations and Cooperative Extension. He also described the events that precipitated significant increases in agricultural production, namely mechanical, chemical, and biological, such as GMO’s. Continuing, he stressed the extensive research conducted on GMO’s, proving that they  are safe for consumption.

David provided some insight into the history of Monsanto, describing their rise and eventual acquisition by Bayer. He also told us about his career working for Monsanto. He job often changes, reflecting the change Monsanto has undergone.

In conclusion, David discussed the ongoing litigation surrounding the weed killer Round-Up. Research by almost all organizations on glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Round-Up, suggests that glyphosate is not dangerous to humans in any reasonable amount. The EPA also took action against the state of California when they attempted to pass a bill forcing Round-Up to be labelled as carcinogenic within the state.


Dan Severson Guest Lecture

Last Monday, Dan Severson gave a guest lecture on the livestock industry in Delaware. The average annual consumption of beef, pork, lab, goat, and veal has been declining for decades, while the consumption of poultry has been steadily increasing. Food is more affordable in the U.S. than most other countries, with the average American devoting around 9.7% of their household expenditure to buying food.

Of beef cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, diary, and other livestock, beef cattle is the most common in Delaware. Beef cattle in Delaware comprise 14,000 cattle on 235 farms. The second most numerous livestock animals in Delaware are hogs, with 55 farms raising around 6,000 hogs. Approximately 3,000 sheep and goats are raised on 180 Delaware farms. Dairy has shrunk to a mere 21 farms with 4,500 dairy cows. Delaware’s dairy industry is on the decline, with many small family farms trending towards closure. Other livestock raised in Delaware includes bison, alpacas, llamas, rabbits, water buffalo, bees, deer, chicken, turkeys, and emus.

Dan also discussed modern marketing strategies and labeling, such as non GMO, gluten free, organic, antibiotic free, and all natural. Dan finds most of these labels unnecessary, as in the case of salt being labelled gluten free.

Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak Guest Lecture

Last Wednesday, Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak gave a guest lecture on the Green Industry in Delaware. The Green Industry comprises producers, retailers, landscapers, land managers, golf courses, and suppliers. The Green Industry primarily produces plants and trees for home gardening, among many other diverse things. In 2014, Delaware cash receipts for greenhouses and nurseries totaled around $21 million.

The majority of nursery production, approximately 62 percent, is  devoted to containerized plants or trees. Ball and burlap production comes in second with 28 percent. Bare root makes up a further 13 percent, with field grow bags, balled and potted plants, and in ground containers making up the majority of the remainder of nursery production. Evergreens, deciduous trees, shrubs, and ornamentals, fruit and nut plants and Christmas trees are examples of crops grown in a nursery.

Floriculture crops include bedding/garden plants, cut cultivated greens, cut flowers, potted flowering plants, foliage plants, and others. Floriculture and nursery crops are most frequently used in outdoor home gardens.

Enhancing Delaware Highways was also discussed. This program aims to improve the scenery on Delaware highways by planting meadows, doing nothing, or performing minimal management.

Hoober Field Trip

Last Saturday, our class took a field trip to Hoober in Middletown, Delaware. Founded in 1941, Hoober specializes in both the sale and repair of agricultural tractors, sprayers, harvesters, and planters, as well as precision agriculture equipment. Over the years, Hoober has established a reputation for reliability and professionalism. Hoober has several locations throughout Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The tour began with two employees explaining their career with Hoober and discussing their current jobs. Eventually we came to the workshop and saw several tractors in various states of repair. After this, we were given the opportunity to drive three tractors around a field with the aid of a precision agriculture tool, the auto-steer. The auto-steer is a very helpful tool used by most farmers to make steering a tractor easier. Using GPS, the auto-steer automatically drives the tractor along a predetermined course. Overall, I enjoyed this field trip and what it taught me about the many applications of precision agriculture used by Hoober, Inc.

Mark Lynas

Mark Lynas, a prominent environmentalist and anti GMO activist, reversed his opinion on GMO’s in 2013 at the Oxford Farming Conference, extolling the virtues of the revolutionary technology while fervently apologizing for his past behavior. He was considered one of the most ardent critics of genetically modified organics and his campaign against them during the 1990’s largely influenced public opinion on the matter for decades, swaying even some national governments to ban GMO’s to this day.

The stated reason for his drastic change of opinion is that he had not been examining GMO’s through the same scientific lens as he had been with his other areas of research. He had been unfairly and impartially judging GMO’s without researching them appropriately. He also mentions Norman Borlaug and how he helped saved millions from starvation through genetically modifying food.

Lynas stresses the importance of GMO’s today, with rising populations and increased environmental stressors demanding innovation in the field of agriculture.


Ed Kee Guest Lecture

Ed Kees’ guest lecture was about the history of agriculture on Delmarva and the future of agriculture. I didn’t know that tomatoes were formerly the primary crop in Delmarva, or that the canning industry had a long history on Delmarva. The science behind agriculture’s ever increasing industry was the most interesting part of the presentation.

Improvements in pest management, irrigation, genetics, and many other things have been revolutionizing agriculture since 1945. These innovations have allowed a greater percentage of the population to concentrate in cities, specifically on the East Coast. On Delmarva, we have a unique opportunity to help feed cities such as Washington and New York.

The reality of India and China leading the world demographically and its implications were also stressed. With the world population projected to rise up to 9.3 million by 2050, to feed this many people agriculture must become more efficient. To cope with the logistics of feeding the world, agriculture must innovate and incorporate new technology to the fullest extent.

Ed Kee Iowa and California Guest Lecture

Former Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee delivered a guest lecture about agriculture in Iowa and California, two of the most significant states agriculturally. Iowa’s soil and climate are ideal for agriculture. Iowa ranks number one in production of corn, soybeans, pork, and eggs, while also producing four million gallons of ethanol annually, accounting for 25% of America’s ethanol production. Iowa ranks only behind California in agricultural exports, with Iowa exporting $11 billion worth of products per year.

California ranks first in production many things, such as milk and cream, almonds, and grapes. California also grows 95% of the tomatoes used for processing in the U.S. Agriculture in California is problematic due to the scarcity of water. To combat this, aqueducts have been built to channel snowmelt to the fertile valleys where crops are grown. Despite this, water in California is still at a premium and remains the biggest challenge to agriculture in the state. California exports $20 billion of agricultural products yearly, far ahead of any other states.

James Adkins Guest Lecture

James Adkins gave a guest lecture last Wednesday about irrigation. He discussed the various types of irrigation that have been used historically as well as recent developments,  such as Variable Rate Irrigation. VRI allows farmers to control the amount of water put out by irrigation over specific areas, improving efficiency and reducing water consumption.

I was surprised to discover that 68% of irrigated land is located in Asia. China and India specifically use a huge amount of their freshwater to irrigate crops, with India using approximately 20% of its electricity to pump water for irrigation.

In the United States, irrigation accounts for 37% of all groundwater used. About half of the irrigation in the U.S. is flood irrigation. Flood irrigation involves flooding a field with water in order to allow the soil to absorb it. This method of irrigation is considered to be inefficient. Flood irrigation is most prevalent in California, where 43% of farmland used flood irrigation.


Fifer Orchars Field Trip

On Saturday, September 28, we took a class field trip to Fifer Orchards. Fifer Orchards is located outside Wyoming Delaware and has been in operation since 1919. Strawberries, apples, kale, tomatoes, and peaches are among the crops grown. Some of the strawberries were planted on plastic that had been painted white to spread out the harvest period. The tomatoes were planted in partially enclosed tunnels to allow them to be grown throughout the year. Overall, tomatoes are the most valuable crop at Fifers.

When asked about the viability of growing organic produce, Bobby Fifer explained that it would be nearly impossible, as it would not be financially viable. Bobby also discussed the Community Supported Agriculture program, which allows consumers to pay for produce  before it is are planted. The consumer then has access to their share of the produce once it has been harvested. The money provided by the consumer is directly invested in the planting and harvesting of the produce they paid for.

Mrs. Michele Guest Lecture

Mrs. Michele delivered a helpful guest lecture about social media, developing a brand, and spotting fake news online. Of particular interest to me were her ideas on the potential uses of social media, and how it can tie in with a professional career. I agree with her about having a public, professional social media page for prospective employers to view, as well as a private page for friends to view. I also concurred with her assessment that not having social media or a presence online can be detrimental.

Her emphasis on the importance of developing a trustworthy and positive brand was also interesting to me. I agree that developing a positive brand that employers can take not of is essential to a professional career. Likewise, a negative image is likely to be looked down upon. Thus, it is essential to maintain a positive and professional brand, especially on social media.

Ms. Georgie Cartanza’s Guest Lecture

A few days after we visited Georgie’s farm, she stopped by Carvel Center to give a lecture about the evolution of poultry farming on Delmarva and the challenges that poultry growers face due to negative public perception of the poultry industry.

Every aspect of poultry farming on Delmarva has changed in some way since its inception, from the way the birds are housed, fed and watered to the technology used to monitor temperature, feed and water consumption.  The size of the chickens has even changed, with birds having quadrupled in size over the last 70 years.

While these changes have revolutionized the poultry industry, some of them have garnered a negative public perception of the industry.  For example, the quadrupling in size of chickens has led some outside the industry to accuse growers of using steroids and growth hormones.  In truth, the increased size is due to selective breeding.

Between our visit to Georgie’s farm and her lecture, I feel that I now have a more comprehensive view of the poultry industry and the myriad economic and environmental challenges that growers face, as well as their continual fight against negative public perception.

Visiting an Organic Poultry Farm

My visit to Georgie Cartanza’s organic poultry farm began with a brief presentation of the poultry industry in Delaware.  We were then taken on a tour of the farm, including the chicken houses, the composter and the generator shed, which holds one of the most vital pieces of equipment on the entire farm.  In the event of a power failure, Georgie explained that she has approximately 20 minutes to restore power using the generator before the chickens begin to suffer adverse effects, up to and including death.

There was a large fenced area between each house which allows the chickens to roam freely during the day once they reach a certain age.  They are provided with shade structures to keep them out of the sun.  This playtime, along with several other specifications, are required to grow organic poultry.

Inside one of the houses, Georgie discussed how the chickens are fed and watered, as well as the role of tunnel ventilation and temperature control, which is closely monitored through a central control system.  She explained that it’s much easier to use this relatively new piece of technology as opposed to manually controlling the temperature in each house.

It was interesting to hear that the chickens are provided with wooden ramps to climb on, and that the lights are turned off for several hours each day to provide them with a period of time to rest.

While I have been exposed to bits and pieces of the poultry industry since I was a kid, I have never been presented with such a comprehensive view of the poultry industry.  I greatly enjoyed my time at Georgie’s farm and found her to be very informative.

Georgie Cartanza’s Poultry Farm