On October 6th our AGRI130 class took a tour of the Fifer’s Family farm and orchard. While on the tour we meet with one of the sons of the farm that take care of all of the fruits and vegetables on the farm, He began to take use on a tour around there whole operation from where they have the u-pick pumpkin patch to the cold fridge where they store there fruits. While on the tour he took use along side one of his strawberry fields that they where planting as we drove by they had a group of 4 on the back of the tractor putting the young plants in the whole where the tractor put holes in the tarp. Also when we went in to the packing shed he was telling use what plants have to stay in which climates after there picked and how they hand check every apple so they make sure everything is top of the line so they can get the most profit. Then to round out the day we went into the store they have and where able to get something from there to end the day.
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.
Biotechnology is so widely debated everywhere on our planet. He gave us a great overview and information into what biotechnology is and some of the concerns about it. It is crazy to think that biotechnology started thousands of years ago and people still have fears about it. Gregor Mendel helped figure out laws of inheritance. Biotechnology is a great tool to be able to make genetic changes to a plant and to put traits in them such as pest resistance. It can improve crop yield by being able to put a resistant gene into the plant to help the crops grow without damage from environmental conditions. Without biotechnology, our growing population would run out of food. Biotechnology allows farmers to improve yields with the same amount of land. People are just concerned because it is not a natural process. Hopefully, the world can resolve this issue in time to feed the next generations to come.
The lecture we had from James Adkins on irrigation was very enlightening for me, because prior to this class I did not realize the significance and intensity that irrigation has on agriculture which ultimately becomes food on our plates. It is more than just a simple watering system which I am guilty for once thinking. However, this may be how it once was when the Babylonians started irrigation. The first and most basic irrigation system is gravity irrigation, which needs elevation to allow the water to run down. There are also pressurized gravity systems which includes a gated pipe. We have also learned about central pivot as well as other systems including surface and sub-surface drip. All these different systems has pros and cons that should be taken into consideration with the type of crop needing the irrigation. Something interesting that he mentioned was how the solution for the Dust Bowl was irrigation so that there would consistently be crops to take away from the dust, which needed irrigation to have year round.
Another topic that James brought up in his lecture that I also did not realize was so major prior to this class was drones. In addition to all the benefits and enhancements that drones bring to the agriculture industry, he included that infrared with red green and blue spectrum being an aspect of the drone footage which allows predictions on the crops. This also allow people to analyze and pick up on stress in certain crops that may not be seen with the naked eye.
Overall this lecture was beneficial and relevant to the discussions we have in class and has increased the useful knowledge I have gained from this class and is another topic that people should be more informed about because it does eventually effect them from the food that they eat!
Growing crops isn’t as simple as just watering the whole field every so often and hoping they’ll grow. The soil texture and make up, along with the crop type both play large roles in the frequency and efficiency of watering. Additionally, both of these factors can vary throughout one plot of land that is serviced by the same watering equipment. James Adkins spoke to our class about irrigation, which has developed greatly over time. Center pivot irrigation may be one of the more common types that the community is used to seeing, as they are designed as a giant sprinkler device that has paths to rotate position to reach every part of the field. In addition to center pivot irrigation, there are also a few other types: traveling gun, surface drip, and sub-surface drip. Each type provides different benefits and are best suited for different crops.
The newer technologies available to farmers, which include drones, allow farmers to recognize the different needs of their crops and land in individual areas, rather than just assess as one large plot. For example, the soil may change in the middle of a corn field, causing it to need more water than a different area. A drone is capable of flying above the field and using electro-conductivity mapping to spot weak and strong areas within a crop field! There are also handheld devices that test for soil conditions such as nutrients and water hold capacity that provide immediate results for that specific location within the field. Each of these new irrigation technologies have helped to advance agriculture, making it not only more efficient but also more conservation cautious and environmentally friendly!
On November 4th, my class had the privilege of meeting the University of Delaware’s Newark farms superintendent, Scott Hopkins, who led the tour for us. We started the tour with an introduction to the dairy herd that supplies us our beloved UDairy ice cream. Scott Hopkins explained that the dairy herd was the most difficult and time consuming livestock on the farm due to the amount labor, time and research that goes into the herd. I found it really interesting to see how feed studies were conducted on a herd within by the use of ID collars that would sync with a specific feed bin that granted that specific cow access to its feed. This practice helps to conclude that technology plays a major role in livestock production. We then moved onto the poultry section of the farm where he explained to us why there were so many small shed-like houses. These are used for testing immunology and virolity amongst small flocks of birds. I think that this field of research is so fascinating and important, especially since the poultry industry is huge to the Delmarva area. Next, we ventured to Webb Farm where we learned about the beef management practices, equine practices, as well as the sheep practices. Currently, the farm is tracking estrous in the ewes and are monitoring breedings and whether or not the ewes take. They track this by recording which ewes have the color coded chalk on their backs – marking a mounting by the ram – and crossing the presence of chalk with their estrous cycles. Scott was very informational and provided a lot of insight into how much work really goes into running a successful farming operation. He was well versed and had a tremendously wide amount of knowledge. I learned a lot on this trip and I hope to continue learning more about management practices throughout my time here at the University of Delaware
This previous Saturday, I spent time at the University of Delaware farm. I was so intrigued to see how this farm is able to teach students hands-on techniques in a manner that is safe and understandable. I was so amazed at the fact that dairy cows are taught where they are to feed and they are smart enough to retain that information and store it in their memories. I also really enjoyed how honest the farm manager was. He didn’t sugar-coat any type of information that we should know and made sure we knew to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Walking through the farm was such a different experience than being on main campus. Everything is so calm, whereas main campus is always bustling. Seeing the mini versions of the chicken houses was also interesting, especially because we got to compare it to the full size version at Georgie’s farm. Overall, I very much enjoyed this field trip, especially the UDairy!
What do you think of his position? Does he make a case for his change of heart and the way he now views GMOs?
GMO’s will always be a constant controversial topic because of the idea that farmers and corporations are essentially changing the physiology of a plant. When an audience reads about GMO’s, they often form an opinion based on the headline of an article, of the opinions of others, and most of the times these headlines and opinions are extremely misleading. To fully form an opinion, whether that be for or against GMO’s, the reader must become informed through different scientifically based arguments. Mark Lynas explains that before he changed his opinion on GMO’s, he found himself constantly defending himself using scientific arguments for other types of controversial subjects. He realized that if he was backing up his arguments with scientific data, why wasn’t he doing that with GMO’s. He developed his opinion because of the preconceived idea that all corporations are lying, scheming, money hungry entities that only look out for themselves. After realizing that he may not be correct in the way he formed his opinion, he decided to research and look at the scientific data. His initial belief was that GMO’s required more pesticide and insecticide, however, he realized that because many GMO’s such as pest-resistance cotton and maize actually require little to no pesticide. He realized that most of his arguments had no basis and he once he realized the facts, he changed his opinion drastically. Once he changed his opinion, he was then able to argue with facts instead of baseless statements. His current position is what I believe to be correct. GMO’s are essential in developing countries. GMO’s allow small farmers to create bigger yields with a small input and help feed rural villages. Without GMO’s, many under-developed countries would struggle to feed their community members.
I am 100% for the use of GMOs. In my last 4 semesters here at UD, I have used this topic for research papers, speeches, and even made my own website about them. I love when he says that he was foolish for being anti-GMO just because they were supported by a big corporation. I feel as though this is why most people are against GMO, and they do not know enough about them to support that opinion. I feel as though he definitely makes a successful case for his change of heart for the way he now views GMOs.
The conflict I feel comes from when I forwarded this video to my dad, who feels very strongly against GMOs. Throughout my experience in the Plant Science major, I have learned a lot about the benefits and technology that goes into genetically modifying crops. He on the other hand, is having a harder time believing me. When I sent him this video, he was a little upset with me that I did not do my research about who Mark Lynas was, and he shared with me what he found. When he looked Lynas up, he found articles about his positions on nuclear power and global warming, with nothing about the anti-GM movement, which is very interesting, seeing as though he claimed being a leader of it. He also found a list of 10 people to be an “ambassador” for this campaign to better the image of GM crops in society’s mind, Mark Lynas being on it. This was just a little weird, and I appreciated my dad sharing this with me. All in all, I loved seeing a video of someone saying how they regret being on the other side of an argument I feel very strongly about.
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!
When hearing the term, “family farm,” I never imagine anything to the scale or national success that I witnessed at Fifer’s Orchards. Fifer’s Orchards is a fourth generation family farm, starting in the 1900s with 200-300 acres. Since then, the Fifer family has expanded and developed their orchards into just under 3000 acres of land tilled.
Being from a city in Connecticut, my knowledge of crops basically went as far as the grocery store before coming to the University of Delaware. The opportunity to tour a farm of such magnitude helped to further my knowledge, and I was truly amazed with each thing I learned. Strawberries are one of the main crops grown on Fifer’s land, and they are planted in raised beds. This is to keep the beds up above water that may naturally collect in the field, and the plastic covering surrounding the beds allows better heat conservation and transfer when it is appropriate. Even more interesting is that each bed has a drip tube irrigation system running within it, which allows the plants to receive the water that they need without subjecting the body of the plant to the diseases and pests that can come along with traditional crop watering. Once these strawberries are mature, they are handpicked, and sent up and down the East Coast.
One of the best things about Fifer’s Orchards is that while they are a million dollar business, they still keep their local community in mind. In fact, on the weekend we visited, Fifer’s was actually having the first weekend of its annual six week Fall Festival. In addition the this festival, Fifer’s Orchards reaches out to and serves the community through the Community Supported Agriculture program they run twice a year. This program allows families and individuals to sign up to receive a weekly box of Fifer’s produce and other locally grown or raised food products. There are pick up locations throughout Delmarva, and the program runs May-Labor Day and November-Christmas. The boxes come in large, small, or customized, and it is a great way to not only get your groceries, but also ensure you’re eating healthy while supporting local businesses!