I was able to attend a seminar held by the College of Agriculture at UD where Bill Couser and Bill Northey spoke about creating sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable agriculture can be defined as sustaining, resources, and communities by promoting farming practices and methods that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities.
Bill Couser is a 4th generation Iowa farmer. Bill Cowser produces corn, beef, soybeans, and ethanol in Nevada Iowa. He is the owner of Couser Cattle Company. The farm has grown from accommodating 50 beef cattle in the early 1900s to accommodating a couple thousand beef cattle. Couser, just like many farmers, stated he tries to farm in a renewable, sustainable, environmentally friendly, but yet profitable way. He promotes sustainable farming because he wants to give the generations to follow nutrient rich, well managed, profitable land. To be sustainable Bill Couser has implemented various systems to control runoff and nutrient leaching from his feedlot, uses more cover crop coverage, practices no-till methods, and produces multiple commodities from a single crop. Bill Couser stated that the biggest challenges he is facing as a farmer are social media/ the media attacking agriculture without the truth behind the actual practices being used to grow and produce crops and animals. Overall it was great listening to Couser speak about sustainable agriculture.
Our last field trip was close to home, the UD Farm tour! We spent the day learning about what the University of Delaware had to offer its students and community. Scott Hopkins, the farm superintendent, guided us on our last tour. Although I have been on the farm many times before, I learned many new and valuable things that we’re doing at UD. I never knew that we were growing hops and rice patties, so that was an interesting fun fact to learn. We toured both the main farm and Webb farm, with the day ending at UDairy Creamery.
My favorite part of the day was when we got to enjoy our ice cream while watching our classmate put on a fiddling concert. Max nailed the performance and it was a great way to wrap up our final field trip together. Overall, our forth field trip was very educational and a lot of fun!
For one of our classes, we had the privilege to listen o Mark Davis guest lecture on the horse industry in Delaware. He started out by giving some history on the sport of horse racing and how it has been around, in different forms, for hundreds of years. It was interesting to learn how to standards, rules, and regulations have changed over the years. Now, horse racing is very heavily regulated to ensure not only the safety of the horse, but the rider as well. I was very surprised when Mark pointed out that the horse industry’s a $39 billion effect on the US economy annually. That is a lot of money. Afterwards, he dove more directly into the history of horse racing in DE which started in the 1760’s. Since than, he explained how many different commissions have formed as well as how to industry grew in DE.
Mark also talked a bit about the value of the Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds that are mainly used in the different types of racing. I can’t say that I was surprised to learn they are valued on average at $15,000-$20,000. I know the genetics of a good race horse can be highly valued, it is crazy to think that there are horses valued at even higher numbers. However, Mark showed us that if you own a good race horse you can win a decent amount of money on that investment. All that’s said and done, the horse industry as a whole provides many job opportunities but also a way for higher income people to invest their money. The horse racing industry can range from being utilized as an investment tool, a job for some, or just a recreational event for others to watch.
One of the oldest sports known to man, and once one of the most popular sports in the United States, horse racing is nothing less of a lost art in today’s society. Mark Davis came in and talked to us about the industry, which surprisingly has a direct economic effect on the US of $39 billion annually. Of the 9,222,847 horses in the United States, 844,531 of them are dedicated to racing. In the state of Delaware today, horse racing remains a relatively popular sport. Dating all the way back to 1760, the first racing facility was built in Newark, and the industry took off from there. It was super cool listening to Mr. Davis talk about his direct involvement in the industry, and his call to action in getting involved and educating ourselves and the people around us about horsing racing. He went into detail about how the catalogues are read, ways of betting, and the different kinds of racing and horses involved. He shared tons of statistics with us and it was all around a really interesting lecture, one that I had no previous background knowledge on.
We had the opportunity to learn about Delaware’s Green Industry during a guest lecture by Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak during one of our classes. Both of these ladies were incredibly knowledgeable about this industry. They first spoke about what exactly encompasses the “Green Industry” of Delaware. Then through out the lecture they shared many pictures and information about the many aspects of the industry from producers, retailers, wholesalers, suppliers, and many others in the industry. I learned that these sales are very dependent on consumers wants and need, which isn’t uncommon for any industry, but the catch it that some of the plants grown for sale take several years to grow. This aspect of the horticulture industry makes producers really have to stay onto of current and future trends of their buyers. These buyers include everyone from regular people to landscapers.
They also talked about how there are many nurseries and garden stores that really hone in on trying to give the customers a connection to what they are buying. These businesses often will provide pictures of what the mature plant will look like, and then help the customer pick what plants they want based on the area they are trying to grow them. This connects back to making the consumer feel connected to agriculture, a common trend of consumers these days. Overall, I learned a lot about the Green Industry as whole. This industry is something I’m not all too familiar with so it is cool to see how other agricultural industries operate in their similarities and differences.
On Saturday, October 6th, the Agri130 class visited Fifers Orchards in Camden, DE. The tour was filled with excitement as the annual Fall Fest was underway. On the tour, we learned about the overall process of the farm, and what kinds of produce they harvest. Corn, pumpkins, peaches, and apples were some of their most popular items. The U-pick operation included apples, peaches, and a pumpkin path. We found out that Fifers also does a Community Supported Agriculture club, allowing them to receive a cash advance during the off-season. A challenge Fifer’s face is finding a right balance within the work force. Many jobs are required to be seasonal, because most crops don’t grow in the winter. With that, they also need to employ more part-time than full-time workers, which makes it a challenge to find qualified candidates. Fifer’s seek retirees and students to fill many of these positions, and says they make great workers.
Overall, Fifers has made a great name within the community and it was a great field trip to be apart of.
Fifer Orchards in Camden-Wyoming, Kent County served as destination for Understanding Today’s Agriculture AGRI 130’s second class tour. A fourth-generation family farm with approximately 3,000 acres in production, Fifer’s diverse operation offered students a close-up examination of how one family’s strategy in management of a multi-tiered agriculture operation has evolved and grown into one of Delaware’s most successful agriculture businesses. Continue reading.
Fifer’s is located in Camden Wyoming, Delaware. Fifer Orchards mission is to grow and sell high-quality products while preserving the environment, serving the community and maintaining family values. Fifer Orchards is a 4th generation family farm, continuing the vision and legacy of Charles Federick Fifer. The family farm looks for innovative ways to remain viable and successful as a family business in very challenging and constantly changing agricultural industry. The 4th generation Fifer’s continue to grow a very diverse mix of high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables including asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, blueberries, apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, heirloom varieties, apples, pumpkins and more.
At Fifer Orchards they farm 3,000 acres of land, with most of the land they are able to double crop. Of the 3,000 acres, 1,100 acres are used solely for sweet corn production. They also grow crops in small trials in efforts to diversify their operation by testing them in fields of 10-20 acres. Trials are important because if they succeed it could lead to a form of income all year round if they can find ways to successfully grow. Their best money making crops are sweetcorn, pumpkins, peaches, and asparagus. Fifer Orchards operates its own stores and ships crops all over the east coast. You can even find their products at Giant Foods.
Their production is possible because of irrigation such as sprinkle lines, drip irrigation, hard hoses, and pivots. They also use technology such as GPS and trackers to be more efficient. The use of high tunnels also allows for higher quality products all year round. Four acres of high tunnels is able to produce what 20 acres of open land could produce, that is because of the dryness in the tunnels which results in less susceptibility to disease.
Delaware agriculture is more than just grain and polutry production.
On October sixth, the AGRI 130 students had the opportunity to visit and tour Fifer Orchards in Camden Delaware. Fifers is a multi-generation farm that produces grain and horticultural crops. The farm’s production of sweet corn, pumpkins, peaches, and asparagus bring in the most revenue of over seven different crops produced on the farm throughout the year. Fifers consists of 3000 production acres that feature pivot irrigation, drip irrigation, and hard hose irrigation systems depending on the type of crop. In order to ensure the success of their crops, fifers sprays pesticides to prevent the growth of weeds, insects, bacteria, and nematodes in the fields. To further the quality of their horticultural crops, the fruits and vegetables are picked by hand and occasionally picked by customers. A portion of the yield is sold to grocery stores and the rest is sold at the farm. Food safety certificates and USDA food safety audits allow Fifers to sell their products to supermarkets. Precision agriculture, growing tunnels, water wheel planters, and other technological advances have allowed Fifers to become a successful crop producer. It was very interesting to see the water wheel tractor attachment being utilized to plant juvenile strawberry plants. The diversification of the crops grown at Fifers are also an attribute to their success. Each new crop goes through a three year trial process before the plant is grown regularly at the farm. The experience concluded with a tour of the cold storage facilities on the farm; specific products are stored at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and other products are stored at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. I enjoyed the tour of Fifer Orchards, and I learned a lot from the experience. Thank you to Bobby and Curt Fifer for giving AGRI 130 a tour.
Did we have a day today at Fifer’s orchards! Not only did we learn a lot of information about the family farm but the bus broke down on the way back before we could even leave! I was surprised to learn that Fifer’s not only sells apples but also sweet corn, which is their 1# income crop, pumpkins, peaches, asparagus, tomatoes and strawberries. They use all different kinds of irrigation systems on the farm and suffer from many different pests mostly being weeds, insects, and fungus. They are not an organic farm but they are family owned going back four generations. Fifer’s ships their products east of the Mississippi river from Maine to Florida. They are actually apart of a program called Community Supported Agriculture where customers can buy produce ahead of time and it will get shipped out once it is ready. However, the biggest thing from this trip was not the immense amount of labor and passion that goes into the farm, and it was not the gift shop where everyone bought apple cider donuts, but it was the bus not being able to pull away after we were done. Overall, we definitely bonded as a class on this trip more than any other trip that we will go on, and that is something you can’t buy.
On Saturday, September 22nd the class went on a field trip to the the Cartanza organic chicken farm. The experience was helpful in gaining a real-life look at how a poultry farm operates. To start, Georgie Cartanza gave us a brief overview of the production process and structure. The chickens on this particular farm stay on location for five weeks. During this time, they are preparing for the end stage of the production, processing. When the time comes to ship out the birds, it takes approximately five hours to catch each house. The workers do this by hand because it is the most efficient, stress-free option for the chickens.
The Cartanza family grows for Coleman, an organic integer that is apart of the Vertical Integration system. Raising organic birds is much different than conventional routes. First off, all chickens must have access to the outside. While we were on site, you could see approximately 15 hatches that lead outdoors. Consumers like the idea of their protein seeing the light of day, but in reality few birds seek the outdoors. In addition to outdoor access, organic farmers provide ‘toys’ for their animals. These objects help in keeping the chickens happy and entertained throughout their stay in the houses.
The visit to the Cartanza poultry house was very educational and entertaining. With that, I cannot wait what we will learn on our next field trip!
On a sunny Saturday in September, the AGRI 130 students travelled to Georgie Cartanza’s broiler farm in Dover Delaware. We started the experience by sitting outside of the houses and learning about organic farming, broiler production, and other poultry related concepts. Then we put on disposable coveralls, plastic booties, and hairnets. My fellow classmates and I had the opportunity to step inside one of Cartanza’s chicken houses and see what a USDA organic certified poultry farm looks like. Organic chickens are fed organic feed, are antibiotic free, and are given access to an outdoor area, and other special accommodations. Despite there being 37,000 chickens within the house, it did not smell bad because of the ventilation system installed. Industrial fans are used to circulate air through the house. The house is also equipped with nipple waterers, gravity powered feeders, and a control room to monitor and manage the environmental conditions within the house. The broilers start life in the center of the house on starter feed. As they get older, more of the house is opened until the birds have the run of the whole area. After eating starter feed, the chickens are given two different grower feeds and a finisher feed. Once the chickens are ready to be processed, they are collected by hand at night. This reduces the stress level of the flock. The individuals not picked up for processing are humanely euthanized and placed into the ecodrum for compost. An ecodrum is a plastic structure that aerates and rotates compost material to aid in the decomposition process. The manure produced at Cartanza’s farm is collected, stored in manure sheds, and sold to a local dairy farmer as fertilizer. The processes used for compost and waste management is a piece of the nutrient management plan for the farm. The plan is implemented to ensure that the farm practices are not negatively impacting the environment. At the end of the tour, I had the opportunity to hold a chicken and have my picture taken. Thanks to Georgie Cartanza for giving AGRI 130 students an opportunity to visit her farm.
Listening to Mark Davis speak about the horse racing industry was definitely interesting and he was able to easily keep my attention. Learning about the horse industry is definitely something I didn’t think I would be so engaged in, but I was extremely engaged with him as he lectured. Learning about the difference between harness racing and thoroughbred racing was something I had never heard about and I was intrigued because of how often I hear about Dover Downs and other horse racing casinos. I also did not know how important casinos are to the overall economic stability of Delaware. Learning about all of this allows me to understand a little more of the agriculture industry and a little more about Delaware’s economics . Not only are casinos important to the economy, but without casinos, the horse racing industry would probably be on a decline.
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to tour and see all of the behind scenes of a local orchard and farming operation in Camden, Delaware. While here, Bobby Fifer gave us the run down of their operations, how technology has a played a huge role in production and how produce gets from field to store. It was really interesting to learn about how apples were packaged and shipped off. Bobby said that apples are hand harvested from the field and then brought to the packing warehouse where they are fed through piece of equipment that can sort around 10 apples per second, all based off of a picture that it takes. The apples are then fed to the assembly line where they are packaged into boxes that will be sent all up and down the East Coast. Curt Fifer then chimed in and shared with us some food for thought. With recent storm events, getting their products to the consumers has not only become extremely difficult due to the lack of refrigerated trucks available, but also very expensive – costs more than doubled just to ship a truck load to Florida. It was really interesting learning about about the processing and shipping side of their operations. Many things that Curt and Bobby discussed and shared were eye opening – a lot of crucial factors to their business are behind scenes that go unnoticed or thought about by the consumer. Fifer Orchards was truly an amazing operation.
Our recent trip to Fifer Orchards was very interesting. It was the first time that I’ve been behind the scenes at an orchard or farm of that size, and I thought it was an incredible operation. We drove out to a field which was growing kale and broccoli first, and learned about how they are grown; as well as challenge like disease,insects and the weather. I also learned about the purpose of raised beds when growing strawberries. The purpose of the raised beds is to keep the crop out of the water, and control the amount of irrigation they are getting. After seeing some of Fifer Orchards’ fields, we went and saw the apple orchard. They currently grow over 20 types of apples, and make many of their own products with those apples. They also ship the apples all over the east coast. Finally, we saw their packing area and cold storage. They have a machine that can separate good and bad apples, tomatoes, and peaches through a computer program. It was amazing to see what a large operation Fifer Orchards is and to learn about agriculture and business aspects of running a farm like that.