Chatting Chickens for Poultry Month with Georgie Cartanza

LISTEN TO Georgie's EPISODE HERE OR FIND US ON YOUR FAVORITE PODCAST LISTENING APP!

 

Show Notes

Nick & Tessa MacDonald

Summary

On this episode of the Farm Credit AgVocates podcast, Kurt Fuchs catches up with Georgie Cartanza, Poultry Extension Agent for the University of Delaware, about her role in serving Delmarva’s poultry industry. Georgie has over 27 years of experience helping farmers, integrators and the public understand best management practices and the impact local farms have on the community through research. Although Georgie doesn’t come from an ag background, she has worked for two of the largest integrators on Delmarva and has been a poultry farmer for 16 years. 
 
As if her resume wasn’t impressive enough, in 2017, Georgie was chosen as the first Nuffield International Farming Scholar from the United States.   

Links

 

Transcript

Kurt Fuchs:

Welcome to the Farm Credit AgVocates podcast. I'm your host Kurt Fuchs, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at MidAtlantic Farm Credit. I'm excited to introduce today's guest, Georgie Cartanza.

Georgie is well-known in poultry circles throughout the Delmarva Peninsula. She's been involved in the sector in different capacities throughout her impressive career. She's currently the Poultry Specialist for University of Delaware Extension, a Nuffield USA Farming scholar, a poultry grower herself, and a tremendous advocate for agriculture. I've had the pleasure of interacting with Georgie throughout the years on numerous occasions and I'm very glad to have her with us today to share her story.

Georgie, thanks for joining us.

Georgie Cartanza:

Thanks for the opportunity to be here.

Kurt Fuchs:

Georgie, why don't we get started at the beginning.

How did you first get involved in the poultry industry?

Georgie's Start in the Poultry Industry

Georgie Cartanza:

When I went to college, I knew I wanted to do something to help farmers, but I really didn't know what that would look like. Purdue happened to come do on-campus interviews at Delaware State University. It was through that on-campus interview that I got the chance to interview and ultimately ended up with my first job out of college working for Purdue. I thought that if I wanted to stay local on Delmarva, the poultry industry was one of the biggest things here, so that's how I ended up in the chicken business.

Kurt Fuchs:

Did you have any Ag background before you went to school or was that kind of your first foray into it?

Georgie Cartanza:

That was really my first foray into it. I grew up in town and I had befriended someone who was a grain farmer. I saw just how hard their family worked, the sacrifices they made, and the risks they took. I thought that if I can do something to help those people, that's how I would like to spend my career.

Kurt Fuchs:

Why don't you tell us a little bit about your current role with the University of Delaware Extension?

Working as a Poultry Extension Agent

Georgie Cartanza:

I work for the Cooperative Extension for University of Delaware, and I'm a Poultry Extension Agent. I do outreach and education with poultry farmers, but also with community groups. A lot of what I do is to try to help farmers follow BMPs, which are best management practices. To be better neighbors, be more competitive in terms of how well they're growing their chickens, and looking at animal welfare. All of those kinds of things would be things that I would try to help poultry farmers, in particular with.

I do a lot of outreach and education with community groups so that they can really get an understanding of just how important the poultry industry is to Delaware, to our region, and how many jobs it provides. I also do outreach with kids and students in schools. We're actually working on an Embryology program for Sussex County that we're going to be piloting in October. This past spring, I did a “Follow the Flock,” where I did zoom meetings with students.

I really have quite a variety of who I engage with and what I try to help them understand. Ultimately I'm just trying to help make it so that our industry is more sustainable and that we're doing the right things for the environment, for the community, and for the wellbeing of the chickens.

Kurt Fuchs:

That keeps you pretty busy, no doubt about it. You not only educate the growers and the community from an extension point of view, but you're also a grower yourself.

Can you tell us how you got involved in growing chickens?

Growing Chickens and its Challenges

Georgie Cartanza:

We were on the verge of having our third child when we decided that maybe this would be a good thing and I looked at it as a way for us to pay for our children to go to college. That's really what made me decide to try to be a poultry girl myself. I felt like I was helping other people be successful and I thought that maybe we could be successful with that as well and this would be a means or a way to help assist in paying for our children's college.

Kurt Fuchs:

As a grower and someone that works with other growers on a daily basis, what would you say are some of the challenges that the industry currently faces?

Georgie Cartanza:

I think about how over the past 20 years, how the population has changed and grown in Kent and Sussex County, Delaware. There’s been almost a 55% increase in population in Sussex County alone in the past 20 years. You have people who are moving here that maybe don't have as much familiarity with agriculture. They are not familiar with the smells that may be associated with agriculture or some of the things they may see, like chickens loaded on trucks going to processing plants.

I think one of our challenges is to really try to connect with some of the people that have moved here so that they understand what we're doing, why we do it, and the importance of it to our economy. We want to be able to be sustainable, to be good neighbors, and we want to see this industry thrive here for years to come. These are people who are going to influence politics and legislation. I think if we can build a bridge of understanding of what we're doing and why we're doing it, I think we can succeed at that.

There has also been a lot of focus on water quality. Farmers have adopted a lot of technologies and we’ve done a lot of things to try to lessen our impact on water quality. The thing that's coming at us pretty hard and fast is air emissions and the impact of the air that's coming out of poultry houses to the community and to the environment. We're doing some things with vegetative buffers to address that, but there's always an opportunity to improve and find solutions that will help resolve some of those challenges.

Kurt Fuchs:

Well, certainly no shortage of challenges and we certainly appreciate all the support you offer to the industry and to the growers.

On a lighter note, what do you like best about being involved in the chicken community?

Georgie Cartanza:

I love helping people. When I go to a farm and see a farmer who has been struggling, I give them a few key things to really focus their attention on. Coming back two months later or getting a phone call saying that they did what I said and the flock settled in the top 5 or that they are doing a lot better is the best thing about my job. In all the roles I've played in agriculture, it really has been the service to try to help other people, and to me, there's nothing better than that.

Kurt Fuchs:

I know you've been involved in different roles over the years with previously the Delmarva Poultry Industry, now called the Delmarva Chicken Association and served on different committees, one of which is the Grower Committee.

Can you tell us a little bit about that involvement?

Advocating on Behalf of the Industry

Georgie Cartanza:

The Grower Committee previously focused on trying to do outreach, education, and give additional education to poultry farmers. While we have not done a lot in the past year because COVID has really slowed things down, moving forward, the shift may be more towards advocacy and really trying to build that bridge of understanding with community groups. The role of the Grower Committee is evolving and changing, and we'll see where that goes in the near future.

Kurt Fuchs:

I think that makes a lot of sense. If anything, farmers and the chicken industry are all about adapting to current situations and circumstances and the groups that advocate on their behalf are no different. I look forward to seeing what comes out of that.

Georgie, one of the things I enjoy most about the way that you advocate on behalf of the industry is on your Facebook and your social media posts. You've done some music video type posts and they create quite a buzz.

How do you come up with them?

Georgie Cartanza:

I may sound a little bit crazy, but oftentimes I don't plan them, they will just hit me. I don't know if maybe God's putting a little something on my heart that says, "Hey, this is what you need to do today." I remember when I turned Elton John's "Rocket Man" song into "Chicken Man," I woke up at 5:00 that morning with that song on my mind and changing the lyrics to represent chicken farmers. I already had a chicken suit and an electronic keyboard, so I asked one of my friends to videotape me singing the song.  I think by 7:30 or 8:00 that morning, I had made the video and posted it.

I don't really plan ahead, but I do like to sing and dance and I do have some dress up stuff. It just comes from my heart. That's really how some of the more funny ones have come about. Tiger King was popular on Netflix when COVID first hit, so I did a parody of him. It’s something that just hit me and I thought that it might be funny or uplifting to somebody, especially when we were going through all the unknowns and anxiety when COVID first hit.

Kurt Fuchs:

I can say on this end, mission accomplished. Those posts always bring a smile to my face. Not only does it have that de-stressor component, but as you're doing those posts, it does advocate on behalf of the industry and helps bring awareness, so keep them coming. We love them.

Georgie Cartanza:

Well, thank you. I made videos of me actually doing different tasks in the chicken house and explaining why we did it or how we did it. In one video, I was wind rowing and dancing on the tractor. I've had some of the poultry farmers say to me that they have never even thought about dancing on their tractor, but that maybe they should try it.

Kurt Fuchs:

A whole tractor dancing movement.

Georgie Cartanza:

Yeah.

Kurt Fuchs:

On a little more serious note during the intro, we mentioned briefly that you are a Nuffield USA Farming Scholar. In fact, you're the first USA Farming Scholar for Nuffield.

Can you tell us a little bit about that program and your experience?

The Nuffield Farming Scholarship

Georgie Cartanza:

The Nuffield Farming Scholarship is a scholarship that has been around for over 80 years and it's something that traditionally the majority of the scholars would be from Australia and England. It was actually first introduced by William Morris. He came to the Ford factory and learned how to build cars and then went back to England and started a business building cars. He really felt as though the opportunity to travel, learn about things and then be able to come back and share that information or be able to do something that benefited the community was a great thing to do. He didn't have any children, so he started Nuffield Scholarship program.

There are different types of scholarship, but this one is specifically for farming. The amount of scholars will vary from year to year. At this point, they come from Australia, England and New Zealand. There's some from France, Germany, Netherlands, Brazil, and the USA has come into it in the past few years. It’s a great opportunity for somebody who's a farmer to get the opportunity to travel and experience agriculture in different areas of the world.

Typically it's a program where you would travel for eight weeks with a group of people called the Global Focus Program. For my Global Focus Program I got to go to Brazil and Mexico. We came back to Washington DC, then to New York, Ireland, France and New Zealand. You spend about a week in each of those countries learning about different aspects of agriculture. Then you do an individual study where you come up with a topic that you think would be beneficial and helpful to share with your community. The individual study will last about eight weeks as well. You can break that up and you choose what countries you go to.

When I did that, I went to Germany, Israel, and the Netherlands. I studied and looked at innovations in poultry that I thought would help us be more sustainable here on Delmarva, especially when you look at commercial poultry production. It's something that totally took me out of my comfort zone, but it definitely helped broaden my horizons because it made me appreciate other aspects of agriculture, but also come back with some ideas that I thought would be really beneficial to our area.

Kurt Fuchs:

I know that Farm Credit is a big supporter of that program. We appreciate what it provides to both the folks that go through the program, but the benefits it can bring to agriculture in general. We'll go ahead and leave a link to the website for Nuffield Farming Scholars in the show notes and hopefully folks can check that out and learn more.

Georgie Cartanza:

They are taking applications for the next group of scholars, so if you have interest in traveling and there's a topic you'd like to explore, Nuffield is an awesome opportunity for an individual to learn and grow. You don't want it to just be about yourself. You also want it to be about how it is going to serve the greater good of what you're doing.

Lightning Round

Kurt Fuchs:

Georgie, this is the fun part of the interview and it's ahead of the last question, but this is our lightning round.

Georgie Cartanza:

All right.

Kurt Fuchs:

In our lightning round, we do five either/or type questions. I'll give you basically two things and you pick which one best fits for you.

Georgie Cartanza:

Okay.

Kurt Fuchs:

Are you ready?

Georgie Cartanza:

I am ready.

Kurt Fuchs:

After the past 18 months or so of a lot of online meetings, do you prefer Zoom or WebEx?

Georgie Cartanza:

Zoom.

Kurt Fuchs:

All right.

When you do have time to get away from your birds, is it the beach or the mountains?

Georgie Cartanza:

The beach.

Kurt Fuchs:

As far as social media posts and the best platforms for your videos, would you say Facebook or TikTok?

Georgie Cartanza:

Facebook.

Kurt Fuchs:

Background music for those videos, would you go with Whitney Houston or Gloria Estefan?

Georgie Cartanza:

Probably Whitney Houston.

Kurt Fuchs:

Good choice.

Then in the current world of chicken sandwich wars, is it Chick-fil-A or Popeye's?

Georgie Cartanza:

I would have to say Chick-fil-A.

Kurt Fuchs:

Good choice.

All excellent answers. Five out of five.

Georgie Cartanza:

Thanks.

Kurt Fuchs:

We usually end our interviews with a final question and that is, what do you advocate for in agriculture?

What do you Advocate for in Ag?

Georgie Cartanza:

The main thing I advocate for in agriculture is that people should have the freedom to choose. Whether you value organic, conventional farming, or you may choose to be a vegetarian. What I really try to advocate for is that we all have the freedom to choose and that all of these methods of production can all coexist and that's what's great about having that freedom to choose.

The consumer drives a lot of what we do. We produce and provide what the consumer wants. It's all driven by that. That would be something that I really try to advocate for and try to help build the understanding that farmers are really the first environmentalists. We do genuinely care about the environment, if we don't take care of it, it's not going to take care of us. Farmers do care about their animals that they take care of. While they're responsible for them, they're going to provide the very best environment for them that they can.

Those are really the things that I really try to impart on people when I connect with them. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so try to figure out why you are being told this story and what’s the motivation. This is so you can really understand and make wise decisions that are about your values and that you spend your food dollars on the things that are really important to you. Make sure it represents what you really think it does.

Kurt Fuchs:

Excellent.

Georgie, thank you again for your time. Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of agriculture. We appreciate all that you do.

Georgie Cartanza:

Thank you Kurt. I really appreciate the chance to share and if somebody has questions or I can be of help to them, I'm a text, a phone call, or an email away.

Kurt Fuchs:

Well, we appreciate it.

 Remember folks, if you enjoyed this interview, don't forget to rate, review, subscribe, and share it with a friend. To get podcasts notes and subscribe to email alerts, go to mafc.com/podcast, and of course, if you have any topic or guest suggestions, please send them to podcast@mafc.com.

Thanks everyone and stay well.