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House of Clubs

Do you like to travel? Do you long to see the world? Do you want to travel alone, with someone, with two someones, three someones or maybe four someones? My favorite mother-in-law always said three-day visits were max. When Jane Marie couldn’t use her ticket, I went to Adana solo and it was like shopping getting to the store, asking “where was it that Saul converted to Paul and how do I get there?” In this latest episode of Travailing with Jane Marie we were a five some teamed-up with Tamara, Lawrence and Uncle Vic, in London at 39 Godfrey Street.

Previously, all except Uncle Vic, had occupied an uptown apartment in or is it on Malta with access through the Texas Bar & Grill. I’m not sure if we broke the three-day stay rule, because I could always go for another round of rib eye’s, bacon burgers and Zero while the other three were out there walking, climbing Olympian class steps taking ‘I and sometimes we, were here’ photos.

39 Godfrey Street in Chelsea was three floors, three bedrooms, two baths and homey touches like a real living-dining-kitchen first floor. Frugal chef Jane Marie stocked the lader before the Tres Americano’s arrived while I nestled into my sedentary perch at the dinner table.

I resisted all invites to tour the city-scape under the excuse that it could never measure up to the photos displayed in every ESL Training school in China.

 

However, Uncle Vic sprung for tickets to the Broadway musical Kinky Boots with songs by Girls Just Want to Have FunCyndi Lauper. Again, approaching our three-day expiration date, we took the ferry to Jersey. Somewhere between here and there we got the word that Turkey was not issuing visas to Americans. Thus, the frequent topic of conversation changed to, does that mean us? What if that does mean us? If money wasn’t a problem I think we all move to the island of Jersey, just for the ice cream.

The Original Jersey Shore

Doesn’t look like much when the tide goes out, but you must rent a car to appreciate the countryside. After conferencing with the Polish and Romanian hotel staff the key insight for me was all the street signs were in French and 80% of the population originated in Portugal. I swayed the where do we eat committee to go Portuguese because Tam and Lawrence fish & chips pubsters got the same tip.

 

Ever on the lookout for somebody stealing my food, I was thankful that Tam was a veggie lover and Jane Marie chose fish. I needn’t have worried I was awarded the Over-meat eaters Anonymous trophy, the churrasco skewer.

Jersey is named after the Jersey cow or more likely the cow is named after the island because Guernsey is next door and they don’t call their cows jerseys. My English neighbor has never been to Jersey, but he says they’re famous for Jersey cream and new potatoes. The ice cream and driving the Jersey Garden State alley parkway are worth a visit and a millionaire residency permit.

Three’s Company in the Frog Loft

We got off the ferry from Jersey to St. Malo and switched drivers from English right Lawrence to French left Tamara. I tried to help the navigator role reversal by informing all that Malo meant bad in Latin. This unsolicited message seemed to fall on deaf navigator ears both front and back. The Frog Loft destination in St. Malo’s old town was GPS’ed like astronauts on re-entry. The contrast between 39 Godfrey and our French accommodations were quickly spotted by Victor, “where are the doors?” The short answer, not since 1971 after “Light My Fire“, Jim Morrison died. The draw curtain motif for bedrooms and master shower gave it that, you’re no longer in 39 Godfrey Street anymore feeling.

  

The Bagged Lunch at Normandie

The gang of Clubs visited the Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach. Our adult leader, Tamara was nice enough to take us to a real live raw cheese factory where I purchased two months aged mildly stinky and three month ripened stinky-stinky varieties. After which we proceeded to look over the D Day cliff while eating my stinky cheese sandwich. Now, I have to re-watch saving Private Ryan and the longest Day.

  

Paris for Two, What Could Possibly Go Wrong

Uncle Vic, the James’, Tamara and Lawrence, left us for London and America after dropping us off at the train to Paris. Saying goodbye to our adult leader meant Jane Marie took over charting a course utilizing the all forms of public transportation, including walking, even up and down steps.

The second day plan: take the Metro to the Eiffel then an hour boat cruise on the Seine. Trudging up the steps behind Jane, the buzzer went off and a fellow straggler and I jammed ourselves in the closing doors in a lose-lose access situation. The look on Jane’s face as the train left the station – what could possibly go wrong?

First off, no cell phones, let alone smart phones; second Jane Marie had no money. Thus, began a personalized episode of What Would Two Semi-Adults Do if they got separated in Paris with no phones and no money? I got on the next train, however, it wasn’t headed for Eiffel. Consulting the onboard Frenchmen, I made a mid-course transfer and arrived 20 minutes later to no sign of Jane Marie. Maybe she had gone off to the Tower entrance. A kilometer later no Jane Marie at the North entry. Poured my sad tale of losing my wife in Paris to the non-English speaking security twosome- “can I walk under the tower to the south entrance?” Go ahead: “Do you have a knife?” “No wife, no knife.”

South Eiffel no better, maybe she went on ahead to the cruise ships? Had no idea which boat Jane had bought tickets but when the sign read 69€. My recollection was in the 30€ range and a Blink scan of the brochure of the logo. Walked bridge to bridge up and over the Seine. Thought for sure a blond sitting on the steps of the main boat ramp had to be the Jane Marie. Got within 30 feet spotted the white ankle socks – no Jane Marie I know wears white ankle socks. After my two and a half hours search I was ready to call it a French Mis-Connection go back to the hotel. I reached in my back pocket for my Metro all day ticket, retrieving two. Sure, hope Jane has money to buy another one. Up to the room 30 minutes later and there’s Jane Marie.

So, where were you? “I got off at the next stop, crawled under a turnstile because you had my ticket and I had no money. Got off at your stop but you weren’t there. Got back on the Metro to the Eiffel stop. Looked and waited, no teg, so I sneaked through entry’s and favor scanned exits – no ticky, no exity –  for free return trip on the train back home.”

Outside of that Ms. Kennedy how was your second day in Paris? “Got to go on the boat cruise at dusk making for great photos. Did Notre Dame, the Arch de Triumph, Moulin Rouge, and polished it off with the best French meal right here at the hotel.”

  

Now all we need is for them to let us back into Turkey.

Jane Marie’s Sabbatical

Jane Marie did her usual two weeks of research, spent six nights and seven days in hostel dormitories, took 700 photos, interviewed roommates, vendors, drivers and left a note for her mom in the West Wall.

The week after Jane Marie returned home, Trump announced he was moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

 

Jane Marie leaves a note for her dearly departed mother Mary Frances, in the West Wall (Wailing Wall). Once a week, they take the messages to Mt.Olive and bury them, so MF should have received it.

Help Is On The Way

Before graduation as a Marine Officer, membership in the Navy Federal Credit Union was required to pay for a $1,000’s worth of uniforms and sword – I really wanted the sword.  Come to find out that Hashgraph’s, first name brand customer, was CUNA, the 1,000 member, Credit Union National Association of which the NFCU was its biggest lender. Ipso facto, I became a near instant, after ten ‘youtubers’ on Bitcoin vs Hashgraph, believer in the genius of Leemon Baird.

Semper Fi

Turkey is the Suez Canal of China’s New Silk Road

Cry not for Turkey – they didn’t get in the European Union, the Euro and a Greek like collapse. They joined the wrong side, the German side, the losing side in WWI and won their independence. Turkey lost their Ottoman Empire that stretched from Baku to Venice, but was relieved of all Arabic speaking nation-states. After Ataturk, put the ABC’s in the Turkish language, the country became the Geo-political Rosetta Stone of the Mid-East.

Today the East (China) meets the West in Istanbul with their One Belt One Road Initiative. Railroads and pipelines, instead of camels, boats and planes are the new modes of transportation. Nobody likes nobody today, tomorrow or yesterday but they all like money. Egypt accepts everybody’s money that uses their Suez Canal. The same thing goes on in Panama, so much so, that China is building another canal in Nicaragua.

Now comes the Baku-Tblisi-Kars (BTK) railway – inaugurated with great fanfare by Erdogan alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, but also crucially Kazakh Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev and Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov. After all, this is about the integration of the Caucasus with Central Asia.

Erdogan actually went further: BTK is “an important chain in the New Silk Road, which aims to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe.” The new transportation corridor is configured as an important Eurasian hub linking not only the Caucasus with Central Asia but also, in the Big Picture, the EU with Western China.

The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, a deal brokered in person in Baku by the late Dr Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, was a major energy/geopolitical coup by the Clinton administration, laying out an umbilical steel cord between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

BTK is just the beginning, considering the long-term strategy of Chinese-built high-speed rail from Xinjiang across Central Asia all the way to Iran, Turkey, and of course, the dream destination: the EU. Erdogan can clearly see how Turkey is strategically positioned to profit from it.

Of course, BTK is not a panacea. Other connectivity points between Iran and Turkey will spring up, and other key BRI interconnectors will pick up speed in the next few years, such as the Eurasian Land Bridge across the revamped Trans-Siberian and an icy version of the Maritime Silk Road: The Northern Sea Route across the Arctic.

What’s particularly interesting in the BTK case is the Pipelineistan interconnection with the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline(TANAP), bringing natural gas from the massive Azeri gas field Shah Deniz-2 to Turkey and eventually the EU.

Turkish analyst Cemil Ertem stresses, “just like TANAP, the BTK Railway not only connects three countries, but also is one of the main trade and transport routes in Asia and Europe, and particularly Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan ports. It connects Central Asia to Turkey with the Marmaray project in Istanbul and via the Caspian region. Along with the Southern Gas Corridor, which constitutes TANAP’s backbone, it will also connect ports on the South China Sea to Europe via Turkey.”

Cry not for Turkey, she is in the right place at the right time.

GET THOSE DUST BOWLS OFF THE SHELF

Midwest Farm Bubble Continues Collapse As Farm Incomes Expected To Crash In 2017

Earlier this week the U.S Department of Agriculture released its biannual report of farm incomes which paints a very bleak picture for the American farmer.  In its first forecast for 2017, the USDA sees real farm cash receipts down 14% versus 2015 and 36% from the previous high set in 2012 as farm debt continues to soar and leverage surges to all-time highs. 

As the Wall Street Journal notes, the deadly combination of rising input costs, lower grain prices, a strong dollar and excessive leverage will likely force many of America’s Midwest farmers out of business in 2017.

Costs for seeds, fertilizer and equipment climbed so high and grain prices dropped so low that he still lost more than $120 an acre. Afraid to come up short again, Mr. Scott decided last fall not to plant 170 acres of winter wheat, close to a third of the usual amount. U.S. farmers sowed the fewest acres of winter wheat this season in more than a century.

Agrinomics: Yield per Acre

Adam Smith called it the rent of the land, the individual farmer, the man on the spot, was best suited to get the most out of the land. Karl Marx, didn’t want to let the farmer do his own thing for fear he would rape the soil to produce as much as possible today and not worry about tomorrow.

The Rent: Today Illinois farm land goes for $425/acre the farmer produces 180 bushels of corn on that acre and then sells it for $6 a bushel $6 x 180 = $1,080 less $542 for all that good fertilizer, pesticides, machinery, etc. he’s at $538 minus the $425 rent leaves him at the end of the harvest with $113 per acre profit.

180 bushels @ Dec 2016 price of $3.33 X 180 = $599.40 less $542 for all that good fertilizer, pesticides, machinery, etc. he’s at $57 minus the $425 rent leaves him at the end of the harvest with $-368 per acre loss.

“No one just grain farms anymore,” said Deb Stout, whose sons Mason and Spencer farm the family’s 2,000 acres in Sterling, Kan., 120 miles east of Ransom. Spencer also works as a mechanic, and Mason is a substitute mailman. “Having a side job seems like the only way to make it work,” she said.

She and her husband have declared bankruptcy before. Farmers around Sterling lost $6,400 on average in 2015, the latest available data, after profits of $80,800 a year earlier, according to the Kansas Farm Management Association.

REINVENTING AGRICULTURE

“No one just grain farms anymore,”

The commodity grain farmer after Nixon’s 1971 devaluation of the dollar got a dollar more for a bushel of corn. The mid-west farmer could get 140 bushels per acre in 1975 at $3.00 per bushel for a gross of $420 per acre. 2017 corn averages $3.50 but yield per acre has risen to 180 bushels. Ipso facto $3.50 times 180 equals $630/ acre. That’s good right? Not if you factor in the Nixon Greenspan Bernanke credit bubble. $3.00 in 1975 has the buying power of  $13.96 today. 2) economically viable to the farmer

John Reganold, a professor of soil science and agroecology at Washington State University, said a 4) crop’s yield is just one of four metrics by which it should be considered sustainably productive.

Equally important, he argued, is whether a crop is 1) environmentally safe, 2) economically viable to the farmer and 3) socially responsible by paying its workers well, for example.

“For any farm to be sustainable, it must meet each and every one of these four sustainability criteria,” Reganold said by phone Tuesday.

When organic farming practices are compared to conventional practices using all four of those metrics, the FOE report argues, the organic practices hold an advantage considering their resilience to increasingly pressing agricultural challenges, including climate change and water scarcity.

4) crop’s yield Yield in 1929 was 20 bushels per acre. Compare that to today’s 180 bushels on the same dust bowl mid-west acre.

“Increasing the proportion of agriculture that uses sustainable, organic methods of farming is not a choice, it’s a necessity,”

Claire Kremen, a conservation biology professor at University of California at Berkeley, writes in the report.

It’s Dust Bowl time again: the soil is depleted, the farmer is deeply in debt, the stock/bond market is about to crash and farm land value is drying up. No more wheat, soy or corn means it’s a good time to start a garden or become an organic farmer.

IT TAKES A VEGAN TO RAISE A VILLAGE

The “Vegetarianism in America” study published by Vegetarian Times showed that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all.

 “Agriculture, the Produce of the Land, is the SOLE or the PRINCIPAL Source of the Revenue and Wealth of every Country.” – Adam Smith.

The Vegan-Vegetarian set are a bunch of picky eaters. Since, they have to deny themselves anything good to eat – they are the eat to live sufferers – they painstakingly make sure that it’s organic, locally grown, regeneratively farmed and environmentally sustainable. The remaining 96.8% of the population doesn’t care about soil degradation, GMO ingredients, pesticide residues, algae plumes or the evils of industrialized agriculture; only does it taste good and how much does it cost?

“The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society is that carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country.”– Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, 1776, (pg. 473)

The Vegan-Vegetarian loyalists favor their local farmers’ markets over Whole Foods to support their community economically. The only time that the American farmer made any money was between the end of slavery (1870) and until the end of WWI (1914). After the war Henry Ford turned his auto manufacturing expertise to cranking out ‘Farmall’ tractors which triggered Adam Smith’s caution algo: Equipment, Seeds & Fertilizer “the rise in the real price of manufactures, decreases the price of the raw produce of the land – thereby discouraging agriculture.”

The introduction of mechanization eliminated nine out of ten family farms because more land was needed to support the cost of the equipment that ended up producing commodity row crops, corn, wheat and cotton. The unemployed farmers moved to Detroit for five dollars a day wages which their wives spent buying canned goods at Barney Kroger’s or A & P.

The Vegan ladies 80% and Vegie ladies 60% and their corresponding male sympathizers are leading the way to establishing the farmer-villager relationship and the:

“The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society is that carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country.”

2017 statistics say that the Vegan-Vegetarian consumers number 17 million or 5% of the population. However, to make ‘American Agriculture Great Again’ we have to get the meat-lovers buying 100% grass-fed beef and family farmed pork, poultry and dairy. Before WWI 80% of the people lived in rural villages, now that 80% lives in metro-areas. Before WWI local farmers supplied 95% of the foodstuffs for the neighboring villages. How can we get them down on the farm again?

DUST BOWL IIWhen this happened in 1937 they packed up and went to California. There hasn’t been a dust bowl since then, why? FDR subsidized irrigation by pumping the Ogallala Aquifer down to keep those row crops growing. Now when the water runs out – current usage is a negative two meters per year – the great plains states will be forced to return to great prairie states. The Vegan-Vegetarian Left-Wing Millennial Marauders will disembowel the Industrial-Agriculture Complex and raise little happy villages all across the land.

CABRITO AL PASTOR

Keep the girls and eat the boys. Boy goats don’t live long because it only takes one to make babies. The girls give milk and 2.3 babies every eight months. There is always a 50/50 chance that her kids are going to be boys. The kids live on their mother’s milk for the first 30 days. The shepherd, the el pastor, skins the little boys (cabritos) and cooks them over a low fire in the field or pasture. This time honored BBQ dish is called ‘Cabrito al Pastor,’ in Spanish and Portuguese.

The boys remain cute until they are three months old, they become sexually mature at four months and can impregnate their mother. Sometimes, they are banded at two weeks and allowed to grow as ‘wethers’ (castrated male goats) to an eighty pound weight. The cost of feed – 50% of the cost of business – forces the goat farmer to favor the cabrito al pastor option at $20-25 each.

LAST CHANCE HOWARD BUFFETT FOR AG SECRETARY

“I am more discouraged than I was when I started. The problems are so huge,” Mr. Buffett says.

In February 2007, his SUV pulled into Fufuo, a village in central Ghana. Accompanied by Ghanaian agronomist Kofi Boa, he hurried into a large cinder-block building where 30 farmers had been waiting, sheltered from the sun.

Back home, Mr. Buffett owned 800 acres of corn and soybeans and a fleet of the most modern John Deere implements. Now, he hoped to learn something from farmers who scratched the dirt with sticks and machetes. Mr. Boa, the agronomist, had been coaching them to replace slash-and-burn farming with a practice he called “no-till.”

In many African villages, poor farmers—who are often women—had traditionally made room for their crops by chopping down the brush and trees on a few acres of tribal land. It is hard on the farmer and the environment. The land is laid bare to erosion. As the soil deteriorates, farmers work harder and harder to produce food until they have to move on to another spot, repeating the cycle.

Mr. Boa told Fufuo’s farmers to disturb the ground as little as possible. Other than poking holes in the dirt to plant their seeds, the ground was not to be hoed or vegetation burned. Organic residue—such as leaves, stalks, and roots—was valuable, not trash. Fufuo’s farmers were taught to make room for their seeds shortly before planting time by squirting the competing vegetation with Chinese-made weed killer dispensed from backpacks.

The village quickly discovered that no-till plots yielded bigger crops with far less labor. The mulch acts as a sponge when it rains, banking water for crops, and then breaks down into plant food. The time the farmers saved by no longer hoeing weeds and cutting brush was time for money-making endeavors. Some started to raise cocoa trees, a crop prized by Ghana’s government for its export earnings; others began to raise chickens, feeding them with their surplus grain.

“How many seeds of corn do you plant on a hectare?” asked Mr. Buffett as he peered through thick eyeglasses and jotted down answers in a notebook. “Can you farm more land now?” he continued. “How much corn did you harvest?”

Further convinced he should support the no-till training of farmers, Mr. Buffett left. After his SUV drove off, swallowed in red dust, the farmers were told that their visitor was the son of a billionaire named Warren Buffett.

Trump’s Current Pick for Ag Secretary

Sonny Perdue III, the former governor of Georgia, is president-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate to be his U.S. secretary of agriculture, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Perdue, 70, would succeed secretary Tom Vilsack. Perdue met with Trump on Nov. 30 and told reporters they talked about agricultural commodities traded domestically and internationally. While Perdue is the front-runner, the decision isn’t final, the person said.

Howard Buffett is a farmer, a very rich farmer, who is developing sustainable, regenerative agriculture in the US and Africa. Howard’s father’s bridge buddy, Bill Gates, is working the health track in Africa and India. Howard is saving Africa from hunger through ‘no-till’ farming. Trump still has time to pick a farmer over a politician as Secretary of Agriculture.

US Agriculture is not a swamp – it’s a barren lot that stretches from coast to coast with nothing on it but junk-yard dogs.

Subsidies

Factory Farms

Industrialized Farming with Chemicals

Degraded Topsoil

Depleted Aquifers 

$15.00/lb 100% GOAT & LAMB NO NITRATES ROADKILL SAUSAGE

Earth Mother Farms, a subsidiary of Anala Goat Company took its turn at trying to make a living selling pasture raised chickens for $12.00 each or about $4.00/lb. All well and good save it cost Earth Mother $13.00 to produce the damn chicken. Fifty miles southwest of Houston anything goes so I made a deal with Senor Garcia in East Bernard. I would pay him $100 for one goat turned into 100% GOAT SAUSAGE NO NITRATES. Same deal for one lamb. Garcia paid $70-$80 for the lamb and the goat and I got 25 pounds each of fresh no nitrate, 100% goat and 100% lamb plastic wrapped sausage. That fifty pounds cost me $200.00 say $4.00/lb like the damn chicken but coming home after a hard 8 to noon day, unloading that 100% SHEEP & GOAT NO NITRATE ROADKILL SAUSAGE at $15.00/lb, I put that $750.00 in my pocket as cash flow.

MANY A SLIP ‘TWIXT’ CUP AND SHEEP DIP

At Shepherd’s Way Farms, we believe there is a way to live that combines hard work, creativity, respect for the land and animals, and a focus on family and friends. We believe the small family-based farm still has a place in our society. Everything we do, everything we make, is in pursuit of this goal. –Steven Read & Jodi Ohlsen Read

“Sheep’s Milk Cheeses in U.S. Earn Ribbons but Little Profit”

When I see P’tit Basque for $13.99 a pound, it’s like getting kicked in the gut,” said Seana Doughty, the proprietor of Bleating Heart Cheese in Tomales, Calif. “That’s how much it costs me to make Fat Bottom Girl,” her signature sheep cheese, which typically retails for $38 to $40 a pound.

Seated with hundreds of colleagues at the American Cheese Society awards ceremony in Des Moines this past July, Rebecca Williams heard her farm’s name announced not once but twice, for its acclaimed sheep’s milk cheeses.

“We make good cheese,” Ms. Williams said to herself as she approached the stage to collect the second-place prize for Peekville Tomme, the farm’s aged wheel. Her ash-ripened Condor’s Ruin had just taken a blue ribbon in another category.

Those two ribbons are probably her last. In October, cheese production ceased at Many Fold Farm, the six-year-old Georgia sheep dairy that Ms. Williams operates with her husband, Ross.

“It’s really hard to get such great recognition for your work, have people banging on your door, and it’s not enough to make ends meet,” she said.

Tripped up by the tricky economics of sheep dairying, the Williamses are among several disillusioned dreamers who hoped to succeed with American sheep cheese, a niche that did not exist 30 years ago. There were 167 dairy sheep farms in the US in 2010 with an estimated 25,000 milking ewes.

In contrast, the dairy goat industry has continued steady growth since the 1980s. Goat milk and soft goat cheese, commonly known as chevre, is available in most supermarkets today. As of 2013, 360,000 head of dairy goats were counted in the United States. More than 30,000 farms in the country raise milk goats. In addition to a variety of different cheeses, goat milk is used to make yogurt and even ice cream. It often serves as feed for other animals.

A Greek guy tried our raw goat’s milk feta at the Houston’s Farmers’ Market and exclaimed that it was the best feta he had had since he left the ‘motherland.’ I thanked him for the compliment but credited the goats for their Vegan (Wharton County alfalfa) diet and that our feta was made with raw milk therefore the taste had not been cooked away through pasteurization. I went on blathering about real Greeks only consume sheep’s milk feta, maybe goat’s milk in a pinch but never ever feta made from cow’s milk. Why? It’s the 4 – 6 – 9 principle. The fat content four percent for the cow, six for the goat and a whopping nine percent for sheep. Thus, our $5.00/8oz price was cheap compared to $1.00/8oz’s at Kroger.

“A distributor can import manchego for maybe a third of what it costs us to produce,” said Laurel Kieffer, a Wisconsin sheep farmer and the president of the Dairy Sheep Association of North America.

I became the cheese-maker in the family owned business known as Earth Mother Farms because Shelby fired her niece’s boyfriend who took the previous cheese-maker with him. Any task outside of milking 50 goats twice a day, seven days a week was obvious to the casual observer. However, after taking in all our operating and fixed costs that 8oz container ( a gallon of milk makes a pound of cheese) of feta cost $2.77/8oz to produce.

As the retired cheese-maker, I understand the dairy sheepherder’s “show me the money” dilemma. Seana Doughty, the proprietor of Bleating Heart Cheese in Tomales, Calif. “When I see P’tit Basque for $13.99 a pound, it’s like getting kicked in the gut,” her signature sheep cheese, which typically retails for $38 to $40 a pound.

As we say in every Texas Quick Stop at lunchtime:

“this family farming shit, don’t pencil out.”

Small family farms (less than $350,000 in GCFI) account for 90 percent of all U.S. farms. Large-scale family farms ($1 million or more in GCFI) account for about 3 percent of farms but 55 percent of the value of production.  Slightly less than half of U.S. farms are very small, with annual gross cash farm income under $10,000; the households operating these farms typically rely on off-farm sources for the majority of their household income.

The mayor of our 400 peep rural community visited us in 2006 to say that our gross revenue of $120,000 made the Anala Inc. number one business enterprise in the ‘hood.’ It was also greater than the combined loot we had received since our beginning in 1998. I further suggested we could double our gross if she and her friends would purchase our raw goat’s milk kefir for only $45.00/gal, which cost us the same $5.53/gal as the chevre.

“All-right smart ass show me the money.”

How many ‘Cheeserias’ like this one in Barcelona have you seen anywhere outside of NYC or San Fran? The cheese was to expensive but a liter of kefir was only E4.00. Just as a ‘Dollar’ store can thrive a block away from Wal-Mart or Starbucks can charge you twice as much for coffee, specialty retail for small farm produce currently survives at farmers’ markets.

As a native Cincinnatian my dairy hero was Carl Lindner, who dropped out of high school to run his father’s United Dairy Farmers store in Norwood all the way to #167 on Forbes billionaire list. Living for the last two years in the 99% Muslim country of Turkey I became epiphanied with the Bacon shops in Spain and France – call them prosciuttorias to justify the higher prices.

Agriculture and Retailing are classified as Fragmented Industries where nobody even Wal-Mart or the biggest pig farmer Smithfield Foods has more than 1% of the business. According to Harvard’s Michael Porter, the only way to see the money is through DIFFERENTIATION and there are two paths to riches 1) Low Cost Producer ala Wal-Mart or 2) Uniqueness like Starbucks.

There were 65 million sheep in 1937 America after Nylon, Rayon and Polyester 6.5 million remain. The US imports 25-40% of the sheep and goats we eat. A goat dairy vendor five booths away was selling pasteurized goat’s milk and cheese for almost as much as Earth Mother Farms because fresh milk from a goat is unique. Sheep milk is virtual non-existent. California is the only state that never regulated mandatory pasteurization – you can buy a gallon of raw cow’s milk for $12 at Whole Foods or Safeway. Coast to coast raw cheese must be aged at least sixty days
It took Seana Doughty’s, Bleating Heart Cheese in Tomales, Calif., five months, a cheese cave, a real creamery and a lot of money invested to age-out 10 pound sheep’s milk cheese wheels for $39.00 only to be thrown under her ewes by the $13.99 a pound retail price.  Reminds me of the time I bought 76 goats at 80 cents a pound and sold them over two months at 70 cents a pound. That was the same year Anala Inc. had gross revenues of $500.00. The lesson learned is it is super difficult to differentiate a commodity like pigs, chickens, cattle, sheep, goats and dairy because why pay four or five times the industrialized agriculture price? Why should I pay $1.00 for an organic apple when I can get four shiny red delicious ones at Appletree for the same dollar?

The chart above illustrates the importance of family farms to national GDP and employment. The Netherlands has the most balanced Urban/Rural population economy in the world. Together with France, Spain and Germany the European family farms contribute a greater percentage of GDP per employee than the 3% of industrial farms in the US. Number one reason, like California they never outlawed the sale of domestic raw dairy. Secondly, France has over 1,000 kinds of goat cheese.  The quality and taste of raw dairy as in wine is determined by the soil, climate, vineyard tender and winemaker.

The United States for more than 100 years has collected the milk from individual farmers, mixed it all together at the dairy plant, cooked (UHT) it,  homogenized it, denatured it, added stuff back in it, then put it in liter size cartons where it retains its tastelessness for six months without refrigeration.

How Bob and Darlene Saved the Stryk Family Farm

The Stryks were each raised on their respective family’s dairy farms. Farming is a passion for them. But, with farming comes hardships. It’s the struggles brought on by numerous droughts that proved to be their proverbial silver lining.

It was the drought of 1996 when they were forced to cull their 170 head milking herd down to 20 cows. They both had to take jobs in town to save their farm.

“At that point, we could have sold all the livestock, our land, and bought a house in town. But we felt we could sell the milk off the 20 cows and make the mortgage payment. In 1999, when our daughter Bryn arrived, we knew we had made the right decision to stay on the farm,” says Bob.

The drought of 96 drove it home to the Stryks that to survive another one, they needed a niche market. That same year they created Strykly Texas Cheese, a retail custom cut, shaped, and waxed cheese business.

The dairy’s conversion from a commercial milking operation to a raw-for-retail milk operation began in earnest during the drought of 2006 (I met the Stryk’s as fellow vendors at the Houston Farmers’ Market). The Stryks had found a new niche market, one that would carry their now 60-head Jersey cow dairy successfully through the historic drought of 2011.

However, they weren’t immune to the hard decisions that drought brought to farmers and ranchers. The dry, moisture starved pastures where they grazed their 35-head beef cattle herd were no longer producing enough forage. The Stryks had been providing the herd supplemental feed for months. In February, they decided they could no longer justify the costs and made the tough decision to sell the beef cattle herd. Ironically, a couple weeks later, the needed rains began to fall. They rolled the dice on Mother Nature and lost that roll.

 TWO, FOUR, SIX, EIGHT, DIFFERENTIATE

Desert Farms is a California-based company that uses a network of small farms across the country to provide raw camel milk in each region. Its products, both raw and pasteurized, are for sale in bulk on its website and on Amazon. Erewhon carries single pints of frozen raw camel’s milk for $25.

There you have it, until the FEDS make raw dairy legal in all fifty states, eliminate all agricultural subsidies, make organic farming mandatory and outlaw factory farms you are on your own.