Serve and protect

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

After seven inches of rain fell over two days in late April, Dave Bohlmeyer was faced with the expense and hassle of having to replant some 80 acres of corn on his farm in Centralia, Mo.

It was not a hassle, however, to get his crop insurance claim filed. Bohlmeyer simply filled out the paperwork at the same time he ordered his replacement seed from his local MFA Agri Services in Centralia, where general manager Jim Gesling is an MFA Crop Insurance agent.

“I ordered seed corn and turned in the replant report—they did it all right there,” Bohlmeyer said. “I didn’t have to go anywhere or talk to anyone else. That’s just one example of how convenient it is to have crop insurance with MFA.”

MFA is new to the crop insurance business, launching a pilot program last fall with a wide range of risk management solutions for farmers. The program insures key crops in MFA country, including corn, soybeans, milo, cotton, rice and wheat. Livestock insurance will also be offered in the near future.

With crop insurance now the centerpiece of the U.S. agriculture safety net, most producers can’t farm without it, making this risk protection vital to their operations, said Jason Mott, retail credit manager for MFA Incorporated who helped oversee the implementation of the program.

“Crop insurance is essentially another farm input, and that’s what MFA does,” Mott said. “We already offer expertise in seed, fertilizer and crop protection, and we felt like we could add value by offering crop insurance as a resource for our customers. It creates a one-stop-shop atmosphere for our farmers.”

MFA employees like Gesling have taken on the role of crop insurance agents in addition to their existing responsibilities. The program began with 15 agents in the spring, who insured more than 24,000 acres. That response was considered successful enough that 25 more agents have been added this summer across the MFA system. All have completed the required training, testing and licensing to sell crop insurance through MFA.

“When MFA asked me to become an agent, I felt like it was a perfect fit—mainly because of my friends and customers like Dave,” Gesling said. “I know their operations; I know their families. We’ve worked closely together through the good times and bad times in agriculture. It’s a pleasure to get to serve them in this aspect of their business.”

MFA has also recently hired crop insurance veteran Mike Smith as principal agent to manage the program and help train agents with intentions of growing the business. With more than 27 years in the insurance industry—including crop insurance sales in MFA territory—Smith said he learned early that the guiding principles for success are speaking sincerely and acting in the customer’s best interest.

“If you are doing your best and are sincere about what you do, you’ll have people put their trust in you,” Smith said. “MFA customers have trust in MFA already. MFA crop insurance can benefit from that. Farmers know we have expertise and a support system behind us.”

MFA is working with AmTrust Ag, based in Leawood, Kan., to handle the risk management, underwriting and claims. AmTrust Ag is part of a well-established financial services company with a division specializing in multi-peril and crop hail insurance policies.

It was crucial to choose the right partner in this program, said Jerome Gerke, MFA corporate credit manager, who has also been leading MFA’s crop insurance efforts. AmTrust is one of 15 private-sector insurance companies that are currently authorized to sell and service policies through the Federal Crop Insurance Program. Only three are still American-owned, and AmTrust is one of those.

“That was important to us,” Gerke said. “We know AmTrust will have the best interests of the American farmer in mind, and that’s especially critical because the 2018 Farm Bill is expected to include big changes to crop insurance.”

AmTrust Ag focuses on quick communications, turnaround time and electronic processing and tracking of claims straight from the field. Its mapping tools simplify acreage reporting. But above all, the company emphasizes a personal approach to crop insurance, according to Chris Nesteby, AmTrust Ag’s account manager for MFA.

“This is not cookie-cutter crop insurance,” Nesteby said. “Crop insurance done right should be truly tailor-made for each farmer. MFA is making that happen. The average crop insurance agents for other companies probably see their clients two, maybe three times a year. MFA agents usually see their farmers weekly or more. The more involvement agents have with customers, the better they can provide protection.”

That type of service is exactly what convinced Bohlmeyer to choose MFA to provide crop insurance for his 500 acres of corn, soybeans, milo and wheat. The convenience is especially important because he also works a full-time job at Hubbell Power Systems in Centralia in addition to farming.

“I went through three agents in four years and never even met the last one,” he said. “I was looking for something closer to home. Well, you can’t get much closer than this. I stop by the MFA store here just about every day to get a cup of coffee and check the markets, so they can remind me when there are deadlines I need to meet. With the other company, I might get a phone call or find out there was something I should’ve done two weeks ago.”

For crop insurance agents, AmTrust provides materials to study for the state licensing exam. Once they pass the test, they must complete 12 hours of initial training followed by a competency exam. Continuing education is required each year with spring and fall updates in addition to training sessions planned by MFA and AmTrust.

“The crop insurance program evolves nonstop,” Nesteby said. “There are all kinds of new things that come down the pipeline from the government. We have to keep our agents up to date and continually help them refine their ability to provide the best service to the farmer.”

AmTrust provides “traveling” underwriters who will help MFA agents sit down and go over cropping plans and insurance policies. Company representatives have also been part of producer meetings to help foster a better understanding of what can be a complicated process.

“With the approach AmTrust has, I think we’re providing more information to producers than their agents have done in the past,” said George Kirchdoerfer, general manager of MFA’s River Hills Group, who is also licensed as a crop insurance agent. “If we keep proceeding in that direction, I think we’ll see good growth.”

MFA’s legacy of serving farmers and AmTrust’s experience in protecting farmers are a winning combination, Smith said.

“The support is there for this program,” he said. “We have quality people invested. Farmers will benefit from the fact that MFA retail locations are already part of their business. Our employees know and care about our customers’ operations, and that personal touch will make all the difference.”

For more information, contact your local MFA Agri Services. Each location has an agent available to work with producers on crop insurance needs for the upcoming year. The sales closing date for winter wheat in Missouri is Sept. 30 and for spring crops March 15, 2018.

Assurance through insurance
How risk management became a regulatory requirement on American farms

Although federal crop insurance has been around since the 1930s, authorized by Congress to help agricultural communities recover from the effects of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, for more than half a century it was largely underused. Protection against natural disasters and market downturns was mostly done after the fact in the form of government bailouts, disaster payments and emergency loans.

Even as late as the early 1990s, crop insurance participation rates hovered in the 30-percent range, and Congress was often spending considerably more each year in disaster relief expenditures than it was on crop insurance. The Federal Crop Insurance Reform Act of 1994 restructured the program to boost farmer participation, increase the private sector’s role and create the USDA’s Risk Management Agency.

By 1998, more than 180 million acres of farmland were insured under the federal program, representing a three-fold increase over 1988. But coverage levels on a per-acre basis were still so low that Congress had not been able to break the habit of yearly ad hoc disaster bills.

Then, in May 2000, Congress approved the breakthrough piece of legislation: the Agricultural Risk Protection Act. Its provisions allowed farmers easier access to different types of insurance products, including revenue insurance and protection based on historical yields.

By the summer of 2012, more than 280 million acres were enrolled in crop insurance—just in time for historic drought. The 2014 Farm Bill made crop insurance the centerpiece of modern-day farm policy, replacing disaster packages and direct subsidy payments. Today, farmers must purchase crop insurance to be eligible for certain farm loans and government disaster benefits.

More than 90 percent of insurable farmland in the U.S. is now protected through the federal crop insurance program, which is delivered through a unique public-private partnership. Writing policies, marketing, adjusting and processing claims, training, record-keeping and other services are handled by private companies authorized by the RMA, which sets the rates that can be charged and determines which crops can be insured. The private companies are obligated to sell insurance to every eligible farmer who requests it and retain a large portion of the risk.

The federal government also subsidizes the farmer-paid premiums to reduce the cost to producers. In addition, it provides reimbursement to the private insurance companies to offset operating and administrative costs that would otherwise be paid by farmers as part of their premium. This helps crop insurance remain affordable to a majority of America’s farmers and ranchers. Still, farmers have paid $50 billion out of their own pockets for crop insurance since 2000.

In 2016, 1.2 million crop insurance policies were sold, protecting more than 130 crops on more than 290 million U.S. acres. Those crops had an insured value of $100 billion. 

— Source: National Crop Insurance Services, cropinsuranceinamerica.org

Grade A students

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

Dining at The Keeter Center, an elegantly rustic lodge on the College of the Ozarks campus near Branson, Mo., is an unexpectedly exquisite experience.

Inside the beautifully appointed dining room, smiling servers clad in white coats carry expertly arranged food on silver serving dishes. The restaurant’s log cabin style evokes the spirit of the region as guests savor creative menu items that taste just as good as they look.

But this isn’t just fine dining. It’s farm dining.

Each course offers dishes made with student-produced ingredients from the campus farm, consistently ranked as one of the best college farms in the nation by online services such as College Ranker and Best College Reviews. For starters, there are fried green tomatoes breaded in fresh-ground cornmeal, followed by mixed greens salads, several pork entrées and homemade ice cream for dessert. Even the table’s decorative centerpiece is crafted from flowers and ornamental plants grown in the college’s horticultural greenhouses.

“It’s amazing how much demand there is for a place like this,” said Dr. John Anderson, farm manager and chair of the college’s Business, Applied and Technical Sciences Division. “There’s nothing like it with this atmosphere, this quality. We’d outgrown the kitchen to the point that we closed down in January and completely remodeled and expanded it. It gives us more space for operations and learning. This restaurant, just like every part of our campus, is part of the classroom environment.”

Nearly everything raised on the College of the Ozarks farm is used in some way by The Keeter Center, a combination hotel-restaurant-conference center on the historic campus where students do not pay tuition thanks to an integrated work program. Along with agriculture, there are more than two dozen other majors at this fully accredited liberal arts college, and all 1,500 students earn their education in exchange for working at assigned jobs on campus. Students work 15 hours each week, plus one 40-hour week per semester, to cover tuition, and they can work extra time in the summer to pay for room and board. The faith-based college openly discourages debt and doesn’t participate in any government or private loan programs.

This novel concept, plus proximity to the area’s bustling tourism industry, has made College of the Ozarks somewhat of a tourist attraction all its own—and agriculture is the star of the show. Visitors flock to campus to buy student-produced goods at the farmers market, Edwards Mill gift shop, creamery, greenhouses and famed Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen. Even the dairy barn is designed with a rare six-stall bypass milking parlor so observers can stand outside and watch the process through large picture windows.

“It literally warms people’s hearts to see students working in the landscape or with the cows,” said Lori Simmons, garden and farmers market supervisor. “It’s refreshing. We also have so many places on campus where you can purchase things the students have produced. Tourism is part of who we’ve become.”

Though there are more than 100 work stations on campus, farm jobs are among the most popular choices for students in all disciplines, not just agriculture. On the livestock side, opportunities are available in the beef, hog and dairy farms as well as feed mill and meat-processing plant. The agronomy work station encompasses all aspects of crop production, and students can also work in the horticulture lab, gardens and farmers market, which is temporarily closed due to construction.

“The hands-on application you get within a work station is where the true value lies,” said Shaylee Wallace, a junior animal science major whose job assignments have included The Keeter Center, dairy farm, garden and farmers market. “You can talk about something in the classroom all you want, but once you do it for yourself, it’s instilled in you. That’s when I really learn the skills I need to be successful in the workforce, especially in agriculture, because those jobs are competitive and skill-based.”

That’s exactly what MFA Incorporated employee Noble Carpenter discovered when he graduated from the College of the Ozarks in 2013 with a degree in agribusiness and animal science. While on campus, he worked in the carpentry shop and on the hog farm, which has proven beneficial to his current role as livestock consultant in eastern and central Missouri.

“There are a lot of hogs in my area, so that helped me tremendously,” Carpenter said. “There are a lot of things you learn on the job that college can’t prepare you for, but the base of my knowledge came from school. The hands-on experience to go with quality education in the classroom did a really good job of preparing me for what I do now.”

Carpenter said he chose College of the Ozarks over a state university partly because of its conservative values and close-knit environment. Those attributes also attracted recent graduate Milam Smith, who completed his agribusiness/animal science degree this past May. He plans to return to his native Mississippi and start his own beef operation.

“I’d heard lots of good things about the school before I came, and it surpassed what I had heard,” Smith said. “I was raised to be part of something like this, with a strong Christian background, core values and work ethic. And it’s definitely a strong community, so that’s something I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten at a larger school.”

The oldest of seven, the promise of no college tuition costs ultimately swayed Smith’s decision to pursue his degree at College of the Ozarks.

“It’s definitely a great opportunity to graduate without debt,” he said. “I can use those finances to start my farm, and I wouldn’t have that if I’d chosen to go to another university.”

The school’s tradition of working for an education is as old as the college itself. The institution was founded in 1906 as a grammar school for children in this rugged, rural region, where there was little opportunity for formal education. Families in the area couldn’t afford to pay for schooling, so they worked to support it. From those humble beginnings, the school eventually grew into a two-year junior college and then a four-year college by 1965.

In 1973, the Wall Street Journal dubbed College of the Ozarks “Hard Work U.” in a front-page story about its work-study program. The nickname stuck and is now a trademarked logo for the university. Anderson said it’s just as relevant today.

“The students really do work hard here,” he said. “They get a lot out of it, but they put a lot in.”

As the college has grown, the emphasis on producing, growing and raising food has become even more central to its mission. The college’s acre-and-a-half garden includes seasonal selections of fruits and vegetables, including several types of greens, onions, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, potatoes, strawberries and watermelons.

“Our student-farmers are literally growing the produce, picking it, washing it and walking it up to The Keeter Center,” Simmons said. “How many farm-to-table restaurants have the farmers stepping into their back door? What’s even more awesome is that they’re paying for college by doing that work.”

At the dairy, some 60 cows are milked daily by students at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. This work station is a full-circle experience, from the birth of calves all the way to bottling milk, which is sold on campus and the farmers market as well as used in the restaurant, cafeteria and creamery. The milking herd is primarily Holsteins with a few Jerseys and red Holsteins.

The college also operates off-site hog and beef farms. The farrow-to-finish swine operation consists of around 200 head, including registered Hampshire and commercial hybrid hogs. The majority of the pork is processed at the college’s own USDA-inspected facility to be used on campus and marketed to the public through the farmers market.

The beef herd is dispersed across several locations near campus with about 200 head of registered and commercial polled Hereford and Angus cattle. The operation primarily produces seed-stock rather than meat, and students have an opportunity to help organize the college’s biennial cattle auction held on odd years in the fall. The 2017 event will be Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 25, at the on-campus sale barn.

“We don’t finish enough beef to supply our restaurant, although we’ll occasionally have a beef dish at a special event,” Anderson explained. “Most of the cattle go into our production sale. The students handle all aspects of it, even learning to be auctioneers.”

The livestock work stations give experience in all aspects of animal agriculture, including feeding, haying, vaccinations, breeding, record-keeping, farm maintenance and processing. All the rations are custom-mixed by student workers at the college’s feed mill with grain and concentrates sourced from area suppliers, including MFA Agri Services locations.

Along with giving students practical skills and classroom instruction, the college is committed to cultivating character, responsibility, patriotism and teamwork, said Tammy Holder, a 1990 graduate who is now associate professor of agriculture, beef farm manager and agronomy supervisor. These life lessons are just as important to their education, she said, and help build camaraderie among the students and staff.

“We become like family; we really do,” Holder said. “You teach with them. You work with them. You really get close. The students don’t just get the theory and background. When they leave here, they are more well-rounded people. We try to educate the whole person, not just the academic side.”

Although widely noted for its academic excellence and affordability, the college never rests on its laurels, Anderson said. In particular, he pointed out that the agriculture degree programs and curriculum are being revamped. New classes are being introduced, such as precision agriculture, weed science and animal genetics.

“This is great place to get an ag degree,” Anderson said. “If you draw a triangle connecting northwest Arkansas, St. Louis and Kansas City, there’s not an area of denser agribusiness activity in the nation. Our graduates are sought out there in the marketplace. We are continually trying to improve our farm operations to keep them relevant and viable and, more importantly, make sure our students are being equipped for success when they leave here.”

For more information, visit www.cofo.edu or call 417-334-6411. Most campus points of interest are open to the public Monday through Saturday, but check the website or call ahead for specific hours. 

Coming of Age

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

It’s 7:30 a.m., and Nathan Hemme is already four hours into his workday at Hemme Brothers Creamery in Sweet Springs, Mo.

Inside the immaculately clean production facility, the fresh milk he pumped into a stainless-steel cheese vat at 3:20 a.m. is just starting to cook. A high-pitched hum fills the temperature-controlled room as the vat’s motors turn paddles slowly in the coagulating liquid. By noon, the 3,000 gallons will be transformed into curds and pressed into 40-pound blocks of cheese.

That’s when patience becomes a virtue for the 30-year-old cheesemaker. He won’t know how this batch will taste for another 7 months. The hoops he fills today will sit in a cooler, untouched, until the cheese inside is ready to be marketed as the Hemme family’s “Brother’s Keeper” brand of aged cheddar.

“It’s nerve-wracking to put that much work and money into something just to set it aside and hope it turns out OK,” Nathan said. “It definitely takes a leap of faith.”

If the reputation the family already has built with its fresh cheese is any indication, the aged cheddar will be more than OK. Less than a year after churning out their first batch, Hemme Brothers Creamery is making a name for itself with hand-crafted, farmstead cheese produced on the family’s 180-cow dairy.

Hemme cheese curds, smoked cheddar and German quark, a spreadable product like cream cheese, can be found in grocery stores, specialty shops, farmers markets and wineries within a three-hour drive of the farm. These customers will have dibs on the creamery’s aged cheddar, too, when it debuts this summer. The public will get its first taste of the Hemmes’ signature product on Memorial Day weekend, when Brother’s Keeper is scheduled to be unveiled at a “Block Party” hosted by The Cheese Store in Sweet Springs.

By spring, Nathan said the creamery already had surpassed its business plan’s projections for sales in the first year, and the popularity of its products just keeps growing.

“The reaction to this cheese has been wonderful,” said Lori Henderson of S&P Quality Meats in Marshall, Mo., one of the first retailers to offer Hemme Brothers products this past fall. “Our customers love the curds and the cheddar block, and they’re so happy to find out it’s locally made. It’s selling really well for us.”

Cheesemaking is Nathan’s job, but cheese marketing is the responsibility of the family patriarch, David Hemme, who, with his wife, Janet, established the dairy in 1996 after running a farrow-to-finish swine operation. When pork prices bottomed out, the Hemmes got out of the hog business—but at a cost.

“We saw it coming; we just didn’t get out quick enough,” David says. “We lost about $300,000 in 18 months. But I wasn’t going to get out of agriculture. I knew we’d find a way.”

The 59-year-old farmer said switching to dairy was the best solution to stay in agriculture and allow the Hemmes’ children—four boys and a girl—to return to the farm if they chose. Except for daughter Elizabeth, who is a social worker, that’s exactly what happened. The eldest brother, Jon, came back to the farm after graduating from the College of the Ozarks in 2007. Nathan, next in line, earned his degree there, too, and joined the operation in 2009. Michael followed four years later, and the youngest, Aaron, in 2016.

“With a limited amount of land, dairying was about the only thing we could do to make it work,” David says. “The transition from hogs to dairy was pretty easy. You’re dealing with lactating animals, and both are high management. Actually, dairy is easier, just longer hours.”

With the boys back in the fold, the time was ripe to reinvent the farm again. More partners meant a need for more income. For the Hemmes, the options were to get larger or get creative. They chose the latter.

“It’s stressful, starting something you’ve never done before, but we see this as risk management,” David said. “When you produce a commodity like milk, you’re at the mercy of politics and price. By adding the creamery, we’re not just selling a commodity any more. We’re making a higher-value product for people who enjoy outstanding food. We set our own price and create more stability.”

Smile and say, cheese!

From concept to construction, the creamery was a multi-year process. First, the family toured similar farmstead operations, asking lots of questions and taking lots of notes. Then they began constructing the creamery, doing much of the work themselves.

To learn the basics of production, Nathan took a week-long cheesemaker’s short course at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls, and the family hired St. Louis-based consultant Neville McNaughton—known as Dr. Cheese—to help set up their operation and develop their cheese formulas.

“The cheese course in Wisconsin was intense with a lot of concentrated information, but our consultant helped more than anything,” Nathan said. “He knows a lot of tricks of the trade.”

Cheese-making challenges range from installing the right equipment—all of which is customized and costly—to making sure the room is surgically sanitized and optimizing conditions inside the aging rooms. Each step in the process must be precisely timed and controlled to ensure proper pH, temperature and consistency of the cheese.

“You think cows are complicated, but this is complicated, too,” Nathan said. “It took a while to figure out what makes it tick. It’s an interesting process. There’s a lot of stuff going on in there you can’t see. I’m always measuring so I can manage.”

Making cheese means milk goes full circle on the dairy. The family and some part-time employees milk twice a day, 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Their herd is mainly made up of Holsteins with a few Brown Swiss and Jerseys to raise the milk’s butterfat level, which runs about 4.2 percent on the Hemme farm. By comparison, Holsteins alone typically average around 3 to 3.5 percent butterfat. That extra fat makes their cheese extra creamy, David says.

“Legal whole milk is 3-percent fat, so a lot of big manufacturers make their cheese at that level,” David explains. “We leave all of it there. People like our cheese because it’s so creamy. That’s one way we differentiate ourselves from the big boys.”

The Hemmes work with Dr. Jim White, MFA Incorporated director of nutrition, to formulate their herd’s ration, which includes farm-grown alfalfa, corn silage and ground corn along with MFA dairy feed concentrate.

About 10 percent of the Hemmes’ milk is currently being processed into cheese, pumped straight from the adjacent parlor into the creamery. The remainder is sold through DFA dairy marketing cooperative.

Family time redefined

Despite the name on their aged cheddar, none of the Hemme siblings is his “brother’s keeper,” David emphasized. Duties on the farm are divided purposely so that family members have their own areas of responsibility.

“The hardest part is that they’re partners,” David said. “They’re equal in this business. The worst thing I can do is pull out my ‘Daddy card.’ I’m surprised my bottom lip isn’t bleeding for all the times I’ve had to bite it. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how it gets done as long as it gets done. They find ways to do things totally different than I would have. And that’s just fine.”

While Nathan handles the cheese production with help from his dad and brothers, Jon is mainly in charge of raising row crops and replacement heifers. Michael manages herd reproduction and health and supervises the milking process with help from Aaron, who also oversees nutrition.

“You could say working with family is a blessing and a curse,” Jon said. “It’s great to have an opportunity to come back home and work with my dad and brothers. We have a lot of fun, but it can be hard, too. It’s not an employee you’re getting mad at or yelling at; you’re dealing with family all the time.”

As for David, salesman is the title he carries these days. After a lifetime of hard labor on the farm, he’s traded in his tractor for a van and delivers cheese to customers along Interstate 70, which is just minutes away from the farm. Until Brother’s Keeper is in full supply, the main income-generators are the farm’s fresh cheese curds, sold in 10 flavors, and German quark, which is only made by a handful of creameries in the U.S. Also popular are smoked cheddar blocks made from “younger” versions of Brother’s Keeper. An 8-ounce block retails for around $7, 10-ounce bags of curds are typically $6 to $7 and a 6-ounce jar of quark is $6.

“There are plenty of customers from Lenexa, Kan., to the Arch in St. Louis,” David said. “We don’t have to dominate the market—we just need a certain percentage of it.”

Farmers markets in Kansas City and Columbia also are a popular outlet for the Hemmes’ cheese, and the family participates in tasting events across the region. That personal, one-on-one relationship with customers is just as important to the Hemme Brothers brand as the hand-crafted quality of their cheese, David said.

“You can have a great product, but if you don’t have good customer service, you won’t last long,” he said. “We have a quality product, we can deliver it fresh and we take care of our customers. They want to have confidence in the farmer who’s making their food, and I want to have confidence that if I do my job, they’ll be back. There’s trust on both ends of the equation.”

Craft culture  

Launching their own line of cheese also allows the Hemmes to capitalize on consumer trends toward local foods and artisan products. The number of farmers markets, wineries and craft breweries and distilleries has grown exponentially in recent years. Cheese gets its slice of this trend, too. Americans are eating more cheese—43 percent more over the past 25 years, the USDA reports—and specialty products are the fastest-growing segment of this market.

“People want to know where their food comes from, and they don’t like the idea of it being ‘corporate,’ so we’re trying to tap into that,” Nathan said. “We’re pretty confident about it. It’s just a matter of getting everything figured out and getting our name out there.”

Their ultimate goal is one year away. Next summer, the Hemmes plan to enter Brother’s Keeper aged cheddar in the American Cheese Society’s Judging and Competition, an annual event that’s like the Olympics to cheesemakers. The growth in artisan cheeses is evident here, too, with the number of entries doubling during the past decade to more than 1,850 in 2016. The competition is tough. That’s why a win at this prestigious event can open doors to new markets and help make Hemme cheese a hot commodity.

“If we can place in that competition, we’ll get some validation of our cheese,” Nathan said. “There are a lot of distributors who will take note. We’re entering our quark this year, but it will be next year before we can enter Brother’s Keeper.”

Someday, David said his desire is to see most—if not all—the dairy’s milk crafted into cheese and have the Hemme Brothers name known far beyond this little corner of the world.

“I’d like to walk into a shop in, say, Boston, and see our cheese for sale and not really know how it got there,” David said. “There are others doing it. Why can’t we? I think we’ve got a product we can definitely take regionally and then nationally.”

If that dream comes true, it will mean much more than brand recognition. It will help preserve the future of the family farm.

“We feel like this gives us the best chance to be active in production agriculture for generations to come,” David said. “I’m the sixth generation to farm this land since my family came here from Germany in 1848. My grandchildren will be the eighth. It’s important to maintain that legacy if they choose to farm. At least this way, they’ll have that opportunity.” 

Cheese Please 

Currently, Hemme Brothers cheeses can be found at select Hy-Vee grocery stores in Columbia and Kansas City; the Columbia Farmers Market and City Market in Kansas City; shops such as the Cheese Store in Sweet Springs, S&P Specialty Meats in Marshall, the Better Cheddar in Kansas City, and the Wurst Haus in Hermann; and several wineries across the state. For more information, follow the creamery on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HemmeBrothersCreamery.


June July 2017 Today's Farmer articles

Written by webadmin on .

The June/July Issue hit mailboxes last week. The stories will soon be available here online and linked below. Subscriptions to Today's Farmer magazine are available HERE.


Coming of age (Cover Feature)
Hemme brothers craft their farm’s future with artisan cheese
by Allison Jenkins

A drive against hunger
Sawyer Brown concert at Missouri State Fair will benefit food-insecure families
by Jason Worthington

Under surveillance
Vigilant scouting helps detect, identify soybean disease for timely treatments
by Jason Worthington

Propane proponents
Farmers power up with rural America’s energy source
by Nancy Jorgensen

Finding a cure
Doctor’s search for answers leads to greener pastures with Nutri-Track
by Kerri Lotven

Making it personal
Customer care helps Shelbina MFA Agri Services strengthen loyalty, grow business
by Allison Jenkins

Spring flooding raises crop concerns
MFA agronomists share advice on putting fields back on track
by Allison Jenkins

Turning down the heat
Simple strategies can improve cattle 
performance this summer
by Dr. Jim White

Pay close attention to 
Timing, conditions, product selection are keys to successful crop protection
by Dr. Jason Weirich

Purple Power
MFA Health Track program adds ABS program
-TF Staff

New Federal Leadership with a different perspective
by Ernie Verslues, MFA President and CEO.


Upfront/Blog articles


June July Winning Recipes as printed / NEW TF FOOD PAGE



Click to view the magazine as printed:










Dilution is the solution

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

Graduate Student project identifies effective sprayer cleanout procedures

While new agronomic traits such as dicamba-tolerant soybeans bring benefits to growers, they also bring new challenges in judicious care.

One such challenge is making sure that sprayers used to apply dicamba to tolerant crops can also be used on other fields without causing damage to nontolerant plants. With that concern in mind, Jason Weirich, MFA Incorporated director of agronomy, teamed up with University of Missouri’s Reid Smeda, professor of weed science, and graduate student Andy Luke to determine the most effective procedure for cleaning out sprayer tanks between applications.

“With MFA’s footprint, we have several hundred sprayers covering over a million acres across our geography,” Weirich said. “Just a small amount of dicamba left in the tank can cause damage to nontolerant crops. We needed assurance we were doing proper tank cleanout procedures for our custom application rigs.”

The two-year project confirmed that the commonly recommended practice of triple-rinsing a sprayer is critical and that using a commercial cleaning agent such as Cleanse or Erase resulted in the least amount of dicamba left in the tank.

“Based on the data, we approve of this procedure: After spraying, rinse with water and a commercial cleaner, properly circulate it through the system and let it sit one hour,” Smeda said. “Then perform two additional rinses with water. If you do this, we believe you have a sprayer that’s been properly prepared to go spray other fields. What we’ve been saying is that ‘dilution is the solution’ to avoiding potential problems.”

Weirich said this recommendation will now be standard procedure for MFA.

“I’m happy with the results of the study, although I was hoping for an easier process,” he said. “The main thing is that we are doing a good thing for our customers.”


RELATED TOPIC STORY - DR. WEIRICH TALKS ATTENTION TO DETAILS - http://todaysfarmermagazine.com/mag/crops/1322-pay-close-attention-to-applications


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