Monday, December 17, 2012

Local Food in the Bitterroot-A visit to Lifeline Dairy Farm

Blog post by Dixie and Caleb

Today, our class had the opportunity to visit the Lifeline Dairy Farm and business to observe and learn about sustainable farming practices and local food in Victor, Montana. The first stop was the Lifeline Farm business/manufacturing plant, where we got a tour of the facility and got to learn about the process to make cheese and milk. They have a variety of cheeses to choose from including: pepper jack, monterey, cheddar, and swiss cheese. In addition to cheese, they also carry beef and pork products. Their products are mainly shipped across the state of Montana in the towns of: Missoula, Kallispell, Stevensville, Helena, Bozeman, Florence, Hamilton, Billings, Choteau, Great Falls, Butte, Gardiner, Lewiston, West Yellowstone, and Big Sky. They also ship on the western coast including the state of Oregon, Washington, and California. Some of their biggest orders are in Missoula's Good Food Store and the Co-op. On a busy day, they use 2,000 gallons of milk to convert into cheese products. On a side note, we got an interesting fact about the creation of monterey jack cheese. Cheese requires a constant temperature to make, and one day a person, assumed to be in monterey, got the temperature too hot, and quickly cooled it down with some cold water. This accidental step was necessary  for monterey jack cheese as we know it today.

The second stop was the farm where we toured the grounds and handled some of the animals. This farm has not had any problems with wolves directly affecting their livestock, however they mentioned the elk have been hanging out at lower elevations than usual because of the wolves presence in the area. The elk eat their hay, and hence their money. In the future, there is potential for wolf predation.They lease about 40 acres of land in the summer to graze their cows, and own another 90 acres at the Sweathouse and Red Crow. They raise their cattle from birth to death, and in doing so have control over the conditions the cows are in. 

The dairy farm practices biodynamic agriculture, which is defined by their website as "to restore and maintain the vitality and living fertility of our soils in order to produce foods of the highest nutritional value," and uses Demeter standards. Along those guidelines they do not use synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides or hormones in their products. Similarly, their foods are not treated with synthetic chemicals or irradiated during processing, storaging, or handling. In addition to being organic, Biodynamics promotes ecological values, not just economic ones. This means, they view the soil, plants, and animals in a larger context of having an important role in the ecosystem, and not just as a means for profit. By using biodynamics as a guiding philosphy for their farm, they have a self-sufficient system that replenishes the soil with nutrients and minerals.
This was a wonderful field trip. Thank you Natalie and Lifeline Farms.

Hair/beard nets for all!!

All of this milk is slowly turning into cheese.  This batch of cheddar will produce about 2,000 pounds of cheese when finished.

The large doughnut shaped tub is a butter churn.  When paddles inside rotate, the cream is turned into butter.

This is the cold room where all the milk, cheese, butter and produce are stored.

In the packing room, a pneumatic cutter slices and dices butter and cheese so it can be packaged by hand.

Once weaned from their mothers, calves of dairy cows are held in pens with other calves of the same age.

This is Lifeline Farm's old milking parlor.  It has four milking stalls with hydraulic gates.  The electronic milking machines automatically shut off when the cow has no more milk to give.

The dairy cows live in both an open paddock and a covered barn that they can move between freely.

Lifeline raises pigs as well as dairy cowes, and a sow farrowed last week, so cute piglets were in abundance.

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