On November 11th, Lecturer Dave Mayondo came to class and talked to us about the use of and innovations in technology related to agriculture. The integration of more advanced technologies in the agriculture industry has drastically decreased the amount of hands on labor required to operate a farm. Only on certain, more specialty crops, does one need a sizable manual work force.
This use of technology is beneficial to the farmers for many reasons. Firstly, they can spend less money on hired hands to work the fields, and they don’t have to strain their body through labor as much themselves. The technology also allows for more crop yield through things like precision agriculture and more advanced irrigation systems.
One of the things that Mayondo stated in relation to how technology has helped increase yields was the improvements in pesticides and pest control through GMO’s. Using these methods, pests can be controlled much more efficiently, with less human risk, and with less environmental impact.
On November 18th, Mark Davis came to class to talk about the equine industry in the state of Delaware. The majority of this industry it seems is focused on horse racing and the like. He stated that racing has likely been around ever since humans first tamed horses, and that the industry has survived around the world ever since. Delaware traces it’s horse racing heritage back to colonial times, and it get’s most of its traditions from English racing.
For a long time this was the predominant way to gamble, with slot machines being added to casinos in order to generate money for the racing. The industry makes a lot of money, and generates jobs for a good amount of Delaware residents.
Thoroughbred horse racing is where most of the money is, but standard breed and quarter horse racing is very common too. Another common type of racing is harness racing.
On Saturday, November 2nd, the class visited the farm owned by the university. It is a research farm which means that it is collecting and analyzing data related to the cultivation of plants and animals. This data helps find new ways to farm more efficiently and with less environmental impacts. Some of the things that they farm there are cows, sheep, and even rice.
The one of the first places that we visited was the dairy farm. This is the place where the UD creamery, UDairy, gets all of their dairy products. An interesting thing is how the cows are organised. They each have their own area from which only they can feed, and the cows quickly learn where this is without much help by the farmers.
My favorite place was the barn with the sheep. I learned that the tails were docked because it helps the sheep avoid infections around the area where the tail and hind legs are.
On Monday, October 21st, Dan Severson came to the class to talk about predominately livestock in the state of agriculture today. He talked about a wide range of things, such as the normal meat animals (like cows, chickens, and pigs) and more obscure topics in livestock (like bees, and show animals).
An interesting thing was the statistic that he mentioned where the consumption rates of nearly every livestock animal went down except for poultry. This comes to no surprise to me for two reasons. The first being that poultry is arguably the most cost effective form of meat. The second is that poultry is generally viewed to be more lean and healthy, and there has been a recent rise in health consciousness in the western world. The decreases in the other forms of meat are not surprising either, especially the decreases in consumption of veal and lamb. Alongside the rise of health consciousness came a shift in ethical standards with many people switching to vegetarian diets because they view eating animals as unethical. It goes without saying that this shift also put a slight taboo on eating young animals like you would when eating veal and lamb.
For the mislabeled product, I found a jar of peanut butter that was labeled gluten-free and vegan even though peanut butter is naturally gluten-free and vegan. This is just a case of advertising and appealing to a certain group of people through clever use of words. I do not think it’s unethical for companies to do this because they are not lying, however this type of advertising does get a tad bit annoying.
Last Wednesday, Tracy Wootten and Valan Budischak came to talk to the class about the horticulture industry in Delaware. They mostly dealt with aesthetic plants used in residencies, so things like flowers and lawn care.
Regarding the cultivation of flowers, the two went over the process of planting a flower to the consumer’s purchase. By the time the flower is bought, it likely has spent it’s past in many different places because different locations have different specialties when it comes to the life cycle of the flower (i.e. different places for potting and initial planting of the seed).
Other that lawn care and flowers, the green industry is involved with the management of places like parks and public areas. In these places, the industry is responsible for things such as removal of invasive species and keeping some forms of vegetation at bay. Something interesting is that the industry is responsible for keeping grasses away from railroads in order to prevent fires from the friction from the train.
I was unfortunately unable to attend the field trip, but after speaking with some classmates who were in attendance, I now have a better idea of what happened and what was learned during the trip.
It seems that this trip was all about technology and it’s importance in the lives of those involved in agriculture. Hoober’s is an agricultural equipment and machinery supplier; selling more traditional farm equipment as well as equipment used in precision agriculture. It is due to places like these that farmers are able to stay on the cutting edge of new technological developments, and because of this technology being supplied, farmers can do so much more in less time with less physical labor.
These technologies are very important for improving the lives of the farmer through reduced labor, increasing the amount of food through higher rates of harvest in the same amount of land, and doing so in an environmentally friendly way.
Genetically modified food is one of the most efficient ways to feed the growing world population because it is able to reduce the risk of disease in crops, and farmers are able to produce more output with the same amount of acreage (this way the farmers make more money as well). However, after reading the article, it is apparent that many people are misinformed about the largely beneficial nature of this process.
People generally like to know where there food comes from, and more importantly, if that food is safe; “2 out of 3 consumers want to know about how food is produced and who’s producing it.” These same people sometimes don’t trust GMO strategies in crop production because it seems to them that the process is unnatural, and that the GMO’s could potentially be harmful.
The best way to educate people on the great aspects of GMO’s is with sound scientific data presented by respected scientific communities because that is what the public would put greater faith in. It is very important to educate and communicate these ideas so the population stands as one in the regard to the advancement of agriculture in a drastically changing and growing world.
A political activist and environmentalist named Mark Lynas spent much of his life protesting the use of genetic modifiers in the development and growth of food products. He did so because he thought that their use was harmful to the environment, but this standpoint was not based too much on actual science.
He has since changed his mind on GM food products, and has apologized publicly for his years of protest. He now understands that these GM foods need less pesticides and other chemicals necessary for the production of Non-GM food; meaning that the Non-GM food products do more harm to the environment than the GM food products do.
Because he has listened to science instead of personal morality, and made a public apology for his previous activism, he has brought attention to the benefits of GM foods to the public. People doing things like this are great for improving the knowledge of the common person.
On October 2nd, James Adkins came to our class to talk about the state of irrigation in today’s farming world. Currently, about twenty percent of the world’s farmland is irrigated, and about forty percent of the world’s food supply is from irrigated land. Asia is home to around sixty eight percent of the world’s irrigated land, and this compares to the United States’ claim to about seventeen percent of the world’s irrigated land.
Some different types of irrigation include the flood irrigation, where water flows across the soil where the crop grows by gravity on the surface, drip irrigation, where black tubing is laid across the ground in rows where the crops are and drips water drown to the roots, and central pivot irrigation, where a large machine pivots in a circle and sprays water from multiple hoses. This central pivot technique is seen a lot on farms here in Delaware.
On Saturday, the class took a trip to Fifer Orchards in Wyoming Delaware. We got to see what kinds of crops they grew, and what methods they used for growing them.
For instance, on a lot of their crops (such as broccoli and kale), a center pivot irrigation system was used. This is where a large machine pivots in a circular shape around the field and sprays water in order to hydrate the plants. On other crops (such as peaches), they used drip irrigation. This is where crops are hydrated from the bottom to avoid getting the leaves of the plant wet, which can increase chance for disease, but this system is more inconvenient to use.
Some crops had unique structures associated with them as well. Strawberries used plasticulture where their soil was raised off the ground and covered in black plastic, and tomatoes used a high tunnel where there would be fabric shading the tomatoes in a similar fashion to a greenhouse. These methods both protect the crop during cold weather.
This trip was interesting, and it shed some light on both the physical growth side of farming as well as the marketing side once the crop is harvested.
On September 25th, Ed Kee once again gave a lecture to the class. However, rather than focusing on Delaware like most of what we have done in this class so far, he touched on the huge agricultural powers of California and Iowa.
On the exports and production of agriculture in California, Kee stated that alone, they are the 10th largest economy in the world. This is largely because many of our vegetables and grown food (such as, tomatoes, almonds, strawberries, and grapes) come from California; even here in Delaware, California supplies much of our canned produce. He also stated that due to the dry and arid climate of California, they must use a canal irrigation system that irrigates much of the state through water from snowy mountains.
About agriculture in Iowa, Kee stated that they are the number one producer of corn in the United States because of the great soil for farming corn there. Iowa also uses a lot of it’s corn for the production of ethanol fuel rather than for food.
On September 16th, former Delaware Secretary of Ag, Ed Kee, came to our class to talk about the history and state of farming in Delaware. He stated that around the late 19th century and early 20th century, Delaware agriculture was made more important with the coming about of the railway system and the invention of canned goods. This is because with the railways, the produce can be shipped farther away, and with the canned goods, the produce would be kept fresh for longer.
On the subject of the state of agriculture in Delaware today, Kee stated that the farms in Delaware are eight or less hours away from one third of the United States population. For this reason, he made the statement that the Delmarva tri-state area is the food shed for most of the major cities of the east coast.
Something else Kee mentioned is the Young Farmer’s Program and the Agland Preservation Program here in Delaware. The former financially helps qualified young individuals in starting up their first agricultural pursuit, while the latter gives farmers compensation in exchange for selling the development rights to their property, thus ensuring that said property is preserved for agriculture.
On Wednesday, September 11th, Mrs. Michele lectured to the class about the advantages and disadvantages of social media, and about the strategies that we should employ in social media as young people about to join the workforce.
Firstly, she talked about how social media is a great tool for employers and employees to use in order to connect with and research each other during the hiring process; especially on certain platforms like LinkedIn. They are wonderful places to list job openings, apply for jobs, and network.
However, Mrs. Michele noted that if an employer was looking at an applicant’s profile, and they saw something unsavory, that would drastically reduce the applicant’s chance at landing the job. So, one must have caution when they are posting something online, and take into account every factor (i.e. who might see whatever you are posting, is it professional, and so on).
Finally, she mentioned strategies on what to post in order to make our image more desirable among employers. She mentioned that our picture should be a head shot, not a selfie, and that we should only post what we would want employers to see.
On Monday, September 9th, Mrs. Cartanza, a producer of organic poultry, came to present her views and knowledge about the poultry industry in class. Her decision to produce organically was a financial one, and some of her main talking points were about dispelling myths about the inorganic poultry industry.
Firstly, she addressed the topic of the substantially larger size of the chickens now compared with those of the past. Many believe that this is due to putting hormones and steroids into them. However, according to Mrs. Cartanza, this is not the case. She assured us that the size of the chickens is due to years of selective breeding, and steroids/hormones are not involved in the process.
She then stressed the point that, people should not vilify the farmer who adopts new technology into his or her farming routine. She pointed out that many times farmers face scorn just for using new technology because people often view it as unnatural or inhumane for the livestock, while oftentimes this is not the case, and the technology actually just helps the farmer while not affection or improving the health of the the livestock.
On Saturday, September 7th, I visited a poultry farm that used techniques to produce organic chicken. I was a meat farm that had four large houses, each with openings to let the chickens outside during the day (a prerequisite for a poultry product to be considered ‘organic’). The farm was run by a woman named Georgie Cartanza, who introduced us to her farm and to the poultry world with a presentation that went over the industry’s history and possible directions for it’s future.
At the farm we witnessed the processes that create organic chickens. For instance, they need shade structures in their aforementioned outside area, structures like ramps and bully bins for play, windows for natural light, and they need a diet of non-GMO food.
Doing these things (and more) allow her to sell her product at a higher price because it is organic, however, there are many downsides to producing this kind of product. Because the chickens can be outside, they are more vulnerable to predators, and the feed for the chickens is more expensive. Due to the pros and cons of each method of production, poultry farmers must decide if organic chicken production is worth it and more profitable for them.