September 28, we visited Fifer Orchard in Wyoming, DE. It is a farm, a country store and in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. It took about one-hour drive. Bobby Fifer told us that Strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, peaches and pumpkins are the major crops grown in the field. It is a family farm for 100 years since 1919. And everyone in the family has a different job with others which they love to do. Our UD bus took us with Bobby visiting several fields. The most impressive one is the strawberries field. They used the white plastic to cover the soil which can extend the harvest season which is good for harvesting decent quality of strawberries. It was new to me and it helps me to understand that innovative technology does benefit farmers. There is one thing surprised me that they don’t grow organic crop in this farm. Because the climate in the east coast is not suitable for growing organic crop and it costs more.
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.
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.
On this field trip our class had some prior knowledge to the poultry industry from Georgie’s guest lecture, but going to her farm and seeing the actually process is the best way to learn something in my personal opinion. I have experienced chicken farms all throughout my life and have had the opportunity to go into to chicken houses multiple times, but never have I seen the chickens at 8 weeks of age getting ready to leave the farm. This is one reason I really enjoyed this field trip because I had the chance to see the chickens at full age and better understand what they look like and how they act when they are full grown. I also learned a little more about the process of disposing of the mortality and I had the chance to learn about how much liter 4 houses produce a year. The ecodrum that Georgie invested in to compost her dead chickens I thought was very interesting and efficient. Then coming from a family farm where we spread around 1000 tons of chicken manure a year I thought it was interesting to learn how much her chicken houses actually produce, which showed me how many chickens are needed for my families farm production needs. Overall I thought Georgie’s farm was top quality and really enjoyed the first saturday field trip.
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.
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.
This past Saturday, we had a great opportunity to tour a huge family-owned orchard named Fifer Orchard in Camden Wyoming, DE. With about 2,800 acres of farmland, you can only imagine how much time, energy, money, and manpower goes into running this orchard. Luckily for the Fifer family, it has been in the family for 4 generations. Bobby Fifer said he learned to farm at a very young age. He started us off with a tour to some of their fields to show us different irrigation systems like center pivot and drip irrigation, which is used for crops like strawberries with a raised bed. I thought it was interesting they had trial crops like cauliflower because there is a ready market for it.
They grow and watch the crop for about 3 years to see if it is worth it. Like cauliflower, kale was also a trial crop that needs to be hand-picked. It is very hard to find people that want to do labor that intensive, so Fifer Orchard participates in an awesome program called H2A that gives nonimmigrant foreigners, who are willing to work, the opportunity to work for them. They get a work visa and Fifer provides transportation and housing for them to work for a period of time hand-picking the crops. Without hand labor, Bobby said they would not be in business. A big challenge they see in the future is being able to use robotics for harvesting every crop instead of hand-picking, but is it possible to pick strawberries or pumpkins with a machine? With them being in business for so long and technology constantly improving I have no doubt they will continue to thrive for many more generations regardless of the constantly changing regulations and market.
I live in Delaware and I have been to Fifer Orchards many times, but on the field trip I learned so much more about their business. The Fifers till 2800 acres; sweet corn, strawberries, and tomatoes being their biggest money makers. They grow a huge variety of crops in alternating seasons which is rare for a Delaware farmers market. I was shocked to learn how far they ship their produce and that they have contracts with major companies such as Walmart. I also enjoyed learning how they run their CSA program; I work at a smaller produce market and we ran our system differently, but Fifers incorporated promotion of their market in the weekly boxes, and had a variety of different boxes to choose from. It was very interesting to see that they also had acres for testing new crops. They grew all different varieties of cauliflower and kale by customer request, and understood very well how the trends were moving, and as a result changed the varieties they grow to the ones gaining more popularity. The tour of the farm really showed why Fifer Orchards was such an success and what makes it stands out from other Delaware farmers markets.
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!
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!
Georgie Cartanza has been growing organic chickens for eleven years, but organic wasn’t always the direction she planned to go. Before Mrs. Cartanza’s transition into the organic poultry she worked for Perdue growing roasters. Chickens that are termed “roasters” will eventually be sold for their meat. Over the years the consumer market for chickens has changed dramatically. Requirements for growing organic chickens are a lot stricter including: certified feed and soil, access to the outdoors and enhancements to keep the chickens entertained. Georgie, being extremely passionate about what she does, felt like the benefits would outweigh the risk and went ahead and made the switch. On the farm there were four houses 65’ wide by 600’ long. Georgie produces about 5,000,000 pounds of organic meat per year, which approximately feeds 59,808 people per year. Our society has such a concrete image of how they think chickens are produced and if more people had the opportunity to see how technologically advanced and modern our agricultural industry has become I think it would be valuable to everyone involved with the chicken industry. My interest in poultry has grown during my time here at the University of Delaware and this experience at Georgie’s family farm has intensified the interest I have.