Farmers harvest wealth of information at Ag Week

HARRINGTON — On Monday, farmers from across the state gathered at the Delaware State Fairgrounds for the first day of the 11th annual Delaware Agriculture Week.

“Ag Week is about sharing the latest and best information about agriculture, from research updates to marketing tools and techniques,” said Dan Shortridge, communications and marketing director at the Department of Agriculture. “Farmers benefit because it’s one-stop shopping — they can go for a day or two and get up to speed on what’s new.”

Ag Week was started as a collaboration between the University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the Delaware Department of Agriculture in 2005 to consolidate a series of smaller events held throughout the year.

“There were various winter meetings sponsored by a lot of different players — agricultural groups, universities, state agencies, etc.,” Mr. Shortridge said. “Ag Week brought them all together to make it more convenient for farmers and others in the industry.”

Monday saw sessions on topics ranging from blueberry research to FDA regulations on cattle feed and farm storm-water management.

For poultry farmers, Monday afternoon had some important sessions including how to reduce stressors for chickens. The session focused on proper ventilation techniques, house temperatures and air levels as well as a supply of steady feed.

“It’s my second year and I like coming because they point out some new interesting things that are more detailed than just the big picture. And sometimes they choose to focus on things that you may overlook on your own or that are more important than what you think,” said Ryan Quillen, a poultry farmer from Dagsboro.

Mr. Quillen and his grandfather were only two of more than 2,000 farmers or agricultural stake holders who registered for the event, which also offered continuing educations credits as well.

“I’ve been here every year,” said Ike West, a poultry and vegetable farmer. “I come here to learn what’s new and to get my credits.”

Farmers need to obtain continuing education credits to purchase most agricultural chemicals like pesticides.
And to learn about new types of pesticide, feed and different farming equipment like irrigation systems, the Dover Building was packed with exhibitors showing off the latest and greatest in the farm industry.

According to the 2010 University of Delaware study, “The Impact of Agriculture on Delaware’s Economy,” farming is a $8 billion industry, making it the largest in the state. It also employs about 30,000 people.

And that isn’t by chance — one-third of the land in Delaware designated for crops and 116,000 acres of farmland has been permanently preserved from development through the Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation.

Local farms are getting increased support from right at home, especially in recent years.

“For fruit and vegetable farmers, the buy-local movement is really paying off. We’ve seen record sales growth at our farmers’ markets and other locations that sell directly to consumers,” Mr. Shortridge said. “And there’s definitely increased interest from grocery store customers in knowing where their food is coming from, and knowing that it was grown by a farmer just down the road.”

For more information about Delaware Agriculture Week, visit sites.udel.edu/delawareagweek/.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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