U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small (center) and her staff joined Dean Brian Farkas (second from right) to converse with UD undergraduate students about the grand challenges facing our food systems and the planet.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small (center) and her staff joined Dean Brian Farkas (second from right) to converse with UD undergraduate students about the grand challenges facing our food systems and the planet.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small sits down with Blue Hen students, tours UD’s Newark Farm and laboratory facilities

May 13, 2024 Written by Dante LaPenta | Photos by Kathy Atkinson

On her cross-country college tour of our nation’s land-grant universities, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small wanted to experience cutting-edge research and speak directly to the next generation of agriculture and natural resources professionals. So, naturally, she had to visit the University of Delaware.

“USDA is central to much of what we teach, conduct research on, and communicate to our stakeholders. To have the Deputy Secretary visit our campus and see how we deliver on our mission to feed the world and protect the planet is inspirational to our students, faculty and staff,” explained Brian Farkas, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Blue Hen students across the college’s four departments sat down for an intimate discussion with the Deputy Secretary — a rare opportunity for these undergraduates.

“I really enjoyed our discussion regarding the future trajectory of agriculture,” said Jayliece Redding, a UD Class of 2024 pre-veterinary medicine major and vice president of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources & Related Sciences (MANRRS). “It is fascinating to contemplate how our generation holds the potential to enact substantial changes in this vital sector, thereby shaping not only our future but also that of generations to come.”

Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small and Kali Kniel
Faculty member Kali Kniel (far left) and her graduate students detailed UD's food microbiology research to U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small (second from left) and her staff.

The Deputy Secretary spent time with students involved in MANNRS, the Agriculture College Council, and CANR’s Ag Ambassadors. The topics ranged from One Health to sustainability to maximizing efficiency of smaller scale farm operations. The UD students impressed her with their high-level view of the grand challenges facing our food systems and the planet.

“Food is a universal necessity, and it’s imperative that we create systems that are not only sustainable but also profitable for all stakeholders involved,” added Redding. “By fostering dialogue and collaboration, we can work towards a future where agriculture thrives, ensuring that everyone has access to nutritious food while simultaneously supporting the economic prosperity of farmers and communities.”

Torres Small discussed opportunities for young people, leading conversations on the challenges and emerging career opportunities.

Three undergraduate students speak to U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small.
Evyn Appel (right), a junior honors sustainable food systems major, weighs in on sustainability during a conversation with Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small.

“Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA is working to create new career opportunities for the next generation of farmers, foresters, researchers, and entrepreneurs at the University of Delaware,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “This work will better position rural America to build economic prosperity, invest in agricultural research, and give students the chance to succeed in the communities they love. USDA is proud to have a partner in UD, whose commitment to education and research has ripples that benefit communities in Delaware and across our country.”

After the sit-down conversations, it was time to see CANR’s 350-acre campus in Newark. Joined by U.S. Department of Agriculture staff and Delaware U.S. Senator Tom Carper, UD President Dennis Assanis and Provost Laura Carlson, and Dean Farkas, UD farm superintendent Scott Hopkins led the party on a personalized tour of the dairy facilities, Webb Farm, and Worrilow Hall. Faculty member Kali Kniel and her graduate students detailed their food microbiology research. The group sat in on pre-veterinary medicine majors busy at work in the impressive Animal Anatomy Lab. And UDairy Creamery director Jennifer Rodammer and student-employees detailed UD’s “from the cow to the cone” dairy production process in the Genuardi Food Innovation Laboratory.

Ending the tour at the UDairy Creamery flagship location, these Blue Hens said their goodbyes to the Deputy Secretary and her colleagues. But the experience was one they will not forget.

“The Deputy Secretary was extremely friendly and passionate about her current duties and plans for the future,” said Nick Gunther, a UD ag ambassador who graduates later this month. “She took the time to listen to each of our stories and was very invested in what inspired us to dedicate our lives to agriculture. I could not be more thankful for the opportunity.”


Related News

  • A sweet way to apply food science

    May 14, 2024 | Written by Nya Wynn | Photos courtesy of Jane Farnham
    Jane Farnham found that her love for experimenting in the kitchen with different recipes could lead to a career in food science. Through a summer internship with Turkey Hill, Farnham played a pivotal role in creating a new ice cream flavor. The experience solidified her interest in research and development, allowing her to blend her passion for scientific knowledge and culinary creativity together.
  • The creamery of the crop

    April 30, 2024 | Written by Diane Stopyra
    It’s only dessert. An emulsion of milk and fat and sugar that’s as old as time. (Or at least as old as the Tang Dynasty, where prescient emperors whipped up frozen concoctions circa 600 AD). We’ve all had it—scooped, sprinkled, taken for granted on a warm spring day. But ice cream from UDairy Creamery is also, somehow, so much more.
View all news

Events