Employers, Investors, and Educators Discuss the Future of Agriculture at Delaware Valley University
The “Forward Facing on Agriculture,” event included a panel featuring Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding.
The word of the night at Delaware Valley University’s “Forward Facing on Agriculture” event was “exciting.” The University’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences brought together corporate partners and investors for a small, private event to discuss the future of agriculture on Thursday, Oct. 28. At the event, representatives from the poultry industry, the global animal health industry, and the retail and hospitality industry all expressed their excitement about opportunities to work with DelVal.
The employer and corporate partnership event included a panel discussion on the future of agriculture featuring Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. The goal of the event was to expand corporate and employer partnerships for DelVal’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
Dr. Benjamin E. Rusiloski, DelVal’s new president, moderated the panel and introduced Redding. The two served as deans together when Redding was a dean of agriculture at DelVal. Dr. Rusiloski described Redding as both “a friend and mentor.”
“This is a wonderful day for DelVal,” said Redding. “Dr. Rusiloski has a passion for and an understanding of what this institution is and what it can be… DelVal is in good hands.”
Redding spoke about the importance of getting people from all industries engaged in conversations about agriculture.
In addition to Redding, the panel included Joseph “Chip” Krauskopf, vice-chair of the University’s Board of trustees, retired tech executive, and the great-grandson of DelVal’s founder Rabbi Dr. Joseph Krauskopf; Dr. PK Yegneswaran, vice president of Global Animal Health Manufacturing Science and Technology within the Merck Manufacturing Division; Kurt Schrock, vice president of human resources for Mountaire Farms; Hector Pacheco, executive director of Global Predevelopment at URBN (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie Group, Free People & Nuuly); and current DelVal Dean of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Dr. Broc Sandelin.
The panel discussed issues such as technology in agriculture, diversity and inclusion in agriculture, environmental protection, the rapid growth of the poultry industry, and opportunities for education in the cannabis industry. An issue that came up repeatedly was the need for the next generation of qualified employees who have the knowledge and experience to lead in agriculture.
“DelVal certainly brings a part of the solution to those workforce needs,” said Dr. Rusiloski. “Our students are not only motivated, but they can also bring fresh eyes to issues in agriculture.”
Dr. Rusiloski led the development of the University’s award-winning experiential learning program, Exerience360. The program was designed using employer feedback to prepare students for career success through hands-on, real-world experiences.
In addition to being vice-chair of DelVal’s Board and the great-grandson of the University’s founder, Krauskopf is also a venture investor and a former information technology executive. He spoke about opportunities at the intersections of technology and agriculture and the potential for technology to revolutionize agriculture.
Dr. Yegneswaran, from Merck, shared that the company had worked with DelVal on online training for makers of poultry vaccines. The training, which received “overwhelmingly positive feedback,” gave producers of poultry vaccines a chance to hear more about how the vaccines were positively impacting the poultry industry.
Schrock, a representative from Mountaire Farms who works in human resources in the poultry industry, spoke about the need for “generational leadership” in agriculture and, finding tomorrow’s agriculture leaders. He said the company is looking for people who are passionate about agriculture. Mountaire Farms offers paid internships and currently employs 25 DelVal graduates in management.
Pacheco, from URBN, shared his excitement about working with DelVal. TERRAIN, which is owned by URBN, is in ongoing discussions with DelVal about a space that would potentially feature and serve DelVal-grown food and products while providing internship opportunities for students.
Dr. Sandelin spoke about providing high-level hands-on experiences for students in a variety of areas of agriculture. One area he shared that the University is preparing for is the cannabis industry. Dr. Sandelin shared that the University is in the process of developing a specialization in cannabis for both credit and non-credit students that would allow students to learn about everything from growing to the business side of cannabis.
“We’re preparing now so that we’re ready to offer that program when cannabis is legalized in Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Sandelin.
Currently, students are able to learn about many aspects of the cannabis industry at DelVal by using hemp, a substitute plant that is legal and has a lower THC content.
Schrock, Dr. Sandelin and Redding also discussed the explosive growth of the poultry industry and how technology is already having a huge impact. All stressed the need for the broad adoption of advanced technologies, which is why DelVal is embarking on a state-of-the-art poultry science program.
“Delaware Valley University is looking to invest in and be at the forefront of emerging opportunities in agriculture,” said Dr. Rusiloski. “The event brought together agriculture employers, companies and educators. We’re reaching out to expand our relationships as we partner with employers and companies to prepare tomorrow’s agriculture leaders. The University has a variety of ways we can help corporate partners through research, education and other resources. It’s a win-win for companies and the University to build and expand these types of community partnerships.”
There are several facilities projects ideas the University is currently working to fund to provide additional hands-on opportunities for students in agriculture. DelVal is currently working to fund a proposed Poultry Science Center that would give students experience in all aspects of poultry production right on campus.
Refreshments for the event were donated by Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey, Manatawny Creek Winery, and Valley Milkhouse.
To learn more about corporate and employer partnerships, please visit delval.edu/partners.