UD’s Isaacs, VanSant receive awards from Delaware Farm Bureau

UD's Isaacs, VanSant receive awards from Delaware Farm BureauThe University of Delaware’s Mark Isaacs and Ryan VanSant were presented statewide honors from the Delaware Farm Bureau during a ceremony held in December.

Isaacs received the 2015 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award and VanSant was named the bureau’s Youth Ambassador.

Mark Isaacs

Isaacs, the director of the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said he was honored and humbled to receive the award.

“It’s pretty special to me coming from that particular group, our state Farm Bureau, because I’ve always felt that what I did here was really connected to our state’s agriculture system and it’s important to me that those people at that level feel like we’ve done a good job,” Isaacs said. “It’s pretty special just because of who it came from and the importance of the Farm Bureau to Delaware agriculture.”

Isaacs, who also received the Sussex County Farm Bureau’s 2015 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, has been at UD for almost 30 years and said that he is proud of the way the 344-acre Carvel Research and Education Center campus has developed over the years and of the staff that the center has assembled.

“I feel really good that we’ve set our facility up here to meet the future needs of agriculture for the state, and that’s something I take a lot of pride in,” he said. “We positioned ourselves to make sure that agriculture stays number one in the state because we’ve been blessed in having some great staff. Being a part of hiring them and watching them develop and lead tremendous research and extension programs is really great.”

In addition to his service to the state’s agriculture through his work at UD, Isaacs has also worked with members of the General Assembly on governor-appointed boards to enhance Delaware agriculture.

He also has worked with students at the high school level, having served on agricultural advisory boards at Indian River, Woodbridge and Sussex Tech, and also having served on the school boards for the Indian River and Sussex Tech districts.

Isaacs said that reaching the next generation of Delaware growers is of the upmost importance to him.

“Being director here, we’ve tried to make opportunities for high school students to work here through summer jobs and internships to try to help them and also to recruit students into agriculture by making them aware of the diversity of career opportunities out there,” said Isaacs. “I love talking about the great things that Delaware agriculture does with our younger generation and I love seeing them get involved in agriculture. It’s pretty cool when you see you’re opening career opportunities for them when you talk to them.”

Isaacs, who was born and raised on a poultry, grain and hog farm and is the fourth generation of his family to farm, also teaches at UD. Last year he developed a course on “Understanding Delaware Agriculture,” which exposed students to all the different facets of the unique agricultural enterprises in the state.

Isaacs still farms grain and said that work is very important to him in keeping his roots tied to Delaware agriculture. “I think that in working with a lot of the clientele, when we talk about different things they feel my love for Delaware agriculture because I’ve spent my entire life in it — from a kid all the way to my professional career.”

As for his favorite part of his job, Isaacs said that it would have to be the teaching and the interactions he has with members of the industry.

“I really enjoy the one-on-one interactions, working with the clientele in the industry and having the opportunity to help them move their individual enterprises forward whether it be helping them look at different production options and communicating the research that’s out there and trying to help them enhance their operations,” said Isaacs.

Ryan VanSant

VanSant, a freshman majoring in animal science and French, has close ties to Delaware agriculture, having grown up on a family dairy farm in Middletown.

His family has been heavily involved with the Delaware Farm Bureau over the years, with his sister and older cousins having served as Farm Bureau Youth Ambassadors and his grandfather and uncle having served on the boards for the New Castle County and statewide Farm Bureau.

“When my mother was around my age, she was named Delaware Farm Bureau Queen, so we’ve been pretty involved in this organization for a long time,” said VanSant.

Being named Youth Ambassador is “honestly amazing,” VanSant said. “I had to interview against a couple other extremely qualified individuals for the position, and having been selected as a representative for such a prestigious organization and for an organization that I believe in is truly an honor. I have so much belief in the agriculture industries and the Delaware Farm Bureau and what this organization can do for Delaware agriculture. It’s an honor to be able to represent the organization that I love.”

VanSant said that his duties will include serving as a representative for the bureau, attending state functions and going to classrooms to teach younger students about agriculture and the different aspects of agricultural education.

He also will do representative work at the Delaware State Fair and attend meetings and banquets to represent the organization.

VanSant, who was recently named a finalist in a national competition for job interview skills through FFA, said it is important for the next generation to study agriculture because of the challenges facing the world to feed a growing global populace.

“When we look at the world as a whole and you see where the world is going in terms of climate change, and when you think about it terms of creating more food for the growing population, the only answer is agricultural education,” VanSant said. “We have to have individuals — whether it be agricultural teachers, or representatives of different organizations, or just people who are advocating for agriculture – who can spread the knowledge and the necessity of the agricultural industries, all those different aspects of why we need agriculture,” said VanSant.

Isaacs, who had VanSant as a student in his “Understanding Delaware Agriculture” class, said that with students like VanSant interested in agriculture, he knows the future is bright.

“He really is a fabulous young man. He’s got a lot going on. He’s a freshman and I would like to get him in the field of agriculture because he is a sharp student who shows great promise as a future leader in agriculture,” said Isaacs.

Article by Adam Thomas

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