Shriver selected 2014 Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year

Greg Shriver of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has been named UD's Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year.
Greg Shriver of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has been named UD’s Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year.

The University of Delaware’s Institute for Global Studies (IGS) has honored Greg Shriver as the Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year for, among other positive attributes, his ability to lead in a challenging environment.

The story began in the frigid Delaware winter of 2014 as students accepted to the Costa Rica environment and wildlife conservation program were eager to escape the wind and snow and immerse themselves in a warm, sunny new biome.

The group boarded their plane at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey with Shriver, assistant chair and professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Disembarking hours later, they discovered that only four of their 13 suitcases had made it to Costa Rica.

Although this setback could have ruined both the group’s morale and the 11-mile hike planned for the following day, Shriver maintained his poise and kept the group on task.

“It was clear that we were not likely going to see our bags for at least a day or two so we took inventory of what we had and decided to stay on schedule,” said Shriver. “This experience really seemed to pull the group together as the hike and experience at Nancite is an exciting accomplishment, even when you have your own clothes.”

Students who participated in Shriver’s study abroad program were exposed to the biological diversity of the neotropics and identified over 300 different species of birds. This experience helped one student secure a job. Another wrote, “He challenged us to find new ways to solve old problems and adapt what we learned in Costa Rica to solve problems at home.”

Of the 22 nominated program directors, Shriver was unanimously chosen by a faculty panel and study abroad coordinators to be the 2014 Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year.

“The choice was obvious not only due to the number and quality of student nominations, but also because of Dr. Shriver’s expert handling of a very challenging lost luggage situation upon his group’s arrival in Costa Rica,” said Lisa Chieffo, associate director of study abroad.

Shriver was praised by the students for his leadership, and his ability to synthesize learning with their overall experience in Costa Rica. Many wrote that he became a mentor and “inspirer of confidence, problem solving, adaptability, and many other traits.”

He was also described by students as a great “global ambassador for UD and America,” and helped the group learn the importance of respecting and understanding other cultures.

“I truly believe that Costa Rica changed my life and was the highlight of my entire career at UD. I also know that none of it would have been possible without the constant help, support, and leadership of Greg Shriver. He made the trip fun, educational, and most importantly he helped to expand our worldviews to better understand other cultures,” one student concluded.

Prior to 2014, Shriver led study abroad programs to Ecuador and Galapagos in 2007, and to Costa Rica in 2013. He said his favorite part of directing a study abroad program is that traveling to a location where the students have never been before is infectious and makes him feel like he is experiencing and visiting the area for the first time, too.

“I hope they gain confidence in their abilities, exposure to the wonders and importance of biodiversity, and the issues associated with maintaining it,” said Shriver.

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at the University of Delaware. IGS provides leadership and support for programs and experiences that contribute to the education of informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world.

Best known for coordinating the University’s study abroad program, IGS also awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for myriad global opportunities, administers internationally-recognized programs such as the MEPI (Middle East Partnership Initiative) Student Leaders Institute, and sponsors such signature events as International Education Week each fall and country-specific celebrations each spring.

IGS collaborates with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies.

Article by Elizabeth Adams

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

UD graduate goes to work as a herdsperson at Herr Angus Farm

UD alumna Katie Williams is a herdsperson at Herr Angus Farm in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.
UD alumna Katie Williams is a herdsperson at Herr Angus Farm in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.

When Katie Williams was an undergraduate student in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, she turned an internship with Herr Angus Farm into a part-time job during the fall and spring semesters of her senior year. Now, after graduating in May, Williams has turned that part-time job into a full-time position working as a herdsperson at the farm in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.

Williams explained that as a herdsperson, she is very involved in the animal husbandry side of the farm, responsible for checking the cattle on a daily basis to ensure that they are healthy and behaving normally, following their usual eating and drinking routines and moving soundly.

“I also assist with administering vaccinations and medications according to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) standards, breeding, embryo transfer, cattle handling, record keeping, feeding and nutrition programs, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) quarantine cattle for export,” said Williams.

Even though her official title is herdsperson, her responsibilities also include assisting in any of the tasks necessary for upkeep of the farm. “This can range anywhere from basic fence line, equipment and pasture maintenance to harvesting hay and haylage — a fermented, nutritious grass feed that is stored in our silos — for the winter,” said Williams.

Williams said that while this full-time position did not come about simply because of the internship, her experience did provide her hands-on experience that had an impact on the eventual job offer.

“As an intern, I was exposed to the cattle handling, cattle management and overall farm management that gave me the ability to complete tasks independently and be relied upon for numerous responsibilities on a daily basis,” said Williams. “I did not realize that I was training for my eventual full-time position when I was an intern but all of the experiences I gained during that time qualified me to become a herdsperson, even if I had not been offered a job at Herr Angus Farms.”

Williams said that most of her mornings begin in the feed room, where she has a brief meeting and goes over the day’s tasks and then feeds the cattle.

“Most mornings I am out riding through the pastures either on the Gator or on horseback, checking to make sure that all of the cows are healthy,” said Williams. “Oftentimes we have to bring in a group of cattle for vaccinations, tagging, breeding, pregnancy checks, or for sorting. If this is the case, we usually try to do this before lunch and before the heat of the day really picks up.”

The after-lunch activities are devoted to things like mowing, fence line maintenance and harvesting the aforementioned hay and haylage.

“Harvest days are always quite busy since it is very dependent on the weather and we have to make the most of dry weather when we can,” said Williams.

Williams said the job is a perfect fit as it combines two of her favorite things: animals and being outdoors.

“Riding through the pastures in the early morning just after the crack of dawn is my favorite part of the day. I call it my ‘morning Zen’ when I’m out doing this because it is so peaceful and relaxing to see the cattle happily grazing,” said Williams.

Williams also said that having a full-time job lined up after graduation relieved a lot of the stress that usually comes with job searching and that she is very thankful for being offered the opportunity with such advanced notice.

She does admit, though, that transitioning from student life to a career has its challenges and she is still learning to balance everything.

As for how the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources helped prepare her for her future career, Williams said, “One of the things I enjoy the most is being able to understand how things function and why they work the way they do. The education and experiences I received at CANR enable me to understand little things, such as why certain feeds are used and how they are digested in the rumen, or the science behind pasture rotation and plant biology. I find it very fulfilling being able to use my classroom education to continue learning out in the field on a daily basis and I owe many thanks to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”

Article by Adam Thomas

UD to jointly headquarter new USDA research center for agri-environmental policy

canr_APEClab_kentMesser-48Professors Kent Messer of the University of Delaware and Paul Ferraro of Georgia State University will head the newly created Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-environmental Policy Research (CBEAR), which was created with an award from the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

CBEAR will be housed in the new Center for Experimental and Applied Economics at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) in Newark.

UD President Patrick Harker will cut the ribbon to the new center during a ceremony to be held from 10-11:30 a.m., Monday, Nov. 24, at Townsend Hall. The ceremony will feature five interactive projects currently being studied.

CBEAR-affiliated faculty will use behavioral and experimental economics research to improve the design and implementation of USDA programs that support farmers in their efforts to feed the world and provide valuable environmental stewardship of the nation’s agricultural lands. A $750,000, three-year USDA seed grant will fund the new center.

“Government programs related to agriculture and the environment need to be based on strong science and economics. Evidence based policy, insights from the behavioral sciences, and randomized controlled trials are the norm in medicine, education, and other policy fields. CBEAR will bring this approach to U.S. agri-environmental policy,” said Messer, the Unidel H. Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics and a globally recognized expert in evidence-based environmental policy and the applications of behavioral economics to policy design.

In 2013, the USDA spent over $5 billion on conservation programs to minimize soil erosion, enhance water quality, and create wildlife habitat.

“Better understanding how we invest our limited federal resources so they accomplish the desired goal should be a top priority,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons. “It’s imperative we have a positive and communicative relationship with farmers and land owners to ensure the programs in place are working as planned. This center will strengthen science-based decisions that go into agriculture and environmental policy, and I look forward to the work that will be done by the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-environmental Policy Research.”

Along with UD and Georgia State University, the CBEAR consortium includes Cornell University. The new center will:

  • Lead and coordinate innovative behavioral research programs related to the design and implementation of policies and programs that provide ecosystem services and lead to greater satisfaction for participating farmers and landowners;
  • Broaden the network of social scientists who participate in policy-relevant research on agricultural ecosystem services, policies and programs; and
  • Disseminate information obtained via its research program to a diverse stakeholder audience, including USDA and other federal program agencies, farmers and the general public.

“We are quite pleased to be able to house CBEAR in our new Center for Experimental and Applied Economics and contribute in a significant way to helping USDA improve the performance of agricultural and environmental programs,” said CANR Dean Mark Rieger. “It is our intent to facilitate innovative research that will have positive effects nationwide.”

UD alumna plants community garden on abandoned tennis court

UD alumna Elisa King led the effort to create a community garden in Elsmere.
UD alumna Elisa King led the effort to create a community garden in Elsmere.

When Elisa King was an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware, she gained an appreciation for community gardens through her work volunteering at that maintained by the English Language Institute and also as a member of the University’s Food and Gardening Policy Committee.

Now that she has graduated, King is applying that love of gardening to the real world as she has spearheaded an effort to launch a community garden on an abandoned tennis court in the town of Elsmere, Delaware.

King said that her idea to start the Garden at Linden — located in Walling Park on Linden Avenue in Elsmere — came out of her desire to improve the community. Given her passion for food and green spaces, a community garden seemed like a great place to start. The only problem was, King didn’t really know where to begin.

A community garden has been created on an abandoned tennis court in Elsmere.
A community garden has been created on an abandoned tennis court in Elsmere.

“I started finding people around the neighborhood who were equally interested in the project but we didn’t know where to begin, so we started making some connections with people like Carrie Murphy and Tara Tracey,” said King.

Murphy, a Cooperative Extension agent at UD, and Tracey, urban agriculture manager for the Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH), are co-chairs of the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition. They explained to King how she could get things moving, offering information on issues from how to approach the town with the idea to what kinds of materials they would need to start the garden.

King said the group decided that the garden would be totally communal, meaning volunteers would get to take home some of the harvest. “There’s no fee involved and one of the reasons we wanted to do that was that we wanted to make it as inclusive as possible, so if people wanted to volunteer at any given time, they could,” said King. “Another reason for doing that is to gain interest in the community and have people spread the word.”

Tennis court garden

The town of Elsmere granted the group permission to use the tennis court, which needed to be repaved and could no longer be used for tennis. King said it was a win-win for her group and the town.

“They saved money from not having to re-pave and we got to do something different in the community — getting residents engaged in how food grows and doing some healthy outdoor activity,” said King.

Once they had the space, the group held fundraisers and received grants from the Delaware Department of Agriculture, New Castle County and the New Castle Conservation District to help fund the project.

A crew of 30 people built the garden, which has 15 raised beds, at the end of March, and King said that a core group of around 15-20 people rotate to maintain the garden. They have been getting more and more positive community response.

“People just show up. They want to be a part of it but it might not fit in their schedule, but they come and give us positive feedback or ask questions to find out what we’re doing. It’s been really good,” said King.

Learning to grow

As for the growing process, King admitted that it was a learning experience for everyone involved.

“I probably had the most horticultural or agriculture experience out of everybody and I would say that my experience is not that vast,” said King. “It’s been interesting and definitely an awesome learning process for everybody. Everybody’s been able to contribute in some way. We help each other out and we’ve been reaping the benefits from it.”

Even with the learning process, King said the group had a nice harvest through their first season and they are in the midst of fall gardening work.

As for what they grow in the garden, King said that they are experimenting with a bit of everything, taking the approach of companion planting — planting different crops in close proximity for pest control, pollination and to maximize space and crop productivity — as they do not use any type of chemical treatment.

The garden has everything from kale, tomatoes, corn, beans and all different kinds of squashes. They also have blueberry bushes that were donated — a big draw for the local children who wanted to come and see the blueberries — and started strawberries, asparagus, sweet and hot peppers, and lots of different herbs.

The garden also has an herb spiral — a vertical garden design that allows gardeners to stack plants to maximize space — that King called a focal point.

“That herb spiral always looks beautiful because we have lots of different herbs and flowers growing in there,” said King. “We’ve integrated different flowers so we could attract pollinators and beneficial insects. We have flowers like marigolds and sunflowers and it’s been interesting seeing the life form in that space because there was nothing before. It was just pavement and now there’s birds and all these different insects.”

Elsmere Garden Society

Learning about the importance of community gardens and urban farms has led to an informal organization known as the Elsmere Garden Society, and King said she is hopeful that the idea will catch on and that people will want to put gardens in other spaces that are being underutilized in Elsmere.

“The garden is generating awareness that I think is really needed as far as where our food comes from, how to eat healthy, how growing food effects the environment and who has access to fresh food,” said King. “And when we have community gardens and urban farms, we can make more of an impact on the neighborhood scale, and I think that’s really important.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

UD adjunct faculty member sole Forest Service presence in Delaware

Vince D'Amico with UD doctoral student Solny Adalsteinsson.
Vince D’Amico with UD doctoral student Solny Adalsteinsson.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has a solitary representative in the state of Delaware in Vince D’Amico, a research scientist who is also an adjunct faculty member in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

D’Amico has been at UD since 2001 as a member of the faculty in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. While he can be seen around Townsend Hall and is often confused with teaching professors, his sole role is in research, while also serving on the committees of graduate students and as an adviser.

“It’s best to look at me as absolutely not part of UD but also very intimately involved with UD,” said D’Amico. “It’s hard for people to remember. Sometimes they ask, ‘What do you teach?’ I don’t teach classes, but I have collaborated with most of the faculty of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at one time or another. It’s a great symbiotic and synergistic relationship.”

D’Amico said the Forest Service has researchers stationed at universities across the country and that UD has a long history of collaboration with the agency.

Forest fragments

D’Amico’s main area of research is urban forest fragments, specifically the Forest Fragments in Managed Ecosystems (FRAME) study that he started with Greg Shriver, associate professor and associate chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.

The study picked up prior work that had been done at UD in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in part by Roland Roth, UD professor emeritus of wildlife ecology.

It was at a talk given by D’Amico and Shriver that they first discovered that their study had historical roots.

“After Greg and I gave our first FRAME talk to the department, a faculty member came up with a big old yellowed report, which we had no idea about, and it was a collaborative report by the USDA Forest Service and what is now UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology on urban forests in northern Delaware,” said D’Amico. “It absolutely blew our minds because none of us had any idea that that had ever happened.”

The main focus of that study was UD’s Ecology Woods. Now, FRAME has added more than 20 other fragments, leading to a broader discussion.

Deciduous forest fragments

D’Amico said those sites are meant to be representative of the ecology of urban deciduous forest fragments and that most of the sites are in northern Delaware, with some stretching into Pennsylvania. He explained that there are a lot of deciduous forests located in highly populated areas of the world.

“Deciduous forests that are heavily populated hold about a quarter of the Earth’s population and what you’d be talking about is a big piece of China, Europe and the eastern U.S., so these are places that are heavily populated and the deciduous forest is really the biome,” said D’Amico.

For example, the strip of urbanized area that is about 100 kilometers from the Atlantic coast of the United States is one of the most densely populated areas in the whole world and it is full of small forest fragments.

“Those contain the biodiversity and the wildlife that requires a forest. That’s where it all is, in small forest fragments,” said D’Amico. “So imagine thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of small forest fragments that comprise the forests that dot the entire East Coast. The FRAME is meant to be representative of those, especially in the Mid-Atlantic and especially in the United States.”

The goal of the FRAME project is to provide useful recommendations for improving ecosystem function, with an emphasis on ecosystem services.

Since its humble beginnings, the project has grown geographically, adding collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Riverside.

“We’re studying as many aspects of urban forest ecology as we can, starting with the soil and then moving up to higher trophic levels like birds and mammals and reptiles,” said D’Amico.

Other research projects

With his work being done in collaboration with UD, D’Amico said those projects that include students provide them hands-on experience with Forest Service research.

Other research projects with which D’Amico is involved include restoring iconic tree species such as the American elm, which was wiped out in the early part of the last century.

Because of selective breeding, there are now varieties that are tolerant of Dutch elm disease, which devastated the population.

D’Amico said one of the varieties of elm that he and other researchers are planting is called “Delaware,” and he is hoping that there will be plantings throughout the FRAME sites to see how these disease resistant varieties function in the ecology of urban forests.

“I’m interested to see if these tolerant trees, which have been selected to survive diseases, will play the same role as their predecessors when they’re put into the general forest ecology of the area,” said D’Amico.

As for how these collaborative research projects such as FRAME come about, D’Amico said that because he is in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology every day, there is a mutual understanding.

“If there’s a problem that concerns urban forests, then I’m likely to look for someone at a university to work on it with me for many reasons, including so that a student can be included, and the University of Delaware is the first place I look,” said D’Amico. “The department is excellent and has really been on nothing but an upward trajectory for the past 10 years.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

Sen. Coons acknowledges Extension’s rich history, future at annual conference

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (center) receives the Friends of Extension Award from Albert Essel of Delaware State University and Michelle Rodgers of UD.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (center) receives the Friends of Extension Award from Albert Essel of Delaware State University and Michelle Rodgers of UD.

Cooperative Extension professionals from the University of Delaware and Delaware State University met on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in Dover for their annual conference.

The day included professional development workshops, and celebrated the remaining months of Cooperative Extension’s centennial anniversary. It was also an opportunity to recognize individuals and partnerships that have facilitated Extension’s mission to deliver university-based research and innovations to Delaware’s families and agricultural constituents.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons served as the conference’s keynote speaker and took questions after his remarks. Coons thanked Delaware Cooperative Extension for the significant service it has provided to the nation and the state.

“To me, it is extraordinary that you engage year in and year out, day in and day out, hour in and hour out in your careers in public service,” Coons said. “We need the men and women of Cooperative Extension, and what you bring to the communities of our country today, more than any time in the last century.”

Coons recognized the history of Extension and its significant impact and role during wars, famines and the changing dynamics of agriculture.

“My hope is that Cooperative Extension will bring to this century, what it brought last century – exactly the support needed to stabilize and sustain family farming, to create new opportunities for farming in places where it has disappeared decades ago, and make farming more profitable and more positive and more engaging to a generation of young people here today,” he said.

“Cooperative Extension has an amazing long record of making Delaware a better place,” Coons added. “Think about the challenges we have together in the century we are in and the years to come. Know with confidence that you are exactly the right people in the right place and the right time to help us meet those challenges.”

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and director of Cooperative Extension, and Albert Essel, director of Extension at Delaware State University, presented Coons with the first Friend of Extension Award of the day.

“The Friend of Extension Award is the highest recognition presented to a non-Extension person, business or organization and is designed to recognize truly outstanding support and personal involvement in Extension efforts,” Rodgers said.

In presenting the award to Coons, Rodgers said, “A friend listens and shares ideas to help make programs happen. A friend backs you when trying new ideas. A friend provides resources, knowledge and funding to create strong successes. A friend helps build linkages, is inclusive and helps to create opportunities for success. A friend makes time to share their expertise and assistance.”

2014 Friend of Extension honorees 

In addition to Coons, the following individuals received the distinctive Friend of Extension Award:

R.C. Willin Jr.

R.C. Willin Jr., along with his brother J.C. Willin and their sons Chad and Brent, operate Willin Farms, west of Seaford, Delaware. The fifth-generation family farm — where they are currently growing corn, soybeans, wheat and barley on 1,200 acres — has a long-standing commitment to agricultural excellence. They own and operate three poultry farms with a capacity of 222,000 roaster birds.

Placing environmental stewardship as a high priority, Willin frequently works with UD as a cooperator for crop research in the areas of nutrient management, weeds, insects and irrigation. The farm serves as a host for several agricultural field trips that highlight both agricultural and environmental best practices.

Willin also serves on the CANR Dean’s Advisory Board, Sussex County Field Crops Program, Sussex County Poultry Extension Program and UD Extension Nutrient Management/Environmental Quality Advisory Committee, as well as many other groups dedicated to improving Delaware.

Faith Kuehn

Faith Kuehn is a plant regulatory officer in the Department of Plant Industries at the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA). With DDA, she has made contributions to UD’s plant pathology and plant diagnostic programs through donations of equipment, supplies, time and expertise.

Her commitment to strong partnerships includes Extension and has not only helped to create a Delaware team that is enviable and nationally recognized but has ensured the economic viability of agricultural products in the state.

Kuehn promotes pollinator gardens and sustainable landscapes across the state. She also works closely with Extension professionals and volunteers to demonstrate the benefits and best practices of urban agriculture, including her support of urban farms and community gardens.

Jean Skibinski

Recognized for her 54-year involvement as family consumer educator (FCE), Jean Skibinski joined Extension in 1960 when she learned about the Home Demonstration Clubs and wanted to be included.

Skibinski launched the New Brook Club, and has served at every level of FCE service, including the leadership role with UD Cooperative Extension as the first president of the Delaware Extension Homemakers Association.

Skibinski currently serves as New Castle County and state FCE treasurer. She has written educational guides and presented workshops at the national, state and county level.

Skibinski is civic-minded, and was instrumental in helping to pass the seatbelt laws in Delaware. She rallied state legislation and participated in public policy debates. Also, she was active in adult leadership training and served in all aspects of funding and implementation of this training across several issues.

Her dedication extended to women’s financial literacy and the Women’s Financial Information Program.

Delaware State Fair

As an organization, the Delaware State Fair has provided long-term support and facilities for Delaware 4-H’s Youth Development Program. The fairgrounds have been the location of many annual county and state events, as well as numerous conferences, workshops and seminars conducted for Delaware Extension clientele.

The 80-member board of directors, as well as the administrative staff for the Delaware State Fair, recognizes the importance of providing opportunities to 4-H youth. The outstanding facilities provide the program the ability to conduct educational, safe and fun events for youth, as well as for those 4-H youth from other surrounding states.

In addition, the fair supports various 4-H programs through monetary support or donations to assist in fundraising efforts. The Delaware State Fair demonstrates a large interest in the overall Extension programs and appreciates the impact Extension and 4-H have made consistently over the years.

Delaware Cooperative Extension Director’s Leadership Award

The Delaware Cooperative Extension Director’s Leadership Award was presented to Jennifer Volk, Extension specialist in environmental quality and management, for her role in developing and implementing a reporting system for recording the impact of Extension programs across the state.

Rodgers also acknowledged former UD director of Extension, Jan Seitz, for her vision in establishing the Extension Scholars Program, which continues as a meaningful service learning model where UD students develop leadership and interpersonal skills, as well as apply a wide variety of Extension knowledge and university coursework.

Rodgers noted Seitz’s long-term commitment in giving back to her adopted state by creating and endowing the Janice A. Seitz Cooperative Extension Scholars Fund.

Delaware State University honorees

Delaware State University also honored three award recipients — Linda Dayes, Faith Robinson and Tamaira Banks.

Photos of the 2014 Delaware Cooperative Extension Annual Conference can be viewed on Extension’s Flickr photo gallery.

Article and photos by Michele Walfred

Agriculture College Council organizes inaugural Ag Olympics

Ag Olymlpics participants.
Ag Olympics participants.

The inaugural University of Delaware Ag Olympics was held Saturday morning, Oct. 25, next to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) dairy farm on South Campus.

The event was organized by the Agriculture College Council (AgCC).

Six teams — including Alpha Gamma Rho, Alpha Zeta, the Food Science Club, the Animal Science Club, and graduate students — competed in various agriculture-related contests, said Emily Fritz, AgCC president.

Sarah Tull competes in the "Day in the Life of a Farmer" event during the Ag Olympics.
Sarah Tull competes in the “Day in the Life of a Farmer” event during the Ag Olympics.

The contests included an egg toss, sack races, a pie eating contest, tug of war and “A Day in a Life of a Farmer,” a relay in which each team member had to “wake up,” complete a series of agriculture-related tasks, and then go back to bed.

Including the AgCC members, about 50 people participated in the Ag Olympics and the champion Alpha Gamma Rho team received a trophy and a gift card, said Amanda Wagner, AgCC co-president.

A second place silver medal was awarded to the Animal Science Club and a third place bronze medal was presented to the Food Science Club.

“We hope this continues for many years to come and grow each year to have more participants,” Fritz said. “This was a fun fall event for CANR students and we hope students will look forward to it every fall semester.”

This article can also be read on UDaily >>

CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

Pictured are College of Agriculture and Natural Resources award winners (from left) James H. Baxter IV, Erica Spackman, Mary Ellen Setting, Craig Clifford, CANR Dean Mark Rieger, and Tom Fretz.

Five graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors — the George M. Worrilow Award as well as three Distinguished Alumni Awards and a Distinguished Young Alumni Award — during a ceremony held Friday, Oct. 17, as part of Homecoming festivities.

The awards are given based on a clear record of outstanding career accomplishments, service and leadership to the profession, and community service, including service to UD.

George M. Worrilow Award

Erica Spackman was presented with CANR’s George M. Worrilow Award, named for the dean of the college from 1954-65 whose career was dedicated to better agriculture and better agricultural education.

It is given annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a graduate of the college who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture.

Spackman attended Haverford College and graduated in 1995 with a major in sociology then entered the CANR master’s program in animal science. Jack Rosenberger, chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences from 1981 to 2004, was her adviser and she continued work in his laboratory to complete a doctorate in 2001.

Spackman then went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory for a post-doctoral research program, became a staff research microbiologist in 2002 and continues to work at the facility.

Her career has focused on improving the prevention, detection and control of viral poultry diseases to maintain healthy and productive animals. Throughout her career she has worked closely with the poultry industry, government agencies and veterinary diagnostic labs to achieve these goals.

Although much of her career has focused on avian influenza virus, she has worked with numerous important diseases affecting chickens and turkeys in the areas of vaccine development, pathobiology and disease ecology.

Diagnostic tests and sample collection strategies have been among the most widely adopted elements of Spackman’s work nationally and internationally, and continue to be a major focus of her current research.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Craig Clifford is a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and received his master’s degree in animal sciences/virology from UD. After completing an internship and a medical oncology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, he became a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Oncology) in 2003.

Clifford is Hope Veterinary Specialists’ first medical oncologist and director of clinical studies. Prior to this role, Clifford was a medical oncologist and director of clinical research at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. There, he was responsible for the creation of a comprehensive clinical studies program.

Clifford has authored or co-authored more than 50 papers and book chapters and created the Veterinary Cancer Society’s resident review session and the Northeast Veterinary Co-operative Oncology Group.

Thomas Fretz

Thomas A. Fretz received an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland in 1964, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in horticulture and plant science from UD in 1966 and 1970, respectively.

Fretz retired from the University of Maryland and the position of executive director of the Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (NERA) in March 2007, after having served from 1994 to 2003 as dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of both the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and Maryland Cooperative Extension at the University of Maryland.

He previously served as associate dean and director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station at Iowa State University from 1989-94.

Among his many awards and recognitions, Fretz was co-recipient of the Kenneth Post Award from the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) in 1979 and was elected a fellow of the ASHS in 1986. He received UD’s George M. Worrilow Award in 1999, the B.Y. Morrison Award from the USDA-ARS in 2001, and the “Irving” for distinguished service to the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC) in 2002.

Mary Ellen Setting

Mary Ellen Setting is the deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).  She has served Maryland agriculture for 37 years while working in various capacities at MDA.  She graduated cum laude from the University of Delaware in 1975 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture, majoring in entomology and applied ecology.

As deputy secretary, Setting is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the agency, providing leadership to MDA staff, establishing policy and procedures for regulatory, service and educational programs, and implementing MDA’s mission.

Setting was first employed by MDA in 1977 as an entomologist for the Pesticide Regulation Section. She developed and managed Maryland’s private and commercial applicator recertification and training program. She became chief of the Pesticide Regulation Section in 1988 and was responsible for oversight of all pesticide management, educational and regulatory programs in Maryland, including enforcement of state and federal laws, and applicator certification and training.

Setting was named assistant secretary of the Office of Plant Industries and Pest Management in March 2004. As assistant secretary, she was responsible for oversight of enforcement of state and federal laws, regulations and quarantines related to management of pests that affect the health of crops, nursery stock and forests.

Distinguished Young Alumni

James H. Baxter IV

James H. Baxter IV graduated from UD with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture in 2002 before returning to Baxter Farms Inc., the family farm where he is a fourth generation farmer.

As president and manager of Baxter Farms, he oversees and farms the 2,800-acre tract in Sussex County with the knowledge and support of his grandparents, Jim and Ruth Baxter, who have been dedicated to growing the farm since 1948. Today, a majority of the acreage on the farm is corn and soybeans. The farming operation also includes overseeing the production of 200,000 broilers that are raised for Mountaire Farms Inc.

Baxter has been active in the community as director of the Delaware Farm Bureau, chairman of the Delaware Soybean Board, founding member of Delmarva Tractor Pullers Association, founding member of Southern Delaware’s Local on the Menu, as well as a number of other affiliations. He is also an active member of Young Farmers and Ranchers and the Delmarva Poultry Industry.

Also during Homecoming Weekend, Baxter was presented with a Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievement.

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

UD’s Cooperative Extension aids local urban farms, gardens

UD Cooperative Extension is assisting with local urban gardens and farms.
UD Cooperative Extension is assisting with local urban gardens and farms.

Urban community and school gardens, and urban farms have been springing up all throughout the state and many of these have been helped along the way by the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension program, specifically Extension Master Gardeners and Master Food Educators.

Carrie Murphy, a Cooperative Extension agent at UD, explained that Master Gardeners, Master Food Educators and Extension as a whole are providing technical assistance and educational programming to gardens across the state, though the majority of the sites are in New Castle County.

“We’re fortunate to have over 100 Master Gardener volunteers just in this county and in the last few years we’ve had such an explosion of requests to support urban agriculture projects, school gardens, community gardens and back yard, small-scale production that we’ve focused on training Master Gardeners to help,” said Murphy, adding, “A subset of the Master Gardeners has really dedicated their volunteer time to providing urban agriculture outreach programs.”

Helpful hands

Murphy said each garden is different but in general, they have helped communities test their soil, construct garden beds, design planting schedules and learn about basic garden maintenance.

“We also work with communities to evaluate a potential garden site,” said Murphy. “We walk around the site, make sure they have what they need — for example, water and sunlight — and just insure that they get off to a successful start.”

Often, Murphy said, they are working with communities that are fairly new to agriculture and gardening.

UD Cooperative Extension is assisting with local urban gardens and farms.
UD Cooperative Extension is assisting with local urban gardens and farms.

“Master Gardeners and Master Food Educators help communities better understand where their food — like tomatoes, peppers and kale — comes from, and we partner regularly with the Delaware Center for Horticulture,” said Murphy.

One of the sites that has benefited from Extension’s help is the Garden at Linden, a community garden in Elsmere run by Elisa King, a 2013 UD graduate.

King said Murphy has made herself available to answer questions and helped get the garden up and running.

“She’s been awesome. I contacted her when we had some issues with certain plants. She stopped by and checked things out for us to see what the problem might be and gave us some possible solutions, so she has definitely made herself readily available,” said King. “She’s come to consult with us on planting season and after we built, we were trying to plan out the growing season and she helped us with that and provided us with some really good resources. Carrie has been involved whenever we need her to be.”

Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition

Another way that these gardens have been helped is through the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition, which is made up of nearly 80 individuals and organizations and co-chaired by Murphy and Tara Tracy, urban agriculture manager for the Delaware Center for Horticulture.

One notable urban farm supported by the coalition is the first in the city of Wilmington, the 12th and Brandywine Farm. This farm was developed as the flagship effort for the coalition. It has almost 1,400 square feet of a three-season growing area in raised beds, and is situated in an area of the city where residents have little direct access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tracy explained that the farm has both a production component to it — supporting a farmer’s market in the community — and a community garden component, as it includes another 600 square feet of raised beds for community members to rent plots in which to grow food for their families.

Community engagement

The main thing community gardens and farms need to be successful is buy-in from the community members.

Murphy said, “Many of the projects are homegrown and grassroots where community members have identified an interest in starting or connecting into a growing project.”

When the community is deeply involved in the planning and upkeep of their farm or garden, it leads to community development and community engagement.

“When you think about farming on a small scale in an urban environment, it has a different set of impacts and benefits and considerations. Really, the benefits of social and community are almost one in the same,” said Tracy. “People in a neighborhood that might be somewhat divisive can come together in a community setting to ‘green’ their neighborhood. It might not be through a community garden, but they come together planting trees or creating rain gardens, or something like that. It’s creating those connections with people so it has the benefit of improving the community, along with economic and aesthetic benefits.”

Garden for the Community

In Newark, there is a fine example of an urban farm in UD’s Garden for the Community, which is located on a third of an acre on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus. The garden includes vegetables, herbs and some fruits to provide fresh, local, sustainably grown produce and donates some of that food to the Food Bank of Delaware steadily throughout the year.

Of the Garden for the Community, Murphy said, “It’s a great growing and demonstration space where you can learn more about small-scale production and different types, including ethnic varieties, of fruits and vegetables.  I direct people to the site all the time.”

The University also has a UD Fresh to You program with produce grown on the CANR campus and sold at the UDairy Creamery and at the UD Farmers Markets throughout the summer.

In addition, the city of Newark announced that its first community garden will be opening in 2015 at Fairfield Park.

Murphy has been working with the city on the project and they are planning workshops in the winter for the community gardeners.

For those in Newark who are interested in a gardening plot, visit the city of Newark Parks and Recreation page.

For more information on the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas, can also be seen on UDaily.

UD’s Evans receives USDA grant to combat rose rosette disease

UD's Tom Evans is part of a research group that has been awarded $4.6 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study methods to combat rose rosette disease.
UD’s Tom Evans is part of a research group that has been awarded $4.6 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study methods to combat rose rosette disease.

The University of Delaware’s Tom Evans and a group of 18 fellow researchers from six institutions have received a five-year, $4.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (USDA-NIFA) Small Crop Research Initiative to study methods to combat rose rosette disease to protect the nation’s cultivated rose and the ornamental shrub industry.

Evans, professor of plant pathology in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said that rose rosette disease (RRD) — caused by the rose rosette virus (RRV) and transmitted by the wind transported eriophyid mite Phyllocoptes fructiphilus — is now widespread throughout in the U.S. and can be found commonly in muliflora rose.

“The disease poses an enormous threat to all cultivated roses and has the potential to destroy the $400 million rose industry, which forms the cornerstone of the $2.81 billion wholesale U.S. shrub market,” said Evans.

Symptoms of RRD may vary with rose cultivar but most commonly include proliferation of lateral shoots — called witches broom — unusual thorniness, reddening of these shoots and distorted flowers. This often leads to stunting, defoliation and, ultimately, death of the plant.

While most cultivated roses are susceptible to RRV and the mite, Rosa californica and R. spinosissima and three species native to the eastern U.S. — R. palustris, R. setigera and R. Carolina — are reported to have high levels of resistance. Only one species of rose, R. bracteata, has been reported to be resistant to the mite vector.

Evans said that “this project has national importance for the horticultural industry and the rose enthusiast as the disease has the potential to kill millions of cultivated roses if left unchecked.”

The short-term goal of the project is to develop best management practices to manage mite transmission of the virus while the long-term goal is to identify sources of resistance to RRD and quickly transfer resistance into elite roses for use by the industry.

In April 2013, a formal outreach program for the project was initiated with the organization of the Rose Rosette Summit held in Newark and for which Evans served as scientific adviser.

Evans has worked with Mike Dobres of Nova Flora, a commercial breeder of flowers and ornamental plants for the garden and landscape industry, and Conard-Pyle/Star Rose for more than a year to evaluate dozens of commercial rose cultivars for resistance to RRD in the field at UD’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Newark.

According to Evans, “The project includes not only university and USDA researchers and extension personnel but also commercial rose breeders from across the country as key collaborators. All of the rose material that is developed must be evaluated for resistance to the virus and for their performance under different environmental conditions at locations across the United States.”

In the Mid-Atlantic region, Evans’ laboratory will test roses developed by the project’s public and private breeders for resistance to RRV in the field and in a new greenhouse screening facility that will allow for year-round testing of rose material.

With the addition of a new graduate student to Evans’ research group in the spring, the program will be in full swing testing the nation’s new roses for their resistance to this important rose disease and the mite that transmits the virus.

The project’s director is David Byrne from Texas A&M University and other investigators include Brent Pemberton Xinwang Wang, Charlie Hall, Kevin Ong, Patricia Klein, Marco Palma and Luis Ribera from Texas A&M; Mark Windham, Alan Windham and Frank Hale from the University of Tennessee; Matthew Paret and Gary Knox from the University of Florida; Francisco Ochoa Corona and Jennifer Olson from Oklahoma State University; and John Hammond, Ramon Jordon and Ronald Ochoa from USDA-ARS in Beltsville, Maryland.

Originally published on UDaily >>

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