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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Udder Disappointment

Udder Disappointment

“Udder” Disappointment

by David Umling of Petersburg, WV

David’s story has since made the local news, “Farmers in West Virginia” on the WHSV tv website.

Since my first journal posting on our Peeper Pond Farm website in September 2016, I have addressed many subjects. I have done instructional postings on farming, exposes on the beautiful natural amenities that abound in our area, somewhat whimsical and/or philosophical discussions of traditional values, updates on our farming activities, humorous accounts of farm life, and even a ghost story. Throughout it all, I have tried to keep my posts entertaining, educational, and thoughtful. Farming and traditional rural living framed my childhood upbringing and became my chosen retirement lifestyle. I feel it is important to convey why I cherish it so and why it represents an important pursuit and lifestyle choice that should endure. In order to maintain that focus, I have tried to minimize (if not outright avoid) political commentary. Today, however, I have decided that I can’t achieve my primary farming objectives without making a political statement on our state government’s abject lack of focus on the survival and ultimate success of small, family owned and operated dairy farms.

In early August 2017, I was forced to sell our dairy goats and end our milking operation because the laws and regulations in West Virginia made it cost prohibitive for us to sell our farm fresh, unprocessed milk and dairy products, and we couldn’t afford to finance the cost of our operation solely on our retirement income. I then dedicated my energy to work for positive, progressive changes to those laws in an effort to salvage what was left of small family dairy farming as well as to promote agricultural diversification and profitability in West Virginia. I even wrote a book about those issues, The Peeper Pond Farm Story: Where Have All the Small Family Dairy Farms Gone, last August and September. In it, I explained the critical issues as they affected our farm and dairy farming throughout the Potomac Highlands region. I further discussed what positive changes we needed to make to improve the situation and make small-scale dairy farming a more viable lifestyle choice. I even made multiple trips to Charleston (our state capital) to discuss with Department of Agriculture officials and my legislators why these issues were important and needed to be addressed. During those efforts, I encountered a state government with an institutionalized regulatory culture so dismissively entrenched in its own lack of concern for the continuing demise of small family dairy farms that they could hardly show any interest in, much less be bothered to listen to my concerns.

I can understand that my legislators have to address a wide range of important issues to govern our state, and that the concerns I raised may not be something that they could prioritize at this moment in time. However, I cannot excuse the West Virginia Department of Agriculture for not recognizing the importance and critical nature of my concerns. Critical nature, you may ask? Yes, because in my August 2017 book, I noted quite factually that only two family dairy farms remained in our tri-county region of Grant, Hardy, and Pendleton Counties. As I write this post today, neither of them remains. The last multi-generational family dairy farm in the region, owned and operated by Chris Keller, ceased operation in December 2017. The Maryland company that collected and transported his milk daily, decided that it was no longer profitable to collect it, and severed his contract with them. Yet, according to the Hardy County Cooperative Extension Agent, there were a total of 28 commercial dairy farms operating in Hardy County alone when the 1985 Whole Herd Buyout program was introduced. Since the State of West Virginia remains one of only 19 states that prohibit direct customer sales of unprocessed milk directly to a growing number of consumers eager to purchase such milk, Chris was forced to sell all but eight of his 35-cow milking herd to avoid impending bankruptcy. He now milks his remaining milk cows, at his own expense, twice daily and dumps whatever milk he can’t consume or use in his home. I have referred to dairy farming as a lifestyle, rather than just a business pursuit because of its time and work demands. In Chris’ case, the farm was his family’s heritage as well.

The news of this tragic and unanticipated loss made front page news in the February 6, 2018 edition of the Grant County Press, even though Chris’ farm is actually located in neighboring Hardy County. Steve Davis, a radio personality for our local radio station, WELD, invited Chris and I to participate in a series of interviews regarding the ongoing demise of family dairy farms and the changes we feel need to be made to salvage what may be left of it. However, the Department of Agriculture’s own state-wide farming newsletter, the Market Bulletin, has yet to even acknowledge it occurred, much less devote any attention to what, if anything, should be done about it.

To place this abject neglect in perspective, you should know that when I met with Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Kent Leonhardt, on September 18, 2017, he was very concerned about the Health Department staff’s lack of responsiveness in giving Chris the most recent sanitary milk quality test results on his herd’s production. Chris told me he had been waiting on those results for several months. Commissioner Leonhardt asked me to tell Chris that he was working on this issue and that he hoped to get those results to him as soon as possible. It was only two months later that his dairy farm was put out of business by the dairy processing industry without so much as an official expression of sorrow regarding the loss from anyone at the Department of Agriculture. No one from the State of West Virginia has approached Chris to offer any financial help or technical assistance in deciding what, if anything, can be done to salvage his family farm. The ultimate magnitude of this loss — the last dairy farm in the Tri-County region — has not even been acknowledged by the state. In fact, a deafening silence was the response from the one state department that is focused exclusively on agricultural issues and needs. The Health Department’s untimely response in issuing required sanitary milk quality test results was the only concern ever expressed by the Department of Agriculture. By the way, Commissioner, Chris still hasn’t received those long overdue test results. Perhaps, at this point, it just doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?

Yet, it is the state’s onerous sanitary milk regulations that prohibit Chris from selling any of his fresh, natural milk to a willing customer base without first sending it to a dairy processing plant. This is why I argue that those regulatory prohibitions leave small dairy farmers subject to the financial whims of a dairy processing monopoly. A regulatory monopoly that allows dairy processors to control the wholesale prices they pay for the farmer’s milk and leaves the farmer with no dairy sale options if the milk processor decides they no longer want the farmer’s milk. Even the states of California, New York, and Massachusetts — highly urbanized states known to impose more restrictive regulations than those of West Virginia — have amended their laws to allow direct farm-to-consumer sales of unprocessed milk. It appears that our state has no concern about this situation, which would be untenable to any other line of business, much less a business that immediately impacts a family’s life and livelihood. Not to mention the fact that dairy farming was an important element of the state’s agribusiness industry only 40 years ago. I recognize the fact that it was when I drive around the South Branch Valley and see the deteriorating remains of long-abandoned dairy barns across the landscape. What value do regulations serve, if they have the consequence of ultimately destroying the activity it seeks to govern? Perhaps the state’s remaining embarrassment will fade when the last dairy barn collapses and disappears into some distant landfill. What then, I ask, will be left of our traditional farming and rural landscape?

Once again, I apologize to my readers for this lapse into the disgraceful state of our political system. However, I hope that by explaining my concerns, you will understand my reasons and need for doing so. How much does the survival and/or potential rebirth of this cherished, traditional lifestyle choice mean to you? I wish to enlist your help in educating the State of West Virginia to the fact that fresh, unprocessed milk is NOT an elixir of death. At least it never made me or Chris Keller sick, even after consuming it for years. If it was truly the dangerous, potential killer our state regulators fear it to be, neither of us would be here to tell you about it today.

David Umling – Peeper Pond Farm, Petersburg, WV
www.peeperpondfarm.com

Spotlight On: How-To & Plans

Homemade Cheese Press

Homemade Cheese Press

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On the Gies farmstead we occasionally wallow in goat milk. From it we make our own butter, yogurt and cheese as well as drink some. This has prompted me to build a little cheese press to help with the extra milk. The press is made from inexpensive 1/2 inch thick plastic cutting boards used for the top and bottom plates and pressure disks, white pvc pipe, and a plastic floor drain cap.

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

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Yogurt making is the perfect introduction into the world of cultured dairy products and cheese-making. You are handling milk properly, becoming proficient at sanitizing pots and utensils, and learning the principles of culturing milk. Doing these things regularly, perfecting your methods, sets you up for cheese-making very well. Cheese-making involves the addition of a few more steps beyond the culturing.

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

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After you’ve built a small farm blacksmith shop, one of the first decisions that you’ll need to make is which type of fuel you’ll be using. Most people choose either gas (propane) or coal, however, wood fired forges are also an option. All three fuel types have pros and cons. The final decision will likely be based on the type of forging that you plan to do and the local availability of the fuel.

New Idea Mower

New Idea Mower

from issue:

For proper operation the outer end of the cutter bar should lead the inner end when the machine is not in operation. After long use the cutter bar may lag back and if this happens it can be corrected by making adjustments on the cutter bar eccentric bushing as follows: First making sure that the pin and bolt in the hinge casting “A” Fig. 5 are tight and in good condition.

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

How to Store Vegetables

Potatoes may be safely stored in bits on a well drained spot. Spread a layer of straw for the floor. Pile the potatoes in a long, rather than a round pile. Cover the pile with straw or hay a foot deep.

How To Prune

From Dusty Shelves: Pruning Guide from 1917

Livestock Guardians

Introducing Your Guard Dog To New Livestock And Other Dogs

When you introduce new animals to an established herd or flock, you should observe your dog’s reactions and behavior for a few days. Since he will be curious anyway, it is a good idea to introduce him to the new animals while he is leashed or to place the new animals in a nearby area.

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

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A great deal of interest has been shown the last several years in using multiple hitches in horse farming, especially in spring fieldwork. The question often asked is how to keep it simple and easy in driving and assembling the hitch as far as lines are concerned. We demonstrated our method at the Horse Progress Days at Mt. Hope, Ohio in 2003 and have been asked numerous times how we drove four, six and eight-horse hitches using only two lines.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Harvesting Rainwater

Harvesting Rainwater

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Collecting rainwater for use during dry months is an ancient practice that has never lost its value. Today, simple water collection systems made from recycled food barrels can mean a free source of non-potable water for plants, gardens, bird baths, and many other uses. Rainwater is ideal for all plants because it doesn’t contain dissolved minerals or added chemicals. One inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof yields approximately 600 gallons of water.

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting Part 2

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Budding is the operation of applying a single bud, bearing little or no wood, to the surface of the living wood of the stock. The bud is applied directly to the cambium layer of the stock. It is commonly inserted under the bark of the stock, but in flute-budding a piece of bark is entirely removed, and the bud is used to cover the wound. There is every gradation between budding and grafting proper.

Disc Harrow Requirements

Disc Harrow Requirements

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One of the most important requirements is disc blade concavity, that is, correct concavity. Further along we set forth the purposes of disc concavity. We feel it is important enough to devote the extra time and words in a discussion of the subject, because seldom is disc concavity talked about, and very few know that there is difference enough to cause good and bad work.

Horseshoeing Part 2A

Horseshoeing Part 2A

As there are well-formed and badly formed bodies, so there are well-formed and badly formed limbs and hoofs. The form of the hoof depends upon the position of the limb. A straight limb of normal direction possesses, as a rule, a regular hoof, while an oblique or crooked limb is accompanied by an irregular or oblique hoof. Hence, it is necessary, before discussing the various forms of the hoof, to consider briefly the various positions that may be assumed by the limbs.

Barn Raising

Barn Raising

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Here it was like a beehive with too many fuzzy cheeked teen-agers who couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to be of much help. But work was being accomplished; bents, end walls and partitions were being assembled like magic and raised into place with well-coordinated, effortless ease and precision. No tempers were flaring, no egomaniacs were trying to steal the show, and there was not the usual ten percent doing ninety percent of the work.

Horseshoeing Part 2B

Horseshoeing Part 2B

If we observe horses moving unrestrained over level ground, we will notice differences in the carriage of the feet. Many deviations in the line of flight of hoofs and in the manner in which they are set to the ground occur; for example, horses heavily burdened or pulling heavy loads, and, therefore, not having free use of their limbs, project their limbs irregularly and meet the ground first with the toe; however, careful observation will detect the presence of one or the other of these lines of flight of the foot.

Hand Plucking Poultry

Hand Plucking Poultry

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I confess that I am cold-hearted and cheap. Though I love raising poultry, I hate spending time and money anywhere but on my little farm. So I process at home. If you are only raising a few birds for yourself, say 25 or 30 at a time, I recommend having a party and doing it all by hand. My journey backward from machines to hands started with a chance encounter with a Kenyan chicken grower visiting the United States. He finishes 15,000 broilers each year.

Barn Door Plans

Barn Door Plans

Good barn doors, ones that will last a lifetime of opening, sliding and swinging in the wind, require careful design and construction. In 1946 the Starline Co., a barn building firm from the midwestern US, compiled a book of barn plans. These two diagrams were in that book and presented excellent information.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT