Cartanza goes from ‘townie’ to Extension
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
GEORGETOWN, Del. (Jan. 3, 2017) — Growing up a “townie” in Dover, Del., Georgie Cartanza said in high school that she “fell in love with a farmer,” which put her on a career path in agriculture.
“When I went to college, I just wanted to do something that would help farmers,” Cartanza said from her new office in the University of Delaware’s Carvel Research and Education Center.
On Dec. 1, she began work as the university’s Extension poultry agent.
“I’ve been so blessed since my first job in the industry, everything has prepared me for the next step and that’s led me here.”
After graduating from Delaware State University, Cartanza worked for Perdue Farms as a flock supervisor then as an area supervisor before shifting to Mountaire Farms in 2004 as a housing consultant.
In that job, she helped growers, over two flock cycles, get acclimated to the ventilation systems in the new larger houses getting built.
“It gave me the chance to spend more time with growers than just as a flock supervisor,” Cartanza said.
In 2005, she started construction on four poultry houses of her own with the profit from that operation to go toward college tuition for her three children.
In 2015, transitioned the houses USDA Certified Organic production, growing under contract for Perdue’s Coleman Natural Foods label.
While primarily raising chickens, she also consulted with Perdue to design and administer a seminar to help growers and their flock supervisors communicate more effectively with each other.
She taught the seminar first to Perdue employees and growers, then said the company allowed her to offer it to other chicken companies which three on Delmarva accepted.
Now in Extension, Cartanza said it’s a topic she plans to continue to advocate.
“I’m going to tweak that and update it,” she said. “I can appreciate the company perspective and the grower perspective.”
More recently, before coming to Extension, Cartanza did third-party inspections with MidAtlantic Farm Credit for new growers investing in an existing poultry farm, “so they could kind of anticipate and be aware of what’s coming at them in five years and 10 years.”
Now Cartanza fills the position formerly held by Bill Brown, a passionate industry advocate, who died in a farming accident last year. Cartanza and Brown worked together at Perdue for a time and Cartanza said he was a mentor to her.
“Everything I know about ventilation I feel like I learned from him,” she said.”
As a poultry agent, Cartanza said she sees her role as spreading information, to growers to help them operate their businesses better, but also to educate students and the public about the opportunities within the poultry industry.
In previous jobs, she’s spoken to middle school classes about the many career options in the chicken industry, from engineering to farming to food science to marketing to veterinary medicine, and hopes to be able to continue that effort.
While in the classroom, she also speaks to students about qualities of successful people, emotional maturity and preparedness.
“For this industry to be sustainable, we have to have a workforce that’s interested,” she said. “It’s the chicken business but it’s the people business, too,” Cartanza said. “It sounds cheesy, but I really have a heart for service.”
For the growers, Cartanza said the job means sharing research findings from the land grant system and helping them apply it to their farm, but also sharing “the little things” that other growers might be doing to save time and money on their farms.
“I want to be able to problem solve for any individual at any company,” she said. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes it’s just about sharing.”
Nearly simultaneous with being named UD’s poultry agent, Cartanza was also named the first United States recipient of a Nuffield International Scholarship and one of 90 farmers worldwide participating in the global agriculture scholarship program.
The program will have Cartanza overseas for a total of 16 weeks in China, Brazil, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and The Netherlands while learning about topics including production needs, extreme climates, consumer demands, food safety and organic poultry transitions.
About half of that time will be in a Global Focus Program and the balance spent on individual research projects; in Cartanza’s case, poultry.
She said she hopes to get insight on production practices in other parts of the world with high temperatures and high humidity and also extreme cold that could possibly help Delmarva growers.
Cartanza said to have the scholarship come at the beginning of her Extension work is very helpful.
“Timing is everything, she said. “I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to have it come this early in my career is probably the only time it could really happen.”