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Posted 9/6/2018 9:33am by Kinley Coulter.

     I was casually skimming an article about cheese recently, when a confident assertion by the author caught my eye: ‘Of course,' (she opined) 'no cheese is naturally orange and milk has no orange pigment in it.’   

     With all due respect to the food writer… this dairy farmer begs to differ.   We spend a lot of time answering questions about why our milk has such a distinctive ‘orange’ hue.  People exclaim that they’ve never seen butter so richly colored and the cheese coloring… ‘remarkable!’  Usually the questioner adds another question to the original one by asking… ‘what do you add to your products to get them that color?’  I like to answer that nothing is added to our products but SUNSHINE.
     Our great-grandparents would have stared in disbelief and disdain at what passes for milk (and cheese) in stores today.  Just to set the record straight… the proper, healthy, natural color of milk (and everything produced from it) is ‘Sun Golden’.   Dairy products from cows that are fed right are the right color.  (Hint, the ‘right color’ is NOT white… white is a very nice color for refrigerators, paper, nurses uniforms, clouds, teeth, kleenexes and swans…. but not milk.)   The bright, sterile, glowing, white (almost blue) dairy product that the dairy industry shamelessly calls ‘milk’  betrays three unhealthful features of industrial dairy:
     1) the Destructive Power of homogenization with its massive mechanical maceration of the delicate flavor/color molecules and fragile nutritive enzymes of milk…   handling milk roughly by over-processing produces a very white milk
     2) the Deceptive Process of selling ‘whole milk’ that has been disassembled, stripped of some of its butterfat, massively processed and then ‘standardized’ to 3.5%  butterfat… a dairy farmer in our Church calls reduced fat milk ‘Prisoner Milk’… Prisoner milk is very white.
        3) the Dilution Principle,  namely that grain fed cows make LOTS of milk volume but the grain produces a thin watery white milk.  I guarantee that if you buy a cheap,  glowing white gallon of milk… you will get what you paid for, and nothing more.  Cheap food often comes with a high cost in the long run.      Feeding grain (which was never meant to be fed to ruminants) to dairy cows produces a very white milk.
     If all of this wasn’t distressing enough… the shameful, ubiquitous practice of feeding grain to dairy cows has the unwelcome, unhealthy, unappetizing effect of flushing the precious liquid sunshine out of your milk…countless vital phyto-nutrients that your body desperately needs to thrive in good health.  Beta Carotene, commonly known as Vitamin A is only the most visible of these nutrients… giving Real Milk it’s normal, characteristic, defining, Sun-Golden Color.  Literally hundreds of micronutrients are missing from grainfed milk but are flourishing in the ‘living food’ that is 100% grassfed milk.
      Coulter Farms' Certified Organic 100% Grassfed milk is comes to us the old-fashioned way... from purebred, heritage breed, Jersey cows that would promptly spit out grain if we ever tried to feed it to them.  Why? Simply because they wouldn’t confess it as food… having never had a single mouthful of it in their entire lives.  
     Just as you cannot be a healthy person if you are not eating healthily… Dairy cows that are fed unhealthily to boost milk production to a profitable but unnatural level… cannot be healthy.  The corollary to this is that here is no way to get healthy milk from unhealthy cows.  Much of big 'Industrial Dairy' farming is feeding so much grain that its cows (packed into factories, not barns, by the 1,000’s), are wolfing down shocking amounts of grain that are as damaging to the animals’ health (and comfort) as a twice daily box of jelly donuts would be to a preschooler.  Did you ever get a belly-ache from too many sweets?  These poor animals spend their lives with a belly ache...stuffed into concentrated housing, they are fed the absolute most high-energy grain that their rumens can tolerate without becoming ‘acidotic’… a potentially deadly belly imbalance in the cow.  The process of pushing dairy animals to their genetic and biological limit of milk production has the costly effect of shortening dairy animals’ productive life-span.  Before World War II, dairy cattle would typically enjoy 10-15, sometimes up to 20 years of life on family dairy farms.  Factory farming has reduced that lifespan to less than five years, and that number is still dropping as cows are pushed harder and harder to produce more and more (and cheaper and cheaper) so-called ‘milk.’ 
     Farming wrongly is more than bad business and bad milk… I believe it is a moral issue.  King David, in the Old Testament is described as having been a sheep herder in his youth.  His son, Solomon, was never a farmer… but he addressed farming in his contributions to the Bible… one, in the Book of Proverbs, stands out to me and offers a guiding principle in our family farming operation:
Proverbs 12:10   A righteous man regards the life of his beast
     It would be my settled opinion that we, as farmers (and, by extension, you, as consumers) have a responsibility to be good stewards (and not exploiters) of our animals and the things they produce.  I’ve said it before… I might not choose to be a cow, but if I was a cow, I would want to live and eat and work at Coulter Farms.  
     Did you ever wonder why so many people can’t digest milk and why, nationally, average, per capita, milk consumption is dropping so alarmingly.   After, reluctantly, tasting some ‘milk’ that came with my daughters’ meals at a family restaurant… I could hardly swallow it.  I find myself wondering why ANYONE drinks ANY milk… I certainly wouldn’t drink that stuff.  
     I watch, with keen interest, the purchasing habits of discerning customers at our Farmer’s Markets.  I’ve noticed that, invariably,  when they buy produce, lettuce and salad greens, they are not the buying the pale, insipid 'iceberg lettuce' type vegetables that populate the super-markets, but startlingly dark greens and vibrant yellows and shocking purples… everyone seems to instinctively understand that brightly colored vegetables and fruits are the powerfully healthy ones.  I would love to see consumers apply the same logic to their dairy purchases.  If you are buying dairy products… turn your nose up at ‘insipid white’ dairy… demand vibrant, exciting, tasty, satisfying, healthy, sustainably produced, 100% grassfed, Sun-golden, dairy from happy, healthy, responsibly managed cows.   No more human belly aches from milk produced by cows with belly aches.  
     Someday, someone will ruin my 5 year perfect record.  I have been telling people who think they can’t drink milk, to try our dairy products and return the unfinished product for a refund, if it gives them stomach trouble, .  So far, I’ve never bought anything back… ever!  Recently a customer, who was happily returning for his second dairy purchase,  joyfully told me that he had not had milk for 20 years.  I don’t know who was happier, me or him… but we were both glad that we had found each other and our lives were better for it.
      Everyone appreciates family farms.  Who is not in favor of 'Certified Organic’ products if they are raised right?  If you are reading this blog posting, I am probably preaching to the choir… I will just put in my final shameless plug for our products…Consider supporting our approach to farming with your food dollar, and don’t be shy about signing your friends up for our newsletter.  Even better, how about a birthday gift for them of 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic cheese shipped to their door from Coulter Farms?  We have added a $5 off coupon to our online shipping store to help make this work… spend $30 in our store and get a $5 kickback.  This way, we all win… you, us, your friend, and our cows.  There is a slogan on the employees’ T-shirts at a sandwich shop by one of our Farm Markets… ‘Get in here before we both starve!’   So, support our family farm as we farm with your food dollars and neither one of us needs to starve :).


Posted 8/10/2018 2:31pm by Kinley Coulter.

     The Summer of 2018 seems to have its mind set on making it into the record books.  In nineteen years that we have been farming here in Juniata County, PA,  we had never once made it through an entire summer without seeing the dog-day summer pastures get dry and dormant... until last year.  We grazed verdant green grass from mid-April through Thanksgiving.  I didn't expect to see a summer like that again soon... but, this summer surpassed even that one.  Everything, including the weeds and thorns, is growing....and growing!

     We have had epic, phenomenal, almost Noahic rains.  It has almost made a confirmed 'summer-phobe' like myself re-consider my bias against summertime. Even as I write this blog post, the sunny, sultry summer day is being marvelously interrupted and tempered by yet another soaking downpour.  The pastures are literally bursting at the seams.  The happy cows are producing milk like never before, which is helping us keep up with the strong demand for our Certified Organic, 100% Grassfed Milk, Yogurts, Cheeses, Kefirs, Butter and Ice Cream.  It has been a real blessing to have enough milk to keep almost all of our products in inventory even through the heat of summer.  
     Along with plenty of grass, plenty of milk and plenty of cheese, there has been plenty of some 'less welcome' critters, as well.  We work hard to control the innate wander-lust of our purebred Jersey cows (Hereford beef cows and Katahdin Lambs as well) with electric fence.  It turns out that the grass really IS greener on the forbidden side of the electric fence.   
     Wet foliage growing up onto the electric wires has the shocking effect of dumping all of our fence voltage into the soil... promptly releasing the erstwhile captive ruminants to kick up their hooves and indulge in destructive mayhem in the neighbor's perfect garden.  What is a farmer to do after chasing the animals back into the pasture for the umpteenth time?  Deploy the mighty fence-line clearing arsenal, of course.
     At Coulter Farms, we clear over 10 miles (!) of fence-lines with nothing more than a Humble 'weed-whacker', a Hungry brush-hog, a Handy chainsaw on a twelve foot pole and a High-revving sickle bar mower (pictured above).  The picture below is of a fence line before the fence-clearing battalion attacks.  If you can't actually see the fence, it must be long overdue to be cleared :).
      Like all farm equipment... using any of these tools  is bound to lead to some noteworthy experiences that are worth recounting.  
     What kind of trouble can you get into with a Humble weed-whacker?  We have a lot of snakes here in hot weather.  Most of them go quietly about their business under the unwritten expectation that if we leave them alone, they will leave us alone.  I was weed-whacking around what seemed like the millionth fence-post when the heavy foliage fell in a pile on the hot fence wire.
     I knelt down and gingerly lifted it off the wire and found myself nose to nose with a big, angry, coiled, poisonous copperhead snake.  I wish I could say that he was as afraid of me as I was of him... but such was not the case.  My blood ran cold and my feet ran fast... in my dreams, that snake is still chasing me.
    Jared had a similar experience last week when he stepped into a ground wasp nest while weed-whacking.  He described running from the fiendish cloud of wasps at an impressive speed while the weed-whacker was bouncing wildly on the chest harness, doing its best to thwart his escape.  He was a couple of hundred yards away when he quit running, and still managed to take a final sting from a lone wasp.
     The Handy pole saw is brandished from the roof of our trusty (but pathetic) Ford Ranger.  From the five foot high roof, a six foot  tall operator can cut branches eighteen feet away.  I'm not totally sure that this apparatus would be OSHA approved (please don't tell them about it).
     Recently, while cutting down overhanging branches that were shorting out our fence wires, Jason and Jacob learned an important lesson about wasps.  Jason had lost the coin-flip and had to take the saw onto the roof of the ranger while Jacob got to drive along the fence in (relative) comfort.  
     Unbeknownst to Jason, a large wasp nest was hanging from a branch that he had set his sights on cutting down.  The cut branch landed on the hood of the ranger and rolled off... leaving the broken remains of the wasp nest.  The sun was then blotted out by the angry cloud of wasps.  Both Jason and Jacob stared for a long moment in horror... Jacob, as driver, reacted first.  Slamming the truck into reverse and gunning the engine, he popped the clutch and roared backwards to dump the fractured wasp nest off the front of the ranger hood.  He was highly motivated to do this, do it fast and do it well,  because our poor ranger only has half of a windshield and he felt rather exposed.  In the reverse rocketing ranger, Jacob escaped unscathed.  He even had a front row seat to witness the unfolding catastrophe.  
     Poor Jason did not fare well.   As the truck disappeared from under him, his memory of events became hazy.  He thinks he might have glanced off the hood on the way down.  Regardless, he found himself tangled in the pole saw and harness and laying squarely on top of wasp 'ground zero.'   He recalls hearing a strangled scream that was probably his... likely, the sound was distorted by the fact that he was departing the scene at something close to the speed of sound.  Mercifully, he only received a half dozen or so stings.

       Our final wildlife adventure this week was (of all places) in our cheese aging cave.  I would have never guessed that a snake would bother trying to live in a 50 degree artificial cave... I was always taught that snakes were cold-blooded and liked warm places.  I had reached up overhead to pull down 40 lbs. of cheese in two boxes when... horror of horrors... off the top of the boxes, in the semi darkness, slithered a big ugly black snake!  He (she?) wriggled all the way down the outside of my shirt, down my pant-leg and came to rest on my shoe.  I think I heard a scream... it must have been me because the snake looked angry, not afraid, in the dim light of the cheese cave.  He seemed to be pondering whether to devour me whole or just bite me really hard.  Well, to make a long story short, I was faster than he was and... cumbered as I was with cheese boxes... I stomped him to death..... actually, quite a ways beyond death.  Sorry, animal lovers, it was him or me.  When I finally got my wits about me and put down the cheese boxes, I went back to inspect the corpse and identify the snake.  It turned out to be, after all, a long black zip tie that some joker had left where it didn't belong.  The only redemptive thing about the whole episode is that no-one witnessed it, and my fragile male ego was left relatively intact.
Posted 7/4/2018 9:50am by Kinley Coulter.

     The recent hot weather, while bringing summer fun for dogs and children here at the farm, also brings some challenges for farmers, equipment, animals and even for the lowly grass that our whole farming operation is built on.  

     The difficulties that come with the ‘dog days’ of summer for the farmer are fairly obvious.  There is a special kind of tiredness that comes from exerting yourself, day after day, in the hot sun during some of the longest days of the year.  Dehydration and heat stroke are never far away, as heavy farm work takes its toll.  We rely on lots of water and even Gatorade to get through a heat wave. Lunchtime is quiet, as we gulp our ice water and stare at plates of healthy farm food that, somehow, just don’t look appetizing.

     It seems that equipment has its own struggles in the summer heat, as well.  Hardworking trucks and tractors are boiling over their scorching radiators.  Even a farm tractor profits from a break under a shade tree once in a while.  Tires are blowing out… most recently in the middle of 7 lanes of speeding vehicles on I-270 on a market day.  It’s a terribly forlorn feeling to be broken down on the shoulder in 96 degree heat, with a trailer load of frozen meat and dairy products slowly cooking behind you!  To make matters worse, as the doomed tire beat itself to an ignominious death at 65 mph, a brilliant computer sensor on the truck decided the vehicle had experienced a major collision and disabled the fuel pump … requiring a tow.  (if this is 'Artificial Intelligence'… I would prefer an old-fashioned ‘Dumb’ truck)   Sigh... People wonder why I like fall and winter so much!  
     Walk-in coolers and freezers are bumping up against their alarm temperatures.  We have found that calling the refrigeration repair-man during a heat wave is pretty much an exercise in futility  (…he thinks he can get out here by November!)... so we have become our own repairmen… forced to troubleshoot electrical problems, and change out refrigeration units with spares we keep in our overstuffed basement.  Here at the farm, we are very much ‘jacks of all trades and masters of none.’   
     With July comes peak ice usage at farm market.  Ice tables sagging under the load of bottled milk, yogurt, kefir, butter and cheese are consuming up to 1,000 lbs of ice during a 4 hour market.  It seems we hardly get to enjoy our precious customers in the busyness of dumping fresh ice on the tables and hauling away the melted water.
     As you might surmise… the animals at Coulter Farms are not immune to heat stresses.  But, like the farmer, animals have a job to do… in all weather.  Dairy cows generate significant heat in their stomachs as their 55 gallon rumen ferments grass into blood sugar energy.  They can hardly be blamed for reducing their feed intake in hot weather…. cattle are not any more hungry on a hot day than people are.  So, at peak market season, when we need every precious gallon of milk we can produce, milk production invariably heads the wrong direction.  One saving grace this time of year is that we are weaning about 25 heifer calves off  40 gallons per day of whole milk, and onto lush green Certified Organic pasture.  Each calf has consumed well over two 55 gallon drums' worth of rich, organic, whole milk in their first three months of life.  They are looking robust, strong and healthy, but it is high time for them to get busy grazing and give our farm 280 gallons more milk to bottle each week.  
     Those of you who are gardeners know what happens to lettuce in your garden in hot weather.  It stops growing and gets bitter, right?  Well, our perennial grass pastures are cool weather plants just like lettuce.  The farmer tries to persuade the grass to continue growing and to stay sweet, when every fiber of the grass plant’s being wants to do the opposite.  Never fear… the grass farmer has some tricks up his sleeve that the grass plants almost always fall for.  By managing our grazing and soil fertility, and soil organic matter correctly, we can briefly prop up grass growth during a heat wave.  Inevitably, though, hot and dry weather will shut the pastures down enough that we, reluctantly, bring out the dreaded hay feeders for several weeks to let the pasture grass catch up.  Once the grass plants go dormant and brown in summer heat, the biggest favor we can do for them is to keep the cattle from grinding them into dust.  The challenge is to get the cows off of the pastures (free grass) and onto hay (expensive grass) soon enough to avoid damaging the pastures.  It’s always tempting to graze a few weeks too long when summer sets in with a vengeance.  Two weeks of abusing pasture in the summer will always cost us twice that much lost grazing when it finally cools down and rains.
     Surely, every cloud has a silver lining.  Hot weather does bring some positive things to the farm.   Like watching the cows graze in a misty morning meadow.... Fireflies!  We love to watch them on a summer evening.....  Even a poor farmer can make dry hay in this heat.....  The firewood we burn in our wood boiler to heat milk for cheese and yogurt and pasteurization is bone dry and burns plenty hot......  Ice cream is selling like CRAZY… $4.00 for a cone doesn’t sound so outrageous in 100 degree heat.....  And the children are having a ball playing in the sprinkler!  Ummm… what else?  Not much… unless you missed breakfast and want to fry an egg on the hood of the tractor… Oh well, fall is coming and then you might just get to hear about cold weather adventures on the farm :-). 
Posted 6/20/2018 5:34pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Spring is winding up, and summer officially begins tomorrow... the soil here at Coulter Farms is still gulping down vast quantities of 'April Showers.'  The cold wet spring has stretched itself into the bottom half of June, and we are trying to adjust.  'April Showers' make for a tremendous hay crop in May... but the showers lasted right through May and into June.  We need to make a total of 200 acres of first cutting hay, and we desperately need three sunny days in a row (four would be nice) to do a 50 acre chunk of it.  In case you haven't noticed... stretches of sunny weather have been hard to come by.  We rushed and scrimped and pushed and cheated and finagled and managed to just barely get 150 acres of hay made. 


     One problem with having wet weather (that pushes the May haymaking into June) is that the grass matures out of its valuable, sweet, leafy stage into tall, stemmy grass, producing hay that milk cows just stare at an bawl... moo... Moo...MOO!... MOOOOOO!!!   40 Jersey cows refusing to eat.  Just like a herd of petulant 3 year olds loudly declaring their anger at the despicable farmer who had enough nerve to put such pathetic grass in front of them and call it 'dairy cattle feed'... what a distressing sight... especially when the farmer is hard up for some high milk production to satisfy hungry customers.  
If you want to experience what dairy cows experience trying to eat stemmy, over-mature hay, try eating nothing but old, tough, dried out celery for a whole week... spitting out the 95% of it that is too tough to swallow, grimacing and gagging on the trickle of bitter celery juice that runs down the back of your throat... and then try to do heavy, hard work with the energy you gain from that celery.  No wonder over-mature grass cuts milk production and sours the mood of the dairy herd!  (Disclaimer... I don't even like 'good' celery... if there ever was such a thing... Yuck!  The best part about growing up and moving out of my parents' home was never, ever, for the past 38 years,  having to eat even a single bite of the stuff.  YAY!) 


     The weatherman had forecast a precious five days of sun in a row this past weekend so we confidently mowed the last 50 acres.  It could have been baled Saturday, but we were busy rejoicing at my son's wedding that day (although I did do some baling and raking Saturday after the wedding :).  


     Anyway, all should have been well through Monday, and we were happily baling hay Monday afternoon in the cheery sunshine with a soaring confidence inspired by that morning's '0% Chance of Rain' forecast...
     We were down to the last 100, or so, round bales when... disaster!  'Oh the humanity!'  Out of nowhere comes a 30 minute downpour... all of that beautiful, crispy, fragrant, precious, dry,  green hay was saturated with rain.   Not to be outdone by a little rain, we gave it a few hours in the returning sunshine, fluffed and raked hay again and started baling... but we were snake bitten again... this time by darkness.  The dew settled and the sweet crispiness of the hay was gone, again.  That was a disappointing Monday, to say the least.  Tuesday?  Heavy Rain!  Wednesday?  Heavy Rain!  Tomorrow (Thursday) is forecast to have some sun.  
     We may be able to just barely get the hay baled up before the next 3 days of forecast rain.  It won't be dried enough which means the bales will heat and spoil.  It's not any great loss at this point... the rain has already washed the precious sugars and other soluble nutrients out of the hay and the decomposition process (mold) has begun its ugly work.  Success, now, will be getting the slimy, musty hay out of the field so the second cutting can start growing. 


     Oh well, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.   We can still chop up the bales for fluffy, warm, organic bedding for the cows when the depressing, incessant rain of June turns into the howling wind, and bitter cold of January.  There's no great loss without some small gain.  We usually have to spend a lot of money for bedding in the winter... now the rain has created 50 tons of 'free' bedding for us.  It's enough to make a disgruntled farmer feel rich!

Posted 5/9/2018 12:01pm by Rebecca Coulter.
Among the blessings and new beginnings spring brings on our farm are new lambs;
new piggies;
new seedings for fresh pastures;
and new blossoms against bright blue skies.

Another spring blessing is an upcoming wedding!  Lord willing, Jason and Katrina will be beginning their new life together on June 16th :).
Posted 4/25/2018 1:03pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Confession time...Cheesemaking at Coulter Farms has evolved into more of an exercise in  ‘art-full chaos' than ‘ high-brow food-science.'

     Our typical response to the common request that we make a new variety of cheese is ‘why not?’  This care-free mentality has brought us to the terrifying verge of the abyss… in that our cheese aging cave now has 18 (18!) distinct varieties of cheese… all made by hand, on our farm, from our own 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic Jersey milk.  
     Managing milk production, cheesemaking, cheese inventory, cheese sales at farm markets, and cheese shipping, is most of what swirls around in my head at 3 am when I wake up and can’t get back to sleep…’How long will 97 wheels of Gruyere last?  If we’re short milk next week should we skip making Camembert or Cheese Curds?  Which variety of cheese can we run out of that will produce the fewest complaints?  The cows are on spring pastures that have strong flavored chives growing in them… we should get that ‘onion-flavored’ milk made into ‘Garlic and Herb Jack’… but we need 200 gallons to bottle fresh for market Saturday… OK, move the cows onto the pasture with no chives…’  This business planning swirls on and on at 3 am… unfortunately I don’t remember any of it when I wake up in the morning.   

     If we could just choose a few varieties of cheese and focus on them we would be more organized, more efficient and (probably) more profitable.   The only reason we don’t simplify our cheesemaking is that we actually enjoy the challenge and excitement of keeping up with all of the varieties of cheese… not to mention we get to sample them!  I have a feeling that we would enjoy efficiency and profitability too… although we would have to experience it someday to know for sure.  
     As we fill our cheese vat, over and over again, with precious (priceless, really), sun-golden organic milk … our primary objective is to ‘do no harm.’  The big idea with cheesemaking is to ADD value to milk… not to REDUCE its value… a very real danger when warming milk to body temperature and adding live cultures of bacteria to the existing ones in the milk.     Outside the walls of our cheese room, our entire passel of selfish pigs is single-mindedly  ‘rooting’ for us to fail… snorting and drooling at the prospect of a failed batch of cheese… since ‘flop cheese' is their ultimate, bestest, most favorite kind of food  (no wonder our pork is so good).  In one sense… cheesemaking is an ongoing battle between cheesemaker and swine… one or the other will be happy with the outcome of the cheesemaking.
   One cheese that has been enough of a challenge that we abandoned all hope of making it is mozzarella.  If I did my research correctly (thanks, Google), the name ‘Mozzarella’ comes from the Italian verb Mozzare… ’to cut off’… originally from the  vulgar Latin ‘Mutius’… which English has adopted as ‘Mutilate’.  This is a fairly apt description of our early (and vulgar) attempts at making mozzarella several years ago.  After some depressing pig feasts, having ‘mutilated’ valuable milk, we finally hung our heads in shame, and discarded Mozzarella as yet another good idea that, sadly, didn’t work.  Meanwhile, our customers have bombarded us with requests… almost demands, that we make mozzarella.  Mozzarella cheese edges out cheddar, in the US, as the most consumed cheese, per capita.  We sell a LOT of cheddar and would be glad to have a good mozzarella to add to our stable of products.  
     One problem was the whole ‘hand made’ cheese thing.  I've spoken to quite a few ‘cheese people' about how they made mozzarella and most of them asked what we had for 'stretching equipment.’   I told them we had the two most valuable pieces of equipment… ‘left hand and right hand.’  Ahhh!  That’s the problem, they say!  We need a $45,000 curd stretcher or we can never make mozzarella efficiently.  Well!  Never say ‘never’ to a determined (but, sadly, cash poor) farmer. 
 My oldest son, Jared, our Master Cheesemaker had come to the end of his patience with stretching scorching hot curd by hand (I think the elbow to finger-tip first degree burns were the major cause of his discontent)... he was rebelling (even revolting) and demanding a better system.  Well, the big news is that after three years of snooping around for innovative ideas about making mozzarella by hand on a farmstead scale, we are back in the hand stretched Mozzarella business… at least for the time being. The big question now, is how will it do once we put it out at market.  
     If only one customer buys our mozzarella for every 10 that has asked for it… we are going to need to buy some HUGE wheelbarrows to get all of our sales dollars to the bank!  Maybe we'll even be able to afford that mechanical curd stretcher :).  So, we are proudly announcing our 19th variety of cheese… 'Coulter Farms’ Mozzarella’  (How's that for a catchy name… we didn’t even have to pay our marketing firm a million dollars to come up with it!)  
     Our raw mozzarella curd has been stretched in 180 degree water (or whey), so it doesn’t qualify as a ‘raw milk’ cheese.  After our milk has been curdled, had the whey drained off and been pressed… the curd is heated and stretched.  This heat causes the milk sugar (lactose)  to be converted to a ‘carmelized’ sugar called ‘galactose’ giving the mozzarella a subtle sweetness and making it brown nicely (think: carmel color)  when it is baked in a pizza oven… YUMMY!.  
     The protein in the cheese is denatured by the heat and stretching… producing the signature stringy/rubbery texture of mozzarella.  This gives the cheese its fantastic melting properties.   So far, the pigs have had to satisfy themselves with just greedily gobbling up the whey from our mozzarella making… no flop cheese for you, Miss Piggy!  HA!!!   This recent batch of precious mozzarella is reserved for our customers’ lasagna, pizza and, in just a few weeks…mozzarella melted on Asparagus!  Then, in a few months…mozzarella melted on Tomatoes!  Oh Joy!  
   Viva la Mozzarella!  Down with feeding flop Mozzarella to pigs!
Posted 4/11/2018 1:04pm by Kinley Coulter.

     As I drank my precious morning cup of joe with my wife this morning, I got treated to not one, but TWO ‘rites of spring’ unfolding right outside of our living-room window.  

      The first half of my coffee was consumed while observing a mating pair of sparrows vigorously negotiating with a pair of blue-birds for possession of a blue-bird house that they were all coveting with  their beady little bird eyes.  All four were calmly dragging in string and twigs and straw and twine from all over the farm to build a nest in the house though there was going to be no problem converting this ‘single family’ dwelling into a duplex.  As this drama unfolded, I sipped my way into the second half of my coffee and watched my three year old daughter carefully wiggle under the bottom electric wire of the pasture fence to get to the newest 'bottle lamb’  pen.  She didn’t used to be so careful and fastidious about keeping her backside way down while going under the wire… but she is much more motivated after a few ‘close encounters' with the hot fence wire.  (I’m just glad it’s her and not me crawling under that 10” high wire).
       Anyway, this little girl was pulling along a baby bottle full of freshly warmed organic cow milk, destined to be lamb breakfast for a frantically bawling lamb, that after fasting all night, was quite sure it was about to perish from starvation.   The two ring circus of four birds wrangling over a birdhouse on a fencepost, above a little girl carefully wriggling on her belly through freshly green April grass, on a sunny morning that promised to be warm, was quite entertaining.  I often say that spring is not my favorite season at the farm with all of its wind, rain and mud… but this WAS a very nice spring morning.  
     Bottle lambs are great fun to watch, and the girls love feeding them 5 times a day… but, they are an undesired indicator of a social breakdown in our sheep society.  Every bottle lamb represents a broken ewe/lamb relationship.  The worst offenders are the ‘first time lambers’… young ewes that have never lambed before.   They have a highly annoying habit of dropping their first, precious, long awaited lamb and calmly walking away from it without ever looking back.  We try to pen these negligent ewes up with their lamb but, if 24 hours go by with no attention from momma… the lamb is labeled an ‘orphan’ and becomes the little girls’ responsibility (a joyful duty!) to raise on milk for 90 days until it can live on pasture.
     Twins lambs are the most common (and most desired) pregnancy outcome in our flock.  We used to cheer for triplet lambs but now we are wiser.  Triplets often result in a bottle lamb, as the mother ignores the smallest or slowest of the three.  When there are only two teats… being small and slow puts you at a decided disadvantage.  We had one famous ewe that had quadruplets in July and triplets in February!  An amazing feat never repeated before or since!   She actually raised 6 of the 7 herself.  Another problem with triplet lambs is that they are born smallish and never really catch up with twins in size.  Single lambs are very common with first time mothers… they are born larger than twins and get a double share of milk from momma so they get HUGE!  Anyway, now we cheer for twin lambs.
     Almost all of the ewes have lambed by now and the whole flock is hungrily eyeing the lush, green, organic, April pasture…mere feet away, but it might as well be on the moon because of that pesky barnyard gate.   Any day now, the eagerly anticipated 'barnyard exodus' will begin with the opening of the pasture gate, and the sheep tsunami pouring out… lambs climbing over each other, two and three deep, in their rush to be the first one on grass.  If you have never had 100% Grassfed lamb… you should treat yourself.  I grew up with a decidedly negative view of lamb as a greasy, strongly flavored meat.  We had leg of lamb on Good Friday, and I could only eat it if a small piece of it was swimming deep in mint jelly.  No-one ever told me that grainfed lamb is greasy and strong flavored and grassfed lamb is mild and sweet.  I also never knew how much chemical wormer got fed to conventional lambs… making Certified Organic lamb a special treat.  I was reading recently about the ‘ dirty dozen’ of highly pesticided fruits and vegetables.  Conventional lamb is undoubtedly the most chemically wormed meat of all livestock species.  We hardly ever get to eat our own ‘chemical free’ lamb here at the farm because it’s always selling out and it’s kind of a ‘budget-busting’ meat.  But why not treat yourself when it's a special occasion!
Posted 3/28/2018 10:54am by Kinley Coulter.

     Spring time brings many blessings here at the farm.... warm sunshine and gentle rain, bursting buds, and lots of cute, fuzzy, wide-eyed additions to sheep flocks and cattle herds.

     Our herd of Certified Organic, 100% Grassfed Jersey cows started having their calves at the beginning of the month, so we now have lots of little ones to feed and care for.  Twice a day they get a stretching belly-full of rich, warm, organic milk that is healthful and nutrient dense food for calves as well as people.  No synthetic 'milk-replacer' with dozens of 'unrecognizable' ingredients gets fed to our precious calves here.  


     The three little girls especially enjoy helping 'bottle feed' since the calves are much closer to their size, and less intimidating than the mama cows.

     Through the spring season, as everything bursts into new life, our cows will be producing lots more rich, creamy milk than their calves can drink.  We'll be bottling milk, chocolate milk, kefir and yogurt, and making any extra into delicious raw milk cheeses, for our 'much appreciated'  customers.  


Posted 3/13/2018 2:41pm by Kinley Coulter.

     What is the one bright spot when the shrieking cold wind thumps mercilessly against the farm house in mid-March?  Well, at least the unwelcome snow is traveling horizontally instead of vertically and it’s having a hard time accumulating on our farm fields here at Coulter Farms.  

     March has, indeed, 'come in like a lion'… but it has also brought with it a barn teeming with lambs.  It is peak lambing season right now.  We have tried to schedule all of our spring birthing on the farm to make it manageable… it seems that all of the farm animals appreciate lots of TLC at calving/lambing time.  I learned about how much 'mothers giving birth' appreciate attention, during the birth of my second son.  It was a particularly short but difficult labor and, afterwards, I (Dad) was feeling a little light-headed (two things I don’t handle very well are stress and blood and there had been an abundance of both). I had decided it would be better to be closer to the floor than standing.  So, I sat down rather abruptly in a chair.   The two nurses in the delivery room noticed this and in no time everybody was clustered around me catering to my every need...asking me ‘Are you OK?… and did I need some orange juice… how about a cookie, or some ice cream?… are you feeling overheated, dizzy, nauseous?… maybe I should put my feet up in the recliner?'  My poor, neglected, suffering wife observed this, somewhat impatiently, and blurted out a reproof for the rest of us… ‘HEY!  By the way, I’m the one that just had the baby… How about some attention for ME!   Well, I learned my lesson and the new mommas at our farm get the ‘Royal Treatment’...
     March works well for lambing in our farm operation. We have about 100 certified organic ewes bred, and they have birthed about half of the 150 lambs we are expecting, so far.  The frisking and ‘baah-ing’ in the lambing barn is quite the circus show.  Mother ewes are ‘chuckling’ at their lambs; and the lambs, after a few timid days getting started, are as spunky and full of energy as human teenagers full of iced coffee.  Our two favorite lamb ‘tricks’ are related.  The first cute trick is 'the vertical jump'.  Unable to contain their overflowing joy… just to be alive... the lambs will literally spring, vertically, (yes, straight up in the air), for no good reason.  When one does that, it’s cute.  When a barn full of lambs does it… well, it looks like a pan of fuzzy white popcorn kernels popping up out of hot oil.   The other common lamb trick builds on the 'vertical jump.'  The lambs will literally jump up onto their mother’s backs when the mommas are eating hay out of the feeders.  The mothers will patiently endure this, and the ewe and the lamb will  continue eating hay in ‘bunk-bed’ formation.   I went to get a picture of it, but of course, none of them will do it when you want them to.  
     The timing of March lambing dovetails perfectly with mid-April green pastures.  The lambs are just being involuntarily weaned by their impatient mommas.  The momma sheep are about disgusted with their oversized lambs head-butting momma’s  back legs off the ground to get a little more milk.  The disillusioned and famished lambs can then turn their attention to the vibrant, high energy, certified organic pasture that is literally bursting with new growth… just in time for a tsunami of hungry, fluffy, white lambs.
     Just as lambing is letting up by the end of March, the dairy herd of Jersey milk cows is ready to let loose their April calves.  The milk flow starts in earnest just as our farm market business is ramping up with the first warm days in April.  
     Last, but not least on our farm’s neo-natal calendar… the momma beef cows start dropping their adorable red and white, purebred Hereford, organic beef calves.  We are very glad to wait until May for our beef calves after all of the chaos of March lambs, and April Jersey calves.  No sooner does the beef herd get its calves going during May… then it’s hay season… but that’s for another article.  :).
Posted 2/7/2018 4:50pm by Kinley Coulter.

      It was a bit of a shock, this past Friday, to fly out of San Salvador, in El Salvador, in the heat of the afternoon... 

      After a week of 90 degree temperatures, 6 hours of travel time delivered me to the Baltimore-Washington Airport at a bone-numbing 19 degrees… Brrrr!  I had spent the week driving around El Salvador (I have a whole new appreciation for the term ‘defensive driving’)  as part of an organization called ‘Anabaptist Financial’ that is investigating the possibility of financing new dairy/processing operations.  The vision for the first of these proposed dairies is that it would help to support a deaf children’s school near San Salvador.  Currently, 14-20 poor deaf children get language training at the school. 
     The group that operates the school has a dream of providing work for the older students as well as for the community.  Their board presented a request to Anabaptist Financial for a loan of about $200,000 for a building, 40 dairy cows, and equipment to milk them and process the milk for direct marketing.  Eventually, they envision processing their own milk into yogurt, cheese, bottled milk and ice cream, and direct marketing all their products.  My experience of putting together this type of a farm at Coulter Farms got me drafted into exploring the possibilities of this venture.  
      Anabaptist Financial, an organization that funnels funds to worthy groups,  sees this kind of an investment as ‘seed money’ to allow ministries such as orphanages and handicapped children’s schools to kill two birds with one stone.  First, an operation such as this would provide work for teenage and young adult students that have grown up in these communities, and struggle to find employment.  Secondly, if these ministries were not dependent on outside charity for their operating expenses, they would have the satisfaction of ‘paying their own way’, so to speak.  Additionally, the funds that are freed up from supporting existing ministries could be used to establish new ones.  
     We visited ‘Strong Tower Children’s Home’ which operates a coffee business on a similar premise.  They house 20 orphans of the country’s Civil War and gang violence, and are moving towards being self supporting by using some of their land to produce coffee that they export to the US. (Coulter Farms is going to offer their coffee at our Saturday market, and on our website store, if you want to do some good with the money you spend on coffee.)
     We spent much of the week visiting existing Salvadoran dairies in the area, as well as learning about how dairy processing is done in El Salvador.  I was surprised at how well the dairy cows seemed to manage in the heat of an equatorial climate.  The cows have acclimated to weather that would shut down our Pennsylvania cows’ milk production.  Also, the Salvadoran farmers have carefully introduced some ‘tropical’ cow genetics into our typical, European dairy breeds.  The result are some rather odd-looking ‘Holsteins’ and ‘Jerseys’ that can not only survive, but even thrive with year round temperatures in the high 80’s.  
     We determined right away that we would need to work with local animals, and include some local milking methods, because to transplant a Pennsylvania operation to El Salvador would probably be a disaster.  A lot of our highly efficient (expensive) systems and equipment are unnecessary in a place where wages are 10% of US farm wages.  For example, using a $2,000 milking cart might take four men a couple of hours to milk 40 cows.  A $100,000 milking parlor in the US allows two people to milk 80 cows in an hour… but parts and service technicians for specialized milking equipment are not sitting on every corner in El Salvador.  Also, the community would much rather have the additional employment that less efficiency provides.  Five ‘local style’  $200,000 dairy operations can support more schools and orphanages than a single million dollar facility that is so efficient that it hardly employs anyone, and has to sit idle when something breaks.
     At Coulter Farms, we produce 18 types of cheese, and I was shocked to visit several corner ‘cheese stores’ and not recognize a single type of cheese.  Butter is almost unheard of.  Fluid milk is not a popular product.  Cream, yogurt and skim milk cheeses are abundant.  I watched a clunking and sputtering ‘rattle trap’ pick-up truck back up to the off-loading dock at a good sized dairy processing operation with an open top 55 gallon drum half full of warm milk sloshing round in the plastic barrel.  Absent refrigeration (or even a lid) a worker stuck a hose in the drum, and sucked the milk from somebody’s little 6 cow, hand milking farm up into the big tank of milk waiting for processing.  I think that my USDA dairy inspector would have keeled over from a heart attack.  I’m not a huge fan of government regulation of small farms, but I have to admit that my mouth was hanging open a little bit... that was the end of my milk drinking for the trip. 
     We barely made our flight out of El Salvador when the only road to the airport was closed after a gang stopped a bus, and killed six people and wounded four police when the bus driver refused to pay the demanded extortion money.  We take a lot of our blessings and security for granted here in the US.    
     Anyway… I just thought it might interest the customers and supporters of our little family farm to know that part of the proceeds of what you invest in our products are playing a role in trying to establish safe, healthy dairies among some of this hemisphere’s most underprivileged communities.  We’ll keep you informed as things progress with this project.