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  • Goat Creamery Thrives on Artisan Cheese Sales

    Jeffrey B. Roth

    Maine Correspondent

    BROOKSVILLE, Me. — Beneath pine, fir, spruce and mixed hardwood trees, Sunset Acres Farm and Dairy overlooks the Bagaduce River, which empties into the Penobscot Bay in southcentral Maine and forms a brackish tidal estuary.

    With nearly non-existent road traffic, the 23-acre farm is an idyllic setting. The ambient sounds on the farm come from a cacophony of bleating goats, occasional barks from Mick, an English Shepherd, the rustling breeze of new spring leaves and the idling engine of a refrigerated delivery truck.

    Owned by Anne Bossi and Bob Bowen, Sunset Acres mostly was known for farmstead cheese by its Maine customers, from Portland to Bar Harbor. Then, its cheese gained national attention in a June 23, 2004, article in the New York Times listing “some of the best New England cheese makers.” Food reviewer Marian Burros wrote: “The classic chèvre is especially rich and smooth, the ash covered Stonington Granite is very creamy and the Bagaduce is nice and buttery.”

    While Bossi is the cheesemaker, Bowen is in charge of the herd of about 90 to 100 dairy goats, made up of Saanen, Alpine and Nubian breeds. Both of Bowen’s grandparents were dairy farmers — one was in Belfast and one was in Swanville — one had Holsteins and one had Jerseys.

    “It’s kind of a sad story,” Bob Bowen said. “I wanted to take over the Jersey farm. I went to the University of Maine and, when I came home one day, everything was gone ... the cows, even the anvil beside the door. They sold the stupid anvil, which had always been a memorable thing for me.”

    Bowen’s grandfather had intentionally sent him away to prevent him from being home during the auction of the farm. His grandfather didn’t want him to take over the failing dairy operation, and end up “losing my shirt” too, said Bowen.

    So, for 20 years, Bowen toiled at various non-farm-related jobs to “get enough money and courage” to start a farm, he said.

    “I started out with hogs, in Swanville ... and went through bankruptcy after 10 years, and lost everything,” Bowen said. “I came over here and this lady, who owns the place, my wife (Anne), she let me move in with some of my pigs. Then, we decided to be diversified to give us a wide base of things to make a living from — and it all made money.”

    The couple’s success at diversification resulted in the farm being featured in a number of books about diversified farming, Bowen said.

    They raised pigs, chickens and laying hens, guineas, ducks and laying ducks, rabbits, sheep, and two cows to supply milk for the goats. They never got into beef due to the lack of available pasture, but their diversification made the couple money and helped the farm thrive.

    “We cut back on the pigs ... they were sucking me dry because we couldn’t get good help with the sows — because they were afraid of them,” Bowen said, adding that the problem ended the pig portion of their business. “Then, we ended up getting out of some of the other birds, before getting into the goats. My wife had had goats for 15-18 years, I guess, about two years before I showed up.”

    About two years after the pigs were gone from the mix, Bowen discovered that a customer in Bar Harbor wanted goat meat for their workers from Africa. Bowen informed Bossi of his intention to reintroduce goats to the farm.

    “She said, ‘I’m not going to milk another goat. Don’t get a goat for me to milk,’” Bowen said, chuckling. “So, true to my word, I never made her milk a goat. I ended up with three, and one of them ended up being the best goat we ever owned. I started making goat cheese with her friend’s recipe. We made it first in the house and then moved to a room in the barn. It became more popular and we hired some girls to help. Now we only have goats.”

    Goats are browsers, Bowen said. Although the goats are allowed access to small pasture areas, they are kept out of the woods, because the animals would eat all the saplings. In fact, Bowen lets the goats browse near the house, to keep those areas denuded of saplings and other brush. Currently there are 25 kids in a separate paddock, a little away from the milking parlor and cheese room.

    Inside the small milking parlor is a dairy-cow pipeline milking system modified for the goats. There, the interns — Tina Pe Paggao, from Isabela, Philippines, and Kagiso Maubane, from Victoria, South Africa — are preparing for the evening round of milking. Maubane and Pe Paggao are two of three interns who live in small, wood-framed cottages near the main house and barn.

    The interns usually are college graduates who majored in agriculture. Interns stay one year, working on the farm, and learn every aspect of the dairy along with the cheesemaking and marketing operation.

    “I like (working with goats) very much,” Maubane said, adding that its very different from where she worked on a large cattle ranch in Montana, before coming to Maine.

    As for Pe Paggao, she said, “The first place I worked was on a Hawaii farm. I love working here.”

    “We’ve had eight Filipinos in a row, but this year we can’t get any,” Bowen said, as a result of stricter immigration and work-student visa regulations. “Sometimes I feel guilty it’s not a fancy farm, but, on the other hand, (the interns) need to see what can be accomplished on a small farm.”

    The goats’ milk is pumped into a refrigerated bulk tank, where it is stored until it is pumped into three pasteurizers in the adjacent cheese room. Bowen said the vat pasteurizers allow the milk to be heated to a lower temperature than those used in larger commercial dairies. The lower temperature, he said, is “kinder” to the fresh goat milk, and the process preserves more of the enzymes that produce the unique cheese flavors.

    While she doesn’t normally divulge that she was born in New York City, Bossi said it was a February when she first visited this farm property. There was nothing there but trees and shrubs.

    “I looked at it on cross-country skis, because there was so much snow,” she said. “I bought it without ever seeing the ground. I just loved it. My son built the house. He actually built it twice (the first one was lost in a devastating house fire).”

    “We moved to a family farm on Cape Cod, but my parents wouldn’t let me farm on the Cape. But I did for a year, but that fell apart,” Bossi said, adding that farms were eventually pushed off the Cape.

    “I knew I had to move, but where to move to?” she said. “Vermont was too expensive and too many people ... so I moved to Monroe, Maine, and began inching my way closer to the water.”

    While living in Cape Cod in 1970, Bossi had obtained some goats. She had a garden and had never been interested in raising goats, but got some anyway, adding: “I don’t know why.”

    Bossi and her sister were at a county fair, and the next thing they knew, they had goats. At the time, Bossi was married and raising children. With the addition of goats, the sisters built a barn and started milking the goats.

    “I had too much milk, so I started making cheese with a recipe a friend gave me,” said Bossi, who also used to be an avid black and white, 35-millimeter film photographer.

    As she checked the hanging cheesecloth bags of cheese curd, she said, “I have had goats and made cheese since then.”

    Bossi said she uses “special cultures imported from France and vegetable rennet,” after the heating and cooling process is complete. The next morning, the curds and whey separate; then the curd is hand-scooped into cheesecloth and special cheese forms. Later, the curd is removed, mixed with salt and herbs, drained, and dried to produce a firm, shaped cheese.

    The bloomy-rind cheeses, named for the white mold that forms, are dried for about a day or more before being moved to a temperature- and humidity-controlled cave to age for 10 days to 2 weeks until ready to eat.

    In addition to cheese, Bowen sells beef and pork products that he buys from various farms and resells. Sunset Acres products are available in farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants.

    For more information, visit www.sunsetacresfarm.com. Jeffrey B. Roth is a freelance writer in Maine.

    Article courtesy of Lancaster Farming.

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  • China Vows to Fight Washington on Tariff Hike

    Joe McDonald

    AP Business Writer

    BEIJING — China’s government accused the Trump administration of hurting its credibility by acting erratically on trade and vowed Wednesday to fight back if Washington goes ahead with a threatened tariff hike.

    A foreign ministry spokeswoman complained the U.S. decision to renew a threat to raise duties on a $50 billion list of Chinese goods conflicts with an agreement in mid-May aimed at settling that dispute. Treasury Steven Mnuchin said then that the conflict was “on hold” after Beijing promised to buy more U.S. goods to help narrow its multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States.

    The spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, declined to say whether Tuesday’s announcement might disrupt plans for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to visit Beijing for talks starting Saturday. The Commerce Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the status of the meeting, but the American Embassy said a delegation of trade, agriculture and treasury officials had arrived in the Chinese capital to make preparations.

    Hua gave no indication of whether Beijing planned to act on its own threat to retaliate by raising duties on a $50 billion list of American goods including beef and soybeans.

    “Every flip-flop and U-turn of a country will be simply depleting and squandering its own credibility,” Hua said at a regular briefing.

    “We do not want a trade war, but we are not afraid of one. We will fight back,” she said. “We will definitely take forceful measures to defend our legitimate interests.”

    The White House announcement said it also would impose curbs on Chinese investment and purchases of high-tech exports.

    Asian financial markets tumbled on renewed worries about a U.S.-Chinese trade spat. China’s main market index fell 2.5 percent and Japan’s benchmark lost 1.5 percent.

    The White House’s latest tariff action focuses on advanced technologies, including those such as robots and electric cars that China has said it wants to develop under its “Made in China 2025” program. The White House said a list of products would be announced June 15.

    Trump’s surprise announcement reflects his frustration at criticism of his earlier deal with Beijing, Eurasia analysts said in a report. They said he appears less concerned that he needs Chinese support for his proposed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    “Trump is going on offense, reverting to his earlier instincts on China and re-empowering the trade hawks in his Cabinet,” Eurasia Group said. “This dynamic makes it likely that both tariffs and investment restrictions will go into effect.”

    The American Chamber of Commerce in China said companies are uneasy about the threat of export and investment controls but see them as a possible way to make progress on longstanding complaints about market access and investment curbs.

    As a result of Trump’s tariff threat, Washington is in very intense negotiations with Beijing “in a way that we haven’t been for so many years,” said the chamber chairman, William Zarit. He said companies hope Beijing can be persuaded to “level the playing field” by easing curbs on foreign investment and business activity in its state-dominated economy.

    “I wouldn’t say we are in favor of, specifically, export controls, investment restrictions,” Zarit said at a news conference. But he said American companies want equal treatment, “and this seems to be one of the ways to do that.”

    Also Wednesday, the Chinese Cabinet announced it planned to complete work by July

    1 on another measure sought for years by its trading partners — a “negative list” that would make clear what is off-limits to foreign investment, leaving the rest of the economy open.

    Foreign companies are frustrated by a system that requires them to wait for Chinese regulators to declare individual lines of business open to them.

    Trump has focused on pressing Beijing to narrow its trade surplus with the United States, but Zarit said American companies see other issues as higher priorities.

    As Chinese companies expand abroad, the United States, Europe and other trading partners are pressing Beijing to ease controls that keep their companies out of industries including banking, insurance, telecoms and health care.

    “China’s success means that it can no longer credibly defend protectionist policies on the grounds that it is still a ‘developing country,’” the American chamber said in a report Wednesday.

    The tariff threat is a “very powerful” negotiating tactic, said Lester Ross, chairman of the American chamber’s policy committee. However, he said tariffs are a tax on American consumers and a blunt tool to address “very complex problems that hamper trade and investment relationships.”

    Analysts in the United States suggested the newly confrontational stance also might be aimed at appeasing congressional critics of a deal the Trump administration made Friday that allowed Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp. to stay in business.

    ZTE agreed to remove its management team, hire American compliance officers and pay a fine. That would be on top of a $1 billion penalty ZTE paid for selling high-tech equipment to North Korea and Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

    In return, the Commerce Department lifted a seven-year ban on ZTE’s purchase of U.S. components that it imposed earlier in May. Trump said last month the ban threatened too many Chinese jobs and he wanted to get the company back in business.

    Chinese leaders have promised piecemeal trade-related changes including allowing full foreign ownership in their auto industry by 2022.

    However, American companies have “major concerns” about unfair conditions, and the recent moves haven’t done enough to alleviate those concerns, said the American chamber’s Ross.

    European companies also complain they are blocked from acquiring most assets in China while Chinese companies are on a global buying spree.

    Interested in reading more from Lancaster Farming? Click here to read it online and click here to subscribe!

  • Former “Billion Dollar Bug” is Mounting a Come Back

    One billion dollars. Prior to Bt technologies farmers lost $1 billion annually to corn rootworm—in the form of chemical costs or actual yield loss. With resistance to traits that once killed the pest on the rise, it might just nibble its way back to a billion-dollar price tag.

    Corn rootworm (CRW) poses a double threat—the adult snips corn silks, and if unchecked could prevent successful pollination and kernel development, and the larvae munch on roots which leads to risk for disease and plant stress. CRW was once controlled by traits but with resistance on the rise is now at risk of running rampant: it’s time to find a solution to slow the spread of resistance.

    “The first documented case [of CRW resistance] was in Iowa in 2011 to Cry3Bb1,” says Dalton Ludwick, post-doctoral researcher at Virginia Tech and working with USDA. “Now we have documented issues in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota—there are other areas it’s been talked about, but no formal documentation has been published.”

    In the wild, CRW feeds on corn, every time. Only in lab conditions will the pest feed on alternate hosts—but CRW have to be forced.

    Farmers who practice corn-on-corn are at the greatest risk of developing resistance. In lab studies researchers proved it only takes up to four years of pressure to select for CRW resistance on three of the four proteins on the market. When the pest develops resistance to a protein, the result is the Bt technology within a specific hybrid can be rendered ineffective or crippled.

    “All available hybrids with pyramided traits for CRW use either Cry3Bb1 or mCry3A in combination with a second toxin, either Cry34/35Ab1 or eCry3.1Ab,” says Joseph Spencer, insect behaviorist at the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois. “This means where resistance is present in the population, there might be at best only one effective toxin at work.”

    Taking a close look at each of the proteins (see the “Handy Bt Trait Table” for common names), there are essentially only two modes of action, even though there are four proteins. The Cry3Bb1, mCry3A and eCry3.1Ab represent one mode of action and are the most compromised, according to Ludwick. The Cry34/35Ab1 protein took longer to confer resistance in lab testing.

    Public and private researchers are seeking new solutions. Monsanto is poised to release SmartStax Pro, which features a third mode of action against the pest. The company recently partnered with Corteva so the trait can be developed in its corn lines as well. Monsanto hasn’t announced an official launch date for the product—instead explained it is in “phase four” of development.

    The new trait, Corn Rootworm III, is formally referred to as MON 87411. Monsanto is using RNAi technology to create this trait and is doing resistance testing before launch.

    University of Illinois researchers are investigating the promise of two naturally-occurring resistance genes in corn. One interacts with nematodes in the soil and tells them to attack the rootworm larvae. The other is related to the plant’s ascorbate synthesis pathway that produces free radicals that injure feeding insects.

    “We were screening [corn lines] for insect resistance. There were not many, but we found some,” says Martin Bohn, corn breeder in the Department of Crop Sciences at University of Illinois. “We had to look into lines from Argentina, Brazil and the Caribbean Islands to find it.

    “Our previous research showed that there is no inherent resistance in the elite hybrids grown by most farmers in the Midwest,” he adds.

    Until alternate forms of resistance come to the market, farmers will have to use tried and true methods to manage the pest.

    “EPA, industry and others have created best management practices for CRW,” Ludwick says. “Crop rotation is the best option, if you can’t rotate plant something with two modes of action, if you can’t do that use a single mode of action and a soil-applied insecticide—that’s the bare minimum. If you can’t do that, and have CRW present, you’re out of luck.”

    While only five states have officially documented resistance, it’s likely present in other states or will be soon. Because it takes four or less years of pressure for the pest to become resistant to most of the proteins, the rest of the country is just a ticking time bomb.

    Joining the fight against resistance, the National Corn Growers Association recently launched the “Take Action” Insect-Resistance initiative. The goal is to fight resistance and preserve control with the current Bt proteins on the market, as well as any coming down the pipeline.

    Here are the steps Take Action encourages to preserve usefulness:

    • Plant the required refuge. Take into account the product and geography you’re in—corn-growing states’ refuge is 5% (in-bag) or 20% (structured refuge), and cotton-growing states are 20% (in-bag) and 50% (structured refuge).
    • Use insect resistance management strategies: rotate crops, use pyramided traits, rotate traits and rotate and use multiple modes of action for insecticide seed treatments, soil-applied insecticides and foliar-applied insecticides.
    • Actively scout to see if control methods are working, if there are escapes or possible resistance. Take additional action to control pests when necessary.

    Farmers have learned a hard lesson about resistance with herbicide-resistant weeds. Learn from those mistakes and principles and other management methods to fight the good fight against CRW resistance.

    Article courtesy of Farm Journal's Ag Pro.

  • Hawaii Bans Chlorpyrifos Pesticides By 2023, First State To Do So

    On June 13, 2018, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed Senate Bill 3095, making the state the first in the U.S. to ban pesticides with chlorpyrifos.

    The bill includes:

    • Starting Jan. 1, 2019, anyone seeking to use pesticides with chlorpyrifos must request a temporary permit from the state department of agriculture.
    • A complete ban of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos starting Jan. 1, 2023
    • Starting Jan. 1, 2019, anyone seeking to use restricted use pesticides (RUP) are subject to a requirement to report their use of the RUP to the state department of agriculture.
    • Starting Jan. 1, 2019, restructured use pesticides cannot be applied within a 100’ buffer zone around all schools during normal school hours.

    Before the governor signed the bill, state senator Mike Gabbard provided comments including thanking “community activists” for their role in getting this legislation through the state legislature and to the governor’s desk. He also said, “other states will follow our example.”

    The bill also provides for the state department of agriculture to develop a pesticide drift monitoring study and two full-time positions in outreach and education at the University of Hawaii to work with farmers in light of these changes.

    Article courtesy of Farm Journal's Ag Pro.

  • May Classic Tractors

    1947 Farmall H

    Tyler Kutz, Newville, Pa.

    “My grandfather bought this tractor in April of 1962 for $725. It was used on his dairy farm until the early 80s. He fully restored in in 2000. Now it is used in shows and parades."

     

    1968 Massey-Ferguson Model 135

    Blaine Myers, Wellsville, Pa.

    “I bought this tractor at a public auction. I used it for rotary mowing until I decided to restore it.”

     

    1959 John Deere Model 630

    Frank and Bob O’Toole

    “Bought by the O’Toole family in the 1970s and now used on our dairy farm.”

     

    1959 John Deere Model 730

    Frank and Bob O’Toole

    “Like our 1959 Model 630, this tractor was bought by the O’Tooles in the 1970s and is used on the family dairy farm.”

     

    1950 Oliver 77 Rowcrop

    Justin Carpenter, Carlisle, Pa.

    “This was a working tractor on my grandparents’ farm. When it was given to me I repainted it. Now we take it to tractor shows. I do pull it once in awhile at antique tractor pulls.”

     

    1961 I-H Farmall Model 340

    Steve Deck, Lebanon, Pa.

    “My grandfather bought this tractor new with the loader in 1961. My father bought the tractor from my grandfather in 1988. I inherited it from my father after his passing in 2007. The tractor was overhauled and repainted in 2003 and is still being used for light jobs, parades and shows. I hope to keep this in the family for the next generation.”

     

    1942 Farmall Model H

    John Roop, Harpers Ferry, W. Va.

    “Jerry Murphy of Ijamsville, Md., used this tractor as a practice run for his painting business.”

     

    1948 Farmall M

    Larry Litman, Washington, Pa.

    More than 240,000 of the Model M were produced between 1939 and 1954, its last year of production.

     

    1952 John Deere Model A

    Rich Roenigk, York, Pa.

    “I purchased this tractor from a father and son team in Middletown, Pa., who restore old John Deere tractors. It has a three-point hitch and runs great. I use it on my small farm to rake hay and to pull wagons for hay rides.”

     

    1946 Farmall Model B

    Adam Whitehead, Dover, Pa.

    “I bought this tractor just last year. I plan to make it a two-seater so my wife and I can ride together in parades.”

     

    1950 I-H Farmall Model C

    Jena Roop, Harpers Ferry, W. Va.

    “I always wanted a Farmall C because that is what my grandfather had. We found this pulling tractor. I love competing, especially against my husband. We pull in the 3,000 to 4,000 pound class."

     

    1959 Farmall Model 560

    Josh Anderson, Newville, Pa.

    “I found this tractor for sale along a local back road before I had my driver’s license. It became my mode of transportation around town. Now I take it to local tractor pulls and shows. My son, Case McCormick, often accompanies me with his matching 560 pedal tractor.”

     

    1949 Oliver 66 STD

    Jerry E. Leib, Dover, Pa.

    “I bought this tractor in Sigourney, Iowa, at the Lyle Dumont Museum in 1983. I just use it to go to tractor shows. It has been taken to shows in quite a few states.”

     

    1949 Oliver-Cletrac HG

    Landis Zimmerman, Ephrata, Pa.

    “I purchased this crawler from an insurance salesman in Florida. It required a total ground-up restoration which we did ourselves. This special H-Crop version was produced by Glade & Grove Supply, of Homestead, Fla., a large Oliver distributor at the time. The primary purpose of this tractor was to spray tall vegetables when the crop was wet. Very few of this model were built.”