Category Archives: Fruits

Field Trip to Fifer Orchards Farm

Hunter Willoughby standing in front of the Fifer’s Country Store after purchasing apple cider donuts.

Bobby and Curt Fifer are fourth generation family farmers that are part owners of Fifer Orchards. On Saturday, September 28th 2019, Bobby and Curt gave us a tour of their amazing family operation. When I first arrived I was very excited to see that the annual fall fest was going on. Ever since I can remember, my family and I would go to the fall fest together and we always a great time. They have activities from picking and painting pumpkins to a giant corn maze. At the country store they sell the best donuts and ice cream which is a must anytime you are at Fifers. Along with this event, Fifer Orchards does a lot more than what the public can see. As we took a tour around their farm we got to see all the different kinds of crops they grow. One of the crops that really stood out to me was the strawberries. These stood out to me because they are planted under a black plastic cover which helps prevent diseases. Bobby Fifer is testing a new theory this year with the strawberries. Bobby covered every other row with white plastic and the others with the normal black plastic. The purpose of this is to try and spread out the harvesting dates so they are able to harvest all the strawberries and not lose the crop. The black plastic which is typically used attracts the sunlight which will make the strawberries under the black plastic peak before the strawberries under the white plastic. We will not know if this theory was successful  until harvest season but I am very anxious to see the results. Along with that theory, I also learned that most of their crops are hand picked which means they use no machinery. With not using machinery, you need lots of good labor to be able to keep up with the crops and Bobby has some great workers there.

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.


Guest Speaker Ed Kee: Iowa and California “Agricultural Giants”

“Iowa is an agricultural force in the United States and the world” (Ed Kee). Mr. Ed Kee, former secretary of agriculture, informed the University of Delaware’s understanding today’s agriculture class about the agricultural industry in the states of Iowa and California, their contribution to the states economically as well as the U.S. in food production, the climate and soils, and the advantages each state has in production. Within the state of Iowa, there are 87,000 farmers that till 30.1 million acres throughout the state and 92% of the state’s cash income comes from their leading production in the crops of corn and soybeans and in the production of pork and beef; all of which contribute to the states exports of $11 billion in products annually. However, the state’s success in crop production is all due to the climate and soil fertility the land holds. Iowa, unlike many eastern and western states, has a climate with a consistent moderate temperature and a rainfall of only 24 to 36 inches per year; the region also has loess soil that is composed of windblown silt and clay particles that hold nutrients and moisture longer which allows the crops to grow and be produced at a better rate than most states. Although Iowa is one of the largest producers in the world, California also has a large production rate of specific crops for the state and the U.S. as well.

California is able to produce vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes that account for 95% of the U.S. tomatoes, strawberries and other known fruits and vegetables in a shorter time period that allows the world to have a constant supply of those products. Essentially, with California’s high production rates, California is able to make $47 million a year in ag sales and exports 26% of its products that make the states agricultural industry have a $21 billion-dollar value overall which makes the industry very important within the state and for other states across the U.S. From this presentation, many things about the agricultural industry in the Iowa and California can be learned, which can help the students and myself to develop a better understanding of the industry as well as develop a broader perspective of the industry as a whole.


Throughout this lecture, Mr. Kee discussed the agricultural industry within the state of Iowa and California and their uniqueness economically and in food production which led myself and other students to develop a further understanding of agriculture in those states, a broader perspective of the agricultural industry overall, and learn an interesting fact. The interesting fact I learned throughout Mr. Kee’s lecture was that Iowa and California are the largest producers of crops and other products such as beef, pork, and milk which makes it very important to sustain the agricultural industry in those states now and in the future time.


How Iowa and California Contribute to Agriculture in a Big Way

September 25th, 2019 Mr. Ed Key talked to the class about agriculture in Iowa and California. Iowa is an agriculture force. Although it is ranked behind California in cash farm. Iowa has 87,500 farmers till 30.5 acres. That’s a lot of farmers to cover a lot of land. Iowa ranks first in corn production. Farmers harvest 13.1 million acres of corn. Iowa also ranks first in soybean production. They have 9.8 million acres of land, 553.7 million bushels. That’s 57 bushels an acre! Iowa ranks first in hog production as well. They raise 20.9 hogs annually. That’s 32% of the nation’s pork production. They are the nations leading producer of eggs. Iowa chickens laid 12.5 billion eggs last year. Mr. Key also taught us a term; loess: which is wind blown deposits of silt and clay. California is ranked first in tomato’s, almonds, grapes, milk and cream, strawberries, flowers and foliage’s, walnuts, hay, and lettuce. California exports 26% of its agriculture production by volume. California is the 10th largest general economy in the world. 95% tomato’s come from California. These two states imply a lot of hard work and effort in providing the nation with certain grains, fruits, dairy, and meats. They feed millions of people a year. The coolest thing I learned was that 40% percent of corn crops go in animal feed and 40% goes to ethanol.

GM Crops – Dan Severson Lecture

Despite popular belief that GMOs are taking over the food industry within the United States, there are actually only ten crops that are approved to be genetically modified and produced within the country.  These ten crops include corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, potatoes, papaya, squash, alfalfa, and apples. More than 90% of acreage dedicated to soybean, cotton, corn, canola and sugar beet is GMO, but most of these commodity crops aren’t sold directly to consumers anyhow, but to other disciplines such as the production of ethanol.  While only ten crops are approved and produced by GMO, there are over 120 varieties of GM crops, and it can be difficult to find processed foods that don’t include a GMO ingredient. Furthermore, while many people are under the impression that these ten GM crops pose a threat to their health, it is actually the exact opposite; the most recently approved GM crop is the potato, which was approved due to its resistance in bruising and the fact that it produces less of a cancer-causing chemical than non-GM potatoes.  A lot of these facts come as a surprise to many people who aren’t well-educated about genetically modified crops, including myself, but are vitally important to learn and understand.

Fifer’s Orchard Field Trip

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.

Behind the Scenes of Fifer’s Orchards

Growing up I used to go to Fifer’s all the time. My dad and I would stop by the orchard to get apples for our horses, or to ruin our dinner by getting Fifer’s incredible apple cider doughnuts. Once August rolled around my family and I would all go up to Fifer’s for the peach festival and snag ourselves some peach ice cream and have fun in the corn mazes. Before touring the orchard with the AGRI130 class I had assumed that they only grew peaches, apples and pumpkins, as that is what I mainly saw every time I went. However, Fifer’s grows far more than that. Some of their most profitable crops as a whole include sweet corn, pumpkins, peaches and asparagus. If you go by most profitable crops per acre, however, it would be tomatoes and strawberries. This is all grown on about 3000 acres of land. Most of the products grown by Fifer’s orchard goes to grocery stores within the Mid Atlantic region. While most products stay in that area, they actually ship to almost everywhere east of the Mississippi from Maine on down to Florida. While it is not uncommon for them to ship west of the Mississippi, it is more expensive to do so. 

Overall I was amazed at the size of the operation because growing up I was always under the impression that Fifer’s was not as big as it actually is. I feel privileged that I was able to take a tour of the farm and want to thank Mr. Fifer for allowing me to see behind the scenes of an operation that is such a staple of my childhood.

Fifer Orchards


Employees at Fifer Orchards transplanting strawberries. Takes a crew of seven to transplant a field.

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.

Four Generations of Fifer Family Farms

Our second trip of the year was to Fifers orchard down in Camden- Wyoming, Delaware. Sitting on over 3000 acres the Fifer family has been farming here for four generations and what it looks like now is different than how it all started out when it was 1/10th the size. Bobby Fifer gave us a tour of the orchards and around the property. While we were looking at the various crops of pumpkins, apple, kale, where the tomatoes, and straw berries being planted Bobby told us about the management and labor practices they use. Disease and pest prevention and eradication is a big part of their operation and a big challenge they face. After looking at the packaging line and the giant refrigerators, Bobby’s brother Kurt joined us and talked to us about how they market their product.

UD Ag Class With Bobby (left) and Kurt (Right) Fifer

The Fifers produce is sold at many locations. Some is sold in their store on the farm, some is sold to grocery distributers such as Giant, some is sold to a third party distributor, and some is sold through a Community Supported Agriculture program.

After our learning we stopped by the farm store and enjoyed some apple cider donuts, apple cider, apples, kettle corn, and pickles. When it was finally time to go we loaded on to the UD bus and got all of a quarter mile from the entrance when the bus broke down. We all ended up making it back to UD eventually. It was a eventful ending to the end of a fun trip.

Fifer’ Orchard

I was sad to not be able to attend the field trip to Fifer’s Orchard because I do not have much knowledge on how businesses like this runs. I do not have much knowledge on how Orchards run. Fifer’s Orchard seemed to be very well diverse with growing a wide variety of of fruits and vegetables, but then also selling CSA shares and farmers market stands. I was surprised to see that for Fifer’s CSA shares actually do better than farmers market stands. However, it was good to see that Fifer’s is trying to connect to the consumer which ultimately is better for business and good for the general outlook of todays agriculture.

I was not very surprised to see that they spray their vegetable crops once a week. Beside insect pests, in this humid climate disease is quite an issue for producers because disease loves humid moist weather. Also with the technology of high tunnels it allows Fifer’s to control disease that way as well. Overall between the diversity of crops grown but also the different marketing techniques, Fifer’s Orchard seems to be the perfect example of a diverse agricultural business who advocates to the community.

Field Trip 2: Fifer’s Orchard

When thinking of Delaware Agriculture generally poultry and grain are the first two commodities I think of. However Delaware Agriculture is way more than that, which was something I learned on this field trip to Fifer’s Orchard. This family farm is one that is very diversified and one that heavily relies on each family member to do their job in order for the operation to be successful. I knew that produce farms were not uncommon in the Delmarva, as a matter of fact there’s quite a few but I never imagined that one farm could hire over 200 people and till around 3,000 acres of produce with occasional grain for rotational crops. This farm is unique by the variety of produce they grow and sell. Their number one crop for income is sweet corn growing around 1100 acres but strawberries and tomatoes make the most money per acre. They also produce apples, asparagus, kale, pumpkins, and peaches, which is a lot of different products per one farm, but targets a wide variety of customers. We also learned that this produce farm is not organic because without pesticides there would be no way they could be profitable because with environmental pressures such as humidity and the pest pressures they forced to spray their fields once a week. That is one thing that really surprises me because on a grain farm the crop might get sprayed at the most 3 times a year but obviously the produce industry is very different. Then this orchard is quite fascinating because they ship products as far south as Florida and as far north as Maine and everything east of the Mississippi river; which is a huge area to sell products too. In the end this field trip taught me the different processes within the agriculture industry and how different farmers make their income.

Fifer Orchards Field Trip


Traveling to Fifer Orchards is something I look forward to doing every fall. The many activities, pumpkin patches, wagon rides, goodies in the store, and the ultimate corn maze are just a few reasons I love going to Fifers each year. However, I was very naive to the process it is to run the large business and farm, and was unaware of the work so many people put in around the clock.  In starting off the trip in our trusty bus, Bobby Fifer took us around the farm and showed us the many sides of the farm I had never seen before. From growing apples and pumpkins, to corn and tomatoes, we got to see how they are planted and all the ingenuity it takes to keep the crops healthy. Rotating crops is an important part of running Fifers. I wasn’t aware, but before each season they have to sit down and assess what crops can and need to be rotated and where they should be placed. In doing this is reduces risk of diseases in the crops and increases the chances of doing well. Another thing I found interesting about Fifers was the way they planted their strawberries. A tractor went down each isle and poked holes equal distance apart, then the men sitting on the back of the tractor unpacked and placed the strawberry plants. This is a time efficient and successful way to plant crops that I had never seen before. I was very intrigued and thankful to see all of the hard work they put into the business, it was nice to see a family farm run that way. My favorite part of the trip however was getting to spend an extra hour and a half with some classmates enjoying the scenery of the farm from our broken down bus. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience with my classmates, as well as the ride back to campus, and the DQ. This has been my favorite field trip so far, and definitely one to remember.


Field Trip to Fifer Orchards


Water wheel planter being used to plant juvenile strawberries.

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.

Ed Kee: Iowa and California Agriculture

On September 26th, Ed Kee came into the class and gave a lecture on the important key points of agriculture in Iowa and as well California. The main points that caught my attention is how much land is used solely for agriculture in Iowa. And the reasons is that the land is very fertile and holds many nutrients in the ground as well holds the rain water very well. and that their main means of money is very similar to Delaware’s crops. And how California is able to grow so much with little amount of rain. even though they don’t have much humidity which is good for vegetables. Also the way you think of California being a big city that only parties but they also are number one in multiple markets of good. Like Milk and cheeses, almonds, grapes and many more.