Saturday, May 31, 2008

Growing Up

This is the sculpture Claire made me for my birthday. She wants to be a sculptor when she grows up. Best present to date!

This is Claire after a shower the other night. She came down stairs in a pair of jeans. It is the first time in history that my little baby girl put on "big girl" pants that did not include sweats or tight like yoga pants (toddler ware) on her own initiative and liked the "look". She then proceeded to ask if she was a teenager yet. I told her she had at least 30 years!

"Belle the Rooster" is looking on. She is the rat terrier we rescued last year from Rat Bone Rescue. Pretty dog. Getting better in her manners. She and Claire and getting pretty darn close. That was the plan. I'm glad Belle is finally agreeing with us and enjoying Claire.


My Birthday started with rain. Generally that would put someone off, but we need rain. It made me dream of hay and potatoes. You know, those things that involve rain...

I also woke up with a cold. Becky rang though to say she'd be late, so that made the morning better. I rolled over and took an extra 20 minutes of sleep.

The Farmer's Market is still slow. Way slower than last year. I'm not tasting in the market. I tried a different strategy. That is not working, so I decided to do the whole dairy CSA thing. Put a piece in the Mid York about it. Our Meat CSA went over very well in MA. We make a great product. Should make things convenient and introduce people to more of our products.

I am in at Clinton Farmer's Market. That will be nice. Also will have product at Tom's in Clinton and Peter's in New Hartford. Starting at Green Hills next week and expanding product at Syracuse Real Food.

Dave, Claire and I went up to see Lawreance and his new baler. Dave was trying to help him get the knotter working. I forked hay into the pick up teeth while they worked on it. Got it to kinda work. Need to get some more rust off another part. Looks like it may work pretty good.

Got to see a handsome milking Devon bull calf. Looks like he will be a powerful ox.

Have Lawrence's mug and post cards for his CafePress site. It promotes the milking Devon breed. I like to support things like that. Also Old Goat Salsa's and Sauces. Will work on other products from local artists and farmers. Ginger's Hot Sauces and jams/jellies are a favorite as well.

House work and press realeased for tomorrow's agenda.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Directions to our Farm

Donations to Arapawa Trust

The Arapawa Wildlife Trust is in need of donations. This will help preserve the goats, sheep and pigs (and any other wildlife on the island). They can take any currency.

Permanent address for those wanting to donate will be
C/- Mitch & I at:
Arapawa Wildlife Trust
C/- "Aotea"Private
414East BayPicton
7250 New Zealand

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The World According to Monsanto

"The World According to Monsanto"
On March 11 a new documentary was aired on French television (ARTE – French-German cultural tv channel) by French journalist and film maker Marie-Monique Robin, The World According to Monsanto - A documentary that Americans won’t ever see. The gigantic biotech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years.

You should also see...
"Patent for a Pig"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some US Farms Outsourced to Mexico

Some US farms outsourced to Mexico
Associated Press Writer
AP - Tuesday, May 27
IRAPUATO, Mexico -
Antonio Martinez used to pay smugglers thousands ofdollars each year to sneak him into the United States to manage farmcrews. Now, the work comes to him. Supervising lettuce pickers in central Mexico, Martinez earns just half of the $1,100 a week he made in the U.S. But the job has its advantages, including working without fear of immigration raids. Martinez, now a legal employee of U.S.-owned VegPacker de Mexico, is exactly the kind of worker more American farm companies are seeking. Many have moved their fields to Mexico, where they can find qualified people, often with U.S. experience, who can't be deported." Because I never moved my family to the U.S., I was always alone there," said Martinez, 45, who could never get a work permit, even after 16 years in agriculture in California and Arizona. "When I got the opportunity to be close to my family, doing similar work, I didn't even have to think about it."American companies now farm more than 45,000 acres of land in three Mexican states, employing about 11,000 people, a 2007 survey by the U.S. farm group Western Growers shows. There were no earlier studies to document how much the acreage has grown. But U.S. direct investment in Mexican agriculture, which includes both American companies moving their operations to Mexico and setting up Mexican partnerships, has swelled sevenfold to $60 millionsince 2000, Mexico's Economy Department told The Associated Press. Major corporations such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bunge have invested across Latin America for decades, particularly in countries like Brazil, where agribusiness is booming. Some small farmers have cultivated parts of Mexico for much longer, seeking to secure year-round supplies of fruits and vegetables, while taking advantage of cheap labor and proximity to the U.S. But the latest move south has been fueled by something new, farmers say: a way to continue to deliver cheap, fresh farm goods amid the current U.S. political standoff over an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants, the majority from Mexico. Recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids have targeted major agricultural producers, including Del Monte Fresh Produce in Portland,Oregon, and several large packing plants across the nation _ scaring away immigrants and persuading many agricultural employers to clean up their hiring practices." Employers can't find legal workers to replace this huge number of illegal workers," said James Holt, an agricultural labor economist and independent consultant based in Washington. "Their only option is to go where the workers are." Many of the growers, once based in California's Salinas Valley, are also heading south to escape high land prices and water shortages. Mexico is closer to eastern U.S. markets than California, they say. Shipping times to Atlanta are a day shorter from Mexico's central Guanajuato state. Not everyone in Mexico has welcomed U.S. companies. Mexican farmers complain that they have driven up land rental prices. Many local growers worry they can't compete against big, foreign firms, said Felipe Sanchez, president of a farmers group in Guanajuato state." How can a ranch that farms 70 acres compete with a company that cameto farm 10,000 acres?" Sanchez said. " We'll become laborers on our ownranches." Farm workers at U.S. companies in Mexico make two or three time sMexico's minimum wage of $4.80 a day. But they still earn far less than the average $9.60 an hour that field workers in the United States made in January 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Juan Antonio Linarez, 19, makes a tenth of his U.S. roofing income at Taylor Farms de Mexico's vegetable cooling plant in Guanajuato. But he has health insurance and can live nearby with his family _ without the dangerous and expensive trek across the border. Some experts argue that farmers simply refuse to raise U.S. wages to compete with other industries, something they say would help ease the labor crunch. As the United States heads into a recession, more native-born workers might consider agricultural work if wages were high enough, said Harley Shaiken, director of the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies." Labor shortage always is a question of at what pay rate," Shaiken said. "Very often, if the wages are artificially low, it will be very difficult to find a work force." But Steve Scaroni said he did offer higher wages and still couldn't find a steady work force in the U.S. Scaroni owns VegPacker, a California and Guanajuato-based company that grows lettuce, celery, cauliflower and other vegetables. VegPacker has struggled after forking out millions of dollars to launch its Mexico division two years ago. The problem is that cheaper labor in Mexico often is offset by lower productivity and high training costs, especially when it comes to enforcing U.S. food-safety standards."The only thing that's cheaper down here is diesel fuel and the labor per day," Scaroni said. "My productivity is down 40 percent" from U.S. levels.

News from Arapawa

News from Debbie:-
Hi Christine
This is Debbie, Mitch's wife - thought I could answer a few questions: But first, We as a family admire Mom so much - her passion for her cause (whether you agreed or not), her intelligence, her love of us / our children (whom we bought up on the Island) / our grandchildren (whom we made sure spent time on the Island with her) she was our matriarch ...still, there is a part of us that has thoughts along the lines thatif the 'cause' had not demanded so much of her, we as a family, may havebeen blessed with her in our life for another decade or more.

But - onward as we must: Currently Shannon is and has been on the sanctuary. We have one new kid and other nanny's are due to birth shortly. Betty had already made arrangements for the 'home goats' to be re-located to others who will be able to care for them on a daily basis in the same way that they are used to. The other semi-wild ones, that come and go as they please will continue to do just that, with their home range being the sanctuary - in this they are creatures of habit and I don't expect they will stray.

First priority is to get through the kidding and grow the kids on a bitbefore the transfer. Transfer will be some 3-3.5 hours by sea, then 3-4hours by road so we want them strong and healthy from the start. Trustees are Betty and Shannon - going through the process of appointing another Trustee/s - will keep you informed. The Trusts function is 'to provide a wildlife sanctuary in perpetuity'for the Arapawa goats, sheep and pigs and possibly other endangered species. It is an educational resource for school visits and will continue to be so as well as remaining accessible to the public and any scientific studiesthat will further help to establish them as a species in need of protection.

With some of the latest info Betty has received (ex Spain) and backing both at National (Gordon Copeland / Simon Reeves / Bob Kerridge - to name a few) & International level, we are aware that there is still much work to bedone. This research and support may indeed be the catalyst for the'protection and recognition' outcome we desire. Yes to continued involvement with G-UK & IAGA - DoC needs to be challenged at the govt level as this is the only level that can effect change.

Donations - will be used to promote all of the above and also in the longer term to develop strategies re: funding for fencing, maybe accommodation, maybe a retainer for a caretaker. Ideas are all wide open at the moment andat the end of the day any furtherment will require $$ or it may be that the animals will just 'be there' as they already have and are.

The Trust currently has a very limited pool of funds, some of which will need to be expended through; the translocation of the 'home goats' /immediate costs through the kidding season / drenching etc. The legal side will take some of six months before clear mandate. Mitch got posting rates from here. Probably missed something, but let me know.

Regards Debbie

Good morning Sure Christine, you can share this email. For the meantime, communicate with me, Shannon / Betty's mail box is jammed- trying to download 1200 odd messages. I speak with her daily so keep her informed of goings on. Shannon will stay on the island till end of June. Mitch & I are usually home on the island Fri-Sun. There has been great support from people who live or work in East Bay to keep an eye on things while in the area, even DoC has volunteered to check out boats near the sanctuary to stop poaching. Unfortunately the animals are eagerly sort by trophy hunters. Please extend our thanks to all for their prayers and good wishes over thesepast weeks. ThanksDebbie

Monday, May 26, 2008

Appreciate What You Have

What else can I use at the title? We were told about a farm to rent. Kinda an on again off again possibility for a farm to rent. It opened up and it looked like a viable opportunity. Well, it wasn't as cut and dry as that.

The free stall was kinda new relative to many of the barns we have looked at. It had been rented however. Tenents often don't give two s**** when renting a facility and there were clear wear and tear issues. The owner made it clear that we as tenents would be responsible for not only all repairs, but would have to pay the guy back for repairs he had done! Weigh jars I could understand, but the PVC pipe to fix the vacuum?

OK. If he was a reasonable sort, that can work... Just keep a detailed record of our repairs for the next guy...

Barn was $500/month. Ok. That comes with minimal pasture and the fellow across the street (who everyone likes a lot) would rent out pastures there. Then hay. We offered $30/acre or add on another $100/month for lease of land.

The deal killer, however, was the electric bill. Apparently we would have to not only pay the electric on the barns (reasonable as we are using them), we'd have to pay for them for their house and out sheds for their beef too! I am not naive enough to assume that it only costs $80/month or less to run electricity through a farm house... And why are we paying more in rent monthly for that anyways?

Contemplation as we go out into the pastures a little. Pig weed. The lad had been cleared of debris and I admit you can see that a lot of work had been done to improve the ambience of the farm. There wasn't the extreme clutter that is common on a lot of these "used farms". Cattle had grazed in a semi continuous system on the remaining pastures. Kinda spent considering the lack of rain. The counter from the to be land lord was $700/month if we used the whole farm. He liked what we do, but I guess that is a priveledge of his electric bills, improving his farm infrastructure and getting him a discount on taxes (ag assessment).

We are not that desperate to move. Well I am not. Dave is in a minor state of depression again. I suggested a realistic counter-offer to see if he would be interested in a viable farm business in the place, but Dave figures he would not be interested in this at all.

We then looked at one of the more realistic farms. In Fort Edward. The house and barns are on Rte 4. It would be interesting, but again we would have to eliminate the reduction of debt part of our considerations for moving. I'm ok with that as it is a great direct marketing location and I think that we could remove debt faster as I willnot have to marekt and distribute product so far from the farm. I think Dave realized I was right and this didn't set well.

We got home about 11pm. Belle was still outside. Joe on the poarch. (Abel was with us). We woke up in various states of recovery from such a long trip. One cow had a sore from foot. Claire woke with a cold. Joe had to get me up at 3am or so to go out. Dave didn;t get to sleep until 1:30am. I felt like I had a hang over (and haven't had a drink in ages...). I also woke up late.

It is a beautiful morning. Our farm looks pretty damn good compared to a lot of these places we have seen since January. I am ok with staying. We have done a pretty damn good job. I think we definetly listed our place at the right price the first time. You cannot find a place in better shape out there to do this kind of farming. Not in VT, NH, NY or MA. Not for less! I think we are ok with staying. I think we are ok with not taking less than what it is worth.

Now to start the haying season...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's Not Just the U.S.

Dairy farmers press supermarkets for deals that will secure supply
Published Date: 25 April 2008
By Dan Buglass
THE relationship between farmers and supermarkets has been fractious at best in recent years. The multiples have made repeated pledges of loyalty to farmersuppliers. Producers, on the other hand, feel that they have been relentlessly squeezed while the big players post increasing profits. The media at large has in recent weeks highlighted the fact thatinflation in the food sector is resulting in considerable pain to theweekly budget of the average consumer. Not so, according to the UK government's Office for National Statistics: the most recent data shows that food in real terms is almost 20 per cent cheaper than 30 years ago.That is why, according to many former dairy farmers, they have soldoff their cows and reorganised their businesses. The end result isthat the surviving milk producers for the foreseeable future will fall well short of matching the EU quota of 14 billion litres they are entitled to sell each year without a penalty for being in excess. Earlier this week Morrisons was cleared by the Office of Fair Trading, in respect of allegations surrounding price fixing, many of which related to the dairy sector. That verdict cost the OFT £100,000.Jim McLaren, the president of NFU Scotland who runs a dairy farm near Crieff, believes the time has come for the multiples to lock into secure contracts that will be of mutual benefit. He said: "Now that the weight of price-fixing allegations has largely been lifted from the shoulder of Morrisons, they can get on with the job of formalising arrangements with milk producers to secure its supplies of liquid milk in the future." All the major competitors – Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Marks &Spencer – have entered into varying agreements with dairy farmers. We have been in discussion with Morrisons over the last ten days and stressed that point and hope for an early announcement that will give everyone a degree of security." Tesco is certainly on the front foot with the announcement yesterdaythat the 147 direct suppliers in Scotland contracted through Robert Wiseman Dairies will receive a significant increase in their milk cheques at the end of this month. Those producers, who are part of the £25 million Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG), established in July 2007, will now be paid 28p for every litre of milk that ends up on the UK's leading supermarket chain's shelves. That will take these selected dairy farmers very close to the top of the UK milk price league. Sarah Mackie, senior buying manager for Tesco in Scotland, said: "We look forward to building closer relationships with the farmers who supply us with milk, and working with them in the future."Dairy farmers in Scotland, in common with their colleagues throughout the UK, have been near to total despair in recent years. Jim Watt of Benthall Farm, near East Kilbride, was close to packing in, but he is now happy with the new arrangement with Wiseman and Tesco. He said: "Just over a year ago I was making plans to sell the herd andcut my losses. Joining the Tesco milk pool proved to be a turning point and gave an opportunity to invest for the future."A new milking parlour is being installed and I plan to grow the herd from around 90 cows to 120 cows in the months ahead." My son has decided to come back to the farm and we are genuinely looking forward to the future with a lot of optimism as a result ofthe new contract."However, life does not appear so bright for those dairy farmers who trade with Wiseman, but are not part of the Tesco deal: the new terms could cost them money, according to Ian Potter, a widely respected dairy analyst.He said: "In a shock move one of the UK's most straightforward and transparent milk buyers, Robert Wiseman, is to change the notice period for non-Tesco buyers in an attempt to halt the threat of sudden losses of milk supplies."Under the new contracts the three-month notice of severance will onlybe operational from the first day of the month, but that has much wider implications, according to Potter.He said: "At first sight it may not seem like big news, but the contracts warrant further examination. It translates into the fact that any producer who has not served notice before 31 May 2008 may not be able to leave before 1 December. Milk will be scarce in the autumn and the big players will still have to meet their obligations."The perceived 'white knights' of the UK dairy industry are worried about quitting existing contracts for higher prices at a time when milk will be short. That tells a big story. Farmers should stand firm."

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I probably am not suppose to put a picture of Marcia into the public realm, but I could not resist. Here she is with Cliare in my getting ever clutterier kitchen.

Here is Ken helping Dave fix tedder. I didn't get the pictures of taping walls or helping us pull well.
Weekends! This was the last one. After making 68-70 gal. of yoghurt and Labneh... I'd love to sleep in, but looks like a road trip is in store for tomorrow...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bumper Cars

Marketing and sales are like riding bumper cars at the local county fair. You all get into the little cars in a spirit of fun and exhuberance. You start by waving at eachother and smiling as you go by. Eventually those that are more agressive start to wack into everyone with as much gusto and determination. Smiles and waves turn into concern and strategic maneuvering...

To make the best of the situation, you laugh at those that bump you the hardest. Compliment their efforts and redouble on the far side to get a hell of a side wallup when they are focusing their efforts on someone else (see they think you are out of the picture)...

I like the carnival aspect of things. I've done the distribution of "local farm products", sold trailer loads of lambs and goats into ethnic markets, assisted husband on bottling milk in MA, make and sell cheese... I prefer this lifestyle to working a mundane politics driven office. I am too cynical and stubborn to get along with 8-4:30ers. Maybe a wee excentric to boot (at least the CNY versions of office co-workers think I am... I think they are right. Why be boring?)

We got our AWSOME sign from Terry Signs (824-3144). Combine that with Dick Barnes getting the again cooling system going and our farm store is actually going to be OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

As expected the Amish cheese at Hamilton Market did cut into the Hamilton sales. At least I didn't pay for the curb space. We will try marketing through the Peppermill and Aunt Bee's Farm to see how it goes. It is kinda why we decided to market yoghurt and milk from our organic cows. Gotta be flexible. Dan's tomme is good, others pretty good. Everyone who markets cheese in the area suggested he be competitive (raise his prices to be with us), but it is his business.

The beauty of small scale direct marketing is that we can all be flexible. I'll just put pasteurized product into that area and keep my quality as good as it always is. I'll keep the customers that like what we do. Fair enough.

On the flip side we will be bouncing someone out of another account with our new 2008 products. It evens out. When you are marketing, you can bitch and moan to family only and for a total of 4 hours. Then get over it and come up with a different approach. Keep the quality excellent and you will persevere.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Arapawa Island Goats

First picture has our buck "George". Carmella and Peach are to the left and Karo to the back. I am not sure if it is Pandi to his right or not. Next picture is Karo with Patti goat. Bottom is the Peach, Carmella and Phragmities group.

The hay feeder is up side down behind Phrag and her group. That is where Peach and Carmella sleep.

Arapawa Wildlife lost a great soul

Goat champion Betty dies after stroke
The Marlborough Express Monday, 19 May 2008
One of the Marlborough Sounds most enduring and high profile people, BettyRowe,
died in Fairview Hospital, Blenheim, early yesterday morning, aged 76.

Mrs Rowe, who originally came to the Sounds from the United States with her late husband Walt, spent 30 years fighting for the preservation of ArapawaIsland's goats. Mrs Rowe
suffered a stroke on Anzac Day and family and friends knew at thattime the animal advocate was unlikely to return to her East Bay home thatmeant so much to her.

She fought long and hard to protect the Arapawa goats from shooters sent by the former New Zealand Forest Service and more recently the Department ofConservation. Mrs Rowe and rare breed societies worldwide believed theanimals to be descended from old English goats released on the island byCaptain Cook in 1773. But the authorities have sent in shooters over the years to cull the goats to protect a scenic reserve containing important Cook Strait forest and plant species. Mrs Rowe set up a sanctuary in East Bay for the goats.

Mrs Rowe is survived by her daughter Mary, sons Mitch and Roy, nine grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. A funeral will be held at Nativity Church in Blenheim on Thursday at 1.30pm.

http://www.stuff. hexpress/ 4553660a6008. html

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Dairy Plant

Calling my little art space a "plant" always seems funny to me. The "Dairy Plant" is only a 13'6" x 14'2" room. It is a portion of the milk house and is one of two buildings that house this cheese business. The second is the new aging/store building I noted earlier.

I love my little space. The photo here is right after processing, just after hooping and just before scrubbing. It is set up for doing raw milk cheeses. Note I use the thermometer from the recorder to note temp, but the lids and all are not on.

The piping on the wall may be more elaborate than they need to be. Basically, it is set up to heat the vat with steam for pasteurizing, hot water for raw milk, use cold water when needed and has another port for attaching another cooling water system. That will be important for full batches of yoghurt or other hot milk cooking products.

I didn't spend much at a time, but it is adding up. The only things I'd do differently are adding a vent/air system and doing something a little different about the drains as the mice like to come through and I have to add a screen to the top when cheeses are in the plant.

I like small plants. They seem inviting, like a school art room or a clay studio in the back of the house. Larger plants always mean business. Cash flow and covering debt. I like to make cheese because I make cheese, not because of a looming loan payment. (I do make cheese for that reason, but that debt is not as large as some). Dave and I hope to eliminate that debt component so that the plant and his barn are inviting places, just because we enjoy our way of life, not because of the mounting and declining bills on the desk.

Dairy Farmers of America

May 18, 2008
The Feed

Yes, It's a Cooperative. But for Whom?

THE traditional idea of agricultural cooperatives is that farmers have more muscle to negotiate prices when they band together.

At the nation's largest dairy cooperative, the Dairy Farmers of America, it hasn't always worked that way. The group's executives have often seemed more concerned about pleasing dairy executives than their members, this during a time of brutal consolidation in the industry.

The cooperative, created in 1998 from the merger of four others, generates $11 billion in sales. Because it is so big, some dairy farmers have felt compelled to join, only to find that they were paid less than before for their raw milk.

D.F.A. executives didn't suffer such hardships, traveling the country in a corporate jet and making deals that appeared to benefit a few in the industry; some members complained that they were largely left in the dark about how the money from the deals was spent.
Wait, aren't the farmers supposed to own the cooperative?

Now, we come to hear that the Dairy Farmers' former chief executive, a larger-than-life figure named Gary E. Hanman, transferred $1 million in 2001 to the board chairman at the time, Herman Brubaker, for reasons that remain a mystery.

The payment was disclosed by the current president and chief executive, Richard P. Smith, during a recent press conference with dairy trade publications. Mr. Smith described the payment as "an improper transaction" that had been concealed.

The cooperative has since recovered the money with interest, said Mr. Smith, who in 2006 replaced Mr. Hanman, who retired. Mr. Smith said he believed that both Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Hanman had chipped in to cover the payment. "It was a breach of trust," Mr. Smith said in an interview. "I do believe it was an aberration."

Asked what the payment was for, Mr. Smith said: "We don't know. I'd rather not speculate. Certainly there is no valid reason."

Neither Mr. Hanman nor Mr. Brubaker, who retired in 2003, were available for comment.
This might seem like a dispute that would be confined to states like California and Wisconsin, where there are plenty of dairy farms. But it has implications well beyond dairy states.

Mr. Hanman was among the most powerful people in the dairy industry at a time of monumental change.

In the last decade, the number of dairy farmers has declined sharply — from about 99,000 in 1997 to about 59,000 last year, according to the Agriculture Department. At the same time, there has been a major shift in where milk is produced.

Small dairy farmers east of the Mississippi River and in the Upper Midwest are increasingly being replaced by huge dairy farms in the West, in places like New Mexico and western Texas. Few dairy farms are even left in the Southeast.

These days, more milk is trucked halfway across the country because the local dairy farmer and milk bottler are out of business. All of this change was done in the name of efficiency — and may have made sense when gasoline was $2.50 a gallon. But if you have bought milk any time in the last year, you know that consumers aren't benefiting from the new dairy landscape.

Mr. Hanman was in an ideal position to help dairy farmers deal with the shifting winds. But if anything, he seemed to have made the situation worse.

A large man with thinning red hair who favored bright red suspenders, Mr. Hanman aggressively expanded his cooperative and his influence by outmaneuvering competitors, rewarding his allies and giving campaign contributions to politicians who were in a position to help him.

To expand the cooperative, Mr. Hanman used a strategy that gave dairy farmers little choice but to join and, in the process, helped push competing cooperatives out of business. (In some instances, they merged with the Dairy Farmers of America.)

The D.F.A. would sign exclusive supply agreements with milk bottlers or buy the bottling plants outright, often in areas where it had few if any members.

The dairy farmers who supplied the plant could then either join the cooperative or find somewhere else to sell milk. In a time of rapid consolidation, there often weren't any other plants within a reasonable distance.

In some parts of the country, including the Northeast and areas of the South, three out of four dairy farmers now sell their milk through the Dairy Farmers of America or one of its affiliates. Some farmers have complained that the money they were paid for their milk declined when they started selling it through the D.F.A. or its subsidiaries.

Questions about where farmers' money was going intensified when court documents filed by the Justice Department a few years ago revealed that some of the Dairy Farmers' business partners were making extraordinary profits.

For instance, Robert Allen, a dairy executive, participated in a joint venture in the Northeast and made $21.7 million profit on a $1 million investment. Another dairy executive, Allen Meyer, had a joint venture with the D.F.A. in Kentucky and Tennessee: he turned an investment of several hundred thousand dollars into a gain of $70 million.

Neither Mr. Allen nor Mr. Meyer could be located for comment.

D.F.A. officials say the cooperative made the same return on those investments as Mr. Allen and Mr. Meyer.

But Peter Hardin, editor and publisher of The Milkweed, a newsletter that has long been critical of Mr. Hanman, remains skeptical. "Outside business partners seemed to walk away with sweet deals, and the farmers were left with the crumbs," he said. "The money went anywhere but to the farmer."

MR. SMITH said that "some combination of lack of transparency and arrogance" existed in the old days at the D.F.A., and he has vowed to change the culture. For one thing, he got rid of the corporate jet.

He has also promised a thorough and transparent investigation of the cooperative's finances to ensure that there weren't any other unexplained payments. The farmers who lost their dairies during the last decade deserve at least that much.

Better yet, perhaps the Justice Department, which began an investigation of the Dairy Farmers of America about four years ago, will finally let them know if it found anything more than an aberration.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No day is the same...

My mother-in law often says that she likes coming to our farm because "no day is ever the same...there are always so many things going on...I'm never bored..." Some days I long for that boring suburban existance watching t.v. or shopping. I get over it quick though, but I can never actually plan things.

I should have been in VT looking at two M. Devons. Water problems and lack of electricity on Friday ended those plans.

Plan B.
Yesterday, Dave went to help Lawrence move two hay elevators. He was gone until 3:30pm. Not their fault, but we were suppose to get a screen door at the hardware store and deal with the lack of water on the farm. Lawrence got hurt, so that humbled me and I could not be angry at Dave anymore.

We did have to replace the well pump. Learned about well pumps and also learned that our well is only about 70'. Problem was that it cost us another pump and we had to call Dick out again. He is starting to make weekly calls to the farm. Kinda expensive visitor. He will be here Wednesday to install aging cooling system. $$$

Calves are eating well. Twins on Thursday. They look nothing alike. We were able to move the close up heifers. It was nice to see the bags filling up. Lotsa lotsa cheese in a couple weeks!!!

Thinking about Farmers markets again. A wee conserned about having to mind husband and being allowed the time to market. Hopefully the farmstore can replace one of them and I will only have to do 2 instead of 3.

Have to run out and help with calf chores.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Peppermint Patti goes to Poplar Hedge

Dave Nackley bought the sheep. Becky, his wife, somehow got me to agree to trade one of the lambs for a goat. An Alpine. My little feral goats took offence to this trade. Sheep were tollerable enough, but a dairy goat 4 X their size! Horrors!
Patti goat was sweet, so I rang Tim who loves Alpines. Tim is getting a goat dairy together in West Winfield, NY. He will be milking and making cheese this summer. We have been helping him and he has loaned me the recording thermometer and manual read ones to make pasteurized products.
In the pictures above, Dave is one the right considering taking the money. Tim is on the left looking nervous having a photo taken of him.
Patti is in the other photo in the back of the Subaru.


He'll have a proper name, but his barn name is "Archie". Right now, Moose is out to pasture and we kept him in the calving pen while we move things around. We will probably graft another calf on Moose as well and it is easier to keep the calves in the pen for a couple of weeks before they go to pasture. Moose grazes with the dairy herd and comes in the feed her baby two times a day.
Why not milk Moose? We tried. We eventually came to an understanding. She raised a beautiful veal calf last year as well as Mini Moose (
Ultra Miss). We just handle her so much. She does like her curry in the winter when the hair is shedding, but just don't go near the udder. We can deal wtih that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's a Boy!

Moose had a boy. Figures, everyone else has heifers out of this bull.... Me, a bull. Cute. Dave nick named him "Archie".

Dave was body slammed by Moose as he carried her calf to the pen. She charged me when I checked on her out in the pasture. Moose is actually Plimoth Plantation Panzy. She was kicked out of Plimoth Plantation because she broke John Truelson's ankle. We have an understanding of sorts. She is not a beginner cow!
She is the only cow to give me heifers. The first one "Damson" is at Plimoth Plantation. The second is "Ultra Miss". As her name suggests, she was missed in an ultra sound and Moose was almost shipped. Good thing she started bagging up!

I will take a photo of her and her calf tomorrow. One more Kerry cow in the world! Woohoo... Too bad it wasn't a heifer. Yet, it is the only bull with Irish semen in the U.S..

Waxing cheeses

It is funny how I tend to talk to some people on the phone while I am waxing cheeses. Was working on that for the better part of the morning today. Clear wax. A great way to eliminate the smell of garlic in some of these experimental "flavored" cheeses.

I am a great fan of simple, unadulterated cheese. I seem to feel this pressure to "flavor" my cheeses. Not so sure how this experiment will go. Most seem to come up garlic. Sundried tomato and garlic, garlic and garlic and herbs... Garlic and cheese go well together. I anhaving a time of it deciding how much garlic however...

We use a double aluminum pan method. Take two pans suitable for Thanksgiving turkey. Melt wax in the upper pan. Use the lower pan as a sort of protective layer. Some pans are deeper than others.

Use care in waxing. You need to get all of the cheese covered. No pin holes. Each type and color has a temp it likes to be at. Again NO PIN HOLES. This is trickier with beeswax.

I have dropped a wheel in the wax. EVERYTHING gets covered with wax. Be careful.

Never walk away from wax. It can combust. Use the lowest setting you can and use those thermometers.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Farm Store

This is the farm store building. Nothing fancy, just practical. In the back half, I will be aging my cheeses.
I still have to paint it and put up the trim, but I plan to do most of that out of cash flow. I also want to put pea stone in the drive way in front of the building and landscape it a bit.
We had to take down an ugly 3-Bay garage that wa shalf-falling in to do this building. It is 18' x 18'.
I have cheeses in the florist cooler that have to be moved to the back. I also have to get the sign. I think that comes this week. Once that comes... Open!!!!

Our House and Pole Barn

This is our humble house. It is a typical farmhouse in the area. Built in the mid 1800's (~1847-1852). We have 3-bedrooms upstairs with a generous landing area. It has aluminum siding and a roof that the Stone's put on in 2000.

This is our "pole sheed". Otherwise known as equipment/hay storageand sheep winter quarters. The chicken shed is to the left of the building. You can also see our "Kitchen Art" near the house. I'll talk more about that later. There is a hop plant growing at the base.

This farm was a hop farm in its earliest days. There were also apple trees. I saw them in the 1938 air photos at the District office.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More cows

A first calf heifer and a mature cow. Both Ayrshires. Grazing the field behind the barn. We use to dock tails to keep the cows cleaner, but do not now. Organic standards and a change in attitude.

Snow White

Starbuck II had a white calf with red ears. Kinda like the ancient Celtic cows that they use to sacrifice to the Gods. This is our first of two almost white Ayrshire calves out of this Nicholas bull.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Two of our spring ayrshire calves

Sheep and Technology

Ok. Sheep are probably the only animal on a farm that is in total equilibrium with the world. They offer me a sort of Zen. I love to watch them from the kitchen window going through their grazing routine. I did something that I was not happy about, but had to be done... For the first time since 1997, I do not own sheep. I sold the ewes and lambs to Dave Nackley. He is a great person to own sheep and I am glad he owns them, but it was a hard thing to do.

The guilt comes in because I bought a computer (you know to replace the one that took the radish and I had to go to the library). I was unable to efficiently do my work without a computer.

Dave and Claire were in shock because I took them completely out of their element and went to the ultimate media place... the mall media box store... I have not seen Claire so silent for so many hours. Dave was sweating and looked like the deer in headlights while being bombarded with t.v. screens, accessories, cell phones, computers, mini DVD players, etc...

Generally, I do go to the local guy and buy a local computer. I had a slim financial thing going on and had to break down and succumb to the box store thing. I DID go to the local Radio Shack/Hardware/Household place to get the digital camera and cords however. I like them there and it made the guilt of selling sheep and turning them into media shock feel a little better (?)

I did get a goat out of the whole deal. An alpine named Peppermint Patti. Yes, Patti with an "i". My friend Tim loves Alpines and Phragmites (SCI goat) is mortified that I defiled the hollowed grounds of her pasture with a non feral goat species. I offered her to Tim at cost. I think the very non-combative Alpine and Phrag will be happy about this.

Back to media. Guess what?! I can liberally add photos and video to this blog now!