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From the Christmas Tree Capital of the World to You!

By Kim Buddington

It’s the middle of December once again, and the countdown to Christmas is on! The sugar cookies are in the oven, carols are being sung, and memories are in the making. What about the tree? Do you have a festive evergreen adorning your living room yet? This time of the year wouldn’t be the same for many without a tree decked out with lights, tinsel, and other ornaments. Some of those decorations surely have special meaning to you, and your children, or maybe are even heirlooms, have been passed down through multiple generations of your family.

The tree is always a special part of the celebration. If you got a real Christmas tree this year, do you know where it was grown or how it got to you?

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, somewhere between 25 and 30 million Christmas trees are sold in the United States each holiday season! (1) That’s a lot of trees, grown on vast acres of land across North America, which are nurtured and harvested by many farmers. 

In Lunenburg County of Nova Scotia, Canada, Balsam fir trees decorate the natural landscape all year long. After all, that’s precisely what one would expect of a place known as the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World.”

This past week, I had the pleasure of talking to Mike Harlow, Christmas tree farmer and vice chairman of the All Nova Scotia Greens Christmas Tree Co-Op Ltd. Based out of New Germany, Nova Scotia, with 21 grower members, this cooperative specializes in selling wholesale Christmas trees to retailers both domestically and internationally.

The All Nova Scotia Greens Christmas Tree Co-op came into existence out of hardship. From 1992 until around 2007, many Christmas tree growers in Nova Scotia left the industry and sold their farms due to economic issues.

“In March of 2008 at the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Associations (LCCTPA) spring meeting, the subject was presented, and a motion passed [instructing] the LCCTPA to investigate ways for growers to organize to sell their trees,” Mike explained. “As a result of the motion, the LCCTPA were obligated to take the lead role in advertising and hosting the first couple of meetings.”  

As those next few meetings commenced, it became evident that any cooperative formed would have to be an entirely separate entity from the LCCTPA, due to the groups existing by-laws regarding marketing activities.    

When choosing the board of directors, an emphasis was placed on having a representative from each region of the province that had growers involved. Since 2008, the All Nova Scotia Greens Christmas Tree Co-op has stayed in operation, experienced growth, and continues to seek opportunities for expansion. 

Co-op members grow and sell Balsam fir trees exclusively. Nova Scotia offers ideal growing conditions for this variety of tree. (2) Balsam firs boast many classic Christmas tree characteristics, including a lasting aroma, needles that are less likely to drop prematurely, and that lovely deep green color. It takes about ten years of growing time for a Balsam fir to reach a height of 6 or 7 feet. (3) Talk about having to plan well and have patience! 

Because they are a wholesale supplier, many of the trees must travel long distances and be harvested and shipped well in advance of Christmas to meet customer demand. For example, if a retailer in the United States needs trees by Thanksgiving, those plants could have been harvested back in late October. To help ensure the best “shelf life” and a tree that still looks presentable on December 25th, specific protective measures are taken post-harvest.   

“Trees need to be protected from the sun especially on warmer days earlier in the season,” Mike said. “Protection from the sun is key to keep the tree fresh.”

Within a few days of being cut down, usually between 2-4 days, trees begin their journey to their respective buyers. The co-op ships trees both over the road and by sea, depending on where they need to go.

But before the trees leave, they are first sorted out and graded. There are three grading categories into which a Christmas tree can fall into- #1, #2, or #3. The higher the quality of the tree, taking into consideration things like shape and branch density, the better the grade.

A #1 tree commands the highest price and must be shaped well all around and have at least 80% density. A #2 tree has a minimum of 60% density and often has a hole or is less desirable in shape on one side. A #3 graded tree is of the lowest quality, which has only 40-60% density, and up to one side of the tree can be considered poor in shape. For more on tree grading and graphic examples of each grade, click here

This grading system sounds simple. Still, interestingly enough in Mike’s experience, it contributes to some of what he says are some of the biggest challenges in the wholesale Christmas tree industry.

“One of the challenges as a producer selling into the wholesale market is consistency of the grade,” He stated.  “Grading a tree can be very subjective. Not every tree is a #1 tree, within the grade there can be a tree that represents the grade very good, but not strong enough to be moved up to the next grade. ”

This might be an issue for marketing purposes, but if you’re a fan of real Christmas trees, don’t you think that the uniqueness of each tree adds something extra special to the whole deal? I think so, and it’s terrific to appreciate natural beauty! I am also thankful for the years of hard work and dedication that Christmas tree farmers put in to bring us these beloved icons of the holiday season.

As for the All Nova Scotia Greens Christmas Tree Co-op, they are hopeful for many more Christmas seasons to come, supplying trees to happy customers around the world. They are open new having new growers join them, and are also currently looking at tapping into new markets globally, such as possibilities in Asia. 

If you are would like more information about the co-op or have business inquiries/questions, please reach out to them here.

Merry Christmas, everyone! In spite of the hustle and bustle of this season, I hope you can take time and slow down, reflect, and really enjoy this time of the year. See you in 2020 for more Sweetpea’s Evening Ag News!



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Please Pass the Cranberries!

By Kim Buddington

Let’s play a little game!

What side do you fall on? As you’re seated at the Thanksgiving table, Do you say, “Yes, please!” to the cranberry sauce as it comes around? Or are you a member of team, “Uh, thanks… but no thanks!” as you happily pass the jiggly red stuff along to your cousin?

Of course, there isn’t just one kind of cranberry sauce. You’ve got the stuff in the can, and then you have unique family recipe cranberry sauces that are passed down through the generations. Either way, it seems to be one of those things- you either like it, or you don’t. At the very least, it’s an acquired taste. I didn’t care for anything made with the fruit as a child, but I’m happy to say my taste has evolved since then.

Having grown up in Massachusetts, one of the top cranberry producing states in the US, I’m a bit ashamed to say that I knew next to nothing about how cranberries are produced. So, in honor of one of the most iconic staples of the Thanksgiving feast, I decided to do a little research on cranberry production. Curious? Okay, read on!

The cranberry, or Vaccinium macrocarpon, has a long history of use in North America. (7) Native Americans living in regions where the berries grew in the wild, used them for medicinal and culinary applications long before the arrival of European settlers. Captain Henry Hall is credited with being the first to have success with the farming of cranberries in the year of 1816 in Massachusetts. (2)

He discovered that if the wind blew sand into the bogs where the cranberries were, their growth was enhanced. Thanks to him experimenting with moving vines around and intentionally adding sand to the growing area, the culture of cranberries as a commercial crop eventually began to interest people. At the beginning of the 20th century, commercial cranberry acreage in Barnstable and Plymouth Counties (MA) had increased three-fold from what it was just about 15 years earlier. (2)  

Here now in modern times, Wisconsin is the number one cranberry producer in the United States and worldwide! Massachusetts is the next largest cranberry growing state. Other states that also produce a notable amount of these berries are Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey. (7)

So how do cranberries grow? Cranberry plants are somewhat like strawberry plants, in the sense that they grow on similar type vines that spread out along the ground. They are a perennial wetland plant and require particular growing conditions. (1)

Naturally occurring cranberry bogs are the result of deposits left by glaciers, which feature elements of clay, peat, gravel, and sand. The bogs used in commercial cranberry farming utilize things to mimic the natural growing environment, such as wetlands, human-made water channels, and ponds. (1) 

While it may seem like it from most of the pictures of cranberry bogs you’re likely familiar with, cranberry plants are not underwater all year long! Growers flood their bogs at certain times of the year for specific purposes. One of the times flooding is done is during the winter months. This practice helps to guard the plant and vulnerable buds from damage that could result from harsh winter conditions. (3)

As the warmth of spring is welcomed back into the region, the flood water is drained. This action prompts the plants to wake up and begin growing again. If temperatures happen to dip back down into the danger zone where new buds can be harmed, sprinklers can be used to wet and protect the plants. (4)

Another management task that keep farmers busy in the spring is weed control in the bog. Depending on the operation, this can include herbicide application, mechanical pulling of weeds, or even re-flooding the whole bog. Ditches also need to be maintained and kept free of debris for drainage purposes. Although cranberries typically don’t need extensive fertilization, any prescribed nutrients are usually spread during the late spring and summer. (4)

Cranberries are a perennial plant and can grow for decades, but sometimes growers will need to plant new vines to replace old ones.  Extensive repairs and upgrades on bogs and production equipment may also need to be made, to keep the operation in tip-top shape and growing the best berries. (4) 

While cranberries may not grow underwater, they do require quite a bit of water during the summer. About 1 inch of water each week is considered adequate. So like most other crops when natural rainfall is not enough, irrigation is necessary. Another vital aspect of cranberry culture during June and July is making sure pollination happens. Beehives are used to accomplish this. (5)

Cranberries have pests like anything else, so control is crucial for plant health and crop quality.  Intergraded Pest Management (IPM) practices are implemented in bogs, with a focus on reducing the amount of chemical pest control applications used. You will often see crop scouts out checking to see what bugs are causing problems and if control measures are working. (5)  

Autumn is cranberry harvest time! Growers are hard at work bringing in the fruits of their labor during September, October, and part of November. Cranberries are harvested using two possible methods. They are either wet harvested or dry harvested. (6)(8)

The vast majority of cranberries are wet harvested. The bog is flooded, and the water is stirred up by a machine. The ripe berries will become detached from the vine and float on top of the water. They can then be collected and removed from the water with special equipment. Then processing can begin. Any processed cranberry product you may have had- such as sauces, juice, or as part of another food- was harvested using this method. (6)(8)

If you bought fresh cranberries this year, you’ve most likely bought cranberries that were dry harvested. Operators use a particular machine that will gently comb the fruit into a bag. The bagged berries are then taken to be graded for sale. One of the ways by which fresh berries are sorted is based on whether or not the fruit will bounce. (6)

I certainly think Cranberries are an interesting crop to learn about. To our cranberry farmers, I will definitely take a serving of cranberry sauce this year with extra appreciation to you and your hard work. To everyone else, I hope you will too…or at least give it a try!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!



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97 Milk- Restoring the Image of Dairy and WHOLE Milk!

By Kim Buddington

Today’s consumers want the truth- especially when it comes to agriculture and the dairy industry. Unfortunately, the truth can be hard to find at times, and it seems to get lost in the vast sea of information available at our fingertips. To help make the truth about milk and dairy farms more accessible to people, a group of Pennsylvania dairy farmers has taken matters into their own hands by forming a new advocacy group- 97 Milk LLC.

Image courtesy of 97Milk LLC. Used with permission.

“97 Milk was created to be a voice for our local dairy farmers.” Says Jackie Behr, a volunteer board member in charge of the group’s marketing. “This is a place where people can get nutritious information on dairy products, it’s a place where farmers can tell their story, a place where our community can get information on how to support local dairy farms.”

The organization gets its name from an important attribute of whole milk that has mostly been swept under the rug in recent years- the fact that whole milk is 97% fat-free! If you live in certain parts of Pennsylvania or New York, you may have seen this message painted on wrapped hay bales in farm fields. These eye-catching advertisements are only one of the ways that 97 Milk is working to spread the word about hardworking dairy farmers and the wonderful products they produce.

Image courtesy of 97Milk LLC. Used with permission.

“97 Milk tells the story of the many farms that love and care for their cows,” Jackie adds, “the passion that many dairy farmers have, the many proven research-based facts on milk nutrition. This is our side that our community deserves to hear.”

It’s only right that the farmer’s side of the story gets broadcast. So often, it seems that all the other voices threaten to drown them out. Whether it be animal rights advocates, celebrities who think they know best, people who preach outdated health and nutrition information, and other individuals and groups. The time has come for dairy producers to stand up for who they are and what they do- and 97 Milk is an excellent platform.

“There are so many cool, fun facts on how milk is such a powerhouse drink,” Jackie says, “we just need people to start sharing it!”

Image courtesy of 97Milk LLC. Used with permission.

If you’re a dairy farmer and would like to get on board, head on over to 97MILK.COM for lots of resources to help you promote at community events such as fairs. Having a good relationship with, and educating your friends and neighbors is a crucial component to helping clear up the many misconceptions that exist today.

Do you believe in the goodness of milk, but aren’t directly involved in the agriculture or dairy industry? You can still join the fun! Follow 97 Milk on Facebook and Instagram and share their content with your friends! Want to take it to the next level and make a financial gift to help support 97 Milk as they expand their reach? Donations may to be sent to 97 Milk LLC PO BOX 87, Bird in Hand, PA 17505.

Image courtesy of 97Milk LLC. Used with permission.

Even though it’s been pretty gloomy in the dairy industry these past few years, Jackie does report positive things happening with 97 Milk. Traffic to the website has been steady, and even though their Facebook page has only been live for just under a year, they already have 8.4K followers!

Jackie and everyone else involved with 97 Milk hope you’ll partner with them in whatever way suits you best. Let’s all work together to bring flavor-filled, whole milk back! Let’s bring dairy back into public favor! Today is the day to make a difference.

Image courtesy of 97Milk LLC. Used with permission.

Need an Internship? Experience Agriculture in the Ozarks with McCarthy Cattle Co.

By Kim Buddington

Happy October, everyone! Wow, where has this year gone? Whether or not you’re glad to see 2019 start to wind down, it’s time to look ahead and make plans for the coming year. During October (and probably into November and maybe even December), we’re hoping to have a series of posts devoted to AGRICULTURAL INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES.

So if you’re someone who is hunting for an internship in the world of agriculture, please stay tuned. If you’re not in the market, please share with any of your friends, family, or classmates who are! Without further ado, we’d like to shift the spotlight to our first farm.

McCarthy Cattle Company

Buffalo, Missouri

Now taking applications!

Number of positions available: 1

Position Start/End Dates: Mid February 2020 through Mid May 2020. (These dates are ideal, but there is room for flexibility for the right candidate)

Do you want real-life, hands-on experience in raising livestock? Betty and Sean McCarthy of McCarthy Cattle Company, located in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, are looking for an intern with a passion for farming and enthusiasm to learn by doing.

“We are a commercial Angus cow/calf operation,” explains Betty McCarthy, “we have done genomic testing that proves we are in the top 8% of the Angus breed worldwide for the traits producing a great steak.”

Photo Courtesy of McCarthy Cattle Co. Used with permission.

Wow, what an opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business! In addition to cattle, the family has a flock of Shropshire sheep (about 40), which are bred for wool. They also raise meat goats (between 40-50), which are kept for natural brush control. The goats are bred to kid mainly in February, while the Shropshire lambs arrive during March and April. Calves are born during both the spring and fall.  

The brush clearing meat goat herd you could get to work with! (Photo Courtesy of McCarthy Cattle Co. Used with permission.)

The intern will have practice with a diverse set of skills relating to livestock care and management. Tasks assigned to the intern will include jobs related to lambing, kidding, calving, weaning, vaccination, feeding, pasture rotation, and other miscellaneous chores required on a busy livestock operation. Another vital management aspect of this farm that the intern will have exposure to is the use of livestock guardian dogs to keep the animals safe from predators.

The prerequisites for this job are pretty simple. “Anyone hoping for experience in animal husbandry will have the opportunity to learn,” says Betty.

This experience is a paid position. Meals are also provided, along with a room for the intern to stay in.  

The Shropshire sheep can’t wait to meet you!
(Photo Courtesy of McCarthy Cattle Co. Used with permission.)

Are you interested in applying? The McCarthy’s would love to hear from you. The best way to get in touch is to email them directly at You may also send a text to 417-733-1243, but keep in mind that there may be a delay in receiving a reply due to cellphone service limitations in the area. They will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for more internship opportunities over the next few months!

Business owners: If you are like the McCarthy’s and would like to have your open (agriculture-related only please) internship positions featured on this blog, shoot an email to We will be in touch!

The Story of the Orange Sulphur Cosmos (Guest Author Post!)

Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Essays From My Farmhouse Kitchen

The Story of the Orange Sulphur Cosmos

Gardens are really a sanctuary for everyone. It is a place to dream, create, work up a sweat pulling those ever present weeds or just enjoy the luxury of the outdoors.

My gardens do live up to my expectations, because the only thing I want from them is a place to grow plants, to delight in each flower during their season of blossoming and just have a place to dillydally on a beautiful day. There really are no rules to my gardening, except to ENJOY!!!!

Gardening in this free style way is full of surprises.  When I raked off the plant debris early this spring, I was surprised to see these little flowers I call Johnny Jump-Ups blooming. This perky little plant kept surprising me all summer by popping up in many locations in the garden and blooming every day in many different shades.  This is one self-sowing plant I do enjoy.

I can’t really say I despise the Wormwood plant. It is beautiful and fills in spaces where there are no plants, yet. But when this gigantic almost bush plant seemed to be interfering with my Johnny Jump-Ups plans for invasion, some of them had to be dug out. Oofta, they reminded that my abhorrence towards exercise may not be a good thing especially at my age.

My grandchildren recently explained to a visiting guest that she had to be a bit understanding because I was really, really REALLY OLD!!!! Ooh, the raw honesty of those youngsters….

Each year there are old flowers to welcome back and new flowers to enjoy.  One of my absolute favorites this year came from Angela Dykstra. She’s the one that has those cheerful orange flowers that bloom by the stop sign on Seventh Street.

I finally presumed upon our friendship to ask for a source of those seeds. She was so kind and saved seeds from last year’s harvest to share with me. Just like her grandma did for her.

Angela’s grandmother, Christine Elster Peterson began her married life as a farmer’s wife. Like many young couples they hoped that with hard work and very frugal living they would be able to make a living off the land. For six years they put forth their best effort in South Dakota. 

I can imagine that when the hail storms came along with the financial difficulties of the early 1930’s, she would head out to her garden, to pray. 

These bright orange blossoms, which sway in the slightest breeze, would cheer her. She could return to her mundane daily chores reminded that her Lord understood and He was still taking care of them. 

When the crops failed again, it became evident that they needed to leave the farm. In their preparations to move, she carefully saved seeds from her favorite outdoor flowers. The flowers were a part of the farm she could take to town.

Her husband secured a job in Sioux Falls. It wasn’t the life she imagined, but she loved and stood by her man through those difficult times because she believed the words in the Holy Bible “Thus far has God helped us” despite the fact that their present situation seemed to dictate otherwise. 

Christine Elster Peterson was not one to feel sorry for herself. She got busy making their new house in town a home that was a haven for her husband after a hard day at his job, and their family that eventually grew to include six children. 

Many flowers grew under her careful tending both outside and inside her home. Her delicious homemade bread seemed to say ‘I love you’ in every bite. 

These vibrant orange flowers remind me to persevere through tough times and never to lose faith. Thank you, Angela Dykstra, for sharing the flowers and story of your grandma. Through you we are reminded that a grandparent’s influence is important.

Renae B. Vander Schaaf is an independent writer, author and speaker. Please contact her at 605-530-0017 or

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4-H Projects & Fair Filled Summers- My Reflections on Years Past

By Kim Buddington

Just last week, I went to a concert at the Ashland County Fair, featuring Country singer Craig Morgan and his band. The weather couldn’t have been better that night for an outdoor show, and the crowd was great. I got to enjoy many of his well-known hits played live- songs like, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester,” “Little Bit of Life,” and so on.

They played some new material as well, which was great. But as I listened and tapped my foot along to these songs I know so well, I was struck by something. I found myself becoming emotional, even choked up a time or two.

It’s a collective experience for most, I believe. The power of music has a way of taking us back in time, does it not? We connect certain songs to specific people, places, and events. The songs I mentioned were all played quite frequently by radio stations a few years back…a few years back when I was in 4-H, raising and showing goats and rabbits and exhibiting them at county fairs and shows all summer. Those songs would keep us company through the airwaves as we traveled with livestock in tow at 4 o’clock in the morning. Or they were played over loudspeakers on the midway as we took a walk to catch a little break from the barn after a busy show day. That just so happened to be the “soundtrack” during these defining years of my youth.

I am forever thankful to have had the opportunity to grow up being a “fair kid.” If you also grew up putting hours of work, along with blood, sweat, and tears into your livestock projects, you can probably relate. Folks who haven’t had the experience may not get it.

While it certainly has its place in the overall atmosphere and experience of a fair, the first thing that comes to mind for me isn’t the rides or the funnel cakes. Instead, it’s the cattle barns or the smell of dandruff shampoo mixed with the aroma of my freshly washed goats as I prep them for the show. Sure, those games on the midway may be a challenge, but have you ever shown dairy animals and played the game of trying to keep your snowy white show clothes…um, white? Or trying to keep the barn aisles neat and tidy all day and rearranging the chrysanthemum plants multiple times to outsmart the goats so they can’t eat them- don’t the little rascals know the flowers are decorations, not snacks?!?!     

Between the laughs and the tears, the long days and the short nights, raising and showing livestock taught me a lot of valuable things at a young age. I got to witness the miracle of birth and the beauty of life. But with that came experiencing the reality of death, and aiding in the relief of suffering when needed. I learned about winning and losing, about helping others, keeping records, managing money, and working hard. I learned that some people are just always going to be challenging to deal with, but it’s a waste to let them ruin your day completely. At the end of the day, at least make sure you did your best.

There are some folks out there today who think children should not grow up raising and showing livestock (especially market animals.) Some even that feel livestock displays at the county fair should be done away with altogether. Many have grown up with little to no contact with production agriculture and live in a very different or even virtual reality.

I’m not going to go too far into it here, but everyone is entitled to deciding for themselves if they want to eat meat or not. That being said though, I think the life lessons and values that children learn through raising and exhibiting livestock are precious, especially for today’s generation. I think it is crucial to do everything we can to support our local fairs and youth agricultural education programs. The local fair might be the only time and place all year that some people will get to experience agriculture hands-on. So we need to make a good impression and answer any questions respectfully and honestly.

I’m not sure where I’d be today if I didn’t have these experiences. I discovered my passion for agriculture this way, and I’m so glad I did. The support of my family had a lot to do with it. I’m indebted to my parents for their backing of my livestock raising projects. So Thank you Mom and Dad for the countless hours you gave up, the aggravation I caused at times, and being willing to have your hard-earned money turned into feed for animals, fuel for us, (you know, the countless Dunkin’ Donuts stops…) fuel for the old white van, and much more.

Or the year you saved the day, Dad. With some quick thinking, zip ties, and pulling the spare tire cover from the truck of your car to use as an emergency barrier when my best milking doe got assigned (unexpectedly and at the last minute) to a pen next to her thirsty kid who really didn’t like the idea of being weaned! I can’t fully express in words what all of this meant to me, and I hope you have a lot of good memories too.

As night fell over the fairgrounds after the concert, the livestock barns ware still very much lit up and a bustle of activity. Young people were fitting, feeding, and walking their animals- as well as goofing around and having a good time with friends. I currently live 500 + miles away from New England and New York where I exhibited my rabbits and goats as a kid, and that night I couldn’t help but wish for a minute that I was back in 4-H, showing my animals too.

Obviously, I can’t go back in time, but I do know that if I ever have kids of my own one day, I want them to have the experience of showing livestock. It’s not always glamorous or easy, but it’s a wonderful way to grow up, and they’ll have my support all the way. And I hope that one day when they are grown, they’ll look back fondly and appreciate those fair filled summers where it all started.

West View Oodles (2007-2018) My loyal (and at times very stubborn!) showmanship goat. We had many adventures together!

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Camping & Cows- A Diverse Internship Experience for SUNY Cobleskill Grad

By Kim Buddington

Internship programs for college students are widespread across many different industries and professions these days. It is no different in the world of agriculture, as internships give students and recent graduates the connections and practical skills required to get a solid start in their chosen career field. From animal science work to agribusiness services, young people across the United States and abroad are spending their summer hard at work. Among these driven individuals is Jimmy Kervick, a recent graduate of SUNY Cobleskill in Cobleskill, New York.

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Kervick. Used with permission.

Jimmy is currently in the midst of a fifteen-week internship program at Mountain View Dairy, owned by Daniel & Angela Schmid, in the Delaware County town of Bloomville, NY. Mountain View Dairy doesn’t just milk cows, they are a diversified operation with heavy involvement in agri-tourisim activities. At the dairy, guests are welcome to take their vacation in the serenity of the country thanks to the Farm Stay program. Options include the rental of a fully furnished house on the farm or the booking of tent camping sites.

With many different activities going on at once, there is plenty to keep Jimmy busy, and he’s able to learn the many different angles of running such a business. His days begin early- with milking the cows, of course. After milking is complete, he makes sure the Farm Stay guests are comfortable and attends to any needs they may have. Other jobs that Jimmy does throughout a typical day include social media management for the farm’s channels, running necessary errands, and any additional chores that go along with the day to day operation of the farm.

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Kervick. Used with permission.

“My favorite part about this job is networking with fellow farmers, business owners and guests from around the world,” explains Jimmy.

Ahead of this internship, he had completed a solid college career- earning both an Associate Degree in Agricultural Business and a Bachelor of Technology in Animal Science with a concentration in dairy. Even with that education under his belt, the internship experience is still proving to be very valuable to him.

“Even though I spent four years in college learning about agriculture and agribusiness, there are many things that I never got the exposure to do in college [that] I am getting the opportunity to do here,” Jimmy states.

Thanks to Mountain View Dairy, he’s had opportunity to star in a commercial for the farm, compile a menu for their fresh meats, help maintain the company website, and more.

So maybe you’re reading this and are currently in college. Have you begun exploring internship options? Even if an internship isn’t a requirement for your degree program, it is still an excellent idea to pursue one! You are sure to discover things you didn’t know about yourself, as well as open up doors for future opportunities- employment or otherwise.

“Go to a place where you are going to learn something,” Jimmy advises, “where there is a chance for you to get hands on in all areas of the business.”

When you do take a deep dive into many different areas, you are guaranteed to be challenged as well. Jimmy says the hardest thing about the internship for him so far is how many things you have to know and do every day to run a productive and successful business. Cows and customers have different needs that must be met…sometimes all at once!

But when the summer is over, and his internship is complete, Jimmy is hopeful that the knowledge and experience he gained will pay off on the road to his next adventure- whatever and wherever that may be. Thank you, Jimmy, for sharing your story with us! We wish you the best in all your future endeavors.

If you are interested in following along with Jimmy’s fun on the farm, you are welcome to check out his Instagram. For more information on Mountain View Dairy, follow along with their Facebook and Instagram, or visit their website.

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Kervick. Used with permission.

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Guest Author Special Feature-Essays From My Farmhouse Kitchen

By Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Do You Know Doc Neumann?

There really isn’t a more fitting time to finally have this book published than during National Ag Week. The old-time veterinarian was mighty important to farmers as together they worked to keep livestock healthy and alive, thereby protecting their livelihoods.

AJ Neumann was fresh out of college when he came to Orange City in 1949. It was a town clear across the state from the eastern Iowa community that he grew up in.
When he came to Sioux County, there were 2,971 farms with an average size of 161 acres. Livestock was plentiful, if you like numbers, here is what the census said: 78,200 cattle and calves, 215,460 pigs and hogs, 6,511 sheep and lambs, 593,812 poultry and 3,333 horses and ponies. Several of these spe-cies could be found on most farms.

Over two years ago AJ Neumann and I began work-ing on this book Get Up! Get Going! We made this decision after having coffee together with Lee and Bonnie Meier at their charming store, Jubon Juweelen.

In January we began recording his stories around his coffee table. As he spoke I would type the words into my computer. Most of these stories I was hearing for the first time. He has an entertaining way of speaking, so at times we were laughing or close to tears. It never ceases to amaze me the life situations this man experienced.
About mid-way through our work we would take a coffee and almond patty break to consider what we had just written.

At the very last minute, and I mean last minute. This is one time I was grateful that computers are instant. I sub-mitted the manuscript to The Write Place in Pella, Iowa. They offer a book contest every two years.

One day my phone rang, it was Sarah Purdy from The Write Place with the most unbelievable news, our manu-script had won. I knew AJ Neumann’s story was good for I enjoyed almost every minute of working with him on this project. But to win first prize was just the ultimate surprise!

The Write Place has been so very patient and a real joy to work with. They have made very good suggestions and designed an excellent cover for us. There are plenty of unknowns in the publishing world, The Write Place helped us in many ways.
We thought we had done plenty of editing that we had stuff down pretty good. But it seemed like there was always one more edit or addition.

When a man has a great memory and has lived over ninety-two years there is plenty of life to re-member with the challenge of accurately recording it as best we could.
Get Up! Get Going! is a walk back in history as Doc Neumann remembers the Depression years well. Perhaps its the girl side in me, but I really like the chapter where he met his wife. It is just so special how their love blossomed. She truly was his life’s partner in his business.

Amidst the stories throughout the book, he grapples with an underlying question that is asked in the first chapter. He ponders a comment by a local pastor that never leaves his mind. He finds some answers when he experiences a life-changing incident in a small barn, an appropriate place for a country vet-erinarian.

Life wasn’t always easy, nor did it go on auto-pilot. At the peak of his career, he abruptly closed his thriving veterinary practice; and gained a reputation as Horse Doc which opened up a whole new life and experiences for him and his wife Mary Virginia.
I first heard of this man when my farmer and I would travel to Amish Country or attend horse events while writing for agriculture papers. When they found out we were from Orange City, we would be asked, “Do you know Doc Neu-mann?”

Of course, my farmer did, as Doc Neumann was their veterinarian when Dave was growing up. He has a few stories he can tell about the Vander Schaaf family.
I am thankful that strangers piqued my interest on this man. Next time I am asked, the question, “Do you know Doc Neumann? My answer will be, “Yes, indeed. He is an amazing gentleman.”

It has been a unbelievable privilege to with AJ Neumann on this book Get Up! Get Going! I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did in writing it.
Feel free to contact me if interested in a book or having AJ Neumann, DVM speak—he still is going strong.

Renae B. Vander Schaaf is an independent writer, author and speaker. Please contact her at 605-530-0017 or

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Sweetpea’s Virtual Dairy Farm & Creamery Tour (Part 2)

By Kim Buddington

You’ve made it to part 2 of our tour, thanks for sticking around! We still have more great dairy farms and foods to discover together.

Stop #8- Montana

Lifeline Farm

Lifeline Farm in Victor, MT is a USDA Certified Organic dairy, producing milk products from grass-fed Brown Swiss and Braunvieh cows. They pride themselves on sustainability and are also a certified Demeter Biodynamic farm. If you’re curious about what this means, check out their webpage for more information. Lifeline Farm’s dairy products offerings include pasteurized fluid milk and cheese. (8)

Their delicious sounding cheese menu includes aged and fresh cheeses, like, extra sharp to mild cheddars, raw milk cheddar, Montana jack, and Mozzarella. In addition to milk, they also sell beef and pork products. Whey, which is a byproduct of the cheese making process, makes a great feed supplement for pigs. Lifeline Farm products can be purchased from the farm store, or at over thirty select retail outlets in Montana and neighboring states! (8)

If you’re interested in learning about how they make their cheese, there is a nifty, interactive step-by-step explanation on their website to click through. Follow the Lifeline Creamery & Farm Store on Facebook or Instagram for more. (8)

Stop #9- Massachusetts

Mayval Farm

In picturesque Westhampton, MA, the Parsons family of Mayval Farm have been dairy farming for a long time…all the way back to 1778! There are several breeds of dairy cattle that call Mayval Farm home, as the herd is comprised of a mix of Jersey, Holstein, and Brown Swiss. Back in early 2015, the Parsons began bottling milk in their new on-farm creamery facility. (9)

From the creamery, you can enjoy fantastic minimally processed chocolate and whole milk. In addition to that, you can also satisfy your cheese cravings with fresh cheese curds, Mayval’s signature skyr (of Icelandic origin (14)), and more. All of this, as well as other products such as maple syrup, are available from their lovely little farm store attached to the creamery. Products are also sold at a handful of local shops, and at area farmer’s markets on select days.(9)

We’ve also visited Mayval Farm and had personal interactions with the Parsons family. This arm is and excellent example of the traditional New England dairy, and the family is devoted to providing their animals with the best care and making high-quality products. Do stop by the farm and taste for yourself, if you live in, or are ever passing through western Massachusetts. If you want to stay up to speed with all the happenings at Mayval Farm, connect with them on Facebook and or Twitter. (9)

Stop #10- Texas

Mill-King Market & Creamery

In McGregor, TX, the Mill-King dairy farm has been in the family since the 1940s. It has been handed down through multiple generations and evolved to where it is today. In 2010, the family began retail sales of raw milk. By the end of 2011, in part due to low commodity milk prices, they were selling pasteurized milk from their creamery plant.(10)

The minimal processing of milk is vital to the mission of Mill-King Market & Creamery, as they saw dairy allergies among family members be alleviated through the consumption of raw and gently pasteurized milk! The cows that produce this wonderful milk are grass and forage fed and are treated as naturally as possible. (10)

Even if you don’t live nearby the farm, you may still be in luck when it comes to sourcing Mill-King Market & Creamery milk. They distribute through retailers in multiple cities including Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. Raw milk, however, is only available directly from the farm. Also available at the farm store, are a wide variety of food products for folks with allergies to items such as eggs or gluten. To stay up to date with Mill-King Market & Creamery, check out their Facebook, Twitter, and or Instagram! (10)

Stop #11- Iowa

Sheeder Cloverleaf Dairy

In Guthrie Center, IA, we make our next stop at Sheeder Cloverleaf Dairy, another pasture-based dairy operation. The family pays special attention to the health and condition of the soil in their fields so that the cows are consuming feeds of optimum quality. Like many other farmstead creameries, Sheeder Cloverleaf dairy opts to use the low-temperature pasteurization method, but then homogenizes their milk. They package their products in old fashioned glass bottles. (11)

From this dairy, you can enjoy chocolate, whole, 2%, and skim milk. They also carry cream, and on a seasonal basis, egg nog! Oh, and who doesn’t love ice cream? Sheeder Cloverleaf Dairy produces ice cream using their very own recipe. Their flavor offerings sound amazing, like chocolate coffee, lemon custard, and cookies and cream. (11)

If that was enough to entice you, and you’re local to the Des Moines area, there are many retail stores and restaurants listed on the farm website that are said to carry their products. Their Facebook page is full of photos of happy cows on grass, as well as regular updates, so make sure you follow along! (11)

Stop #12- Kansas

Skyview Farm and Creamery

Skyview Farm and Creamery in Pleasanton, KS, is all about cheese! Skyview Farm is a small family operation, owned by Bill and Sheri Noffke, and located on a plot of 80 acres. They utilize rotational grazing for their milking cows, feed non-GMO grains, and strive to use organic farming methods whenever possible. (12)

Their Jersey cows provide all the milk for the cheese they create, as the wonderfully high butterfat ratio of Jersey milk helps to make a great finished product. The Noffke’s are passionate about making high quality aged cheeses, and even have their own aging cave where the transformation happens. Some of the cheese varieties that Skyview Farm offers for sale include Jalapeno, smoked, and plain Goudas. They also make Asiago, Fontina, and a specialty cheese called “Skyview Prairie.” (12)

Hungry? You can visit Skyview Farm and purchase cheese right there, or at the farmers market in Overland Park, KS or from select stores around Kansas City. Their website features a blog to follow, or you can stay updated by connecting with them on Facebook. (12)

Stop #13- Alabama

Working Cows Dairy

Last but not least, we conclude this tour way down south in Slocomb, AL, at Working Cows Dairy. Jan and Rinske de Jong moved across the Atlantic from Holland to the United States in 1985. Their dream was to establish a dairy operation, and they did just that. After several years of working from leased farms, they finally moved to their current location in Slocomb by 1991. (13)

In 2006, they made the switch from conventional farming to organic. Cows raised on grass became their focus. Becoming an organic dairy is a long, slow process, which you can read more about on their website if you desire. (13)

As far as the milk you can purchase from Working Cows Dairy; they offer whole, skim, 2%, and 1% chocolate, as well as heavy whipping cream for your culinary needs. Quite recently, they dove into cheese making. They now make quite a selection of aged cheese, and some of them are even USDA Certified Organic. Some of the unique varieties you can sink your teeth into include Gouda with cumin seeds, chive and celery blend cheeses, and even a nettle flavored cheese! (13)

Working Cows Dairy products can be bought at the farm, or from a number of retail stores throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Follow along with all the happenings of this farm on Pinterest, Facebook, and or Instagram. (13)

Well, there you have it, folks. This concludes our special #JuneDairyMonth Virtual Farm Tour! We hope you enjoyed, and maybe even found your next favorite dairy delight! Isn’t it neat how all of these farms are very much the same, yet all so very different? The story of each farm and family is diverse, which means everyone has something unique to bring to the table.

So again, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating dairy this month, by supporting your local farmers and helping them spread the word about what they have to offer. But don’t just do it this month, do it all year long!









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