UD students and professors learn from Amish about sustainable agriculture

September 28, 2012 under CANR News

University of Delaware students and professors took a trip over the summer to visit an Amish family in Dover to learn about sustainable agriculture practices. The trip was co-sponsored by UD’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences and the Society of Natural History of Delaware.

“While conventional agriculture is the means in which we supply millions of people with affordable food, some feel that the majority of these practices are not sustainable,” said Kali Kniel associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, who went along on the trip.

At the farm, the group, which included members from Delaware State University, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and members of the Delaware community, learned about how the family cans their own vegetables, fruit and poultry. The vegetables and poultry used in this process are grown and raised on the farm, and the family uses these canning practices to help store their food for the winter.

Al Matlack, adjunct professor in chemistry and biochemistry, who also went on the trip explained that the family designed and built their house themselves and that no electric lines enter the house, with “propane tanks outside providing energy for a gas stove and a gas refrigerator. For light over the table in the living-dining room, they pull a cord on a battery-powered lamp.” He also explained that the Amish “make their own clothes from purchased cloth, which may contain synthetic fibers.”

The group then traveled to visit an Amish furniture store to see the fine craftsmanship of Amish woodworking. There they discovered that a lot of the furniture—made of solid cherry, oak, walnut and hickory–is shipped in from Ohio and made from whole pieces of wood.

Wrapping up the day, the group visited Detweilers farm and toured their large vegetable farms and apiary. The farmers at Detweilers raise sheep and chickens, which produce fresh eggs for the farm. The group talked with the farmers about erosion prevention, crop rotation, food preservation and livestock welfare.

Matlack explained that the water used to irrigate their garden is provided by a well and compressed air, and that their indoor plumbing is supplied by a windmill.

Kniel said that the trip was very enjoyable and showed that sustainable agriculture can still take place in the 21st century. “This trip highlights the fact that we can all take part in sustainable agriculture whether it is through our own garden, shopping at farmers markets, or by canning fresh-picked peaches.”

Article by Adam Thomas



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