CANR student Jake Jones participates in the New Century Farmer program

September 3, 2013 under CANR News

jakejones306University of Delaware student Jake Jones was chosen as one of 50 students nationwide to participate in the FFA’s 2013 New Century Farmer Program, which took place July 14-20 in Des Moines, Iowa.

During the intensive five-day workshop, participants were able to network with industry experts, as well as with their fellow participants. Jones said that this networking was very helpful for him.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “You get to go out and meet people from all around the country. You get to learn and to network, and you get to see those people that you wouldn’t normally have contact with.”

For example, Jones, who is a junior majoring in plant science with a minor in food and agribusiness marketing and management, was able to interact with apricot farmers from California, a far cry from the farm he grew up on in Milford, Del., where his family raised chickens and cows and grew grain.

Hearing about the program from his adviser, Arba Henry, instructor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Jones said the most informative part of the program was learning about how farm operations are passed down from one generation to the next.

Henry said of the program, “The New Century Farmer Program Jake experienced will benefit him in his future goals, whether it is in agribusiness or returning to his five-generation family farm.”

In addition to the educational opportunities afforded to the participants, such as listening to speakers talk about farm issues and learning about topics such as how banks view farm operations, there was also time for fun and bonding.

Participants took part in a leadership and team building ropes course, field and operation tours, and toured the DuPont Pioneer campus.

Jones has been involved in FFA since high school, and he currently works on UD’s research farm in Georgetown. Although he is a junior, Jones is hoping to graduate this year and is considering graduate school.

The New Century Farmer conference is sponsored by DuPont Pioneer, Case IH, CSX Corp. and Farm Credit with media partner Successful Farming as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

Article by Adam Thomas


Stefanie Ralph excels at agricultural education

November 8, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Stefanie Ralph, a University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) alumnus, has been named the 2012 Smyrna School District Teacher of the Year. Ralph graduated in 2007 with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural education and technology with a concentration in natural resources, and with a minor in landscape horticulture.

Of the award, Ralph said, “Being chosen as the District Teacher of the Year is unquestionable the most extraordinary honor of my career, and I wish to express my gratitude.  I think, at some point, every teacher begins to question if they’re doing a good job, especially since it often goes unrecognized. Being selected restores my confidence as a teacher, and it’s encouraging to know that my colleagues believe that I’m doing a good job.”

Ralph teaches 7th grade Agriscience at Smyrna Middle School, and she said that she believes that the school is filled with great teachers.  “The entire faculty at Smyrna is highly qualified and all go above and beyond the call of duty,” said Ralph.

Ralph said that she finds teaching middle school challenging but rewarding at the same time. Reflecting how most students in that age range are still trying to find themselves, Ralph said that the students are “constantly trying on different personas. They need to know they are cared for and are needed. It is rewarding to obtain a trusting, meaningful rapport with students as they enthusiastically grow and mature from the first day they walk into my class.”

Having been involved in 4-H and FFA for 13 years, Ralph said that it has been a lifelong goal of hers to educate and promote awareness about the importance of agriculture to students who may be unaware about the critical role it plays in their day-to-day lives. “I believe that education is the foundation of success and through my course, students develop various life skills to become active, contributing citizens to today’s society,” said Ralph. “I became a teacher to not only make a difference in a child’s life, but to prepare students for the future, as they are the future.”

While she attended CANR, Ralph said that her education helped her learn about various aspects of the agriculture industry, from taking classes on animal science and plant and soil science to agribusiness and natural resource management, among others. “By taking these various courses, I was able to expand my knowledge base in the agriculture industry; thus preparing me to teach various courses as an agriculture educator,” said Ralph.

Ralph also noted that she particularly enjoyed her study abroad trip to New Zealand, where she learned about pastoral livestock production, and that she enjoyed professors such as Patricia Barber, a retired faculty member from the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, David Frey, associate professor and assistant Chair in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Ed Kee, retired University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Specialist and University alumnus.

The person who she originally learned about agriculture from, however, was her grandmother. “As a young girl, I remember helping my grandmother in her garden, digging in the dirt, having fun, not realizing at that time she was teaching me to appreciate our environment. She was planting the seeds for me to grow and aspire in a way to continue my journey to learn more about my passion for plants and agriculture.”

For any current students who are hoping to one day become teachers themselves, Ralph offered some words of wisdom stressing the importance of preparation and passion in teaching. “The advice I would give to a future teacher is to show your passion in your lessons and planning; show the students that you are there for them to learn and you will stop at nothing for them to succeed.”

Article by Adam Thomas


UD’s Keenan one of 50 students named a New Century Farmer

September 12, 2012 under CANR News

Jacqueline Keenan didn’t find out about the FFA’s New Century Farmer program until her senior year at the University of Delaware, which happened to be the last year of her eligibility. Better late than never.

Through an email forwarded to her from Arba Henry, instructor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, Keenan learned about the program and decided to enroll, eventually ending up as one of only 50 students from across the country accepted.

She said that it was a life-changing experience. “If anybody is really serious about going back to production agriculture after graduating, they really need to look into it. I learned so much in that week,” said Keenan.

Having grown up on her family’s farm — Vincent Farms in Laurel, Del. — Keenan, who graduated in 2012 and majored in agricultural education and agriculture and natural resources, was able to learn from and network with industry professionals at the New Century Farmer conference held in Des Moines, Iowa, in July.

As part of the workshop, Keenan and her fellow New Century Farmers learned about topics such as discovering how producers can profit from value-added products and the use of technology and toured facilities including the DuPont Pioneer campus.

Perhaps the best part about the conference, however, was the lasting relationships she created with her fellow farmers from all over the United States.

“Probably half of the kids that were there, I still talk to on a regular basis, whether it’s through Facebook or email. Several of them became close friends and we text almost every day,” said Keenan.

She also added that the networking aspect of the conference was incredibly helpful, as she got the opportunity to pick the brains of industry professionals. “Talking to people who have been there and done it just really added a huge amount to my education.”

In addition to this year’s conference, there are other future opportunities afforded to alumni of the program and Keenan said she plans to take advantage of them. “Every year, they have an alumni conference, and then they have other activities scattered throughout the year,” said Keenan. “So you’re constantly going to learn more and go back and network, and that’s such a great thing that you need.”

Though she went to school for agricultural education, Keenan said that she now realizes that the place she is meant to be working is not in a school but on her family farm.

“Honestly, when I was graduating, I was so gung-ho that I was going to be an agricultural teacher, but as soon as the packing shed opened up and we got into full swing back into the melon season and the corn season, I realized I don’t want to do anything else,” said Keenan, a decision that she said will no doubt please her father.

“I know my father, he was devastated, saying, ‘So you’re really serious about being a teacher? Who’s going to work for me now?’ He wants me to be here, and I just feel like this is where I’m supposed to be. I went to school for it, I really enjoy this, I want to do nothing else. I love it.”

For those interested in the New Century Farmer program, visit this website.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Barber awarded honorary FFA Degree

November 1, 2011 under CANR News

Patricia Barber, associate professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, was awarded an Honorary American FFA Degree at the 84th National FFA Convention that took place in Indianapolis from Oct. 19-22.

The award is given to those who advance agricultural education and FFA, formerly Future Farmers of America, through outstanding personal commitment. All recipients will receive a certificate and medal and their names will be permanently recorded.

In a release accompanying the announcement of her honorary degree, Barber was cited as having a huge influence on the training of current agricultural teachers in Delaware and other states. The assistance that she has provided to the Delaware FFA through acting as a judge and through hosting state and national officer visits during her time at UD was also highlighted.

Always wanting to help make her students better teachers, the release states that her students consider her much more than a teacher. “They consider her a mentor and someone they can call on outside the classroom. Many continue to call on Pat as they begin their teaching careers. Her easy manner, upbeat, and caring attitude have helped many a beginning teacher get through that first year. Many stay in touch with her as they get married and begin their own families. This is a testament as to how much she cares for students.”

The National FFA Organization works to enhance the lives of youth through agricultural education. Without the efforts of highly dedicated individuals, thousands of young people would not be able to achieve success that, in turn, contributes directly to the overall wellbeing of the national organization. The Honorary American FFA Degree is an opportunity to recognize those who have gone beyond the valuable daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students, inspiring confidence in a new generation of agriculturists.

The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 523,309 student members—all preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture—as part of 7,487 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The National FFA Organization changed to its present name in 1988, in recognition of the growth and diversity of agriculture and agricultural education. The 84th National FFA Convention drew over 50,000 FFA members, advisors, and guests from across the country. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Visit for more information.

Members of the National FFA Board of Directors approved the nomination.


UD sophomore Jenna Byers keeps busy as FFA Agricultural Ambassador

August 29, 2011 under CANR News

Having worked four jobs last semester, cutting down to three just wouldn’t satisfy Jenna Byers, a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), so when she saw the opportunity to become an FFA Agricultural Ambassador, she decided to add a fourth.

In addition to being a full-time student as a food and agribusiness marketing and management major, Byers works as the UDairy Creamery’s communications and marketing manager, is a Blue Hen Ambassador and serves as a research assistant studying poultry in the laboratory of Robert Alphin, instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and manager of the Agriculture Experiment Center.

And she has now also taken on the challenge of being an FFA Agricultural Ambassador, a term that will last until July 2012.

Byers admits that her penchant for taking on occupational responsibility may be getting a little bit out of hand and jokes, “I don’t like to be bored. If I hit five jobs, that’s when I know I have to stop, so four is kind of my stopping point.”

In order to become an FFA Ambassador, Byers was required to provide a video of herself making an educational presentation to an audience. Having been a presenter at a recent Ignite Newark event, where participants make a five-minute PowerPoint presentation on a topic of their choosing, Byers provided FFA with her presentation “How to Buy a Gift for Your Girlfriend Without Getting Dumped.” Byers said that this outside of the box thinking helped land her the job, as FFA representatives told her the video was the only non-agriculture topic submitted.

As an FFA Ambassador, Byers is one of 20 students from across the nation who are required to complete 30 hours of presentations, which she will give to high schools and clubs and organizations, in order to raise awareness of the importance of agriculture and develop and implement sustainable agricultural awareness programs to inspire and motivate local communities.

Through the FFA program, more than 83,400 people have learned the value of agriculture, with 72 students from 27 states having served as ambassadors giving presentations in 34 states and three foreign countries.

Byers explained that FFA Ambassadors are encouraged to present to a broad spectrum of audiences and that they vary their presentations to explain diverse topics ranging from the basics of “what is agriculture” to more specific topics such as “how bio-technology can help solve the global food crisis.”

Locally, Byers has already set up presentations with Lake Forest and Glasgow high schools, and she hopes to present at other high schools in the area that have strong agricultural programs, as well as some elementary schools. She also hopes to present at schools in Maryland, where she attended elementary school.

Becoming an FFA Ambassador has its perks, such as travel outside of the state for educational exercises. Byers completed a week-long training program in North Carolina geared at getting the ambassadors prepared to use software such as PowerPoint and Prezi for their presentations. In the winter, she will travel to Indianapolis where she will learn how to actually write the presentations.

Byers also received a $1,000 scholarship for becoming an FFA Ambassador and FFA equipped her with a laptop, a projector and a digital camera. If she stays with the program next year, they will also give her an iPad to help her with her presentations.

For someone so involved in the CANR community and agricultural outreach, Byers admits that she did not have a lot of agricultural experience before coming to UD. “I’m actually not from an agriculture background — I didn’t grow up on a farm or anything like that. I got into agriculture when I came into UD and started doing research with Professor Alphin and his research group doing poultry research.”

Byers explained that she was involved with the poultry research throughout her freshman year and continues to be involved, and from that, she “just got more involved in agriculture, got into more activities and so I have kind of a short agriculture background but it’s been a fun one.”

Now Byers gets to spread her agricultural experience and knowledge with people of all ages throughout the state and the surrounding areas, and as for all of her jobs and responsibilities, Byers stressed that she’s not worried about time management.

“Honestly, I’m not too worried. I’ve always worked multiple jobs. I’ve scheduled my classes in a way that’s going to allow me to have a lot of large blocks of free time. That way I can come to the Creamery and do work and do my presentations during the day.”

With a full course load and four jobs, Byers will be anything but bored in the fall.

The FFA Ambassador program is sponsored by BASF, Syngenta, the National Pork Board and Elanco Animal Health.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily > >


March 3: Delaware 4-H, local high schools hosting forum on healthy lifestyles

February 25, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Appoquinimink and Middletown High Schools along with Delaware 4-H are hosting a community issues forum on “Weighing the Options, How Can We Encourage Healthy Weights Among America’s Youth” on Wednesday March 3, from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Appoquinimink High School, Commons Area, 1080 Bunker Hill Road, Middletown Del. 

This forum is open to the public to share their ideas and thoughts on how to help youth live a healthier lifestyle in the Middletown, Odessa & Townsend (MOT) area.  A $2,000 grant is allotted for solutions made through the discussion and conclusions from this community forum.  All residents of the M.O.T. area are encouraged to attend and voice their opinions on this issue.   We hope you’ll come out to share your ideas and support today’s students (tomorrow’s leaders) who are seeking grass-roots solutions to the challenge of increasing the nutritional health of youth in our area.

 If you have any questions about this event, please contact Appoquinimink High School Agriscience Teacher Stephen Scheib at , Middletown High School Agriscience Teacher Kellie Michaud at, or New Castle County 4-H Educator Katie Daly Jones at   

The funding to support this program comes from the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2005-45201-0332, through a grant administered by the National 4-H Council. This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2002-45201-01528.  Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Appoquinimink and Middletown High School FFA Chapters are local chapters of the National FFA, a dynamic youth organization within agricultural education that changes lives and prepares students for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.  For more information, visit  

4-H is a community of young people across Delaware and America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills.  For more information visit