A UD Farm part of 50-state Why I Farm tour
Natalina Sents wasn’t ready for a cubicle job. When Sents graduated this May from Iowa State University with a degree in agri-business, she approached Beck’s Hybrid, a regional retail seed supply company with an idea. In the summer of her junior year, Sents interned with Beck’s and returned to share her vision to embark on a 50-state agriculture road trip, recording farmers’ responses in each state and celebrating their reasons for “Why I Farm.” Beck’s loved the idea to advocate for agriculture and agreed to sponsor and provide a platform for Sent’s journal of photos and interviews on their Why I Farm website.
The First State was Sent’s ninth stop on a tour she estimates will conclude in May, 2017. Active on social media sites, Sents shared her vision on Twitter chats such as the weekly, national #AgChat, and through her network, earned an invitation to tour the University of Delaware’s Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, which serves as the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources primary agronomic crop research farm. UD’s farm will be the first land grant farm featured on Why I Farm website.
Sents had informally visited research farms before, but the Carvel Center’s 344 acres of research plots was her first official guided look at how a land grant ag experimental station works. Brian Hearn, farm manager at Carvel served as host, driving Sents slowly through the various variety trials conducted by UD faculty and Extension researchers.
“I think it is really cool to see how you are testing the practices, breeds and technologies that will become mainstream in your state and help farmers do their job better, improve efficiencies, profitability and help farmers keep up with environmental standards,” Sents said.
As Hearn navigated Sents through numerous research plots, he shared the unique rewards and challenges of managing an ever-changing research farm. Click here to see Sent’s interview with Hearn and why he farms.
No stranger to vistas of amber waves of grain and lush corn fields, two scenes prompted the Iowa native to request a stop and jump out of the UD pickup truck for a closer look. Sents found UD’s combine, hard at harvest work, and scaled to better fit smaller plots, a curiosity. “They’re much bigger where I come from,” she observed.
Seven rows of blueberries belied another personal inspection. Hearn explained that the 400 blueberry bushes grown are part of a variety trial conducted by Extension Associate Scientist Emmalea Ernest and will help researchers determine which varieties of blueberries might be suitable and recommended as an alternative crop for Delaware farmers to consider.
Many of the bushes were sporting ripe blueberries and with a nod from Hearn, Sents happily sampled her first of the season – photographing the small handful of the tiny sweet, blue globes before savoring them as an afternoon snack. “If I had known about these, I would not have had lunch!” Sents exclaimed.
On the road, Sents tries hard to eat healthy and locally, stopping at fast food restaurants only for the free wireless and daily caffeine treat. Her lime green Ford Fiesta is packed to the gills in organized precision, and serves as her mobile office and closet to go.
Sents plans her schedule approximately a week or two in advance, carefully budgeting her stipend by staying with friends or AirBnB locations. On average, Sents stays about one week in each state. Although she spent only two and a half days in Delaware, it was loaded with a week’s worth of experiences. In addition to her stop at the University of Delaware, Sents visited Walter Hopkins, owner of Green Acres Dairy Farm in Lewes, Lavender Fields in Milton, attended the Georgetown Farmer’s Market and other locations.
She appreciated how all her Delaware stops enjoy a loyal local and visitor following, a result of engaging with the community by promoting their locations and products as Agritourism locations.
Sents appreciated Delaware’s unique role as a small state that’s big on agriculture. She felt Delaware size and proximity to the coast makes the state’s blending of agriculture and tourism a natural attraction. “Visitors can come to the beach in the morning, and visit a dairy farm shortly after,” Sents said, “and they don’t have to drive three hours!”
Delaware’s emphasis on farm preservation, something learned while talking with farmers, impressed the Iowan. “I am sure other states have something like that, but here in Delaware, how it plays out here is very apparent. It was the first I had heard of it.”
Sents marveled at Delaware agriculture offerings, from melons, to lima beans and chickens. “Coming from Iowa, I’ve experienced more crop diversity here than back home,” Sents said.
Sents still has a way to go before reaching all 50 states, but in advocating for agriculture, many commonalities among farmers have emerged.
“Across the board, farmers motivations boil down to the same values that the people in the grocery store have. They’re motivated by their family, their faith, their land, legacy and caring for their community,” Sents reflected. As with all she has met so far, Delaware is happily similar. “I appreciate the hospitality of farmers and agribusinesses. It is great to see people’s pride in their state.”
Follow Natalina Sents on Twitter via @Roots_journey and the #WhyIFarm hashtag.