All posts by rstenner

What in the world is TPP?

TPP stands for Trans-Pacific Partnership and unlike most hot topics in the media, it is kind of an enigma, people are kind of wary of it because there isn’t clear information about what is going on. Just simply googling ‘TPP’ brings up a number of websites, some of which seem credible, others…not so much, some with sort of a confused jumble of words and some with extensively complicated language. The basic gist is that its a trade agreement between 12 pacific rim countries, potentially reducing restrictions of tariffs etc, promoting business and hopefully effecting the economy positively. However, there are a lot of concerns about TTP, some are afraid that jobs will be lost to countries where workers will accept a lower wage, income inequality, as well as threats to wildlife, the environment and the promotion of fracking.

All of the countries involved must ratify the agreement before it can move forward. Currently those in power in the United States are in favor of ratifying the TPP, whether or not that support continues on in the coming year is yet to be seen.

The cons to me seem to outweigh the benefits, though I might just be too focused on mother earth. We are already doing a lot of harm to the earth, and if the TPP gives any sort of green light for that to continue or worsen I don’t know how supportive I can be. When it all boils down we need a healthy earth to survive, paper money is a poor substitute for food, water and air.

Delaware Green Industry with Tracy Wootten & Valann Budischak

When people think about Agriculture, one of the first ideas that I think pop into people’s minds is what would be properly defined as the Green Industry, greenhouses, florists, gardens and plant nursery’s. Ms. Tracy Wootten and Ms. Valann Budischak are two ladies very involved in the Green Industry in Delaware. Ms. Wootten is a self defined farm kid that grew up to be a farm adult and Ms. Budischak is a lady who has had, and who currently wears many hats, working with the Delaware Nursery Association, DelDot and the Botanic Gardens.

These two ladies gave us a class length tour of Delaware’s Green Industry! Ranging from who is involved, the different aspects, different types of growing, sales, suppliers and more. It was really interesting to hear how much there is to the green industry, because people understand it’s huge but just how much it actually encompasses isn’t really thought about. For example jobs in the Green Industry aren’t just working directly with plants, but also with accounting, transport, legal, inventory work etc. I really liked hearing about the different programs in Delaware like DNLA and the Livable Lawns.

Secretary Of Agriculture – Ed Kee

Toward the start of the semester Secretary of Ag Ed Kee visited our class to talk about Delaware agriculture from where it started to what it has become. Secretary Kee’s father worked more on the business end of the agriculture world, but he had a chance to work on a farm in Lewes Delaware in his teen years and took the opportunity. Later in his life Secretary Kee worked three years as a farm manager and is now currently in his eighth year of serving as Delaware’s Secretary of Ag. He said his job covers a lot but some main parts are advocating for Ag and working with teams to manage the department. Covering the regulations of a number of functions including food safety, pesticide use, weights and measures and the list goes on for him.

During his presentation Mr. Kee spoke with our class about how 20% of Delaware farmland has been permanently preserved by the AgLand Preservation Program which is so cool!! He also discussed Delaware’s history of Agriculture like how tomato’s used to a huge crop in the state, and all of the advances in technology that’s occurred over the years in Delaware to enhance farming. Secretary Kee also was real with the class about challenges the industry is facing like profitability and regulations as well as others and how some of these issues will be passed on to the next generation, which happens to includes us!! It was really cool to see where Ag had been, to where it is now, and then kind of be pushed to realize that our class is going to see and even have a hand in where agriculture goes and what it develops into!

Mark Davis and the equine industry

Mark Davis is currently Delaware’s Executive Director of the Harness Racing Commission. However, he didn’t start out his career here, but studied marine biology for a while before graduating with a degree in environmental science. He worked for a time as an environmental consultant and got involved with the Department of Ag in Delaware as a land use planner. He traded hats a few more times before landing his current job with the Harness Racing Commission.

Mr. Davis discussed with the class the many different aspects of the racing industry, which I myself knew very little about. He discussed the history, components, regulations, as well as the impact of the industry-which monetarily adds up to around $39 billion to the U.S. each year. He explained that the Delaware state vet isn’t typically involved with the racing industry unless there is a disease issue, instead there are vets at the track and the paddock. The vets at the track are there to watch the races and monitor the horses for lameness, to see that the whipping regulations are upheld and to do welt checks. At the paddock the vets have a slightly different purpose, that is to do lots of test to make sure the horses are in tip-top shape, like blood tests, heart rate checks and to check on joints. The upcoming challenges Mr. Davis sees for the industry is the government resting on the casinos too much without turn around to help the industry as well as the shrinking field.

So you Herd we went to the farm?

Our last field trip of the course ended on a high note, with a tour of the University of Delaware’s own research farm! Leading our tour was Scott Hopkins the farm superintendent! We started off in the bus driving to Webb Farm, and on the drive Mr. Hopkins told our class about the layout of all the land, what was for farming, what was for wetlands or bees. We saw the poultry and Insect buildings on our way over.

Mr.Hopkins talking to the class about the horse stables

Upon arriving we went into the equine building and Mr. Hopkins explained the set up of the classroom area as well as the stable area, which often goes unused. His frustrations with the equine building really stood out to me, the University had it placed in a relatively inconvenient place and has not yet, at least, allowed the building of hay storage- so it has to be carted over when the stable is in use. His comment on the importance of conversing with those who will labor in or in relation to the building being designed before hand, really struck home to me. Just because thinking like that seems like common sense to me, be it working, designing something or in this case building, you would think efficiency and considering all of the variables would be the first priority and the fact that it isn’t always is frustrating.

Mr. Hopkins explaining how the feeder only allows a specific cow to eat from it, while the class is distracted by the cow saying hello!

We walked past the composing area where the class was shown the difference between a newer pile and a nearly done pile of compost (only one of which was visibly steaming!). We walked through the sheep barn and saw the huge packages full of wool, past the horses and back to the bus to drive back to the dairy section of the farm. Where we toured the milking parlor and Mr. Hopkins discussed with us the research area, as well as his hatred of students not asking questions! We finished our tour by stopping into the UD Creamery and Mr. Isaacs treating the class to ice cream!


An A-peel-ing Trip to Fifer Orchard’s

September 17th the class took a trip to Camden-Wyoming Delaware to visit Fifer Orchards, which is family farm established in 1919!! During our tour we saw everything from the fields to the sorting and packing areas to their market. At their farm they grow a diverse set of crops, from apples to corn, pumpkins and into trial crops like brussel sprouts! The part I found really cool was the processing area specifically for the apples, they go through a machine that took multiple pictures, and then sorted the apples based on their size and color!

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

We got to hear just as much about the business and promotion side of things as well as the crop production. Fifer’s has a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) club that they run for 18 weeks of the year and can be picked up at different locations across the state. For those weeks customer’s get a produce box that is filled with different locally grown products that are in season as well as information about Fifer’s events and activities. The trip to Fifer Orchards reinforced the concept we have discussed in class multiple times, about the rising importance of social media in the Ag industry.

Our class talking about CSA boxes, advertising and social media
Our class talking about CSA boxes, advertising and social media


The trip that drone-d on and on!

The third field trip the class went on was to visit the Hoober store in Middletown Delaware. Brian Lam and Dave Wharry were kind enough to talk with our class and show us around the store! We got to see the selling floor,  the garage where repairs are ongoing, and the back and side yards were different tractors and parts sits until needed.

Our class split up into two groups, one group having the opportunity to drive a tractor and another see a drone in action! For the drone presentation we watched Mr. Wharry program the drone right from his phone and send it off to survey part of the property. He talked about how regulations on drones have changed, and how because of the changes, he hopes that they will become more mainstream for farmers to use. He also told a story about doing some scouting with the drone and it accidentally flying over a man’s property, who was not very happy about it. But after discussing what he was doing, why and how, the mans attitude had gone from hostile to interested and even impressed!

Mr. Wharry and his drone

Mr. Lam took students in drives in one of the stores tractors to show us the precision Ag equipment. He had each driver go around different puddles or posts, and then after turning the tractor around had them push a button to activate the auto steer and take their hands off the wheel. It was crazy to be sitting in the cab of a tractor that is driving itself, and along the exact route that we took to get there, around the puddles and posts!

This was a super cool trip to see the technological side of Ag and really see hands on how it’s being used!

Our class at the end of the trip!

An Eggcellent First Trip

Georgia Cartanza is the force behind a four house organic poultry farm in Delaware and upon meeting her I realized she is one of those special people who is just pure sunshine. Ms. Cartanza didn’t jump out of college and into her current 156,000 bird operation, but started as a flock supervisor for Purdue, the job was essentially to help poultry growers with managing and improving the day to day in their houses. After that she jumped around to a number of different positions before deciding to make the switch to having her own houses and being her own boss with the bonus of a more flexible family friendly work schedule.

After putting on tyvek suits and boot covers our class left the bus and Ms. Cartanza explained about her manure shed, and different external parts of the operation before showing us inside the chicken houses. Right before going into the house we saw the computer system that is a technologically amazing part of the operation, controlling the house regulations right from Ms. Cartanza’s phone, which will also alert her if any of the stats are way off, for example if the temperature in one of the houses spikes. One thing that really astonished me inside of the house was that the smell wasn’t bad, I was always told that chickens are dirty and smell awful…and it was pretty much the opposite. The air movement inside of the chicken house is so impressive that the smell doesn’t bother you, and over all it was quite clean and much quieter than I had ever expected! #AgMythBusted

Georgia Cartanza talking to our class

Ms. Cartanza talked about the food and water system, the air flow, the outside access, as well as the toys the chickens had, like bully boxes and ramps. One silly comment that really stuck with me was her joking apology about the state of her chickens, how the previous classes who visited got to see cute chicks and we drew the short stick and visited during molting!


Ms. Cartanza chatted with our class about a number of different things throughout our visit. For example the challenges she is faced within the poultry industry, how energy and electricity are a big issue, how regulations can really hinder farm growth, as well as the impact public views have. She also discussed with us what she thought was important about entering into the job world, and one of her biggest points was accountability, the importance to be mature and responsible for your own person and actions. She also emphasized how far a positive attitude and the way you handle mistakes can go.

Mark Lynas and the GMO Movement

In 2013, Mark Lynas, a writer and activist gave a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference and was exceedingly open about how his view on GMO crops had drastically changed. He spoke about how his anti-GMO stand boiled down to a lack of education on the subject, stating directly that he, “had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding.” So basically in the 1990’s when he was advocating against GMO’s he was flying by the seat of his pants, but mid 2000’s he started doing some reading, and found out many of the things he had believed were in fact false and backed up by facts and research. Within his speech Lynas makes some great points about how important GMO’s are, that they are basically needed to keep crop yield high enough to support the growing population.

I think that is was very big of Lynas to not only admit that he has had a change of heart, but also to do it so publicly. He apologizes for his actions, but is not necessarily ashamed of them, it shows that peoples minds do change and it’s a socially okay thing. After addressing why his change of heart occurred he continues to beef up the argument for the use of GMO’s in our society. How there are a major number of benefits and few cons to GMO’s that people aren’t often aware of, or completely educated about, emphasizing that there is no real reason GMO’s should be banned.