Category Archives: Agritourism

Understanding Today’s Agriculture, AGRI130 Guest Lecture #9- Equine Industry

On November 18, 2019 Mr. Mark DAVIS gave a lecture on the Delaware equine industry.  As the Executive Director of the Delaware Harness Racing Commission, Mr. DAVIS was able the class all about the history of the industry and how it operates today.

Although Mr. DAVIS could thoroughly explain the mechanic of the industry today, that was not always the case.  In fact, before he took on his current position, he, ‘knew little about horses and noting about racing’.  But he did have good writing and management skills as well as a good work ethic.  After, ‘putting his nose to the grindstone’, he was able to pick-up the states’ horse racing industry, which he inherited in a state of disarray.

Mr. DAVIS provided a brief history of horseracing.  The practice of racing horses can be traced back to the Arabians, who held distance races over the desert.  These horses, acquired as spoils of war, were eventually bred with European horses. In 1750, the Jockey Club was created in America for the management of thoroughbreds.

There are two main types of racing- Quarter racing & distance racing.  There are two main breeds of American horses- thoroughbreds and standardbreds. Thoroughbreds typically race once a month with a galloping pace that places all a horses’ weight on one hoof at a time.  Standardbreds are typically use for the less popular, harness racing.  Harness racing has a lower point of entry and the horses race twice a week at a faster pacing/trotting pace.  Because they undergo physical exertion more frequently, these horses are usually heartier, with a slower breakdown.

Mr. DAVIS presented somewhat older data from 2005, but the statistics remain relevant.  Less people are going places.  People are able to engage in races via computer or TV, so physical attendance at horse races has gone down.  The low attendance is not however, because of a significant price barrier- 46% of horse-owners have an modest income, so the sport is not strictly reserved for the wealthy.  People are spending however, as evinced by a landmark wager on October 26, 2019 in which about $4million was bet in one day on a single horse.

The horse population has also gone down within the sport. Prices, therefore, continue going up.  This year marks the 1st time a horse sells for $1million. $100, 000 for a thoroughbred is not uncommon, but that same amount for a standardbred is quite unusual.

In 1934 the Delaware Racing Commission was established. In 1946 Harrington Raceway is built and continues operating as the oldest harness racing track in country. Other raceways include, the ‘Brandywine Raceway’, which closed because slots weren’t used to fund the establishment.  Video Lottery is a requirement on a racetrack, thanks to the, ‘Delaware Horseracing Revitalization Act.

Mr. DAVIS informed use that the harness racing industry is managed by the Fair board, which consists of 88 people, as well as the Raceway and Casino Board.  There are distinct boards for both the standardbred and thoroughbred horses. The Harrington Raceway runs April to October, with a 6 week summer break.  Ocean Downs, a racetrack in Maryland, hosts races in the period from June to August when Harrington isn’t having races.

In previous generation, modern horseracing as we know it consisted of a trainer, and owner, and a driver who divided the profits among themselves.  Today, there are owners and investors. The owners own less than 5% of a horse with a share of the profits and don’t require a license. Trainers however can earn six figures. There are also Paddock inspectors, nicknamed, ‘Pee catchers’ who analyze the urine and blood of the horses, and veterinarians, who are the only professionals in contact with the horse before races.

In Japan, regulations are more stringent, with horses brought to the track a full week before their race, the only people in contact with them are the groomer and/or trainer, and fed strictly hay and water.  In the U.S., drivers, who are still exclusively male, are tested as well- the procedure is imperative when a person is travelling 35mph behind a 2000lb aluminum chariot and horse with eight other people, no one should be under the influence.  Owners and groomers are tested once a month.  Anyone with a license to be in contact with the horse is subject to tests, ‘out of competition’.

The horses run two miles once or twice a week.  The demanding performance can tempt many of those involved in horse-racing to use the blood-building agent erythropoietin (EPO)- ‘the same drug [cyclist] Lance ARMSTRONG got in trouble for [using]’. EPO acts as a trigger to produce more red blood cells, aiding in the recovery of the animal after a race. Paddock inspectors are often checking for doping of the horses- EPO given the night after a race generates antibodies produced for recovery, which wear off before the next race, but already have an effect on the horse’s ability to recover from the previous race. Initially Bovine EPO was given to Equine animals before the switch to Synthetic EPO, of which there are now 37 types, with tests for only 2.

500 full-time jobs are generated by horseracing, which generate money via, ‘Purses’. Better horses race for more money- a better quality horse creates a larger, ‘purse’. Of a $100, 000 purse, a winner gets 50%, and while the owner/owner(s) get money, the driver and trainer receive just 5%. Race operators must also pay training bills, veterinarian bills, food, water, and more and somehow generate some salary.

The lottery money generated by the casinos is put into a large pool.  With the casinos and the state operating as partners, the money is distributed between Delaware’s three casinos and the state in a, ‘weekly sweep’.  Despite popular belief, Mr. DAVIS informs the class that the casino doesn’t take all the money, instead only keeping vendor fees for itself- the headline, ‘State bails out Casino’ is false. In 2015 the casino formula reapportioned the percentages each party received from the, ‘weekly sweep’, with the casino receiving 50% casino and the state receiving 30%.  In 2020, the formula was re-adjusted 2% to help casinos recover, but this was just the state re-correcting the problem they initially caused with the first formula change that gave casinos 50%.  The state largely uses their percentage for state infrastructure.  Even though casinos receive a specific amount of money, the Horse Racing Commission still receives phone calls from betters who complain about the outcome of races.

To close out the lecture, Mr. DAVIS answers the classes questions.  One question concerned the weight requirements for harness racing drivers.  Mr. DAVIS informed the class that drivers are typically in the 150-300lbs weight range, but that unlike jockeys, because of where the drivers are situated, there are no real height and weight requirements for the harness racing drivers.


Fifer Orchards

On September 28, 2019 the class took a field trip to Fifer Orchards at the very beginning of the farms Fall Fest‘commemorating it’s 100th year.  This trip would commence very differently than the last one, with the majority of the tour spent on the bus.  We would ride around to various fields before visiting the sorting and packing area, taking our obligatory class picture, and finally checking out the farm’s country store.

1st stop on the tour…

The first talk about irrigation…

Our host, Mr. ‘Bobby’ FIFER met us in the parking lot before climbing aboard the bus.  He began the tour by giving the class a cit of backstory on himself and the farm.  Mr. FIFER was a Virginia Tech graduate who continued to work at the farm after college with his two other brothers and cousin for the past 15 years.  Together they encompass the fourth generation of the families now 3000acre farm.  Mr. FIFER stated the family once owned more land after they moved from Rehoboth to Dover in 1904 after the drowning of a child, but those Milford and Magnolia parcels were either sold or lost to time.  The third generation, made up of Mr. FIFER’s father, now in his 80’s, and Mr. FIFER’s Aunt remain active with the help of two or three female staff members working in public relations.  Every family member has their own role to fill n the farm and no one is vying for the other’s job.

An unexpected traveling companion…

A sleepy traveling companion…
Hmm, Interesting…

Mr. FIFER notes that each family member does what he or she is best-suited for and comfortable with.  Mr. FIFER really enjoys working amongst the people and being at the front of the farms public brand. His brother, Mr. Kirk FIFER, worked for Sargenta right out of college in the 1990s, so he handles a lot of the sales- ‘whether a consumer wants 10 or 10, 000 case of product’, as well as wholesale to Walmart. Mr. Michael FIFER, the cousin, handles the public relations angle of the business, handling retail in Dewey Beach and Dover, booking entertainment, and coordinating ‘Fall Fest’.  Another, older brother, prefers to work behind-the-scenes, out int he fields, in a harvester, or just doing maintenance.

‘Velvet Leaf’, or ‘Elephant Ear’ weed
Very fuzzy leaves…

No matter the role, there is always plenty for any one member to do because Fifer’s is a very diversified farm.  At the start of the growing season, they are packing fruit, off-season asparagus (a fern and early spring crop that stores energy in it’s roots), and one of their most profitable crops per acre, tomatoes.  Strawberries often complete for the most profitable crop per acre, but overall, corn and pumpkins generate the most money. Surprisingly, the tree fruit for which the orchard is known, has the lowest profit per acre, because Delaware’s warmer temperatures and humidity is not really conducive to growing the best peaches or apples.  Peaches are prone to get stink bugs, scab, brown bacteria, leaf rot, and scale, with apples fairing a little better, subject to fire bight, wart, black rot, as well as scab, scale, and nutrition deficiency.  Both crops are subject to daily pest struggles and require different pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides to stay viable.  The harvest season runs from April to December, and also includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, beans(in rotation with corn), and sweet potatoes.  Most of the crops are sold locally, though the corn may be shipped as far a s New Mexico, Walston (PA?), Miami, Mississippi, and Colorado.

Crop duster hard at work…
Strawberry fields
Raised beds, plastic, and row covers…
The re-used row cover…

The high temperatures and humidity create the constant threat of disease, making it very difficult to grow anything organically in this state, so Fifer’s is not an organic farm.  Mr. FIFER says it’s not worth the ‘headache’ to try and it’s too time-consuming.

Despite the high level of Inputs required for conventional production, Fifer’s has a reliable way to manage their equally high levels of output.   They farm utilizes mechanical harvesting for it’s sweet potatoes and corn, along with other harvesters and mowers.  Other crops that require hand labor is often supplied by immigrants through the H2A Program, which supplies guest workers on Federal visas to harvest and pack produce. The Fifer’s must pay for the workers living expenses, providing housing, laundry, rides to Walmart and work, as well as $1, 400 per month for the employees to go to an from Mexico from September 1 to November 1.  It’s is a great expense, but Mr. FIFER asserts that working through the government program means they only need about 70 people versus the 100 domestic workers they once hired, even as the farm has grown and expanded.

A Hi-tunnel…

To facilitate this growth, Fifer’s has employed a variety of different growing methods, such as double cropping, or growing 2 crops in one year, cover cropping, and reduced tillage. They have also employed the use of ‘protected agriculture’, implementing hi-tunnels with measurable success. Mr. FIFER stated that the practice is easier in New York and Vermont, but in New Jersey, E. PA, and further southward it’s ‘impossible’.  Hi-tunnels were utilized to extend the growing season and sell on the ”shoulder season’.  Cultivars like strawberries and raspberries were grow first, but tomatoes were the ones that proved most lucrative. The Fifer’s could produce 2-3× the yield in tomatoes when no other local farm has them well into the month of December- but from November into December consumers are often thinking of squash and kale and other ‘fall foods.’  Hi- tunnels are most cost effective than a greenhouse for the Fifer’s as their expense is based on length- they only cost $10, 000-$40/50, 000 per acre.  They are a big deal in other states like PA, Maryland, & Virginia.  The only caveat is the tunnel cultivar must be rotated and the physical structure moved, or the land it sits on must be fumigated, i.e., the soil must be injected with chemicals to kill and sterilize it of everything- which is an added cost.

Additional growing methods like raised beds and bed covers are used for weed and pest management, as well as on-farm experiments.  Raised beds can prevent the wetting of leaves, which promotes bacterial growth.  Mr. FIFER spoke of his efforts using plastic bedcovers, namely with strawberries, to keep the soil warm and prohibit weed growth as well.  Mr. FIFER said he intended to try alternating between black and white plastic on different rows to stagger the crops soil heat absorption by a few degrees and extend the harvest season with equally ripe berries.  The bedcovers, used in tandem with 0.9-1.2oz. re-used row-covers, can be used to retain heat and trick the plants into, ‘thinking they’re in NC’- Delaware strawberries are planted the 1st-3rd week of September, but NC strawberries are planted well into October, with a harvest by the end of April or early May.

Outside the packing facility…

To maintain soil health, the Fifer’s plant oats, whose roots grow up to 1ft. long and absorb and excess nutrients and prevent soil erosion.  They may also plant, ‘Tillage Radishes’ that aerate the soil by breaking up the hardpan and create mulch to increase the soil’s organic matter. The Agricultural Stabilization & Conservation Service(ASCS) will pay farmers for planting cover crops, which is particularly important for sandy soil.

Inside the refrigerated packing facility…

One off the most important aspects of farming that Mr. FIFER covers, was the orchards extensive use of different irrigation techniques.  Citing Mr. James ADKINS and his expertise on irrigation, Mr. FIFER stated the farm uses 600-12–gal per min wells to power their system of Drip Irrigation, Underground Drip Irrigation, Linear and Center Pivot Irrigation, and Hard-Hose Irrigation. Drip irrigation was displayed on the surface of the peach orchard and used because the farmers experience less of a problem from rodents, groundhogs, and foxes gnawing the lines than they would with an underground system.  To run the drip irrigation, the water source must be free of iron and scale, or the hoes nozzles will become plugged, so clarification and filtering are used.  With the linear and center pivot irrigation, seen in a field of Kohlrabi, cauliflower, and collards, the system works with automatic pressure release valves and is positioned on plastic wheels that, while more costly, don’t go flat and bolt onto the hub.  The hard-hose irrigation system must be hooked to a well, unspooled with a tractor for 200ft and then dragged and relocated, unhooked, and re-hooked to different hydrants along tramlines.

Just outside the refrigerated section…

Looking out on ‘Fall Fest’…

Another aspect, pest management, was covered throughout the tour.  One method discussed was airblast and airplane spraying, which requires highly trained trick flyers who can maneuver at low altitudes and often train more than commercial pilots.  Aerial spraying can be used to manage weeds, but vigilance by those who work in the fields is needed as well.  Prof. ISAACS showed us a ‘Velvet Leaf’ or ‘Elephant Ear’, an example of a weed that when not handled properly and treated quickly, can result in a long-lasting problem- the plant contains large seed pods with up to 50 seeds that can go dormant for up to 50 years.  Another method was a deer management strategy in which the Fifer’s allow a set group of hunters to come in and kill deer for free at no liability to them under the State Quality Deer Management Program.  Mr. FIFER stated the greatest pest statewide would undoubtedly be the four-legged, white-tail deer- a herd can eat 30 acres of soybeans and 20acres of strawberries.

Additional challenges would be the paperwork and documentation that goes into processing. Every product must be labelled with a GN and LOT# for distribution.  The Fifer’s must pay $10, 000 for an audit, flying an inspector in from Idaho.  There are also additional expenses that must be covered for any new or changing government regulations- Mr. FIFIER stated that the family would often look for loopholes to avoid the intense scrutiny increasing regulations can bring.  Also, without a properly established market for their cultivars, like the Kohlrabi, the plants are just wasted space and must be tilled under to make way for a different crop next season.

Guest workers filling boxes with ice….
Mr. Kirk FIFER takes over…

One topic that has seemingly become the subject of every class discussion at some point is the sighting and eventual spread of the Spotted Lantern Fly.  Mr. FIFER said that although the invasive insect had found it’s way to Sussex County from Pennsylvania, they had yet to see the pest on their property, but as Prof. ISAACS reminded us, according to the rules of the Department of Agriculture it is up to the farmer to treat any known threats.

Overall, I enjoyed the trip. I would definitely like to come back to Fifer’s for the events as well as the interesting foods in the store that I didn’t get to try or purchase.  I was told there was boar, bear, and alligator jerky, and I saw a large selection of jams and jellies with inventive flavors I’d love to sample, but would have no clue how to use.

Fifer’s Orchard

On Friday the 27th of September, the class went on a field trip. Although I was not able to go, I learned a few things through my classmates. At Fifer’s orchard, they grow peaches, apples, strawberries, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet corn. They are inorganic because of challenges like humidity and time it takes to grow the crop. They use plastic beds for growing to distribute the water underground and it allows the plant to absorb sunlight for the roots without the problems of weeds growing. 

I’ve been to orchards before near my hometown. I was able to pick my own apples and pumpkins. At Fifer’s most of their crops are handpicked. They have pumpkin picking and all kinds of fall activities. They sell some of their apple cider and produce at the farm directly to consumers. I think places like Fifer’s are really cool to spend a weekend in the fall to have fun and feel festive.

Fifers Orchards

September 28th, 2019, my class took a field trip to Fifers Orchards. At Fifers their main goal is to grow and sell high quality produce, while preserving the environment, serving the community, and maintaining family values. The Fifer family has been growing fresh fruits and vegetables since 1919. Fifers grows a variety of fruits and vegetable; strawberries, asparagus, blueberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, plums, cut flowers, and way more. They talked about their community supported agriculture club (CSA). This allows Fifers to get more active in their environment. People receive produce boxes and have a choice as to where they get it. People from further away can get access to these boxes with their multiple locations. Fifers is a big step in helping our agriculture every day.

Fifer Orchards: 100 years of farming!

Image result for FIFER ORCHARDS

Fifer Orchards is a Delaware century- farm in operation from 1919 celebrating its 100 years of operation this season. The Fifer family strives to grow and sell high-quality produce while preserving the environment, serving the community and maintaining family values.

Fifer Orchards is a 3,000-acre farm growing a large variety of produce such as but not limited to: Asparagus, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Peaches, Sweet Corn, Pumpkins, and Strawberries.

Sweet corn is their number one profit bringing crop where this year they shipped sweet corn to New Mexico and Colorado where a shortage occurred.

Tomatoes are their most abundant crop on a per-acres basis and recently the Fifer family included high tunnels in their tomato growing plan.

Image result for black v white plastic on strawberriesOne of the most fascinating techniques Fifer Orchards is testing out this year is the use of black vs. white plastics on their strawberry crops in an effort to offset harvest time for the white covered crops so they don’t have an oversupply during the initial harvest period.  This allows them to, hopefully, increase their profitability.

Fifer Orchards is a beautiful farm with a lot of history and diversity I certainly plan on visiting again soon. 

Fifer Orchards Field Trip

Fifer Orchards was a great field trip it was cool getting to ride around in the bus and get to see all the fields. Seeing the pivot irrigation up close was amazing. I’ve never realized just how big they really are. I also never thought about the tires going flat and the plastic tires are a wonderful idea and definitely makes farmers jobs a lot less stressful.

I wish would have been able to see the packing system working I can only imagine how efficent this machine is and he said that its really out of date but it still looks in great condition. Before we got to the  packing system we walked through their freezer which was just packed with all their different produce. The diversity of fifers crops is really amazing they have from apples all the way to kale. I also really liked their store where I got a gallon of apple cider and donuts and they were both so good. That alone was worth the little drive.

Fifers Orchards

While I was unable to attend the field trip myself, my friend Mollie told me all about it afterwards. She told me that Fifers Orchards is a 3,000 acre family owned farm in Delaware. This farm is owned and operated mostly by the fourth generation of the family, who initially moved here from Virginia. Each family member has their own role in the operations of the farm and they stick to that role. Luckily, this has worked smoothly and everyone in this generation is happy with their role. On the farm, they grow strawberries, kale, cauliflower, peaches, apples, tomatoes, soybeans, and sweet corn. The crops are, for the most part, handpicked, which requires a lot of physical labor. The corn and grain crops are mechanically harvested. Luckily the produce is weighed and sized mechanically and stored in a cooler room kept at 31-36 degrees while the produce awaits shipment. Advancements in technology such as in irrigation, tractors to apply pesticides and herbicides, the cooler room to keep produce fresh, and of course the equipment to harvest the corn and grain crops have contributed to the success Fifers has had. Imagine carrying products out of the fields or spraying crops with pesticides by hand- that would take ages! Fifers is a family owned and very successful farm in Delaware through new technology, school outreach, and strong family relationships.

A Visit to Fifer Orchards

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.

Field Trip to Fifer’s Orchards

On September 28th the class took a trip down to Fifer’s orchards where we got to see in person the different techniques used to grow many of the different crops on their farm. We were taken on a tour of our bus around the farm with various different stops. On our first stop, we got to see the machine used in center pivot irrigation. On the next stop, we went to their strawberry fields and saw the raised plastic bedding they use to help with temperature control. afterward, we traveled to the storage center where we saw their loading facility where their products are loaded onto trucks and sent to their buyers. Then we entered the very chilly fridge where are all of their harvested crops are held at a much cooler temperature than the outside. in the end, it was a cool trip to be able to see many of the different techniques used to help with crop growth in person.

A Field Trip to Fifer Orchards

On September 28th,  the Understanding Today’s Agriculture class was given the privilege of visiting Fifer Orchards. This company has been family-owned since 1919. That’s 100 years of producing delicious fruits and vegetables for people all across the United States! We were greeted by Bobby Fifer, the current owner of the establishment. He gave us a tour of the majority of the farm and showed us the different methods he uses to sustain his company. This brand alone sells apples, peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, sweet corn, asparagus, pumpkins, and more. They are currently in the Delaware Community-Supported Agriculture program, which connects producers and consumers by letting custom to subscribe to harvested items from local farms. This allows for farming operators to offset the expenses of cultivating their products, and consumers are provided with fresh produce in return.

The class was also shown different methods Bobby used to grow his crops. High tunnels are a good example. They use the heat from the sun to increase fruit and vegetable production in earlier and later seasons, and since they are covered by plastic canopies, the crops have a lesser chance of becoming diseased because they are never rained on. He also showed us the drip irrigation he uses for his strawberry fields. This method reduces water waste and energy usage whilst directing water directly toward the root system, which prevents disease among the plants as well.

Lastly, the class met with Kurt Fifer, the owner of the sales management side of the company. We learned that he sells apples and other businesses such as Walmart, Giant, and even small-scale grocery stores such as Redners. He talked about the pressures of food safety in the passing years and how farming has become far more difficult because of it. I now definitely understand from the first-person point of view how difficult being a farmer really is, as well as the phenomenal technologies that are being used to facilitate the safety of our environment and the quality of the produce we eat every day.


Fifer’s Orchard

During the tour of Fifer’s orchard, located in Kent County Delaware, our class was introduced to the wonder that is produce commercial farming. At Fifer’s, not only do they grow they’re specialty crops, such as strawberries, tomatoes, and sweet corn; they all supply a variety of experimental crops as well. On our tough we were able to see the different types of crops they have planted, such as their killage radishes. These crops provide good airspace, and can provide good mulch after terminated. However, as successful as the orchard is, they are not without their issues. Depending on the crop, they can deal with pests from a variety of brown rot, scabs, and bacterial leaf spots, all the way to internal break down, nutritional deficiencies, and moths/mites.  The technological advancements that Fifer’s has put into their irrigation systems is astonishing. They have center pivots, drip and even linear irrigation. Now as interesting as being able to see the crops on at the orchard and learn about all the inner workings that goes into the business, the best part hands down is their store that sells all the goods that the orchards produce. At the store you can buy anything from beeswax candles to apple cinnamon donuts. All in all, the trip was a very delicious and enlightening experience.

Field Trip: Fifer Orchards


Celebrating 100 years of family farming

Even though there are thousands of farms in Delaware, many cannot say they’ve been in business for over 100 years. In fact, only four in the state of Delaware can. One of them being Fifer Orchards, who is celebrating their 100th year in business this year. “Having a family farm for 100 years may not sound like a big deal but it is for people like us”, Bobby Fifer states. Having over 3,000 acres of farmland is a lot to maintain but as Bobby Fifer explained, “Each of us have a job that no one else wants to do.” Because they each do their part, everything gets taken care of without having to burden another with a different job. It’s a convenient system that works for the family and the farm. Fifer Orchards is known all throughout Delaware and has been for many years, myself included. As an Army brat, I have moved around the United States and other countries as well and have fond memories of every place I’ve lived. I lived in Delaware when I was 4 years old and remember going to Fifer Orchards in the fall to pick pumpkins to carve with my aunt and uncle. Going back after 17 years is an amazing feeling. I can only imagine how the Fifer family feels knowing that many families make it a tradition to go back every year.

Fifer’s Orchard Trip – Sean Michael

On Saturday, class visited Fifer’s Orchard in Wyoming, DE. We were told that the biggest money makers are tomatoes, followed by strawberries, sweet corn, and pumpkins. We took a nice tour to 2 fields, one of which was growing strawberries, and the farmers were experimenting with laying out a white plastic tarp instead of a black one, to see if it will lengthen the harvesting “season.” We also saw the Orchard’s new greenhouses and heard about the future experimenting with crops. One thing we learned about Fifer’s is that none of their crops are organically grown. Organic growing is very hard to do on the east coast to begin with because of the humidity, then with Fifer’s scale added in, it’s just not attainable. We were told that the 2 biggest challenges facing Fifer’s future is government regulations, like filling out too many forms, and finding labor to pick plants (there is a whole complicated process to this). We finished the trip with a stop at the gift shop, where I got a lot of apple cider, 6 gallons to be exact, for everyone on my dorm floor.

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!

Fifers Orchards Field Trip

“The thing we’re really blessed with is, none of us want to do the others job” (Bobby Fifer). Bobby fifer, the farmer of the Fifer’s operation, informed the University of Delaware students about fifers orchards through giving a tour of the different crops they were growing and the processes in growing and harvesting those crops for a successful product. Fifers Orchards, unlike many local farms, began during the early 19th century when the 1st generation moved from Virginia to Delaware, purchased land, and began growing various crops for profit. With the start of the farm from the first generation, over time the family began growing more crops and purchased more land in which has led to the fourth generation of the family to own and operate 3,000 acres and growing the crops: peaches, apples, strawberries, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, soybeans and sweet corn today; the corn and soybeans are mainly used as rotational crops.

On the farm, each family member has their own role which is part of the reason of why the farm has become very successful, along with the additions of technology contributes to the farm’s success as well. On the orchard, the orchard uses the technology practices of irrigation, tractors to apply pesticides and herbicides to the crop as well as harvest the corn and grain crops, trucks for transport of produce, cooler rooms to keep the produce fresh, and mechanical belts to size and weigh the produce has allowed the orchard to grow to the size of the current operation and further grow as time proceeds forward. Although there are various uses of technology on the farm, most of their crops produced are handpicked and packaged, as well as they have a running produce store that causes the operation to always have a need for labor; that is mainly received through a program of the government who provides the farm with people from out of country regions who are hard working and willing to work the tasks needed to produce a successful crop on the farm. Essentially, Fifers Orchards is a large operation that needs “all hands-on deck” to make this operation successful in the present and for future day time. Throughout this trip, many things can be learned which allows the students knowledge of the vegetable operation to further grow and expand.


Throughout this trip, the process of growing to selling produce, the roles of the family, labor, and how technology is used on the farm was discussed which allowed myself and the other students of the understanding todays ag class to develop a further understanding of the vegetable industry as well as gain new knowledge of the industry on the farm and the vegetable industry as a whole. During this trip, I learned that most of the crops were hand picked and were then weighed and sized through a mechanical belt operation as well as that each family member had their own role; which allowed me to come to a realization of just how close the family was and how the main part of the success of the operation was because the family stuck to their own roles. Essentially, reducing conflict and creating more focus on each part of the operation for “perfection” of each area of the operation so that their business is very successful as the result.