Category Archives: Vegetables

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.


Building Sustainable Agriculture

Tuesday November 13th, Bill Cowser and Bill Northey came to the UD STAR Campus to discuss biofuels and modern agriculture. All majors were welcome to this hearing and as a bonus at the end there was free UDairy ice cream! On Bill Cowser’s farm he raises beef cattle and grows soybeans and corn. He mentioned that every third row of corn goes to produce ethanol. In Iowa, 39% of its corn crops is used for ethanol. Cowser also mentioned the three commodities that come from a corn field: stalk/corn, feed, and bedding. One thing that I thought was kind of funny was what Cowser calls “The Chase.” The Chase is one thing that he needs/ wants to control the most but is unable too. He would like to control the weather but it’s impossible. He even said that he knows he can’t be he’s going to try. This past summer Iowa got a lot of rain. More than Delaware which destroyed some of the crops there.

Both men talked about the main goals of the agricultural industry. For instance, farmers want renewable, sustainable, environmental friendly, and profitable products. If it’s not profitable then that’s a huge lost right there because no one will be able to afford it and therefore, no one would buy the product. They also talked about the VTA or the Vegetative Treatment Area. What this is, is an area of perennial vegetation, like grass or forage. It is used to treat runoff from either a barnyard or a feedlot by settling, infiltration, and nutrient use. And when the runoff has settled into the soil, natural processes allow plants to use those nutrients. To me, this presentation was really interesting to hear. Even though it went over most of the topics we covered in class there was more to learn from it which is pretty cool. It’s also nice to get an insight view of the production from a different area.

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’ 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 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.

California and Iowa Agriculture: Guest Lecture by Ed Kee

After visiting the University of Delaware for a second lecture on agriculture, Ed Kee focused on topics in Iowa and California. Although vastly different from Delaware, these states supply a large part of their market. Both are  dominating when it comes to production rates, and they are focused on environmental efforts.

Iowa ranks 1st in corn production with 8.5 billon dollars in economic activity. Although most of this crop is used as produce and feed, Iowa is the leader in corn produced for ethanol. Corn ethanol is a better option for gasoline as it is a renewable energy source. The state actual produces 25% of the nations ethanol reserve.

California is one of the largest players in American agriculture. They average 47 billon dollars in sales, which makes them first in the nation. California produces the most milk and cream out of all other commodities. Another interesting note is that almost 95% of the nations tomatoes come from this great state!

Ed Kee presented us with yet another great lecture. It’s interesting to learn about other states agriculture which give us a well-rounded overview of the U.S. agriculture market.

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.

Guest Speaker: Dan Severson

Dan Severson made several compelling points throughout his guest lecture. My favorite aspect of his lecture was the discussion of family farming. The general public has a misconception about factory farming vs. family farming. Most of the country does not know that the vast majority (96%) of farms are family owned, even if they are quite large. Dan Severson took it a step further, and explained what it would take to make a living off of a farm. He dove into facts regarding meat consumption per capita, family income and food costs, and the actual percentage of farmers there are countrywide (2%). Dan Severson explained how agriculture is such a difficult business to thrive in. It depends on the weather, the market, and the technology available. Farming is expensive, labor intensive, and difficult to perfect. I enjoyed how he explained in details different categories of farming such as poultry, beef, sheep, and dairy. The break down helped me be able to visualize every day responsibilities and challenges that these farmers face. I appreciate having heard Dan Severson speak!

Delaware’s Agriculture – Ed Kee

When people think of Delaware, there are usually two thoughts that first occur: “DelaWHERE?” or “The beach!” However, neither of these thoughts consider Delaware’s #1 industry of agriculture, which greatly contributes to our nation’s food supply. Delaware’s former Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Kee, made sure to clarify this fact for our class, informing us that Delaware first and foremost is an agricultural state. In fact, our little state of Delaware can reach 1/3 of the entire country’s population within 8 hours, allowing Delaware to be a “food shed” of the east coast! A food shed simply means a region or area that produces food for a certain population. As we all know, Delaware is a major poultry producer of the United States. In addition, though, Delaware is also able to produce and sell vegetables (processed or fresh) up and down the east coast, and of course locally. Lima beans are Delaware’s #1 crop, holding the most acreage. Within Delaware alone, there are three main processing companies: PicSweet, J.G. Townsend, and Hanover Foods. These processors utilize crops from over 41,000 acres and providing 2,400 jobs in our community. By processing the crops produced, such as lima beans, sweet corn, peas, and pickles, the agricultural industry is enhanced. Processing crops allows for added crop diversity, more jobs for the community, and overall a stronger agricultural economy!

Trip to Fifers

Last Saturday, I took a trip to Fifers Orchard. I was thoroughly impressed at the size of their production. I had been previously under the impression that Fifers was a small little produce stand with only a couple acres of land. I very much enjoyed seeing the different types of crops they grew and I was very surprised to learn that their were many different types of one specific crop, such as orange, green, and purple cauliflower. Being able to look at the type of distribution center, I was so excited to see how things worked within the company. Speaking to the family members was also extremely interesting because I never realized how important it was that each person had their own specific job and made sure that their job was completed with great competence. I was also interested in the idea that you were able to buy not only fruits and vegetables, but other types of homemade products such as jams, pies, and seasonings. Seeing this type of production system was extremely important to my understanding about how family farms are run and to see them work cohesively and produce the best products for their consumers.

Fifer Orchards: A Vast Operation

Saturday, 9/23 our class visited the Fifer Orchard around Dover, DE. On the way there, I was wondering why we did not just go around the corner to see Milburn Orchards; they have apples and awesome apple cider too! It all made sense when we got there though.

Fifer Orchards was huge, and we were given a pamphlet listing all the fruits and vegetables they grew. I never imagined it would be that much. When taken to some vegetable fields, I was surprised that they not only grew traditional cauliflower, but they grew cheddar cauliflower, explained that it had beta-carotene in it, and purple cauliflower because the consumers asked for it!

It was great applying other classes to the field trip as well. Pictured here is drip irrigation in strawberries, which I learned the benefits about in PLSC204!

Of course we ended the trip with a trip to the market; the apple cider slushies were to die for!

Getting to The Core of The Orchard Industry

This weekend was the second field trip of the semester! Fall is just getting started, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to go: an apple orchard! Fifers Orchard is a 4th generation, family-run farm in Camden-Wyoming, Delaware, and we were lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes look at the entire operation.The tour was given by Bobby Fifer, and started at the heart of the business: the farm. We were able to see a portion of the land where they grow and harvest their fresh produce. With nearly 3,000 acres of farmland they grow many different crops, including kale, cauliflower, strawberries and of course apples! We learned that they grow cauliflower of unusual colors, including purple and orange, as well as over 20 different varieties of apples. But by far, their biggest money-maker is sweet corn; Fifer’s supplies corn to the entire east coast, and nearly every state east of the Mississippi! After seeing the farm, we were taken to the packaging and distribution center. We learned about some of the technology that is used for sorting fruits, tomatoes, and peaches, and talked with Curt Fifer, Bobby’s brother and the man behind the shipments/sales. After talking with us about some of the challenges that can be encountered during the shipping process we were taken to their brick and mortar store and introduced to their cousin, Michael. We discussed the marketing side of the business and their CSA program. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s like a weekly subscription to fresh produce. Every week you receive a box of various fruits and vegetables that are currently in season, straight from the farm. CSAs are one of their most reliable ways of making sales, as well as great opportunities for advertisement and getting people to eat fresh.

At the end of the day we raided the store for all sorts of goodies – delicious baked goods, fresh ciders, and much, much more. Everyone went home with their hands full and pockets empty from this one-of-a-kind field trip.

Fifer Orchards Visit

Fifer Orchards is a local farm and country store located in Camden-Wyoming, DE.  Tilling over 2800 acres Fifers produces a diverse amount of crops along with their biggest profit sweet corn. This past summer I was fortunate enough to work at Fifer Orchards and after the field trip I gained even more respect for the farm and the things they do to benefit the community and the agriculture industry. Throughout the field trip we were taken to several fields and shown many different crops, one of the most interesting was kale which is hand harvested. We were then given a tour of the packing house and cooler and shown the behind the scenes that goes into getting Fifer Orchards produce out to the public. We were lucky enough to visit on the first day of the fall fest so it was a busy Saturday for the Fifer Orchards staff. The farm puts on many events for the community throughout the year such as the strawberry festival, customer appreciation day and the fall fest. Apple cider slushes couldn’t be handed out fast enough to the customers. After working at Fifers over the summer and the field trip I have really seen the hard work that goes into the family business and how hard the family strives to serve the community.

Fifer Orchards

Fifer Orchards is an amazing family owned 2800 acre farm. The farm is an amazing example of Delaware Agriculture. Fifer Orchards is a community based orchard that focuses it’s attention on involvement, education, and community supported agriculture (CSA). The farm grows produce such as sweet corn, cauliflower, kale, apples, strawberries, and tomatoes. They also have a wonderful market in which they sell pies, baked goods, and jams. We visited Fifer Orchards on their first Fall Fest day of 2017-2018. They had a band, food trucks, and bouncy houses for the community to come spend time and learn about where their food is grown. It was amazing to see the technology they utilize to produce incredible yields. Fifer uses hand labor, but they also use machines to do a variety of tasks such as planting beds and laying plastic for next years strawberry crops. They use specialized plastic for their high tunnels that reject red UV light to keep the temperatures cool. Their watering systems vary on the crop in which they are placed, but they use pivot irrigation systems or drip. They annually employ over 160 people! Seeing the diversity and the variety of techniques they use to maintain a successful business was very inspirational! Their family business is truly amazing, and contributes to Delaware’s community!

Delaware’s Green Industry

Delaware’s Green Industry was presented by Tracy Wooten and Valann Gudischak. We learned what and who is part of the green industry, with that being producers, retailers, landscapers, land managers, golf courses, and suppliers of equipment. Probably one o the most important lessons learned was the difference between floriculture crops and nursery crops. Floriculture crops being those bedding/garden plants, cut cultivated greens, flowers, potted flowering plants, foliage plants, and propagative floriculture material. Nursery crops being those of broadleaf and coniferous evergreens, deciduous shade trees and flowering trees, deciduous shrubs and other ornamentals, fruit and nut plants for home use, cut and to-be-cut Christmas trees, and propagation material or lining out stock. Grower sales of nursery crops accruing to approximately $8 billion annually and floriculture crops at approximately $4.8 billion. Learning about this part of agriculture was interesting as you do not hear about it often and the many job and career opportunities lie within the green industry.