Category Archives: History

Georgie as a guest speaker

On Monday September 9th, Georgie came to our class and spoke about the evolution of the poultry industry on Delmarva. Delmarva has 3 counties in Delaware, 8 in Maryland, and 1 in Virginia. They produce 605,000,000 birds a year. In Delmarva, there are multiple feeders, processing plants, and hatcheries that are all required for the health of the birds. They need to be comfortable and kept well so they can eventually be eaten by the people.

Throughout time, there have been many upgrades to the way birds were housed, fed, and kept taken care of. Before the modern broiler grow-out facilities, there were multiple housing facilities before that. The ways these chickens were raised is very different from the way they are now which is much better for us.

Industry and Academia in Agriculture with David Mayonado

Dave Mayonado gave a guest lecture on Industry and Academia in Agriculture. He began with the history of technology in Agriculture. The glory days of technology in agriculture was when farmers used animal labor and relied heavily on family involvement. Most farms were small intimate farms that fed the immediate family tending to the farms. Food production was limited in the late 1800s because the technology was not there. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 established raising funds by granting federally controlled lands to the states to establish land-grant colleges. The purpose was to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science, and engineering. Science-based research and development by government, academia, and private industry over the past 100 years have aided the increase in US crop production via improved agronomic practices and the adoption of new tools. By applying rigorous scientific principles to the development of agricultural technologies and techniques has allowed Mid-Atlantic farmers to grow larger crops while improving soil quality and fostering an environment for wildlife. Some examples of biological tools are CRISPR, GMOs, and GWS. CRISPR is a gene editing tool that allows us to change the genes of a crop plant to be more drought or pest resistant. This allows for the crop to have a higher yield when faced with a drought since it can tolerate less rainfall.

David has an incredible background in the industry as he has worked for Monsanto. Monsanto was founded in 1901. Then cell biology research began in 1972. Monsanto has been a leader in putting out genetically modified plants commercially.

Dave Mayonado & Biotechnology

In class we had the opportunity to hear Dave Mayonado talk about biotechnology and his experience with Monsanto, and now Bayer. He started out but briefly talking about agricultural practices before we had all this precision agriculture technology and biotechnology. Explaining how land grant universities had the ability to conduct great amounts of research about agriculture. Afterwards he began to dive into how the knowledge of genetics and proteins in a plants genome has created for so many advances in agriculture. The ability for seed companies to insert targeted traits, silence traits, or add traits into a plants DNA allowed for them to start producing seeds that wouldn’t die from glyphosate, withstand drought better, produce higher levels of oil, and much more. This changed the face of agriculture. However, this technology is something that is heavily targeted but anti-GMO activists despite the fact that it is constantly being proven as a safe technology. In being employed with now Bayer, Mayonado has to be an agvocate for such technology, although that may not be formally in his job description.

I thought it was really interesting how Mayonado explained he spends a lot of the time in his job, working with government officials to educate them on this technology. The food and fiber system is quite the platform for political figures but yet a lot of them really have no idea what they are actually talking about. In saying so, I think a lot of people don’t realize that major seed companies have to take many different roles in educating consumers/political figures in order to continue to have successful company. He also talked about how they are constantly having to research, create, and produce new products in order to keep up with the producer and the demands. A big concern with this technology is the development of resistance in pests, so marketing new products so producers have different modes of action is crucial to a biotech company like Bayer. Creation of such products is lengthy, costly process but if done correctly can be very financially rewarding. Clearly, Monsanto/Bayer have been able to do just that.

Mayonado gave a great lecture pertaining to biotechnology and his experience within the company. Although I may not have understand all the technical science in his presentation, the one point that stuck out to me was that he never has the same work day. Things are always changing, and that is innovation something that excites me as a future producer.

Industry and Academia in Ag

Dave Mavonado came to speak to the class about Industry and Academia in Agriculture and how much it has evolved since it all started. The main thing that he talked about was how much the agricultural business has changed and developed over the last century. The reason why it has changed so drastically was because of the four topics Dave spoke about: labor, mechanics, chemical usage, and biotechnology. Back in the day, it was all hands on deck. Farmers mainly relied on the use of animals for labor. Such as pulling plows. There would also be groups of people in the fields harvesting the produce by hand because they didn’t have combines or tractors like we do today. It wasn’t up until steel came about that helped the agricultural industry evolve the way it did. Tractors slowly started making its way into the business and helped the farmers produce a higher yield of crops because they were able to get through everything much faster. Next was the use of chemicals. This allowed protection of the plants to repel itself from pests that might damage or kill the crop. Finally, biotechnology. With biotechnology we are able to produce a much higher yield in a shorter time frame without harming the produce like GMO’s. There’s also CRISPR which allows scientists to take a certain gene out of the plants DNA and make it better so the farmer can produce more.

Dave also talked about the different grants that were and still are available today. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 established the raising of funds to create land-grant colleges. The Morrill Acts mission was to take kids who did not know a thing about agriculture and teach them about practical agriculture, science, and engineering. But in order for kids to learn about agriculture they needed the land. Hatch Act of 1887 lead to the creation of agriculture experiment stations to be affiliated with the land grants. If it wasn’t for these grants who knows what the agricultural industry would be like today.

Horse Racing Industry

On October 24th, we had guest speaker Mark Davis give us a lecture on the horse racing industry in Delaware. 

The modern horse racing began in the 12th century when English knights returned from the Crusades with swift Arabian horses. It was not until the mid-1600’s when British settlers brought horse racing to the new world, with the first track made in Long Island. American horse breeders and racers established the Jockey Club, that still defines standards and regulations for racing, racecourses, and breeding. Harness racing is a prevalent part of the Delaware horse industry. In 1940, the opening of the Roosevelt Raceway set the stage for the current era of harness racing, which took off after WWII. In 1945, the Delaware Harness racing Commission was established. Delaware has two tracks used annually, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway. Over time, the popularity of harness and thoroughbred races went down. The decrease in public interest and aim to regain the interest of the industry the Delaware government passed a law allowing casinos to be established in the state. Casinos could only be established alongside a racetrack. With the law in place, the industry has been able to gain a steady income. Annually, the DE Harness Racing Commission issues 2,000 licenses to owners, trainers, drivers, groomers, vendors, and track employees. In 2014, the horse racing industry total contribution to Delaware economy was nearly $182 million dollars and 1500 jobs. Currently, in the U.S. there are 9.2 million horses which are used for show, racing, recreation, employees, and volunteers. The horse industry has a direct economic effect on the U.S. of $39 billion dollars annually. 

Horse racing industry

Horse racing is one of the oldest of all sports that have taken place in the United States but there are even fewer that basically have had no change over the years they have been around.  On October 24 Mark Davis came into our Agri130 class and gave us a lecture on horse racing in Delaware with some history behind it. The thing that really surprised me was that the First harness race at Dover Downs in 1969 and I wouldn’t have even thought that they have had race there because I only known of the race track at Harrington. But that where I have watched all the races that I can remember. An how much income the state brings in from the horse race each year even though that the industry is slowly falling.

Delaware Horse Racing Industry with Mark Davis

Racing is a pastime that has existed since man began to ride horses. This pastime has become a sophisticated sport that financially supports thousands of jobs around the world. Harness racing is a sport in which the horse is hooked up to a cart where the driver is seated. Harness racing is a prevalent part of the Delaware horse industry. In 1945, the Delaware Harness Racing Commission was established. Dover Downs is an establishment where some of the Delaware harness races take place. In order to have a successful harness horse, owners will hire grooms, drivers, and trainers. The hired staff will care for and work with the horse to have it prepared for races. If a horse wins a harness race, the owner receives 50% of the total amount of money offered for the race. 10% of the owner’s earnings from a race are given to the trainer and the driver. Over time, the popularity of harness and thoroughbred races have gone down, this decrease in public interest prompted the Delaware government to pass a law allowing casinos to be established in the state. The casinos can only be established along with a racetrack. This law sparked the public’s interest and caused more people to come out to the horse races. Some of the earnings from these casinos are offered as a breeder’s fund, to encourage people to raise and breed horses in the state of Delaware. Since the establishment of this law, the industry has gained a steady income. Harness races occur on 180 days of the year, and 2300 races within the racing period. Beyond owning, grooming, and training race horses, there are other career opportunities in this industry. Veterinarians are utilized to ensure the health and welfare of the horses, as well as check for the presence of performance enhancing drugs, such as  EPO. Veterinarians check the race horses for these drugs at the track before and after a race, as well as random checks throughout the year on the farm. EPO is a drug that enhances the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, thereby enhancing the sport performance of the horse. I look forward to attending a harness race in the future. Thank you to Mark Davis for sharing information on the Delaware horse racing industry with AGRI 130 students.

Livestock Industry – Dan Severson

Dan Severson came and guest lectured in class on Monday about the livestock industry in Delaware. He started out by giving a brief overview of general trends in farming, and then meat consumption trends over the years. I was not very surprised when he said the consumption of beef and veal have been decreasing while pork and chicken have been increasing. This is probably due to many recent trends that red meat is harmful to your health, so consumers are choosing cuts of pork and chicken to eat versus beef. After that he discussed a lot about the differing operation methods for many species of livestock including cattle, hogs, sheeps, goats, dairy cows and a couple other specialty species. I was surprised to learn how much of a market their is for goat products. Dan said a lot of international folks seeks out goat meat for religious purposes and holidays, but also products like goat milk cheesecake and ice cream are made. He also talked about the dairy industry and how farmers are struggling to make ends meet due to the milk market. People don’t drink cow’s milk like they used to and it is affecting dairy farmers.

At the end of his lecture Dan spoke about the future of the livestock industry. He touched on how genetics and technology has already and will continue to impact how we raise our animals. But he also spoke about how farmers are running into the problem of the next generation not wanting to continue to farm, and how all these different factors is going to affect the ability to feed the ever growing population. Overall, Dan gave a great overview of the livestock industry touching on past, current, and future trends.


Mark Lynas spoke about GMOs and how his stance on the controversial topic has changed completely as he actually educated himself. Instead of just summarizing what he shared, I’d like to talk a little bit about the history of GMOs. Many people support the anti-GMO campaign or trash talk this technology without even realizing that they make food choices including GM products.

In 1973 the first genetically modified bacteria were successfully achieved. Since then GMO development has been refined, advanced, and developed to the point where the products they produced are commercially available to the consumer.

In 1994, the Flavr Savr Tomato was approved by the FDA for human consumption and remained on the market for three years. Although it was taken off shelves in 1997 because of its bland taste, it was still a huge step in biotech history. This was just the beginning for commercialized GM products, and the fact that it was on the market and consumers bought it, helps establish a reputation for GM foods in the controversial market we have today.

Personally, I think genetic modification of plants is necessary to increase production enough to meet the world’s growing needs. The only part about genetic engineering that I would like to learn more about before feeling more comfortable is what we’re doing with genetically modified animals for production. From the research I’ve read, I’m not necessarily convinced on the idea ethically, and from a nutritional standpoint. For example, I choose wild caught salmon over farmed salmon because I don’t want the salmon I eat to have been fed pigmented corn-based feed. Also, aquaculture as a whole is very damaging to the marine environment.

Irrigation lecture: James Adkins

On October 3rd In our AGRI130 had guest speaker James Adkins came in and gave our class a lecture about irrigation and the benefits and disadvantages that can come with having irrigation. In his lecture he covered a wide range of different types of irrigation systems there are from center pivots  to traveling guns to flood irrigation. The thing that interested me the most was that only a small portion of the world is irrigated and those farms with that irrigation produce the majority of the crops and food the world needs. An from just riding around here down in Sussex county all you see is irrigation in the field for crops like your corn to you sod company’s that just need it to irrigate there grass for there customers. An then most of the place the use irrigation are going to may be likely to run out of water because the aquifers wont last forever.

Ed Kee – Iowa & California Agriculture

Ed Kee guest lectured in class on agriculture in Iowa and California. It was really cool to learn about how different states can be so productive in agriculture, but have many different variables to deal with then what we have here. It was particularly surprising to see how much of a problem water is in California. You can tell that their agriculture system is centered around these aqueducts, because if they aren’t then producing in California is very hard. I had no idea that California is responsible for growing nearly all the tomatoes used for processing. California has a very diverse agriculture environment. It was also was interesting to learn how fertile Iowa’s soil is, and how it gives them a natural advantage in producing. I learned the Iowa only gets 24-36 inches of rain a year, but due to the  water holding capacity of the soil this amount of rain is not really an issue for farmers. With these, and many other natural advantages, I learned how productive Iowa is in agriculture. Ed mentioned that Iowa is responsible for 13% of the US corn acreage as well as 12% of the US soybean acreage. Overall, I learned a lot about California and Iowa’s agriculture industry. It was really interesting to see how much it differs from what we deal with on the West Coast.

Delaware as a Food Shed

Guest Lecture : Ed Kee

Where is Delaware? Delaware is the first state, located on the eastern shore of United States. Delaware is one of the smallest states in the country but has a huge impact on the availability of food within our Delmarva peninsula and surrounding states within 8 hours of Delaware. Guest lecturer former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, gave insight on the importance of agriculture within our state and our country.

Delaware has about 500,000 acres which 40% of the land is used for farming and agriculture purposes. Delaware brings in $1.2 billion in Ag Sales annually that will then stimulate a $6-7 billion of economic activity. It is easily seen that agriculture is an important component for the state’s economic health. 1/3 of the nation’s population lives within 8 hours of the state and Delaware’s role in agriculture makes it possible to feed people on the eastern side of the US. In fact, the Wilmington, DE port is the biggest importer of bananas and Chilean peppers that we consume daily. Delaware maintains their stance in agriculture with the support of people like Ed Kee. Ed Kee aided the Aglands Preservation campaign that offers resources to ensure that farmland remains as farmland. The state currently has 110,000 acres preserved for farmland; equaling 20% of Delawares farmland. There is also a Delaware’s Young Farmer Program, helps with the startup of young farmers. Preservation of the land is important because there has been a 26% decrease in acres available for farmland since the 1950’s and will continue to dwindle as more development within the state occurs. Key components to keep agriculture systems sustainable for future growth is preservation, technology advancements, and environmental management practices.

Ed Kee~ Guest Lecture

Ed Kee came and gave a guest lecture to our Intro to Ag class. Mr. Kee being former Delaware Secretary of Ag gave us a lot of important information in his lecture. Mr. Kee spoke about the amount of processors in Delaware decreased over the years; he discussed also how many challenges were involved in the industry which included, promoting the best technology and connecting farmers with different market opportunities. Mr. Kee talked about the different “Mega Trends” in the industry which involved a shift in economic and trade flows, climate change, rapid urbanization, demographic and consumption changes and technology consumption.

Mr. Kee talked about how canning food has been around for years, in 1842 the first canning facility in Baltimore. Canning he said was “a new revolutionary technology”.      In 1889 there were 49 processing facilities in Delaware today we have 2 of those remaining facilities. This data is relatively the same as MD,VA and NJ. With the canning industry in Delaware allowed the Agricultural industry to basically grow 10x more, this system allows our foods to stay preserved for the long road to being put into a grocery store.

I learned a lot from Mr. Kee`s presentation and I thank him for taking the time to do the lecture for our class!

Ed Kee’s Guest Lecture

Ed Kee, former Delaware Secretary of Agriculture visited the University of Delaware to give a guest lecture. He discussed how Delaware is a food shed, and provides nutrients for many of our northeastern states. Delaware excels in lima bean, corn, and poultry production (just to name a few) which helps us in the ranks when it comes to economics. Being a food shed state, it’s no wonder why agriculture is our first industry. In addition, Ed Kee talked more specifically about transportation and storage.

Canning food seems like its been around for centuries, and it has! Mr. Kee talks about how preservation started as a contest, and its something we have been partaking since then. The original process involved setting the food on fire in glass containers, and letting it set to cool. At the time, people didn’t know why this worked, but it found to preserve the food longer nonetheless. Canning has allowed the Delaware agriculture industry to grow even further. We now have a system that can allow our crops to last longer, and travel further.

Ed Kee and Delaware Agriculture

Monday, September 17th Ed Kee joined the AGRI130 class to discuss the various aspects that make up Delaware agriculture. One thing important to note is that Delaware, and the rest of Delmarva, is able to transport any goods/products to one third of the US population in eight hours or less. 

In the 1950s the number of farms and acres of farmland in Delaware came to about 70-80%. Unfortunately with the constant development of land and influx of people living the cities, the number of farms and farmland has decreased. Something done to combat this declining rate of farmland is that a farmer can sell their developmental rights to the state therefore insuring that the land can never be developed and can only be used for farming purposes.

Ed Kee helped to put forth and start a program that allows individuals interested in beginning to farm an opportunity to do so. This program is called the Young Farmers Program and it is strictly for use in Delaware only (other states may have their own programs). The way this program works is that once an individual finds a farm they would like to purchase, the program will lend out $500,000.00 to be paid back in thirty years with zero interest! Furthermore, since the costs to purchase a farm are more than that, any loans taken from a bank will become primary and the loan from the program can be paid back after the bank loans. This is such an amazing program that I never knew existed. It is definitely something to look into if you are interested in starting your very own farm.