Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Pat Bodnar.
And I’m Doug Johnson. This week, learn how a small farm using traditional methods is growing a profitable agricultural business.
|Jonathan and Nina White of Bobolink Dairy|
The day begins early in the morning. Jonathan and Nina White help prepare their three children for school. After Paula, Tobias and Jacob are on their way, the two take a short morning meal with their assistant Hannah Beiler. Then it is time to go to bring the cows to the barn.
Mister White and Miz Beiler walk down to one of several fields on the farm. That is where the cows spent the night. They drive the cows from the field to the barn where they will be milked.
(SOUND: Cows Moving to Barn)
The cows have been eating grass in the field for some time now. Most dairy cows on industrial farms eat grain in a barn. Here the cows eat grass and hay from his fields.
Jonathan White knows the names of each of his thirty-six cattle. There are several different kinds, or breeds, of dairy cattle.
There are Ayrshire, Guernsey and Jersey cows. The Whites also have Holstein and a British White. But Bobolink Dairy’s most interesting breed is from Ireland, the Kerry.
Jonathan White has one of about fifty Kerry cattle in the United States. The Kerry is a small but strong dairy breed that is a good milk producer.
|Bobolink Dairy's main bull, John, leads the herd up a hill|
The main male among the cattle is named John.
Mister White breeds cattle to be able to live outside all year. His cattle are smaller animals that do well in open fields.
The daily process of driving cows from the field to the barn is one that could have taken place in many cultures hundreds of years ago. But Bobolink Dairy in New Jersey depends on modern ideas and some modern equipment, too.
Jonathan White communicates with his wife and several assistants by cellular telephone. He has learned to use the phone to limit trips from one end of the farm to the other. Following him, it is easy to realize that every trip from one part of the farm to the other needs to have a purpose. A wasted trip is wasted time, and time is something a farmer can never have enough of.
The Whites take the best of modern tools and put them to work. One time-saving device is the milking machine. It takes milk from the cows and sends it through a pipe to the dairy. This is what it sounds like …
(SOUND: Milking machine)
|A milking machine|
The milking machines pump milk directly to a large stainless steel container, or vat. The vat holds milk for making cheese. It is attached to a heating device that controls the temperature of the milk exactly.
Here, the modern meets the traditional. The vat warms the milk to about thirty-two degrees Celsius. This is a little cooler than milk is in the udder of the cow.
Jonathan White does not pasteurize the milk. Pasteurization is a process of heating food to kill most of the organisms in it. Pasteurization would only cause Mister White to have to buy and add bacteria or mold to the milk.
Instead, the natural organisms that enter the milk in the cow’s udder cause the process known as fermentation. A little bit of milk from the previous day’s cheese making is all that is needed to speed the process of turning milk into cheese.
It takes a few hours for the milk to start fermenting. In this process, bacteria start to change milk sugars into lactic acid. The milk starts to become a little sour. When he judges the time is right, Jonathan White adds a substance that will cause the milk to become solid, or curdle.
The rennet he adds contains a chemical substance found in the stomachs of young cows and sheep. It helps them digest milk. When rennet is put in fermenting milk, it forms soft but solid curds. The remaining liquid is called whey.
The whey is a waste product of cheese making. The Whites also have another use for whey.
Jonathan White explains that many dairy producing areas have traditionally produced pig meat, too. This is the case in Parma, Italy, which is famous for Parmesan cheese and for Parma hams. The Whites fatten their pigs on whey. When the animals reach about ninety kilograms, they are ready to be sold for meat.
After the day’s cheese making is done, the pigs at Bobolink dairy get a special meal of whey, which they eat hungrily.
|Cheese Drying on a Rack|
Cheese making is an art. Many different kinds of cheese can be made from the same curd. After the curds are solid enough, they are put into forms, air-dried, salted and aged.
Jonathan White estimates that about fifteen organisms, bacteria and molds, form the skin of his cheese. He says about one hundred kinds of bacteria ferment the cheese itself.
Since ancient times, people have recognized that fermentation changes food so it can be stored for long periods. Wine, vinegar, pickles and cheese are all examples of fermented foods.
|Ann Carroll prepares the bread oven for baking|
The Whites added bread to their products last year. That, too, depends on fermentation. Yeast, a kind of mold, causes bread to rise and develop its structure. The Whites built a bread oven that burns wood. The big oven reaches about three hundred seventy degrees Celsius. After the oven reaches the right temperature, the wood is removed and bread is put inside to bake.
The kind of farming done by the Whites is the opposite of industrial agriculture. Big farming is good at producing products all of equal quality in huge amounts.
The Whites serve a different, and growing, market: people who are looking for unusual or one-of-a-kind food products. These goods have higher prices and can be more profitable for small farms than other kinds of farmed goods.
(SOUND: Ballet music)
Nina White is a trained dancer. She still teaches dancing locally, but has taken on many of the duties of doing business with the public. She travels with assistants to local markets selling the farm’s cheese and bread.
She also supervises the farm’s Internet site. The information and pictures she provides inform people about Bobolink Dairy. People can buy cheese and bread electronically. Nina White can send Bobolink products almost anywhere in the country.
Jonathan White's cheese has been described in several magazines. He also supplied cheese to the White House when Walter Scheib supervised the kitchen as presidential chief.
Some local restaurants in New York and New Jersey offer Bobolink cheese. However, the Whites do not accept large buyers. Instead, they run a successful Internet business and serve people visiting the farm.
The Whites consider selling their own farm products as one way that farmers can be economically independent. Bobolink is among a growing number of farms that sell their products directly to the public.
The Whites have chosen to farm using few extra materials beyond what is on their land. They milk and breed several kinds of cattle to create a group, or herd, that is genetically diverse.
Jonathan White says he considers independent farming important not only to agriculture, but to the development of the country:
JONATHAN WHITE: “The reason people poured into this country was because they could actually own land, and owning and tilling the land didn’t exist anywhere else in the world. You either owned it or you worked it.
"That’s basically the root of American democracy. Individuals owning land and farming it and being able to profit from it gave them the independent mind and spirit, which enabled them to elect a free government.
"When agriculture becomes so centralized, either through very large farms or small farms selling to very large manufacturing plants, we lose that.”
Nina White explains that making farm products from start to end is an experience of independence and satisfaction:
NINA WHITE: “What we’re doing here is freeing ourselves by making the product from beginning to end in one location. We can start with the best inputs: sunlight to grass to cow to cheese.”
The Whites enjoy sharing their knowledge of cheese and bread making. You can visit their farm online at cowsoutside.com.
Our program was written and produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Doug Johnson.
And I’m Pat Bodnar. Please join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.