SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Dairylea Cooperative Inc. hosted its 105th annual meeting in Liverpool, N.Y., Oct. 9. Northeast dairy industry. Dairylea CEO Greg Wickham described the strong Northeast dairy industry, the yogurt boom and the impact it is having on the area.
The meeting also featured guests who shared about how the dairy industry is doing in other parts of the country and what organizations are doing to promote dairy.
Every year, Dairylea Cooperative honors three member farms with the Pride of Dairylea Award. The Pride of Dairylea program was created to recognize member farms that operate with the quality product in mind. This year, Dairylea honored Damin Farms; Hepler Homestead Farm; and Brabant Farm.
Distinguished member awards
Dairylea honored members of 50 or more years of membership with the Distinguished Member awards. The Taylor Family of Warriors Mark, Pa.; the Burgin Family of Delhi, N.Y.; Chris Didas of Mt. Morris, N.Y.; and Jon White of Geneseo, N.Y., were this year’s recipients.
Nine member farms were also honored for their achievements in milk quality management this year. These awards are given annually to the top herds producing outstanding raw milk. This year’s recipients were the Houde Family Farm, of St. Johnsbury, Vt.; Alleger Family Farm of Cameron, N.Y.; Henderson Farms, of Schaghitcoke, N.Y.; Galens Homestead Acres, of Clifton Springs, N.Y.; Hepler Homestead Farm LLC, of Pitman, Pa.; Shearing Farms LLC, of Gainesville, N.Y.; Fessenden Dairy LLC, of King Ferry, N.Y.; Broughton Farm Operation, of Silver Springs, N.Y.; and Sparta Farms LP of Danville, N.Y.
Dairylea Cooperative also awarded students pursuing careers in agriculture-related professions. The Clyde E. Rutherford Scholarship was established in honor of the now retired, longtime chairman, Clyde E. Rutherford. This scholarship was given for the first year ever and recognizes one student who excels academically, is pursuing a career in an agriculture-related profession, who has shown great leadership abilities and embodies the spirit of cooperation. Lauren Hill of Gilbertsville, N.Y., was this year’s recipient.
Dairylea also awards the Dairylea Leadership Scholarships each year. These students exhibit outstanding leadership abilities and foster the spirit of cooperation. This year’s Leadership Scholarship winners are Tyler Hymers of Delhi, N.Y.; Ben Rogers of Springville, N.Y.; and Isaac Haagen of Howard, Pa.
Sometimes it takes a newspaper’s ink-stained thumb to right the scale of justice, and no newspaper has a bigger, inkier thumb than the New York Times.
On Sunday, Oct. 28, the Times published a 2,900-word tribute to the greedy good-old-boyism that seems to have been the only business plan of America’s biggest dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, upon its creation in 1998.
According to Times business writer Andrew Martin, court documents in two antitrust suits by dairy farmers against their own co-op, DFA, and its biggest milk customer, Dean Foods, allege a decade of cronyism and insider dealing that left the bosses in buttermilk and the dairymen-co-op owners in dust.
The DFA-Dean saga began when four regional milk marketing cooperatives merged to form DFA in 1998. Gary Hanman, boss of one of the four, took command. The new co-op claimed to represent nearly 30 percent of all fluid milk in America.
That big bucket caught the attention of Gregg Engles who, as the 1990s were drawing to a close, was building Dean Foods into a dairy powerhouse. Engles had a thirst for milk and Hanman had the milk. Soon they were talking. “By normal rhythms of the industry,” writes Martin, the two milk titans “would be financial adversaries… because bottlers try to buy raw milk as cheaply as possible (while) … farmers joined cooperatives (to)… leverage their numbers for higher prices.”
But the deal Engles and Hanman cut “went against normal economics.” Engles promised Hanman that DFA “would be the exclusive supplier to Deans’ milk plants” and DFA, “in turn, promised a reliable supply of… raw milk, at the lowest prices, plus rebates and credit so Dean could acquire more milk plants, the suit says.” Why would Hanman commit his farmers’ milk to Engles so cheaply?
According to the Times, a Hanman trademark was to go “against time-honored practices… For instance, instead of squabbling with bottling companies over price, he sought joint ventures with them” because, he once noted, the JVs “gave members ‘greater market security and an opportunity to capture income from the retail market.’” Milk business. DFA members, however, weren’t in the milk-retailing business; they were in the milk-making business. Hanman’s job was to build member profit by selling DFA milk to processors; not secure processor equity, as the suits allege, by selling DFA milk cheap.
Court documents in the civil suits (one is referred to as “Southeast,” the other “Northeast”) draw a deeply tangled web of business deals, buyouts and payouts by Dean, DFA and numerous other dairy entities over most of the eastern US. The resulting picture, allege the plaintiff-farmers, is a Dean-DFA deal that milked cooperative members to enrich dairy executives.
Neither suit has gone to trial so that key allegation remains unaddressed. What is more certain, according to the Times, is the amount cash whipped up and pocketed by Dean and DFA allies and pals as the partnership flourished. Milk plants. “One business partner of Mr. Hanman was paid $100 million by Deans’ predecessor and the DFA for his stake in milk plants, the partner had paid $6.9 million for it two years earlier. A business partner of Mr. Engles was paid more than $80 million for his investment in milk plants; that partner had paid little more than $5 million. “Mr. Hanman was paid $31.6 million during his seven-year tenure as chief executive… As for Mr. Engles, his compensation over the last decade comes to $156 million…”
Dairy observers, though, reckon one-third of the dairy operations in states covered in the two lawsuits went out of business during the same period.
Dean Foods remains. In July it bought its way out of the Southeast suit for $140 million. A year earlier it settled the Northeast lawsuit for $30 million.
“In both cases,” writes Martin, “it admitted no wrongdoing.”
Going to trial
DFA, however, is hanging tough against its own members; the Southeast suit goes to trial in January. Its judge has ordered mediation talks but no one on either side predicts a pre-trial deal. If DFA loses at trial, estimated penalties could top $1.2 billion under current antitrust laws.
That tab, too, will fall on DFA’s members who will lose even if they win. And the milk-marketing minds behind it all?
Hanman retired in 2006 and Engles, the Times reports, will relinquish Dean’s top spot by the end of 2012, one year after “Forbes ranked him among it Worst Bosses for the Buck” in 2011.
Bryan Wolfe was tragically killed in a machinery accident Aug. 7, 2012, on his farm in Rome, Ohio. Bryan one of the last of the small dairy farmers, who knew his cows so well that they weren’t even tagged.
Bryan’s passion for his cows forced him into equally passionate political activism. He believed that producing food was a noble profession, and that small and medium sized family farms were the best way to do it.
The takeover of agriculture by large corporations whose focus is profit and not the production of quality food really made him angry. Consolidation in agriculture, from production to processing, directly threatened the way of life he prized so dearly.
He became involved in Ohio Farmers Union almost 20 years ago so that he could advocate for change. He eventually became president of the Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake counties chapter of OFU, and also the vice president of OFU.
Bryan also kept a close working relationship with a loose network of dairy activists in the eastern United States, always focused on practical ways to get changes in dairy policy. Bryan was a political activist, but not as a dogmatic partisan. He didn’t have much use for most politicians, Democrat or Republican, because he didn’t see that they did enough to save the family farm.
He was amazing in how he kept track of dairy policy and which legislators were doing something about it. Bryan called them on the phone on a regular basis to give them his opinion. He knew what they were doing and they always knew what he thought.
Bryan had an especially close working relationship with our Congressional Representative, Steven LaTourette. Bryan’s most recent project was writing a white paper (June, 2012) on dairy policy for Rep. LaTourette. The paper analyzed the problems in the dairy industry, pointing out that the current dairy pricing system doesn’t meet the criteria of the 1937 Agricultural Marketing Act, which allows dairy farmers to recover their cost of production.
Bryan’s work was not just at the federal policy level. He was so angered by raw milk price manipulation that he joined with other eastern U.S. dairy farmers in a lawsuit against those he held most responsible. The lawsuit by Gerald Carlin, John Rahm, Paul Rozwadowski, and Bryan Wolfe was filed against Dairy America, Inc., and California Dairies, Inc. on March 6, 2009.
The lawsuit alleged that Dairy America, Inc, and California Dairies, Inc, misreported contract pricing data from Jan 1, 2002, through April 30, 2007. The case was dismissed and the farmers appealed.
The day that Bryan was killed there was a phone message from his lawyers saying that the appeals court upheld the farmers’ appeal and that the case would move forward. Bryan never heard the message.
Along with his family, I grieve deeply for Bryan’s loss. And I will miss Bryan’s persistent voice, always pushing so hard for policy changes that would benefit small and medium farmers.
(The author is also the current president of the Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union.)
ITHACA, N.Y. — Our days of crying over spoiled milk could be over, thanks to Cornell food scientists.
Milk undergoes heat treatment — pasteurization — to kill off microbes that can cause food spoilage and disease, but certain bacterial strains can survive this heat shock as spores and cause milk to curdle in storage.
Researchers in the Milk Quality Improvement Program at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have identified the predominant spore-forming bacteria in milk and their unique enzyme activity, knowledge that can now be used to protect the quality and shelf life of dairy products.
“Control of food spoilage is critical in a world that needs to feed 7 billion people,” said Martin Wiedmann, food science professor and study co-author. “Approximately 25 percent of post-harvest food is spoiled by microbes before it is consumed.”
The study, published in the March issue of Applied Environmental Microbiology by the lab of Wiedmann and Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, identified the predominant strains of spore-forming bacteria, which can foul milk and other food products.
The culprits, Paenibacillus bacteria, are ubiquitous in nature and cause off-flavors in a variety of foods and curdling in dairy products. As spores, the bacteria can survive in dormant form for years despite the best practices in cleaning, processing and packaging.
In fact, the bacteria may be uniquely adapted to overcome the twin tactics of dairy protection: pasteurization followed by refrigeration. According to co-author and research support specialist Nicole Martin, the spores are not only resistant to heat, the small jolt of heat during pasteurization may actually stimulate them to germinate.
Some can reproduce in refrigerated dairy products at temperatures that would stymy other types of bacteria.
“We studied 1,288 bacterial isolates in raw milk, pasteurized milk and the dairy farm environment; however, only a handful of strains accounted for 80 percent of the spore-formers present,” said Wiedmann. “They grow well in milk — and possibly other foods — at temperatures as low as 43 F, and we can identify Paenibacillus because of their uniquely high galactosidase enzyme activity at 32 C.”
They also investigated how pasteurization affects the presence of such bacteria. Concerns about food safety have prompted many dairy processors to increase pasteurization temperatures above the 161 F degrees minimum set by the government.
Anecdotal reports, however, suggested this practice actually led to more spoilage once the products were refrigerated. Tallying bacterial numbers throughout the refrigerated shelf life of milk pasteurized at two different temperatures — 169 F and 175 F — the Wiedmann-Boor lab found that lowering the temperature significantly reduced bacterial growth during refrigerated storage, especially by 21 days after pasteurization.
Already being applied
The findings are already being applied in the field. The Wiedmann-Boor Lab was enlisted by Upstate Niagara, a cooperative of more than 360 dairy farm families throughout western New York, to further improve the quality of their award-winning milk by assessing milk samples for spore-formers.
Data on samples that contained spore-forming bacteria are now being analyzed using DNA fingerprinting to identify the types of organisms present and where they might have come from.
Used as a model
Martin said she hopes the collaborative project will become a model for how to approach spore-forming bacteria in individual dairy processing plants.
“It’s one of the strengths we have at Cornell — we are able to do advanced research and immediately turn it around to help the industry,” Martin said.
COLUMBUS — The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has announced its 2012 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series, featuring free public tours of sustainable and organic farms.
Consumers interested in local foods, farmers and market gardeners wanting to learn more and network with other farmers, aspiring and beginning farmers, and anyone interested in learning more about the production and marketing techniques of sustainable farmers, are encouraged to attend.
“Farmers are opening their gates this summer to show consumers how sustainably produced food is grown and marketed,” said Michelle Gregg, OEFFA’s Sustainable Agriculture Educator.
Thirteen tours and workshops are being sponsored by OEFFA and will be held between June and September.
These tours feature: organic berry production; high tunnels and hoop houses; commercial composting; permaculture; natural goat health; raw milk cheesemaking; specialty grain production; produce auctions; institutional sourcing; Ohio farm history; fiber production; specialty crop production, and farmers using a wide range of direct-to-consumer marketing strategies, including farmers’ markets, restaurants, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.
— June 10: Berry trellis systems and high tunnels tour and potluck— Brickel Creek Organic Farm; Jamestown, Ohio; (Greene Co.)
— June 24: OEFFA Athens Chapter compost tour — The Compost Exchange; Athens, Ohio; (Athens Co.)
— July 20: Garden tour and permaculture lecture with Peter Bane — Shaker Heights, Ohio; (Cuyahoga Co.)
— July 21- July 22: Advanced urban permaculture workshop with Peter Bane — Cleveland, Ohio; (Cuyahoga Co.)
— July 28: Natural goat health and raw milk cheesemaking tour — Blue Rock Station, Philo, Ohio; (Muskingum Co.)
— July 29: Garlic and hoop house season extension tour — Jandy’s Farm, Bellefontaine, Ohio; (Logan Co.)
— Aug. 4: Grain Growers Chapter specialty grain workshop and potluck — Gregg Organics, Bellville, Ohio; (Richland Co.)
— Sept. 14: Produce auctions and the local food web tour — Owl Creek Produce Auction, Fredericktown, Ohio; (Morrow Co.)
— Sept. 14: Institutional sourcing of local food tour — Kenyon College, AVI Foodsystems, Gambier, Ohio; (Knox Co.)
— Sept. 16: Sustainable living on an Ohio century farm tour — Carriage House Farm, North Bend, Ohio; (Hamilton Co.)
— Sept. 16: 2012 OEFFA Stewardship Award winner tour — Peach Mountain Organics, Spring Valley, Ohio; (Greene Co.)
— Sept. 23: Ohio farm history tour and potluck — Stone Garden Farm and Village, Richfield, Ohio; (Summit Co.)
— Sept. 27: Alpaca fiber production tour — Alpaca Spring Valley Farm, Minerva, Ohio; (Stark Co.)
In total, the series features 22 farms and food businesses, two university research centers and colleges, and five educational workshops.
El Capitan! A 3,000 vertical rock formation located in beautiful Yosemite National Park. Long thought to be impossible to climb, it was first ‘conquered’ in 1958 by a group of three climbers who took 47 days to reach its summit. Many now consider El Capitan as the standard of ‘big wall’ climbing.
Because anything that goes up must eventually come down, it didn’t take long for someone to come up with the brilliant idea not to climb, but to jump from its top… with a parachute. This feat was first accomplished by Michael Pilkey and Brian Schubert in 1966, an event that gave birth to BASE jumping.
What is BASE jumping? BASE jumping, or more appropriately B.A.S.E. jumping is an activity where people jump from fixed objects with a parachute. The letters in BASE stand for: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).
To say that BASE jumping is dangerous is an understatement. It is estimated that BASE jumping results in one fatality per 60 participants, or one fatality per 2,317 jumps. The word ‘fatality’ here means death!
A brilliant demonstration
Afraid that BASE jumping could quickly get out of control, the National Park Service put in place a permit system for BASE jumping El Capitan. The permitting program was quickly dismantled after only three months because people kept on jumping without a permit. The service has vigorously enforced a ban ever since.
This ban has angered some people who claimed that the risks associated with BASE jumping have been greatly over-exaggerated.
To demonstrate the safety of BASE jumping, Jan Davis proceeded to make a media advertised, yet illegal, BASE jump from El Capitan on Oct. 23, 1999. His parachute didn’t quite open up in time, and television cameras were there to capture his final BASE jump.
So where am I going with this column? What does BASE jumping have to do with milk?
Well, the story of Jan Davis doesn’t end up with his last BASE jump. A brilliant attorney filed a lawsuit for his estate, claiming that the National Park Service was negligent for not stopping Davis when it knew of the dangers involved.
I don’t know the outcome of the lawsuit in question, but I know darn well that some of yours and my tax dollars were used to defend the National Park Service.
Personally, I firmly believe in personal freedom and I couldn’t care less if all the Mr. Davises of the world were to jump from wherever they please. The problem, however, is that you and I are asked to pay for the damages whenever they occur. And this is exactly the case for milk pasteurization.
Milk is a marvelous food. One problem is that milk is also a good food for pathogens. Over centuries, diseases associated with the consumption of raw milk resulted in the death of many human beings.
The discovery by Mr. Pasteur that a certain amount of heat destroys most pathogens in milk led to the universal adoption of pasteurization in developed countries. Most everyone were happy that public health and safety had been so enhanced.
Of course, pasteurization also destroys some good microorganisms. Some people believe that non-pasteurized milk is healthier than pasteurized milk. As with BASE jumping, I myself wouldn’t care that some people willingly decided to consume raw milk if their choice wouldn’t affect others, myself included. But it does, both financially and from a public safety standpoint.
A number of infectious microbes can be found in raw milk: Brucella, Campylobacter jejuni, E. coli, Lysteria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella, Staph. aureus, and Yersinia enterocolitica just to name a few. They can all make you really sick; some can kill you.
I just dislike the idea of picking up the health tab of the people who decided to BASE jump using raw milk.
I find it utterly ironic that many dairymen are now investing some serious dollars in on-farm equipment to pasteurize the milk fed to their calves while other people are spending even more money in trying to avoid the pasteurization of the milk they consume. Unpasteurized milk is safe — so they claim. Maybe more so than BASE jumping.
Just ask Brian Schubert, the first man to BASE jump El Capitan in 1966. Well, maybe not, as Mr. Schubert died while BASE jumping from the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia on Oct. 21, 2006. A late opening parachute… Another lawsuit…
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Recent weeks have been bad for agricultural commodity producers, with falling prices impacting Pennsylvania’s farmers. An economist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences said there are reasons why prices for corn, milk, soybeans, beef, pork and wheat have fallen sharply.
James Dunn, professor of agricultural economics, noted that what appears to be plunging prices are actually a price correction, after a year of climbing prices due to global demand and an extremely tough summer of floods and droughts nationwide.
“For the last several weeks, prices for basic commodities have been going down sharply,” Dunn said. “Some went down a few weeks ago, others went down recently, but all basic agricultural commodities that are of interest in Pennsylvania have dropped in the last two months — pretty substantially in most cases.
“Some by 20 percent, others by just 10 percent, but all are down considerably. Corn and soybeans have bounced back somewhat this week but still are well below their levels in early September.”
Dairy farmers are especially hard-hit, because the price they’re getting for raw milk has dropped drastically while the price of feed grain has not gone down as much, according to Dunn.
The disparity is compounded by excessive spring rain, summer drought and flooding in the Northeast and record drought in the Southwest. The harsh weather wiped out much of the feed corn and forage crops intended to feed dairy herds.
“It’s been a bad year for on-farm feed production, so a lot of farmers will be going out to buy stuff they thought they already had produced,” he said. “So, they spent money to plant crops they didn’t get, and now they have to spend more money to replace them.”
Dunn said because the weather in the Midwest has improved in recent weeks, the corn crop should be better than projected earlier in the summer — a much-needed break, since Eastern farmers probably will have to buy supplemental feed and forage at premium prices.
Another culprit is Wall Street, Dunn explained, as speculators jumped in to take advantage of a well-known economic indicator, driving prices higher than the norm.
“A lot of times, if you have a national economic recovery coming, the basic commodities lead the recovery,” he said. “So, people with no interest in or understanding of agriculture invested in commodities because they were looking to make money.
“But once it became clear that the U.S. economy was not recovering, and that we actually may be at risk for a double-dip recession, these people fled from the basic commodities because they were afraid prices would go back down.
“And of course, their departure back into cash and out of agriculture meant that the commodities lost value because there weren’t buyers willing to step in at those high prices. To some extent, they created an investment ‘bubble’ of higher-than-reasonable commodity prices.”
Even though prices are falling, Dunn said any Pennsylvania farmers with crops to sell will get good prices for them because the prices are still high, just not as high as they were.
He said the state’s animal producers are most threatened, because the unusual weather of this summer, coupled with flood damage, will force them to import some very high-priced feed grain, leading to higher poultry, beef and pork prices for consumers.
“Our corn crop in Pennsylvania is small, and much of what would be going for grain instead will be chopped into silage, and so we’re going to be importing a lot more corn from the Midwest than we ordinarily do,” he said.
“And the price differential [between in-state and imported corn], which is normally about 30 cents at this time of year, is now about $1.30. So the price of feed for Pennsylvania will be very expensive, even with the overall drop in prices.”
Consumer prices will be affected less than the basic commodities because there’s a lot of value added to the raw materials, Dunn said.
“But consumer food prices are increasing and in some cases will go up further. I wouldn’t be surprised if poultry prices rise, for instance. They’ve been down — the poultry industry has been hit very hard by high corn prices — but ultimately they’ll cut their flock sizes in response to that, and poultry prices will go up.”
Dunn pointed out that consumer price increases affect the poor more because they spend a greater percentage of their money on food.
“We haven’t had very much food-price inflation for quite a while, but it looks like we’re going into a period of 4 to 5 percent food-price inflation, perhaps even more,” he said.
“Interest rates are essentially zero, and incomes are not growing, so it’s going to be more noticeable than it would be if you were earning good money on your savings and were getting regular raises.”
Sometimes price jumps are absorbed by food processors and supermarkets instead of being passed on to consumers. But, Dunn said, don’t count on that too much this time.
“For one thing, margins in most of these industries are not very good right now,” he said. “A couple of supermarkets have done 90-day price freezes for some of these commodities, but in general, price increases will be passed along.”
Consumers essentially will have to do what farmers do: deal with it.
“Price instability is a fact of life in farming,” he said. “They’ll have to hold off on purchases, make old equipment last a little longer, cut back on personal consumption. In some cases, farmers will change what they produce.”
DEFIANCE, Ohio — The next stop on the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association’s 2011 farm tour series will be at Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese in Defiance, Ohio (Paulding Co.) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 20.
Family-owned and operated, Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese produces and direct markets grass-fed beef, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, brown eggs, and raw milk cheeses.
Participants will learn how milk is turned into handmade, artisan, raw milk cheeses. This tour is free and open to the public. No registration is necessary.
For a complete description of the farm tour, including directions and a map, go to www.oeffa.org/farmtour/.
For more information about Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese, visit www.canaljunctioncheese.com, call 419-399-2350, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON — The USDA recently issued a proposed rule to amend the Dairy Product Mandatory Reporting Program as required by law. The Mandatory Price Reporting Act of 2010 amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to, among other things, provide for the establishment of an electronic reporting system for manufacturers to report sales information for specific dairy products.
Any manufacturer that processes and markets less than one million pounds of the specific dairy products per year would remain exempt from the reporting requirements. Price data reported are used by USDA to determine minimum class prices for raw milk under the Federal Milk Marketing Order Program.
The proposed rule was published June 10 in the Federal Register. Public comments must be received by Aug. 9. Comments may be filed by visiting www.regulations.gov. USDA will issue a final rule implementing the program once public comments have been reviewed.
HERSHEY, Pa. — She has only three head of cows, a very small herd of Icelandic sheep, beef cattle, egg layers and an abiding love of farming. But this Crawford County farmer set out to teach the public the realities of modern agriculture. And she did so in five minutes.
A 5-minute video of Billie Bookamer’s family farm in Meadville helped garner state recognition for the 24-year-old farmer. Bookamer was the winner of the first-ever 2010 Young Farmer and Rancher Video Contest at the 60th anniversary meeting of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
Bookamer was honored during the awards banquet Nov. 16 at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pa. Bookamer is the daughter of Tom and Linda Bookamer, who operate a bed and breakfast on the farm.
The video was a “dream of mine,” Bookamer said, to educate the public about the “true story of agriculture.” Bookamer said, “I wanted to educate people on true farming practices.”
The video has not been uploaded to the farm website at www.bookamerfamilyfarm.com yet. Bookamer said she simply wanted to present the video to the Farm Bureau to use at their discretion, “hopefully to educate the public as well.”
Bookamer, the oldest of six children on the farm, operates a raw milk dairy in Meadville. She began taking care of cows 10 years ago with a grade Ayrshire named Maudine, now 12 years old, and has added a registered Jersey, Clarice, 5, and a registered Holstein, Josey, 4. All cows are grass-fed with Clarice being the top producer.
The farm regularly hosts tours of school groups, including more than 1,000 students in May. The farm sees about 300-400 students in September. Youth range from kindergarten through college.
“The goal of our family farm is to educate the public about agriculture and to show them what a farmer does, so people know where their food comes from and what it takes to produce that food,” she said. “Visitors to our farm can experience the joys and struggles of farming.”
Most of Bookamer’s skills are self-taught. While she also raises sheep and Alpaca, Alpaca wool judging takes up a lot of her free time. She judged the Ohio Alpacafest Nov. 7 in Columbus.
As an Alpaca wool judge, Bookamer examines fiber that producer/spinners send to her — the latest contest included 58 samples — and judges the fiber characteristics. Bookamer plans to produce another 5-minute video in the spring, looking at other farm practices to help in educating the public.
Judges for the Farm Bureau award base their decision on how well the video promotes modern agriculture practices in a positive manner to consumer audiences of diverse backgrounds.
Other factors include speaking ability, explanation of farming operation, clarity of ag practices, and proactively addressing known consumer concerns or negative perceptions about agriculture.
“The new video contest is another effort to spark interest among our young farmers to get further engaged in reaching out to enlighten the public about everyday farming practices and how their food is produced,” said Pennsylvania Farm Bureau president Carl T. Shaffer in a statement.
For submitted the winning video, Bookamer receives $500 from Dodge Truck, $240 worth of lodging vouchers from Choice Hotels, free registration and lodging for PFB’s 2011 State Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership Conference, and an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Ga. in February.
The finalist for the award was Joshua Waddell of Crawford County.
During the banquet, Charlie and Elaine Benner of Selinsgrove, Pa. were honored with the Distinguished Service to Ag Award. Charlie and Elaine have farmed for many years, and both have been involved on various Farm Bureau committees.
Elaine was state chair of the women’s leadership committee, Snyder County Women’s Committee chair, and spent more than 40 years as the Snyder County Farm Bureau newsletter editor.
“Charlie and Elaine have been extremely active Farm Bureau members for decades, serving on state committees an in county leadership roles,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer in a statement.
“They truly reflect what grassroots members are able to accomplish through dedication, hard work and loyalty to an organization.”
RITTMAN, Ohio — What is the one chore dairymen dread the most?
Well, that depends on which dairyman you ask. But, thanks to new technology, there’s one big chore that dairymen no longer have to endure — at least not on their own.
Thanks to the advent of robotic milkers, and their introduction to the Buckeye State, Ohio dairymen can now spend less time in the parlor and more time tending to other chores.
The first robotic milker was installed in Ohio late last year, at a farm near Plain City, and the first in the northern half of the state was installed in April, at the Ramsier dairy farm in Rittman.
Joe Ramsier and his father, Marvin, had been eyeing robotic milkers for several weeks, and took interest in a unit they saw on display at W.G. Dairy Supply, during an open house at the Creston store.
About a month after installation, Ramsier said nearly all cows enter on their own and seem content with how it works. Once a cow enters, a large robotic arm attaches each unit to each udder teat, and begins to draw milk.
The cows enter whenever they like, drawn by the fresh feed dispensed for them to eat, and their own bodies telling them it’s time to be milked. Each cow is milked an average of three times, and the identity of each cow is electronically recorded on a computer monitor, which allows each cow to be milked a different number of times — no more than six times per day.
Ramsier has two robotic milkers, manufactured by Lely, and installed by W.G. Dairy, a local company. He milks 110 head, and milkers operate all day and night.
If there’s a problem — a cow not lining up, the milker not attaching, or any leakage issues (very rare) — the device will automatically call his cell phone.
The benefits are many. For one, it frees up some of his help so they can tend to other chores. And it frees his mother, so she can spend more time with “grandma duties,” he said.
The increased milking, coupled with careful monitoring, is expected to produce additional yield. Ramsier hopes to get about 8-10 pounds more per cow, per day, as a result of using the robot.
The cows appear more comfortable when milked on their own, and he has noticed a decrease in the level of mastitis.
It all adds up to a major improvement over his old parlor — a double-eight herringbone. His new parlor also has its own office and viewing area, built by K & M Builders, with a concrete floor by B&K Construction of Marshallville.
But the big question is, does it make sense economically? It’s one Ramsier said is hard to calculate. If you figure his labor savings, he’s cut the cost of labor in half, at least.
The yield increases and cow comfort also are important improvements. W.G. Dairy salesman Dean Stoller said the cow’s choice to be milked is significant.
“The cow can choose when she wants to be milked,” he said. “She’s not forced into a holding pen and crammed into a tight area. She goes on her own free will.”
And there’s arguably less stress on the dairyman, because he spends less time watching over people’s shoulders.
“I enjoy working with the cows more than I enjoy managing people,” Ramsier said.
Although each dairyman should seek his or her own quote, the average price per unit is a bit more than $200,000.
Easy on cows
Despite the high-tech, mechanical design, the Ramsiers and salespeople at W.G. say it’s actually very kind to the cows. In the event that something goes wrong, it has safety mechanisms to shut itself off, so no damage would be done to the cow.
Stoller said it’s a new technology that will need to grow along with dairy farmers’ confidence, but he’s confident it will happen now that a few units are being put to work in the state.
PITTSBURGH, Pa.— A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a couple who reportedly fell ill after ingesting raw milk from a Lawrence County, Pa. dairy.
James and Maureen Orchard, of Mars, Pa., reportedly suffered from symptoms in March by Campylobacter.
The bacteria was found in raw milk produced by Pasture Maid Creamery LLC of New Castle, Pennsylvania after testing by the Pa. Department of Agriculture and the Pa. Department of Health.
The Pasture Maid Creamery lawsuit was filed April 28 in the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County. It alleges that 67-year-old James Orchard became paralyzed from a Campylobacter infection he suffered from unpasteurized Pasture Maid milk.
According to the complaint, Mr. Orchard and his wife purchased the milk March 16 from McGinnis Sisters Special Foods store in Mars, Pennsylvania. The retailer is named in the suit along with the creamery and its owner, Adam Dean.
While Mrs. Orchard suffered symptoms, her husband began to experience a loss of sensation and movement. As his infection developed into Guillain-Barre syndrome, he became totally paralyzed except for minimal movement of his head and the ability to blink his eyes. He was placed on ventilation equipment and is still unable to breathe on his own in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Agriculture advised consumers to discard Pasture Maid brand raw milk and recommended that Pasture Maid Creamery stop selling the product March 25.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture suspended Pasture Maid’s permit to sell raw milk for human consumption April 5 and the permit remains suspended indefinitely.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — On-farm dairy sales and service representatives can learn about innovative retail, dairy manufacturing and service industry businesses during the October series of Dairy Advocacy and Resource Team meetings, hosted by the Pennsylvania Dairy Task Force and the Center for Dairy Excellence.
Five meetings include tours of the Lancaster DHIA testing facility, Walmart distribution center, Dean Farm’s on-farm processing facility, Fraley’s Auction House and Schreiber’s Cheese.
The programs also include a review of the 2009 forage report, and factors influencing 2009 profits and losses on the farm.
In addition to the tours, the program includes an update on the 2009 forage harvest, quality and production in the Northeast, and a review of a case study of farm financial statements of the past six months to evaluate factors influencing profits. Participants will also see a demonstration of the center’s new business planning template online resource.
Five meetings are scheduled across the state. Dates, times and locations for those meetings are below:
– Oct. 7, 1-4 p.m. at the Walmart Distribution Center, 181 Wal-Mart Road, Bedford, Bedford County.
Known for its efficiency in managing inventory and distribution, participants will observe Walmart’s innovative distribution process. (No lunch will be provided.)
– Oct. 8, 1-4 p.m. at the Lancaster DHIA Lab, 1592 Old Line Road, Manheim, Lancaster County.
Lancaster DHIA will showcase a new mastitis identification technology, and how producers will be able to use a DHIA milk sample or a sample from the bulk tank to help identify 11 strains of mastitis, plus the B-Lactamase penicillin resistant gene. (No lunch will be provided.)
The plant is part of Schreiber Foods, the world’s largest supplier of private-label dairy products to grocery stores and wholesale distributors including the biggest names in fast foods. (Lunch will be provided by Schreiber’s Cheese.)
– Oct. 21, noon-4 p.m. at Dean Farm, 571 Cow Path Lane, New Castle, Lawrence County.
Dean Farm is home to Pasture Maid Creamery, LLC, where fresh raw milk is sold, and a variety of cheeses are made right on the farm. (Lunch will be provided by Dean Farm.)
– Oct. 22, noon-4 p.m. at Fraley’s Auction House, 1515 Kepner Hill Road, Muncy, Lycoming County.
Fraley Auction Co. Inc. is one of Pennsylvania’s largest and oldest auction companies known for quality service and knowledge of the products sold. (Lunch will be provided by AgChoice Farm Credit.)
Any dairy professionals directly involved with Pennsylvania producers are encouraged to attend. The meetings qualify for continuing education credits from the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and in veterinary medicine.
SCENERY HILL, Pa. — A person can be defined by the books they read and the people they choose to spend time with, says Alisa Fasnacht, co-owner of Emerald Valley Artisan Cheese in Scenery Hill, Pa.
For Fasnacht and her husband, Alan, the ability to network and the inspiration they have found in books helped them begin a successful cheese business while working full-time jobs and caring for their herd of show cattle. Read the rest of this entry »
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — In light of the unprecedented times faced by dairy farmers, the Dairylea Cooperative Inc. board of directors recently passed a resolution to release this year’s revolving equity four months before the normal time frame.
This is the 18th consecutive year Dairylea has been able to make a return on members’ equity contributions. More than 1,600 checks were cut, totaling an amount upward of $825,000.
“Our members are in the midst of a crisis,” said Greg Wickham, Dairylea chief executive officer. “This is one small way to help on the short term.”
Dairylea also recently hosted a follow-up webinar for the agribusiness community in response to the dire economic situation in the Northeast dairy industry. The webinar, held April 30, revisited many of the discussion topics that existed in February’s agribusiness webinar.
More than 200 participants from five states listened as cooperative representatives provided information on factors affecting milk-marketing dynamics and the most recent milk pricing forecast.
With more than 2,300 member farms, Dairylea Cooperative Inc. is the largest milk-marketing organization based in the region, selling about 5.5 billion pounds of raw milk.
ROSEMONT, Ill. — The dairy industry unveiled a major initiative to help reduce on-farm expenses while meeting a growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products.
The industry-wide effort focuses on the fluid milk value chain — from farm to table. It includes a series of projects that will reduce energy, increase efficiency and help dairy producers tap into new sources of income.
The announcement was made by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, an organization bringing together leaders from across the dairy value chain.
The group includes producer organizations, dairy cooperatives, processors and manufacturers such as Hilmar Cheese Company, Leprino Foods, Dairylea Cooperative Inc., Anderson Erickson Dairy, Land O’Lakes and Dairy Farmers of America.
As part of the initiative, 12 project plans were unveiled that offer a range of solutions for operations large and small across all industry segments.
Some of these projects take advantage of existing practices, while others are technological innovations that require longer time frames and financial commitments for research and development.
The project plans have the potential to create a conservatively estimated $238 million in business value and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.2 million metric tons equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off the road every year.
Solutions include identifying and implementing energy-saving best practices across all value chain segments, removing barriers to the adoption of methane digesters and implementing pilot programs to test alternatives to thermal pasteurization for raw milk and reduced-temperature clean-in-place technologies.
Many modern dairy practices, including on-farm technological advances, have already dramatically reduced dairy’s carbon footprint by lowering energy and water use, increasing milk production and developing more efficient nutrient management programs.
The Innovation Center engaged the University of Arkansas Applied Sustainability Center to conduct the first-ever comprehensive survey to accurately measure its current carbon footprint.
The science-based life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. fluid milk value chain will be submitted for publication later this year.
The commitment to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was first announced in the summer of 2008, when more than 250 stakeholders gathered at the first Sustainability Summit to develop a reduction roadmap.
Now, more than 500 stakeholders, including producers, processors, manufacturers and retailers, as well as other dairy industry experts, are helping the industry and Innovation Center achieve this sustainability vision.
Overall, the industry goal is to reduce fluid milk’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
WASHINGTON — The Dairy Subcommittee of the National Family Farm Coalition hosted a press teleconference outlining the dire crisis in the dairy industry due to an unprecedented $5 drop in raw milk prices for February.
Worst in decades
Farmers from across the country testified these were the worst conditions seen in decades while Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, warned lower prices to farmers had yet to help consumers at the grocery store and the loss of family farmers could lead to a dangerous dependence on foreign imports for our dairy needs.
National Family Farm Coalition sent a letter to Congress requesting emergency relief in the stimulus package. The coalition believes the root of the problem lies with a flawed pricing system and a highly consolidated dairy industry and not overproduction, as commonly assumed.
“These are the worst conditions we have ever seen with our income dropping by over 50 percent from a year ago. Now we have only a fraction of the farmers we used to have, so losing even a small percentage will cause more of a depression in rural economies, with possible food shortages and higher consumer prices and forcing us to rely on imports.
“Congress doesn’t seem to care, and neither do our dairy cooperatives and other dairy lobbying groups,” said Paul Rozwadowski, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and chair of the National Family Farm Coalition Dairy Subcommittee.
John Bunting, a New York dairy farmer, placed the blame for volatile milk prices on the fact milk prices are set by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which has been exposed as being highly prone to manipulation by a few corporate entities.
“Kraft is one of the lead players in setting the price on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and they just admitted they sold less product, but made more money due to raising prices to the consumer. We need to investigate the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as the lead player in dropping prices to farmers,” Bunting said.
Bunting further noted milk supply in the country was not driven by price, but factors such as real estate prices in California.
“From 2002-2007, 33 states produced less milk per capita. The handful of states where it increased was due to farmers selling out in California and buying land in places such as New Mexico and Colorado and also Dutch dairy farmers buying farms in the Midwest,” he said.
Bryan Wolfe, an Ohio dairy farmer, noted the consolidation of the industry, particularly the power of Dairy Farmers of America, the nation’s largest dairy cooperative, and how this has led to failures in the pricing system.
Joel Greeno, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, further reiterated how the dairy cooperatives and National Milk Producers Federation have failed to advocate on behalf of farmers.
Greeno also pointed out the MILC program is “grossly inadequate and allows processors and industry to let the price fall and at taxpayers expense, give a pittance to farmers.”
Food and Water Watch
Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch said rarely do lower prices paid to farmers translate to lower consumer prices at the grocery store.
“We don’t think consumers benefit from this drop in price. Last year, it was widely publicized food prices went up but long term, from 1998-2007, dairy farmers share of the consumer dollar decreased by 25 percent while retail prices went up 40 percent.
“The bigger issue for consumers is what happens when we have no regional and local food supply and have to worry about what replaces that — including possibly imports from China, where you have concerns about the melamine scandal. We’re more vulnerable to that every year we lose more dairy farmers.”
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Farmstead and artisan dairy processors can learn how to improve the safety and quality of their products, as well as their businesses’ bottom line, at the two-day Dairy Basics for Farmstead and Artisan Processors workshop Feb. 25-26 at Yoder’s Country Market, New Holland, Pa.
Presented by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the workshop is designed for farmers and small farmstead and artisan dairy processors who market raw milk, pasteurized bottled milk or raw or pasteurized dairy products.
Day One will focus on milk processing fundamentals, with breakout sessions for pasteurized and raw milk producers.
Topics to be covered include milk composition and quality, good manufacturing processes and milking practices and regulations for both raw and pasteurized milk.
Day Two will focus on value-added products, with breakout sessions on cheese, ice cream and yogurt.
Key business planning aspects, such as marketing and distribution, will be covered in addition to milk composition and microbiology.
Breakout sessions will cover the processing of both raw and pasteurized products.
The day wraps up with guest speaker David Rice, owner of Clover Creek Cheese Cellar, who will share his experiences as a processor.
Participants may attend one or both days.
Workshop hours are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Day One and 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Day Two.
Pre-registration is required. The registration fee is $175 to attend both days or $100 to attend one day.
The fee covers the course binder, lunch and refreshment breaks.
Group discounts are available for companies sending more than one participant.
For groups of two or more, the first person will be charged the full rate and each additional person will receive a discounted rate of two days at $150 or one day at $80.