Center for Experimental and Applied Economics opens at Townsend Hall

Center for Experimental and Applied Economics opens at Townsend HallWhen Dean Mark Rieger arrived on the University of Delaware campus in 2012, one of his first priorities at the helm of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was to establish a state-of-the-art research center for applied economics.

Roughly two years later, UD President Patrick Harker, Charles G. Riordan, deputy provost for research and scholarship, Kent Messer, Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, and CANR faculty and staff were on hand to see the realization of Rieger’s vision at the opening of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) held recently in Townsend Hall.

“Two years ago I knew we had the talent on campus that warranted a place of its own to house exciting research in applied economics,” said Rieger. “We just needed to find the space; it really pleases me that we’re here today to see that search come to fruition. We’re poised for future success through this great center.”

Dressed in personally embroidered white lab coats, 14 University officials, faculty members and undergraduate and graduate students, all with scissors in hand, cut the ceremonial ribbon, officially opening the center.

“I’m very happy to be here today because this event marks the culmination of a lot of hard work,” said Harker in his opening remarks to an audience of about 75 University members and special guests. “It’s centers like this that allow students to further their education while making the theory-to-practice connection.”

Some of the collaborative research efforts on display during the center’s opening included studies on improving water quality in the Northeast, research on oyster aquaculture in Delaware, and a study on cost-effective provision of ecosystem services through land conservation.

Located on the ground floor of Townsend Hall, the CEAE was formerly known as the Experimental Econ Lab and inhabited a very small area behind the CANR library.  The $300,000 remodel, funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation, helped to expand the modest lab that had been established in 2007.

“Our old lab was windowless, small and basic. It could have easily been mistaken as a fallout shelter,” said Messer. “Dean Rieger made the commitment in 2012 to take our lab to the next level. What we have now will allow us to expand and enhance our activities and research.”

In addition to hosting research, the center will also serve as headquarters for the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research (CBEAR), a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) consortium that partners UD with faculty at Georgia State University, Cornell University, the University of Chicago, Williams College, Albany State University, Ohio State University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Tennessee and Tufts University.

A $750,000, three-year USDA grant was awarded to Messer and his collaborators at the aforementioned institutions, and will help fund the work of CEAE.

Dan Hellerstein, agricultural economist with USDA, was on hand direct from Washington, D.C., and stressed the importance of the opening of the center.

“This consortium of universities won the competition that we held for the $750,000 grant, because they had the best application that laid out their ideas to engage in evidence-based research,” said Hellerstein. “The purpose is to use their findings to create better agri-environmental policy for all those involved. Before, during and after each experiment and field study, these researchers will talk to USDA policy types to make the most out of this three-year partnership.”

Mike McGrath, assistant secretary of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, and CBEAR authority, said the center will help to improve USDA programs, both environmental and economical, and improve communication between the USDA and the farmers themselves.

“No matter what their product – livestock, grain, dairy, fruit and vegetables – farmers would be better served by more economical and environmentally conscious programs and methods,” McGrath said. “The goal of CBEAR is to research and develop those programs through the USDA and educate the farmers.”

Messer stated that CBEAR is essentially a “center within a center” as it pertains to CEAE, but further expanded on how the two will work together, saying, “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.”

Article by Robert Kalesse

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

Santa Claus to make festive holiday stop at UDairy Creamery

Breakfast with Santa at Clayton Hall for alumni and kidsDuring this busy holiday season, Santa Claus will make a stop at the University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery from 1-4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 22.

Those who stop by on Monday will be able to meet and get their picture taken with Santa as well as try some of the creamery’s seasonal treats. Children under 12 years of age will also get a free scoop of ice cream.

New ice cream flavors available for the holidays at the UDairy Creamery include peppermint hot chocolate, eggnog, cherry macaroon, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin cookie and peppermint bark. The creamery is also offering special holiday kits featuring everything needed for an ice cream party.

In addition to their ice cream, the creamery has ice cream sandwich cookie packs with different flavors included in each for $10 and seasonal ice cream pies available for $12.99. The flavors of pies include eggnog and sweet potato pie in graham crusts and peppermint hot chocolate and peppermint bark in Oreo crusts.

For those looking for last minute holiday presents, the UDairy Creamery is still offering Blue Hen Blankets, made from the wool shorn from UD’s flock of Dorset sheep at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as Dare to Bee honey from UD’s apiary and UDairy Creamery hats, shirts, toy cows and gift certificates that can be used at the creamery or the GoBabyGo! Café in the Health Sciences Complex at the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.

Photo by Doug Baker

New UD research center — ag policy meets economics

UD-CBEARA new research center opened up at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Monday. At the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics, scientists and economists will conduct studies on how consumers value ecosystem services.

Funded by a $750,000 federal grant, the center will serve as USDA’s headquarters for a research consortium called C-BEAR, which stands for the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Policy Research.

They’re focused on using behavioral economics to better understand and execute agri-environmental policy. The new center’s director Kent Messer says that means asking consumers what the dollar value they’d place on ecosystem services provided by, for example, natural flood barriers, pristine beaches or locally harvested oysters. The data is then used to communicate directly with farmers to improve facilitation of agricultural programs.

By Eli Chen

– See more at: http://www.wdde.org/70196-ud-opens-research-center#sthash.KLVM3yW3.dpuf

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 >>

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