Jane & Louis Escobar - Escobar Farm, LLC.

The Maize
Learn about corn mazes and see some of the other fantastic mazes around the country.

Rhody Fresh
Read about the local Rhode Island dairy farmers marketing Fresh Local Milk!

Cabot Cheese

We’re proud members of Agri-Mark, the dairy farmers cooperative that owns Cabot Cheese. Support your local farmer and buy Cabot Cheeses.

The American Dairy Association
Ah! The power of cheese! If you love cheese, this is the place to go. You’ll find recipes, descriptions of different types of cheese, even a ‘cheese profiler’ to find out which is the ‘ideal’ cheese for you.

Got Milk?
Who’s your favorite ‘milk mustache’? Check out the pictures on this great site, get t-shirts, mugs, and play the ‘Got Facts?’ trivia game.

The Jobs of the Farmer

There are many jobs to be done on the farm. The preparation of the earth to receive seed; plowing, disking, harrowing. The planting of seed, then the cultivating (weeding) and fertilizing. Harvesting, storage and sale of crops. Farmers must also the know the effects of weather and humidity at all phases in this process; these are some of the areas of knowledge in which a farmer must be expert. A farmer must be a builder, a mechanic, a horticulturist and an animal husbandry expert. The successful management of a dairy herd is a very rigorous kind of job. It includes meticulous record keeping and observation of the cows’ health. It involves recognition of many nutritional and metabolic imbalances. The cows produce so much milk that the slightest change in their feed or their routine, or the slightest illness, can put them into a metabolic crisis. These crises are often life threatening. It is also important for a farmer must to be an accountant, a tax expert and a business planner. This last is the hardest part, because in small unit farming, the numbers never add up.

Much of the time, the farmer must be his own veterinarian. It is no longer possible, for instance, for the Escobars to summon a veterinarian to help with a sick cow. There are no longer any large animal veterinarians left serving the area, because the numbers of farms have declined to the point that they will not support a large animal vet. If a cow needs to be seen by a vet, she must somehow be loaded into a truck and driven for hours. This is not good for an animal that’s already sick. Small farms are always hard put to find hired help; if a cow needs to be trucked to the vet there is usually no one free to drive her. Sometimes a neighbor can help and sometimes it is impossible to get the cow to the vet. This is just another instance of the difficulty of running a small family dairy farm.

Today it is even necessary to add the jobs of politician and lobbyist to the backbreaking load of the farmer. So, if you want to be a farmer, you must study all the career paths in your school. You must study science, vo-ag, data processing, shop, civics, English, and math; you should also run for and win student office. You will need all those skills if you want to be a farmer today.

Louis Escobar about Talking With the Community – Page 3
USDA Sustainable Agriculture page
Questions Pertaining to Large Dairy Enterprises in Ohio: Economic Impact
Down on the Dairy Farm
Louis Escobar’s Statement Before the Compact Commission

What is an Artificial Insemination Technician,
and why is this job important to farmers?

The practice of artificially inseminating – breeding – cows is one of the most important jobs in the dairy industry, and one that helps ensure you of your daily dairy products. The Sires of dairy cows are selected very carefully. The farmers and the Holstein Association keep records of the milk production of individual cows. The sires of the top producing cows become more valuable and more utilized as the numbers of high producing daughters accumulate. The best sires have their semen frozen by large ‘bull stud’ companies. Individual farmers buy the semen from these sires, and the AI Tech comes out, helps judge the best breeding time for the cow, and does the insemination. In this way, breeding for productivity, the capacity of the Holstein breed to produce milk has risen to amazing heights.

In order to produce milk, a cow must first produce a calf. Then she ‘comes into milk’ and becomes a commercial milk producer. The amount of milk given by modern day Holstein cows is enormous, and the management and feeding of these cows is a critical science; the margin for error is very small. Did you know that a farmer is a scientist?

In order to make a cow pregnant, the insemination has to be done at exactly the right moment. The window of opportunity to do the breeding at the right time is very small. The observations of the farmer, and of the AI technician as well, are a critical part of making certain that the cow becomes pregnant. If cows do not become pregnant at the optimum time, it influences the farm’s income in a significant way. So it is very important that each insemination done has the best chance of being successful. This is the art part of “art and science”. Many jobs combine art and science, or skill and science. Medicine is one of these fields and dairy farming as well. Jane Escobar’s skill in this area is so great that she has been written up in the most influential publication in dairy farming, Hoard’s Dairyman.

Originally affiliated with Genex, Jane went on her own as Escobar AI after Genex discontinued service to the area because of the low number of farms remaining in business. By taking over the whole burden of the AI process, she continues to provide an essential service to farmers who would be unable to breed their cows as they wished were she not available to them.

Artificial Inseminatin in Dairy Cattle
Record Breaking Cow
Granny Setting Records
Some Holstein History
Holstein Records are kept by the Holstein Association
How Humans Invented Animals

Why do Farmers Continue Farming
if they don’t Make a lot of Money?

What is it about farming that makes people sacrifice and work themselves to exhaustion to maintain this way of life? This is one of those subjects that tempts one into making poetic statements.

The rhythms of the seasons and the cycles of the crops. The warmth of breath on your face, the sight of the sun rising and setting, all outdoors, the satisfaction of exercising your body, of having put another 3,125 pounds of milk into the tank that will feed hundreds of people. The sweet smell of cut hay – equaled by nothing but the taste of an early Macoun apple. The unspoken dance of human and animals as you move safely among them because you and they know each other’s minds and bodies so well. The intense reward of saving a life. The sense of mutual dependency and harmony with the earth connecting, like a taproot, to a time and place that is now. And here. The farm.

Stresses On Families that have Lost the Family Farm
The Rewards of Farm Life

Why Should We Care if Small Dairy Farms Go Out of Business?

When the number and size of farms in the area decrease, costs go up for the remaining farms. Supply companies, veterinarians and so on all go out of business or move elsewhere. Farm families constituted about one third of the population of the United States in 1940. By 1980 it was about two percent.

Dairy farms, in addition to their contributions of food to society, produce other benefits for their neighboring populations. First, not only do they produce food for people and animals to eat, they also produce oxygen to breathe. Plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Animals do just the opposite. We are animals, thus we are dependent on the earth’s crops and wild uncultivated areas for the production of the very air we breathe. This is why we should care that large tracts of rain forest are being de-forested. Where both are in balance everyone benefits. Green space is important for other reasons. Just being there for people who dwell in cities to look at is enjoyable. Recreational opportunities often can be found on farms or near them, such as hiking trails, riding trails, camping areas, corn mazes, hay rides and other activities.

Farms require very hard work from those who tend them. Farm families have traditionally been large. Children raised on farms learn early on to help with the work and to value work by the tangible product of that effort. It is much more difficult to judge one’s worth by the amount of money one has earned in a day than it is by the number of bales of hay put into the barn. Farms by the nature of the efforts necessary to sustain them, are powerful forces for what have come to be known as family values. The earth and its plants and animals can only be won over by genuine care and effort. They don’t respond to a con job. What good lessons farms teach.

Results of Decline of Farm Numbers
Farm Aid

At the Economic and Political Hub of the Matter

There’s a struggle in this country between states that have a large agricultural base and those that don’t. The way legislation gets passed by the congress and signed into law by the president seems to have more in common with horse trading than careful planning and consideration of economic realities. So, for instance, there have been ‘land banks’ that have paid farmers to keep land out of production and planted in cover crops. Politicians and residents of non-farm states have always railed against this kind of program.

The land-bank program kept land out of the hands of housing and commercial developers, the soil safely anchored by crops that also enriched it as they kept it from blowing away, and ensured that it would be available to be put back to farm use if it should be needed. It also kept the land out of production of the major crops, such as soybeans, corn and wheat so it was no longer adding to surpluses. The American Farmer is the Best in the World by several orders of magnitude. Our Farmers are capable of feeding the whole world. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could magically put food into the hands of all the hungry in the world, and at home too?

Being so efficient, American agriculture has routinely produced huge surpluses, because, in fact, we don’t distribute food to the whole world. If pure market forces were allowed to take over, the price for these crops would fall dramatically in the face of this over production. This would force farmers to stop producing these crops, because crops and milk would cost more to produce than they would bring on the market. The true situation is, small farmers make very little on their crops and milk as it is, because the machines and supplies that empower them to produce so prodigiously also cost staggering amounts of money to buy and to maintain. So a farmer has to take out loans to buy this tremendously expensive equipment; and he must produce all he can to make the payments on this machinery or he can’t work. That’s it. Can’t make payments, can’t work, can’t produce anything to sell and can’t provide a living for his family.

So, if we allow prices to go too low, masses of farmers will go out of business. Masses of farmers have already gone out of business, and the trend is continuing. Farmers form Co-ops, such as Cabot Creamery mentioned above, to give them some buying and selling power in the market. But farmers are by nature very independent, and this kind of concept has been taken only just so far by them. If we let all the small farmers be forced out of work by the large factory farms, their land will be sold off and developed. It will then be unavailable for future cultivation.

Let’s imagine that a severe drought develops in the prairie states that puts beef and crop growers out of business for a matter of several years. In fact, we pretty much have had that situation in that area over the last several years. Flying over Colorado and Kansas in 2002 you saw no cattle, no irrigated crops, nothing but brown and abandoned land. All the cattle herds were slaughtered off. It is very possible that this could happen to an extent that the American farmer could no longer feed the world and perhaps not even all Americans. Being Agri-business establishments, the factory farms would, indeed, cut and run, go out of business, and leave the country with no one to produce food. And if farmland in other areas has been given over to development, there will be no arable land in areas not affected by drought or disaster such as terrorism, for instance. So, if no farmland can be brought back into production to pick up the slack, this bountiful country could be faced with famine.

The difference between food and, for instance, a car, is that we need to eat food to live. We might be able to live without a new car, and the government does store some strategic food supplies against unexpected needs. Food, however gets used up. Cars can go on and on. We need to continuously replenish our supplies of food, water and oxygen to live. Food production is a life and death matter. Small farms form a cushion that can take up the slack and provide a substantial safeguard against environmental disasters, terrorist efforts aimed at large factory farms, and other catastrophic events. Like the Conservancy of Rare Breeds discussed below, the small Family Farm is a Rare Breed too and must be conserved.

When you hear discussion about subsidies for corn, milk, or wheat, now you will have a little better idea of what’s going on. We must preserve the capability of growing animals and crops even if we don’t have an immediate need for all that this industry produces. It’s not a case of farmers wanting something for nothing. It’s a case of helping farmers and farmland survive for the good of all of us. Farmers aren’t looking for a handout; they’re the hardest working people in the world, and they are just looking for a price for their products that will allow them to keep producing them. Producing them so you and I aren’t in a situation some time of having literally nothing to eat.

*The United States is blessed with a rich agricultural bounty to provide more than enough food to feed U.S. consumers and a growing world population. American farmers are the most productive food producers in the world; each farmer feeds more than 120 people at home and abroad.

*Iowa Senator Grassley speaking about security concerns. We don’t produce all our energy needs, or many other things we need. We do produce all the food we need. We must value this ability and help protect our agricultural sector.

Four Who Fed the World

A Cow’s Life on the Family Farm

It’s a cow’s life; wake up in the early hours of the morning, get milked at 6:15, go on back to the barn and eat all day free choice, or take a stroll down the lane to the pasture for some fresh greens if the weather is fine. The cows are kept as comfortable as possible, so they will be ‘contented cows’, and give as much milk as they can. In bad weather they stay inside the barn area, under cover, but are free to sleep outside in the pasture if they wish in good weather. Second milking at 5:15, and eat until you go to sleep. That’s a cow’s life. The farmer is busy bustling around while the cows are sitting pretty, asked to do nothing but give milk. The place the milking done, since the beginning of modern milking systems, has been known as the ‘milking parlor’.

Christmas Trees, Pumpkin Patches and Corn Mazes

Diversification on the Family Farm. Christmas Trees, Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes, Orchards, Vegetables for Farmer’s Markets, Pick Your Own Strawberries. All of these and more are additions to the traditional family farm repertoire of soybeans, corn, milk and meat. Actually, we’re sort of going backward. Family farmers used to grow all these things for themselves. Now they’re just enlarging their plantings of these things to satisfy the appetite of local residents for these ‘farm fresh’ products and the fun of going out onto the farm to Pick Your Own. Picking your own gives all of us who don’t live in the country a rare treat; going out into the fields, seeing the plants these vegetables come from and eating a sun warmed strawberry or an apple freshly picked from the tree. A day’s vacation in the country.

Each of these additional crops and ‘agri-tainment’ efforts adds a little bit to the income stream for the small farmer. Each of them helps protect against total ruin following the devastating loss of one crop, since it’s not the only crop. This was true two hundred years ago, and it’s true again now. Diversification helps, and it’s called ‘sustainable agriculture’. Each new product also gives the farmer a tiny bit of protection from political vagaries.

Examples of Diversification taking place on some Family Farm

Traditionally, farmers have raised cattle for milk and meat, pigs, chickens for meat and eggs, fruits and vegetables to eat, and crops to feed their livestock, and to sell. Now farms are raising ostriches, emus, llamas, alpacas, rare breed sheep for meat and wool, goats for milk and cheese, bees for orchards and other crops (have hive; will travel), worms for composting, bird seed crops, and so much more. The link below is a partial list of alternative crops and enterprises from the USDA. You will note that in every category, crops as well as animals, heirloom varieties are listed. The preservation of heirloom varieties of crops is as important as the rare breeds we discuss below, and for the same reason, for their genetic diversity. This list is a great resource, and is suitable for consideration by those who have enough land for a small ‘hobby farm’ as well as the approximately 100 Acre size of the typical small family dairy farm we’ve been speaking of.

The USDA’s Partial List of Diversification Products

Can I raise a Calf in my Back Yard?
(Or chickens, sheep, goats or horses?)

You will have to take a look at your back yard, find out the size of your lot, then check on town zoning regulations to know if and what kind of animals you can have on your property. If you decide you can have a calf, or a sheep or a horse, you can find out a great deal about how to raise and care for this animal by getting involved with 4-H, and also by contacting your county agricultural extension agent. 4-H, Hobby Farming and growing a garden are all good ways to get a taste of what it’s like to take responsibility for, and pride and pleasure in, growing crops and animals.

4-H State Sites
Rhode Island 4-H
The United States Department of Agriculture
USDA Extension Agencies

Rare Breeds Conservancy

Double Horned Jacob Sheep

Scottish Highland Castle

Breeds of livestock species are disappearing from the world as you read this. Unknown numbers of plant species are disappearing from the world with each acre of rain forest destroyed. Since all of our antibiotics and many other medications are found by studying the plants and fungi in such places, we are in a real sense, allowing the destruction of our ability to fight disease, as well as the source of the oxygen we breathe.

One rewarding animal related hobby is the raising and breeding rare breeds, just for the sake of saving them from extinction. There are many places on the Internet where you can learn about rare breeds, and some of them are absolutely great looking. Actually getting involved in breeding rare breeds in the United States is pretty much limited to those breeds already in this country. Our livestock and plants are protected by regulations regarding importation of certain plants and animals. Just imagine; if the cattle industry in this country were to be affected by ‘mad-cow disease’, as has been the case in the United Kingdom, the economic impact would be enormous. Thousands of farms, both large and small, producing meat and milk, would be totally wiped out. The cost of food would skyrocket. The farmers of the United States feed a large portion of the world. We have to be responsible in our actions and do nothing that would try to circumvent these regulations. That being said, there are many wonderful rare breeds of sheep, cattle and horses already present on this continent that we can become involved with. Raising rare and heirloom breeds and crops is another way family farms can diversify.

Rare breeds are important in and of themselves, but much more importantly, they are the repositories of alternative genes. As the genetics of a species or breed, such as the Holstein, become more and more directed toward one end, that of milk production, the risk of some new disease or problem cropping up that could wipe out the entire breed rises. Holstein cows produce more than 90% of the milk in America; they are very highly specialized animals. When a genetic problem crops up, geneticists will attempt to solve it with cross-breedings that will introduce resistance to the problem back into the breed at risk. This has happened before; when corn crops became susceptible to a new microorganism introduced from abroad, the maize plants native to the New World were used to introduce resistance back into the affected varieties. So rare breeds may at some point be the salvation of a whole industry or people.

Help save Rare Breeds of Farm Animals for a better tomorrow
One Person Can Make a Difference!
Raising Rare Breeds
The Canadian Rare Breeds Site
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

While linking to pages of links is very bad form on the Internet, this one has very useful links to livestock breed organizations:

Agriscape’s Animal Links